TARDIS Index File

Turn Left (TV story)

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Turn Left
Donna and the Time Beetle
Script release: online here
Main character(s): Donna, Rose
Featuring: Tenth Doctor, Sylvia, Wilf
Main enemy: Fortune teller
Main setting:
Key crew
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Graeme Harper
Producer: Susie Liggat
Release details
Story number: 197
Season/series: Series 4
Premiere broadcast: 21 June 2008
Premiere network: BBC One
Format: 1 × 50 minute episode
Production code: 4.11
Confidential: Here Come the Girls
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Doctor Who television stories
Midnight The Stolen Earth
Production order
Midnight Silence in the Library
Memorable moment
Donna turns left part 1 - Doctor Who - BBC03:45

Donna turns left part 1 - Doctor Who - BBC

Another memorable moment
Donna turns left part 2 - Doctor Who - BBC04:07

Donna turns left part 2 - Doctor Who - BBC

Turn Left was the eleventh episode of the fourth series of Doctor Who. It was the first Doctor-lite episode to focus on the main companion without the Doctor, and marked the first major reappearance of Rose Tyler. It also showed an alternate timeline for the episodes following Donna's original meeting with the Tenth Doctor in The Runaway Bride. In that alternate timeline, without Donna to convince him to leave during his encounter with the Empress of the Racnoss, the Doctor ended up drowning in the resulting flood under the Thames, because of this many of the Doctor's companions and friends would have died. Much of series 3 and 4's events set on present day Earth would still occur, but would have cost more lives without the Doctor's intervention. The Master would not have been present in his Harold Saxon persona as the Doctor would not have been alive to go to the year 100 trillion to allow him to escape the end of the universe.

Synopsis Edit

On the an alien planet, Donna meets a fortune teller, who launches her into a world based on one question: "What would happen if Donna never met the Tenth Doctor?" Without the Doctor, the whole world is in ruin, and a mysterious blonde tries to warn Donna of the oncoming darkness... Now a simple refugee, Donna is the only one who can undo the damage. But how?

Plot Edit


Donna turns right, instead of left.

The Tenth Doctor and Donna are in a busting market place on an alien world, mixing with the locals. Donna wanders away from the Doctor to explore as he chats away with a merchant. A mysterious fortune teller asks if she wants her future told, but Donna declines. The fortune teller then says the reading is free for those with red hair. Donna smiles and relents. As the fortune teller asks abaout Donna's past, she sees there is a man in her life that changed everything. Donna experiences a flashback, but the fortune teller dismisses it. The teller asks Donna what event led to her meeting with the Doctor and Donna says it was in June 2007.

At that time, Donna and her mother were in a car at a T-junction, arguing about her future. Sylvia tried to persuade Donna to turn right and ask businessman Jival Chowdry for a job; but Donna turned left to go to her planned temp job at H.C. Clements. After experiencing another flashback, Donna is now panicking, but the fortune teller asks her what would have happened if she never met the Doctor as something crawls onto Donna's back. Scared, Donna falls under the fortune teller's influence and, in the past, she gives in to her mother's nagging and turns right, altering the course of her life as well as the future of all existence.

The Doctor is dead

"The Doctor is dead."

It is Christmas Eve 2007, and Donna is at a Christmas party with the rest of the staff from her workplace. She has just been promoted to Jival Chowdry's personal assistant. Suddenly the Racnoss Webstar attacks London, and is destroyed by the army at a terrible cost. During the chaos, Alice stares at Donna's back, looking terrified. When Donna acts astonished that Alice's attention is focused on her despite the ongoing chaos, Alice, terrified, says that there is something on Donna's back. After this, Donna runs to the Webstar's general location. There she finds an ambulance. Near the ambulance and a group of UNIT vehicles, Donna overhears a UNIT officer talking into a radio about someone who drowned beneath the Thames. As the persons body is loaded into an ambulance, a hand falls out of the stretcher, dropping a small metal stick. As Donna walks away, Rose Tyler comes running down the street and asks for information about the body that has just been loaded into the ambulance. She is stunned to hear that it was the Doctor, despite Donna's assurances that it could have been any doctor. Rose vanishes moments later.

