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The idea of an alternate history, of what would happen if we got to see where our characters are in a world that went wrong, is an old one. Turn Left is not the first Doctor Who story to explore this, but it is one of the best.
The basic premise is simple, Donna is lured in by a fortune teller and when being given a palm reading, a large insect crawls on her back and changes her entire life, simply by making her turn right when once she went left. (I think it's a political statement.)
This is an amazing episodes, the Doctor is dead within the first ten minutes as in this brand new timeline he died in the torchwood base underneath the Thames as Donna wasn't there to stop him.
And then all hell breaks loose.
The Royal Hope hospital, only one survivor and it's one of Martha's fellow medical students while Sarah Jane and her companions from the Sarah Jane Adventures are all killed off.
Christmas, the replica of the titanic slammed into the earth and destroys London and floods all of Southern England with radiation. The entire country falls into disarray with an emergency government set into place.
The Sontarans and ATMOS are stopped but at the cost of the rest of Torchwood and the adipose are born in America, killing over sixty million. Concentration camps are set up and people who were once citizens are denied the right to vote and England becomes for the English.
Turn Left is one the darkest Doctor Who stories, not just in the RTD era but in all of Doctor Who history, it doesn't have a great deal of time to explore the issues that it hints at but they are touched on, and they are felt and in these troubled times Turn Left hits harder than ever.
Through out all of this, Catherine Tate shines. If anyone had any hesitation to her abilities as an Actress then this should be the story that changes their mind. It is not just chemistry with David she brings to the table, she had to stand almost completely on her own to sell this world to us and she completely succeeds.
Berned Cribbens and Jacqueline King are both exceptional as well, Wilf trying to be strong for his daughter and his granddaughter while Sylvia slowly slips deeper and deeper into depression at the terrible world that she has found herself in.
Billie Piper gives a serviceable performance as Rose, she was never a companion I liked much and at times it seemed as though Piper forget how to play her but then she is not written as Rose in this story, she's written more as a doctor substitute.
Speaking of which, part of why this episode shines so bright for me might be because Ten is not in it. Through no fault of David Tennant, Ten is my least favourite doctor by no small margin and while Series Four is the time her irritates me the least, I still like that he is not in this story much at all.
The final thing that keeps the story from getting full marks is the opening, it's almost as racist as Talons. It's better that it at least has actually Asian actors but the fact there is a Chinese planet which looks like a market place...yeah, it takes away a point.
But aside from the small stumble, I do believe that Turn Left should be remembered as one of the high points of the Tenth Doctor's Era.