I nearly gave this story a ten out of ten. If it were to be released as a target novel, it would be one of the best because the script and the plot were so new and different; and they really worked. Unfortunately, as much as I fancy Billie Piper, Rose’s return was as exciting as a damp squib (not squid as I used to think it was). However, this story does show just how good Catherine Tate was as the awesome Donna Noble; and Jacqueline King and Bernard Cribbins get a chance to shine too…
A world without the Doctor was going to be chaotic and dangerous, however the dark, bleak, and depressing world that Russell T. Davies imagined was not what I expected from him and I was seriously impressed. It’s a very hard-hitting story that captures the imagination in a way that the show never really has before. It’s almost like we’ve been taking the Doctor and his companions for granted for so long that we never reflect on the past episode and think “what would’ve happened if the Doctor hadn’t been there?”. One of Davies’ best ideas, for sure.
Now, onto the matter of Billie Piper and her rather different portrayal of Rose. The brief reappearances of Rose Tyler throughout Series 4, particularly the ones in Partners in Crime and Midnight, sent shivers down my spine and a thousand thoughts rushing through my head. However, when we started watching her in full swing, it was almost like watching a different character. During the one/two years between Series 2 and Series 4, Billie Piper began playing posher parts for different TV shows and, when she got back, was so used to this that she’d almost ‘forgotten’ how to play Rose Tyler. She’s not a bad actress but, for the reasons above, Turn Left was a bit like the 80’s era where better stories were dampened by guest cast. I guess I liked it when she used Time Lord words though and, by the end of the story, it was starting to feel like Piper had begun to find her ‘inner Rose’ again. However, her weaker performance did mean that the three main characters of the story were given a chance to shine.
Catherine Tate’s portrayal of Donna Noble is one of my favourites throughout the entire 50 years of Doctor Who. When they announced she was returning, I was a bit of a sheep and arrogant and thought she’d be a bit dull. Now, I feel so dumb and stupid because when I watched Series 4, I was blown away at how much I loved Donna Noble. This story in particular, opposite a weak Rose Tyler, really sets in stone the fact that Donna is one of the best, and most human companions, we’ve ever had on the show. She was a character many could relate to very well because she was as human and normal as they come. Both Jacqueline King and Bernard Cribbins also outshone Billie Piper in this story as Sylvia Noble and Wilfred Mott, and all three really made us believe just how devastating this new world is.
While this story got darker and more depressing as the story goes on, towards the start there were some more comical moments, especially the office scene where Donna is fired. Quotes like “BEATRICE!” and “Well isn’t that wizard?!” made me laugh out loud more than I should have, but when I consider all the different emotions I felt while watching this story, it makes me love it more and more.
All in all, this is a fantastic script with great direction (Graeme Harper is just too good for words) and production (Phil Collinson) behind the scenes. The rollercoaster ride this story takes you on, getting darker and darker as it goes on, is quite unique for Doctor Who, but nonetheless fantastically breathtaking. Billie Piper’s performance is one of her weakest here (she does drastically improve for the 50th however) and while her reasons are understandable, it doesn’t make it any less of a shame. Catherine Tate however gives one of the best companion performance ever, and the scene where she runs off after the labour camp truck is heartbreaking. Such a good story, and again, it’s a real shame that it’s like watching a completely different Rose Tyler, but I wouldn’t have given it such a high score if it were so terrible; and it’s always nice to see two companions working together to save the day. Oh, and the protest for new series Target novellisations start here!