In April 2008, Donna is fired from her job. Chowdry tries to tell her that he has to lay people off because half of his contracts are on the other side of the river. Even though it has been several months since the Racnoss attack, the Thames is still closed off. Meanwhile, the Royal Hope Hospital is mysteriously transported to the Moon. When it returns, there is only one survivor: medical student Oliver Morgenstern, who relates the terrible events. As in the original timeline, the hospital had been moved by the Judoon and infiltrated by a Plasmavore. Sarah Jane Smith (at the hospital with her son Luke Smith and his friends Maria Jackson and Clyde Langer) filled the Doctor's role, and stopped the MRI from irradiating the Earth — but, without the Doctor, the humans couldn't find a way back to Earth, and all suffocated. Oliver Morgenstern tells reporters he only survived when fellow medical student Martha Jones gave him the last of her oxygen.

London destroyed

London destroyed by Titanic's impact.

As Donna digests the terrible news, Rose tells Donna that she should go to the country for Christmas in 2008.

Donna takes the woman's advice, and treats her mum and grandfather to a Christmas holiday in the English countryside. On Christmas morning 2008, they watch the telly in disbelief as a replica of the Titanic falls on Buckingham Palace. The three run outside and watch, horrified, as a mushroom cloud rises above London. As the housemaid comes in to bring the Nobles their breakfast, she then turns to Donna and repeatedly shouts "you've got something on your back" in Spanish.

Now refugees since all of southern England has been flooded with radiation, the Nobles are forced to move to Leeds. France has closed its borders. They are allocated a house that is shared with two other families.

In 2009, the United States pledges to help Britain with monetary relief but must abandon the plan when their own crisis strikes: sixty million Americans are turned into Adipose. Since London no longer exists, Adipose Industries had targeted the USA.

Some time later, Donna finds soldiers firing at cars when the Sontarans activate the ATMOS devices, covering the Earth with a poisonous fog. A soldier notices something on Donna's back and holds her at gunpoint, but she is released when nothing is there. That night, Donna meets Rose for a third time. Rose explains that the Torchwood team, aboard the Sontaran ship, are trying to stop the catastrophe. Suddenly, the sky is cleared by an atmospheric converter. Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones have given their lives to achieve this, and Captain Jack Harkness has been stranded on the Sontaran homeworld.

Rose refuses to tell Donna her name. She only says that she has "crossed reality" (coming from the parallel world on which she was trapped), and tries to explain that Donna had saved the Doctor's life in an alternate timeline, though Donna insists that she had never met him. Rose warns Donna the coming "darkness" threatens every single universe. Donna tries to walk away, but Rose tells her that she will have to go with her when she is ready and that she has three weeks to decide. She warns Donna that when she comes with her, Donna will die. Then she disappears.

Three weeks later, the genial Italian family in Donna's house is evicted as England is now "only for the English". Since the oceans are closed off, they must be taken to a "labour camp". "That's what they called them the last time," Wilfred says horrified, "it is happening again!", alluding to the concentration camps of World War II. Later at night, Donna and Wilf talk about recent events while looking through his telescope. He notices that the constellation of Orion has gone, though there are no clouds. As the stars disappear from the sky, Donna finds Rose, and tells her that she is ready.

Rose takes Donna to a UNIT base and shows her the TARDIS — salvaged from beneath the River Thames — which is dying after the Doctor's death. Rose asks Donna if she wants to see the creature on her back. They step into a circle of mirrors and lights, with pieces of technology which seem to be scavenged from the TARDIS. Rose switches on a light which reveals what is on Donna's back: a "Time Beetle". Donna is horrified and begs Rose to get it off her. However, Rose explains that it "feeds off time by changing time" and that she thinks the beetle is in a state of flux, although when Donna asks what that means, Rose says she doesn't know, but that it's something the Doctor would say. She also says the beetle cannot be removed; when Donna becomes angry that Rose said she was special but Donna thinks it wasn't her, but the beetle, Rose says that actually they're getting separate readings from Donna that make it seem like reality is bending around her. Donna asks, "What can I do to get rid of it?" to which Rose replies, "You're gonna travel in time."

They prepare Donna, and take her back to the circle of mirrors and technology, with cables running into the TARDIS. At first Donna thinks she is going to see the creature again and protests, but Rose informs her the mirrors are "incidental", and that they "bounce Chronon energy at the centre, which we control and decide the destination." Donna realizes that this is the time machine they will be using. When Donna asks, "How d'you know it's gonna work?" Rose replies "Hmm? Oh, yeah we don't... We're just guessing".

