Sunday, August 24, 2014

Doctor Who--"Left Turn"

I was grossly skeptical when news leaked of Catherine Tate joining the cast of season four as the doctor’s new companion. All any of us knew of her were the generally obnoxious characters she portrayed on her sketch show. She had unfortunately brought said screeching, obnoxious personality to the 2006 Christmas special. There was not much indication she would be any better for an entire season, much less tolerable in an episode centered almost solely around her.

I am happy so say the character of Donna Noble has grown into one of the better companions the Doctor has had, new or old, but particularly the new. She has not had any of that puppy love Rose, Martha, and even jack suffered through-- or made us suffer through, if you prefer. She has become a strong, independent character even in a way Sarah Jane Smith has not. I had no problem seeing her carry an episode all by her lonesome. In fact, it was one of the best of the season thus far. Billie Piper’s return as Rose Tyler was icing on the cake. She is hot, you know.

I am a sucker for alternate reality plot lines, too. It comes from the first time I read “Days of Future’s Past” in the Uncanny X-Men way back in the days when I was just discovering comic books. Here, Donna wanders off from the Doctor and finds a fortune teller to read her fate. While doing so, an alien beetle crawls onto her back and affects a fateful decision she made in the past. Donna turns right instead of left and winds up never meeting the Doctor.

The result is the doctor is killed during the events of “The runaway Bride” too quickly to regenerate. Subsequently, Martha Jones and Sarah Jane Smith are killed when the Judoon steal the hospital in “Smith and Jones,” London is completely destroyed by the crash of the alien Titanic in “Voyage of the Damned,” and the Adipose from “Partners in Crime” kill 60 million Americans rather than Britons. Rose inexplicably keeps appearing to Donna before each of these events, guiding her to her destiny Rose eventually helps Donna get rid of the beetle by making her go back to the pivotal point where she diverged and turn left instead.

The doctor puts forth some quickie technobabble to explain the beetle’s power, but Rose’s warnings to Donna turn out to be real. The stars are disappearing even in our reality. Bad Wolf references emerge everywhere signaling Rose is returning to our reality just in time for the “coming darkness” no one seems to be able to stop.
I liked this episode a lot. I quipped as usual that no one person could possibly affect the world as desperately as Donna allegedly would if she not met the Doctor, but I can excuse that. The most peculiar point there was a throwaway line about how foreigners were being taken to labor camps after the whole south of England was nuked by the Titanic. That was a wee bit much. I did think the cutesy self-references to episodes of the past couple seasons ran on a bit too long before the story cranked up. The resolution wound up being rushed as a result.

Nevertheless, the story was good because I have grown to like Donna so much. Rose foretold she was ultimately going to die as has been hinted in several episodes. I hope her fate is not going to be that straightforward. She deserves better.

Was that not a cool preview for “The stolen earth,” too? All the old companions are back and Jack is bringing the rest of Torchwwod. Woo hoo! More Eve Myles! Do not forget Davros and a whole mess of Daleks. It looks great.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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