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Noble Fur: Donna Makes Left Turn on "Doctor Who"

I love parallel Earth stories, especially when they are handled with such grit and determination as in this week's episode of Doctor Who ("Turn Left"), written by outbound head writer/executive producer Russell T. Davies.

It's a testament to the strength of Doctor Who's talented cast that an entire episode of Doctor Who can fly by without the audience realizing that the Doctor has barely appeared on screen. (For another example of this fascinating trend, take a look at Season Three's superb episode "Blink," in which the Doctor and Martha Jones appear in less than 10% of the on-screen action.) In this week's episode, it was up to the phenomenal Catherine Tate to carry the series on her shoulders and she doesn't disappoint.

Exploring the distant planet Shan Shen with the Doctor, Donna encounters a fortune-teller who wishes to tell Donna her future, claiming that redheads get the full treatment for free; after refusing three times, Donna finally gives in. While there, the woman--aided by some sort of sentient beetle-like creature--manages to get Donna to change her mind during a seemingly unimportant juncture in the past. Will she turn left or right? It seems fairly innocuous, but her decision to turn right this time 'round produces catastrophic results. The episode plays with the mundane decisions we make on a daily basis, exploring the chaos effect that follows; it also nicely dovetails with the revelation in "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" that Donna likely won't be around for much longer, having met her end in some way before the Doctor meets his future wife River Song (Alex Kingston).

Because of one turn in her car, Donna ends up taking a job at a local photocopier's and is later unable to save the Doctor from himself under the Thames during "The Runaway Bride," as they never met and Donna was never transported aboard the TARDIS. As a result, the Doctor ends up drowning beneath the Thames and is not able to regenerate in time. The lack of the Doctor means that he's not able to save the hospital (or Martha Jones), as seen in "Smith & Jones," or prevent the Titanic from crashing into London in "Voyage of the Damned," which destroys London in a nuclear blast, displacing millions of refugees, or stopping ATMOS during "The Sontaran Stratagem."

This week's episode also featured the full-on return of Billie Piper's Rose Tyler, whom I've missed dearly since she left at the end of Season Two. As the only person aware of the creation of Donna's parallel Earth (something which, BTW, does seem to be happening to Donna Noble quite a lot of late), Rose turns up to push Donna towards a specific goal, ensuring that she survives the London blast to live to see another day, a fate which unfortunately befalls Martha Jones and Sarah Jane Smith. Hell, it's almost as if someone, something, is out to eliminate the Doctor's companions. Hmmm...

I'm extremely intrigued by just what is going on with Donna and why she seems to be, as Rose tells Donna, the most important woman in all of creation. (I'm also curious as to how Rose is aware of the warp in reality and able to travel from her own parallel dimension to ours and Donna's.) She's long been connected to the TARDIS, as evidenced by her materialization aboard the Doctor's sentient ship in "Runaway Bride," possibly has some sort of reality-warping ability (why was she alone "saved" in the Library?), and would seem to play a major role in the war against the coming Darkness. We know that the Doctor survives in his current incarnation to meet the aforementioned River Song... but there's a reason that Donna won't be around.

As for that beetle thing on Donna's back, it had to be one of the creepiest, freakiest images so far on Doctor Who. A reality-warping being that feasts on the energy from lives and choices stolen, the beetle sets in motion a story that allows Donna to take center stage, while also enabling the return of Rose Tyler and the death of the Doctor, a potent reminder of how humanity needs its champion.

I was extremely impressed by the fact that Donna so, er, nobly sacrificed herself to prevent the alternate timeline from occuring, throwing herself in front of a moving truck to ensure that the past-tense Donna would turn left and not right and therefore set herself on the correct course to meet the Doctor down the line. Her sacrifice comes on the heels of learning from Rose that, no matter what she does, Donna will die, regardless. While she may have saved the world, she has doomed herself.

If that's not the very definition of hero, I don't know what is. Regardless of what happens, I do have to say that I've grown to love the uppity Donna Noble and will miss her dearly, should she not make it out of the season finale alive.

This week on Doctor Who, it's Part One of the two-part season finale ("The Stolen Earth)," in former companions--including Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and Jack Harkness (John Barrowman)--and old and new allies alike must band together to save the world, while the Doctor and Donna confront the Shadow Proclamation, and an old enemy waits in the wings...


Unknown said…
"[W]hy was she alone "saved" in the Library?" I didn't see it that way. When the Doctor tried to transport Donna to the TARDIS via the Library's transporter, the Library downloaded her to its "hard drive" just as it did the other some 4,000 people 100 years before. Remember, the Doctor said the Library's emergency systems tried to transport everyone, but with nowhere to transport them to, it "saved" them on its hard drives.

Now that Bad Wolf has reappeared, I suspect Rose (not Donna) is the one who can warp reality and that her ability to travel between dimensions and detect the alternate reality is related to Rose absorbing the TARDIS's time vortex in The Parting of the Ways. Even though the Doctor extracted the energy and replaced it in the TARDIS, Rose may retain some residual power.

Nevertheless, Donna clearly seems special.
Anonymous said…
I'm with you. I love Catherine Tate's Donna Noble. The interplay between Donna and the Doctor is wonderful. I, too, hope they keep her around for a bit.
I am really impressed with Catherine Tate and will certainly miss her if she goes. And I can't wait to learn what makes Donna Noble "special" and figure out why she keeps getting stuck in these parallel universes. As always, I'm sure the Doctor won't disappoint.
Johnny said…
I'm one of the many who was not a big fan of Donna in the Runaway Bride, so I was initially hesitant when they announced her as the new companion.
Boy was I wrong, Donna is brilliant and I love her a bit more each episode. And I feel really sorry for her, I mean what kind of a mother says the things that Donna has to hear.
I think the worse was in this last episode when Donna is telling her mother the family they lived with were given govt jobs as the reason for being taken away and says she wasn't qualified and says "I've always been a disappointment haven't I?"
And her mom says Yes?!?!? Seriously my heart broke for Donna right then.

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