Donna says "I'm ready, 'cuz I understand now, you said I was gonna die but, you mean, this whole world is gonna blink out of existence, but that's not dying, because a better world takes its place — the Doctor's world. And I'm still alive. That's right?" Rose remains silent. "That's right, isn't it?" Donna tries to get confirmation of her belief, but Rose only replies sadly, "I'm sorry." Before Donna can learn what will happen, she is sent back in time.

Donna is dead

Donna dies on the pavement.

Donna lands in June 2007, elated that the time travel worked, but quickly realises that she is a half a mile away from her past self and has only got four minutes to prevent her past self from turning right. She tries to run to herself, but knows that she will not make it in time. Donna understands what the woman meant about her death, and she sees a haulage truck coming along that has just passed by her past self. She steps in front of the truck, which screeches to a stop.

Before Donna dies, Rose appears and whispers something into her ear to tell the Doctor. At the intersection, Donna's past self decides that instead of sitting in backed up traffic, she will turn left.

As the original timeline reasserts itself, Donna regains consciousness in the fortune teller's stall on Shan Shen, as the Time Beetle on her back releases itself and dies. The baffled and terrified fortune teller flees, screaming, "You were so strong. What are you!? What will you be?!" The Doctor, who has been blissfully unaware of all that's happened, enters and an emotionally spent Donna collapses into his arms. When he asks why, she simply replies, "I don't know!" and proceeds to hug him again.

Upon examining the beetle, the Doctor tells Donna that it is part of the Trickster's Brigade and that normally it affects one person and the universe compensates (as happened to Sarah Jane Smith), but in Donna's case, it created a parallel universe. The Doctor muses on all of the coincidences surrounding Donna: the fact that she had two parallel worlds that formed around her (this one and the one in the CAL computer) and that he's met her and her grandfather twice. "In the whole wide universe, I met you again," he notes.


An ominous return

The Doctor concludes that they seem to be somehow linked. Donna tells the Doctor she is nothing special, but he counters saying that she's "brilliant". Hearing that triggers Donna's memories of the parallel world and she mentions Rose to the Doctor and her warning about the coming darkness. When Donna mentions Rose said something about parallel worlds and was blonde, the Doctor starts to realize who Donna saw. When asked if she remembered Rose's name, Donna said she was never told it, but she does remember the two words Rose whispered into her ear: "Bad Wolf". Terrified and now sure of who Donna met, the Doctor runs out into the market square to see the words "Bad Wolf" everywhere: on posters pasted onto the walls, on the ceremonial flags hanging over the market, even on the TARDIS itself. Inside the TARDIS, the control room is glowing red and the Cloister Bell is ringing. When Donna asks what's going on, the Doctor replies, looking horror stricken, "It's the end of the universe."

Cast Edit

Crew Edit

General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.

References Edit

Cultural references from the real world Edit

Events in the alternate timeline Edit

  • Because Donna wasn't there to convince the Doctor to flee after defeating the Empress of the Racnoss, he drowns in the flooding of the Thames Flood Barrier. For some reason, he does not regenerate; a UNIT soldier speculated the Doctor died too fast.
  • Private Harris is at the scene when the Doctor's body is loaded into the ambulance after the Racnoss attack.
  • Martha Jones, Sarah Jane Smith, Maria Jackson, Luke Smith and Clyde Langer all die in Royal Hope Hospital after it is transported by the Judoon to the Moon, though Sarah Jane succeeds in stopping Florence Finnegan's MRI weapon.
  • The starship Titanic crashes into Buckingham Palace, killing everyone in the greater London area and contaminating southern England — bar Devon & Cornwall — with radiation.
  • The destruction of London triggers a societal collapse in Great Britain, which becomes a police state that closes its borders, and leads to the introduction of concepts such as forced labour camps.
  • The March of the Adipose occurs in America instead of the UK; without the Doctor to stop it, sixty million people are killed (vs 10 thousand in the original timeline), preventing the US from aiding Great Britain, and accelerating the UK's decline.
  • Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones die whilst assaulting the Sontaran warship. Captain Jack Harkness, who is unable to die due to his immortality, is instead transported to the Sontaran homeworld for incarceration.
  • There is no one to prevent the ATMOS devices from decimating the population of the Earth until Torchwood manages to set the gas on fire, although the UK is spared this as, due to the destruction of London, not to mention the lack of petrol, ATMOS never came into widespread use there.
  • Rose Tyler appears to be working with UNIT.
  • On the television news it's mentioned that Sarah Jane Smith used to work for Metropolitan.
  • The plans of the Cult of Skaro in 1930s Manhattan also failed despite the Doctor not stopping them.
  • Lastly, the stars can be seen going out in the night sky as Donna and Wilfred stargaze, indicating that the reality bomb of the New Dalek Empire has been detonated. Its effects are sweeping through the cosmos and other universes, disassembling them out of existence, and the complete destruction of all reality except for the Daleks is imminent.

