Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Countdown - Turn Left

To celebrate the fact that 2013 is the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, we are taking a look back at all of the episodes of the show which featured David Tennant as the Doctor. At the end of our look back we'll be asking you, the fans, to vote for what you think is the ultimate David Tennant episode of Doctor Who....

We continue with the next David Tennant episode....  Turn Left
Read our previous Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Countdown posts here.

40. Turn Left

First Broadcast on 21st June 2008. Running Time: 49.27Minutes. Viewing Figures: 8.9 million.
Written By Russell T Davies.
Directed By Graeme Harper.
Executive Producers Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner and Phil Collinson. Rating: 10/10.


Donna's entire world collapses, but there's no sign of the Doctor. Instead, she finds help from a mysterious blonde woman - a traveller from a parallel universe. But as Donna and Rose Tyler combine forces, are they too late to save the whole of creation from the approaching darkness?
Extras:   Videos | Screen Caps | Articles 

Production Notes:
The seeds of Turn Left were sewn during a train journey to London in February 2007. It had already been decided that the 2008 series would include one episode that featured the Doctor without his regular companion and one episode which would focus on his companion and how she would cope without him and so Davies was trying to think of a reason why the Doctor would not be appearing in the companion based episode. He came up with the idea of what would happen if the Doctor had been killed thanks to a small change in his companion's timeline. The inspiration for the tale came from 1998 film 'Sliding Doors' in which the outcome of a woman's life is changed by whether she is able to catch a train on time. 

At this stage in proceedings it wasn't known that Catherine Tate would be returning as Donna Noble and so Davies was planning the episode to feature his new companion Penny. In her first episode as the Doctor's companion Penny was to be introduced to us when she was travelling to London with her mother to visit her granddad when they became trapped inside a huge alien dome. To tie in with that, Davies decided to make the small but important decision Penny would face whether she would travel left or right across the city. 
She turns left which leads to her meeting the Doctor and ultimately saving his life, but in Turn Left an alien creature would alter this and make Penny turn right meaning she ends up on the outside of the some, whilst the Doctor is inside and ultimately dies. The episode would revisit other stories throughout the 2008 series and show the implications of what would have happened if the Doctor hadn't been present. 

Turn Left was also to mark the first full length episode return of Rose Tyler, played by Billie Piper. Rose was the Tenth Doctor's first companion and had been written out of the series at the end of his first series in the episode Doomsday. Even at the time of her character's departure Piper and Davies had discussed her return and Davies had been careful to include references of Rose throughout subsequent series of the show so her presence was always felt not just by the viewer but by the characters in the show too.
Davies asked Piper to return for the last three episodes of the 2008 series which was to be his last full series in charge of the show.

In March 2007 plans for the episode changed when Catherine Tate agreed to return to the series as Donna Noble and become a full time companion for the entire series. Davies was keen for Turn Left to explore how Donna was in her first episode, The Runaway Bride, when she had first met the Doctor. Donna had appeared a selfish, shallow and somewhat vacuous character at first, but her time with the Doctor had changed her and Davies wanted to see what would have become of Donna if she and the Time Lord had never met up.
The life changing moment would now all hinge on whether or not Donna Noble would attend a job interview at HC Clements the firm she was working for in The Runaway Bride when she worked alongside the Doctor to battle the Empress Of Rachnoss. In this version of events the Doctor would die by drowning after flooding the Empress' lair. 

At the end of October 2007 Davies dropped the idea of Donna being married with children from the plot. The idea of her having children was to add even more emotional drama to her sacrificing herself  to unravel the alternative timeline, as her children would have ceased to exist as soon as she took her own life.
However by this point Davies was aware that Steven Moffat already had similar plans for Donna in his two parter, Silence Of The Library / Forest Of The Dead and Davies agreed that the idea was more integral to Moffat's plot than to his own.

The first draft of Turn Left was completed on 2nd November 2007. 
A number of episodes were to be revisited in the story this time however, without the Doctor to save the day, the outcomes to the tales were very different:
Smith And Jones - Martha Jones and Sarah Jane Smith had been killed at the Royal Hope Hospital alongside Sarah's young companions, Maria, Luke and Clyde.
Voyage Of The Damned - The Titanic had crashed in to Earth and wiped out most of Southern England including Buckingham Palace.
Partners In Crime - The Adipose had killed millions in the USA.
The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky - Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones from Torchwood sacrificed themselves to try and stop the Sontarans, but to no avail and Captain Jack Harkness had been captured and taken to Sontar.

Turn Left was doubled banked - filmed alongside - Midnight and The Doctor's Daughter. Once again Susie Liggat stepped in as producer, whilst Phil Collinson was credited as executive producer.
Directing Turn Left was Graeme Harper who had recently finished work on The Unicorn And The Wasp and Planet Of The Ood.

Filming on Turn Left began on 22nd November 2007 with news bulletins being recorded at the BBC in Cardiff. 26th November saw scenes in Jival Chowdry's business and at the housing office recorded at Bay Chambers in Cardiff. On the same day, the scene of UNIT taking away the Doctor's body was filmed on Hamadryad Road in the city. The 26th November marked Billie Piper's return to the Doctor Who set. She had left almost two years earlier after recording her final scenes on the two part episode The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit. 
In the meantine,  the BBC had commissioned an hour and half special centered around her character called Rose Tyler: Earth Defence. The show was to tell the story of Rose's life on the parallel Earth and her work at their Torchwood Institute.
But in the end Davies asked the BBC to cancel the show. He decided that it was unnecessary and would ruin Rose's parting moments in Doomsday.  
On 26th November 2007 the BBC announced that Piper would be returning to series for three episodes.

