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    Sunday, 22 June 2008

    Doctor Who: Turn Left

    What would happen to a world, even a universe, without the Doctor? Today's episode of Doctor Who, 'Turn Left' by Russel T. Davies, explores that very idea. As it turns out, the answer is "Not very well at all!"

    The Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna (Catherine Tate) are exploring a bazaar on the (presumably) distant planet of Shan Shen that appears to be distinctly Chinese in origin, when Donna gets sidetracked and enters a fortune teller's den on a whim. At this point the fortune teller, in league with a giant time-sucking cockroach (No, I'm not joking), takes Donna back in time to change a simple decision that ends up changing not only her fate but the fate of the universe itself (and perhaps every universe). Only Donna, with the dimension-hopping Rose's help, can set things right.

    The episode explores a question that's been asked time and again in popular culture: What If? In this regard, tonight's episode is certainly nothing novel. Main character changes a simple decision (in this case, turning right instead of left). Main character's life changes. Character's whole world changes around him/her, until they can somehow set things to rights. Yada yada, you know the drill.

    Despite being nothing new, the question is always an interesting one. My guess is that this is because we all ask ourselves the same question regularly, always wondering what might have happened had we taken a trip down the road less traveled. However, as Donna discovers in tonight's episode, the alternate route is sometimes perhaps best left untrodden.

    What makes this episode interesting is the deeper insight into Donna's character. I can't say I've been a particularly big fan of her as the Doctor's companion (I've preferred Rose and Martha, and harboured secret hopes for a Sally Sparrow spin in the TARDIS), though I must say she's definitely exceeded my expectations this season. The writers have brought a depth to the screaming idiot audiences were first introduced to in the Who Christmas Special, 'The Runaway Bride'. Her time this season has revealed a softer, more insightful side to the character that I have grown to like almost despite myself.

    Certainly, the scenes with her grandfather, Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins), and mother, Sylvia (Jacqueline King), have added an extra dimension to the humanity of the character. Cribbins is outstanding as Donna's grandfather, bringing pathos and a palpable sense of love for his "granddaughter" to every scene. King, on the other hand, makes Donna that much more sympathetic by being so unknowingly cold and unpleasant.

    Of course, the big bad news for the episode was the return of the Bad Wolf herself, Miss Rose Tyler (Billie Piper). Who fans rejoice, as everyone's favourite companion returns to the show with a kick ass attitude and inside knowledge of the coming darkness. She didn't disappoint in this episode, more than meeting the anticipation her return has generated. Piper brought a more dangerous, more experienced edge to the character in this episode than we've seen previously, leaving me hungering for more.

    This was a good episode but not an amazing one (apart from the last minute - Fantastic!). The story was reasonably well-written and certainly ably executed by cast and crew. Ultimately, the unimaginative premise of the episode (What If?) left a little to be desired, I think largely because the end was a foregone conclusion - we all already knew that a universe without the Doctor to keep the darkness at bay would be a terrible place indeed!

    The trailer for next week's episode, 'The Stolen Planet', was a fanboy's dream that had me jumping out of my seat. Seeing EVERYONE from the first 3 seasons come back, including Sarah Jane AS WELL as Ianto and the divine Gwen from the Torchwood team... well, let's just say I'll be watching it a few times as I salivate for next week's episode.

    I want to be watching it now! Where's a TARDIS when I need one?!

    [Image courtesy of the Doctor Who BBC website:]

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