Story notes Edit

  • This is the first story to feature Rose in a starring role since TV: Doomsday.
  • Despite being billed in the opening credits and featuring prominently in the episode, Rose is never referred to by name.
  • Billie Piper was seen at the end of Partners in Crime, and had short cameos in The Poison Sky and Midnight. The Partners in Crime cameo was filmed during production of Turn Left, as was the short piece of footage used in Midnight and The Poison Sky. This means no less than three directors would have been at work on the Doctor Who set during the production schedule of Turn Left - the main episode's director, Graeme Harper, the director of Partners in Crime, James Strong, and the director of Midnight, Alice Troughton.
  • Unusually, the episodes featuring Piper were filmed relatively early in the production of the season, which allowed a clip of Rose from this episode to be included in the cinema trailer released in advance of the season being broadcast.
  • This is the "Doctor-lite" episode of the series, similar to Love & Monsters and Blink, albeit with a much darker storyline. Unlike previous Doctor-lite stories, however, the focus is given to the companion, rather than her also taking a minor role. They used the same scheduling trick in the previous episode, Midnight, which featured virtually none of Donna. These episodes allow the production team to complete fourteen episodes (including the Christmas episode) in a schedule originally designed to complete thirteen. A second team can be filming the "extra" episode, with the main cast filming only a day or so. Their footage is judiciously spread through the episode to give the impression of a larger interaction, although in the case of Turn Left, David Tennant's participation was restricted to the opening scene and epilogue, with a body double used for the scene where Donna witnesses the Doctor's dead body being loaded into the ambulance.
  • A reference to something on Donna's back was last heard in The Fires of Pompeii when Lucius Petrus Dextrus saw into the future.
  • In Doctor Who Magazine it said that Donna will receive a free tarot card reading and find out something bad is going to happen. When she is receiving it there will also be something behind her lurking in the curtains. The Tarot person will also look for a specific event in Donna's past. The episode, as broadcast, takes place on a Chinese-influenced alien world with no reference to Tarot.
  • "The bees are disappearing" is quoted again in this episode, this time by Donna's mother, Sylvia Noble. This is a real-world phenomenon, called Colony Collapse Disorder, the incidence of which increased sharply in late 2006, and the cause of which has not been identified. In The Stolen Earth and Journey's End, the cause of the disappearance is revealed.
  • A recurring theme in previous episodes hinted that Donna would die in the future which occurs in this episode. However, this was an alternate reality Donna who sacrificed herself in order to prevent her past self from taking the wrong turn thus forcing her to meet the Doctor as was planned.
  • Part of this episode is filmed in China Town, though not the one in London, but recreated in Cardiff. Chinese people living in South Wales were invited to be background extras via Facebook at the end of 2007. They had to reply to the Doctor Who casting crew with their name and sizes for costumes to be made for them and they were paid approx £70 for the day. David Tennant was seen in "China Town" when he took time out of filming though staying on location to appear on Blue Peter to appeal to viewers to donate shoes to their Shoebiz appeal.
  • Donna is told she can have her fortune told for free because she has red hair. This is a reference to Chinese culture, since red is considered very lucky in China. It's also a common carny trick to draw people into the attraction; half off for lovely ladies, men wearing hats, anything that matches some characteristic of the person being appealed to.

Graeme Harper captures another distorted image of a main character.