On 27th November filming moved to Clearwater Parade, which was the area of Donna's time-jump. It was then on to Nant Fawr Road, for the shots outside Donna's home. On the 28th November it was further location work, Court Road was the scene of the fateful crossroad at the very centre of the story, whilst the Lady Mary Allotments in Roath Park were the location for Wilf's stargazing scenes. On the 29th November Donna's sacrifice was shot at St Isan Road, while Franklen Road was the location used for the scene of Rose warning to Donna to leave London for Christmas. The 30th November saw the cast and crew head back to base at Upper Boat, for scenes in the TARDIS and the fortune teller's tent. This day saw the first use of The Time Beetle, which had been designed to resemble the giant spider which was attached to Sarah Jane Smith's back in the 1974 episode Planet Of The Spiders.

David Tennant's only full day of filming for Turn Left was on 1st December 2007. The day saw the cast and crew filming  in a car park near the Cardiff Royal Infirmary where the Shan Shen marketplace had been set up and then later it was back to  Upper Boat for more sequences in the fortune teller's tent. Also recorded on 1st December was the news item regarding Royal Hope Hospital, which saw the return of Ben Righton as Oliver Morgenstern from Smith And Jones. On 3rd December, the Egerton Grey Country House in Porthkerry was the site for the Nobles' Christmas getaway, whilst shots on the coach were captured at Port Road in Rhoose. The Nobles' house in Leeds was actually a house on Machen Street in Penarth. On the 4th and 5th December scenes of the Nobles' house in Leeds were recorded at a house on Machen Street in Penarth.

On 6th December filming began at the Conway in Pontcanna, which was the scene of the bar where Donna and her friends enjoyed Christmas drink. In the evening, Donna's chat with Rose on the bench was due to be recorded at Thompson Park in Pontcanna. But, Catherine Tate had become unwell with the flu, and so it was decided that the scene shouldbe recorded at Sophia Gardens, where the production unit had base. Principal photography on Turn Left finished on 7th and 8th December at  the Panteg Steelworks in Pontypool  where the scenes in the UNIT warehouse were shot. A number of insert shots were also completed on the 8th.

As 2008 dawned there was still work to complete on Turn Left . Julie Gardner, the executive producer, had decided that more shots of the phrase 'Bad Wolf' appearing on Shan Shen and the the TARDIS itself needed to be included and so these were filmed on 18th January  at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff. Extra inserts in the TARDIS, the fortune teller's tent, and the Shan Shen marketplace were filmed at Upper Boat on 24th January. The final concluding scene of the TARDIS was filmed at Upper Boat on 20th March.

The Time Beetle:
The Time Beetle was a creature from the Pantheon Of Discord, one of the Trickster's Brigade. It was on Shane Shen and was drawn to Donna Noble, sensing that she was connected to time and coincidence. When Donna visited the Beetle's familiar, a Fortune Teller, it jumped on her back feeding off the chaos created by the alternative history Donna was forced to relive. Donna, helped by Rose Tyler, was too string and managed to restore time to the correct path, destroying the Beetle in the process.

The Dimension Cannon:
The Dimension Cannon was a device used by Rose Tyler to cross different time lines and realities, trying to find the Doctor, to warn him that the Universe was collapsing. It could track timelines and Rose quickly realised that all lines led to Donna Noble so, unable to contact the Doctor, Rose concentrated on finding Donna instead.


So that's why Lucius thought Donna had "something on her back" in The Fires of Pompeii!

As the constellation of Orion is 93.6 light years away from Earth, either it vanished 93.6 years ago (as it would have taken that long for light from its stars to stop reaching us) or mysterious forces are at work...

Trick Or Treat

The Doctor refers to "the Trickster", a powerful being who appeared in the Sarah Jane Adventures story Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?

The Doctor once disguised himself as a gypsy fortune teller in 1967's The Underwater Menace and former companion Tegan encountered one in a market on Mannussa in 1983's Snakedance.

The Doctor 'died' once before - in the 1996 TV Movie. Normally, regeneration is instantaneous, but there was a gap of several hours between the Seventh Doctor's demise on the operating table and his rebirth in the morgue.

Sarah Jane Smith once had a massive, invisible creepy crawly on her back - in her case a giant spider from Metebelis III from 1974's Planet Of The Spiders.

A circle of mirrors was used to expose another parasitic menace in 1982's Kinda - in that story, the manifestation of the Mara as a giant snake.

Chipo Chung, who plays the mysterious fortune teller also appeared in episode 11 of Series Three, as Professor Yana's faithful assistant, Chantho. Joseph Long, who plays Mr Colasanto, also appears as Luigi in BBC drama series Ashes to Ashes.

  • David Tennant - The Doctor
  • Catherine Tate - Donna Noble
  • Billie Piper - Rose Tyler
  • Bernard Cribbins - Wilfred Mott
  • Jacqueline King - Sylvia Noble
  • Joseph Long - Rocco Colasanto
  • Noma Dumezweni - Captain Magambo
  • Chipo Chung - Fortune Teller
  • Marcia Lecky - MookyKahari
  • Suzann McLean - Veena Brady
  • Natalie Walter - Alice Coltrane
  • Neil Clench - Man in Pub
  • Clive Standen - Private Harris
  • Bhasker Patel - Jival Chowdry
  • Catherine York - Female Reporter
  • Ben Righton - Oliver Morgenstern