  • Graeme Harper's penchant for including a distorted image of a main character is present in this story. Though not included in every single episode he's directed for BBC Wales, it's seen often enough in the majority of his stories to be considered something of a directorial "signature". More typically achieved through the use of refraction (The Unicorn and the Wasp, Army of Ghosts, Journey's End and Utopia), here the motif is continued through the use of reflection. The theme of Donna's multiple worlds is caught through the simple use of mirrors, much as the notion of investigation was conveyed by the use of magnifying glasses in earlier stories.
  • According to Russell T Davies on Doctor Who Confidential, this episode is the "cheap episode", as he wanted the TARDIS to be on fire, but the budget didn't allow for the effect.
  • A variation of "The Wall Theme", (a variation of "Rose's Theme", played in Doomsday) with added guitar parts, is played before Donna is sent back in time.
  • Two pieces of background pop music return from other episodes. In the scene in which Donna goes out with her friends to celebrate her new job as Chowdry's personal assistant, the song "Merry Xmas Everybody" by the glam rock band Slade can be heard (first heard on Mickey's radio in The Christmas Invasion). This was also playing during Donna's wedding reception in The Runaway Bride.
  • Billie Piper states in the accompanying Doctor Who Confidential episode that she had forgotten how to play Rose, and needed to watch past episodes to remind herself.
  • This isn't the first time a Doctor Who story has examined a "What if..." scenario involving the Doctor's influence on a person's life. A similar storyline involved Eighth Doctor companion Samantha Jones, depicted in two wildly diverging timelines. (PROSE: Unnatural History)
  • At one point the Nobles and the Italian family take part in a singalong to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". This tune has been the basis for two practical jokes featured on Who franchise-related blooper reels: a group of Sycorax are shown singing it in the Series 2 blooper reel, while the Series 2 gag reel for Torchwood shows the cast cutting up to the same song.
  • When Rose mentions the death of the Torchwood team, a variation on the Torchwood theme music can be heard.
  • David Tennant did not actually play the person lying on the stretcher in the scene where they pull the body from the Thames.

Ratings Edit

Myths and rumours Edit

  • Many fan reviews and discussions of this episode have noted that, for reasons unknown, Rose speaks with a noticeable lisp in many of her scenes - a lisp not present when she was last on the show; a frequently cited example being when Rose tells Donna she's the most important woman in all of creation. Among the speculated reasons as to why is Billie Piper's statement on Doctor Who Confidential (see above) that she had forgotten how to play Rose -- a character who speaks with a more working-class accent than Piper's natural voice. Rose is starting to speak more like the Doctor himself as she has become more like him in the sense of using technobabble and not wishing to accept salutes, nor does she reveal her name. The lisp is present, but less noticeable in the next two episodes and appears to be less noticeable (if not missing completely) in interior studio scenes as opposed to on-location filming. Also, the lisp is not present at all in Piper's Doctor Who Confidential interviews shot during production of the final three episodes, nor is it heard during the instalment of David Tennant's Video Diaries pertaining to the production of The Stolen Earth/Journey's End in the Series 4 DVD box set.
  • The opening credits are reversed, showing the TARDIS moving in the opposite direction in the time vortex. As broadcast and released to DVD, the opening credits are presented normally. The feature of the TARDIS being reversed could also be a teaser as the episode skews off into another world, and Donna turns right instead of left.
  • It was rumoured that the episode was going to be titled The Doctor's Death.

Filming locations Edit

to be added

Production errors Edit

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • The sound and shaking of the Royal Hope disappearing is heard before it actually vanished, whereas in Smith and Jones the sound was heard during the incident.
  • If one looks closely when Rose shows Donna the TARDIS at the UNIT base, the interior of a police box can be seen through the open door instead of the TARDIS interior.
  • When Donna is making the decision to turn right or left, it is clearly raining on the car. However in any external shots, most notably when Donna has travelled back in time, it is not raining.
  • When Donna walks into the car in the first flashback, she enters the back door in the external shot, but, in the internal shot, is clearly entering the front door.
  • When Donna is arguing with her boss an explosion is heard and in view everyone gets up, but in the next camera view, everyone is sitting down and gets up again.

Continuity Edit

Home video releases Edit


Series 4 Volume 4 DVD Cover

External links Edit


  • Clarification: Story Arc Categories

    18 messages
    • That would restart what we just stopped.
    • No it wouldn't. That would include stories that have Bad Wolf featured as an Easter egg on a wall or as a part of the plot. We can definitiv...

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