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Doctor Who: Orphan 55
(1 episode, s12e03, 2020)

Timestamp 295 Orphan 55

A monster tale armed with a messaging bludgeon.

Wrapping up another adventure we don’t get to see, the Doctor, Ryan, and Yaz are mopping the TARDIS floor after encountering a deep-space squid during mating season. Meanwhile, Graham has been collecting coupons from the Bandohzi Herald to win a free vacation. The coupons assemble into a transport cube and the team is teleported away to Tranquility Spa.

They are greeted by a furry humanoid named Hyph3n who insists they can return to their ship at any time, but should enjoy the perks of their two-week all-inclusive stay. As the team splits up, the teleport station shorts out. Because why not?

Below decks, a pair of staff members named Vorm and Kane react to a virus in the system. The same bug, a hopper virus, infects Ryan. The Doctor can treat him, and as Ryan swings at hallucinations in the form of bats, Yaz finds the pool and an elderly pair named Benni and Vilma.

While Vorm and Kane hunt the virus, the spa enters lockdown and Ryan meets a woman named Bella, a supposed hotel critic. The Doctor finds Hyph3n and enters the deadlock room while posing as a resort inspector. She meets Kane and discovers that the spa is guarded by a defensive ionic membrane. The hopper virus is in every system and Kane is attacked by a ferocious humanoid creature.

Graham finds Nevi and Sylas, the elder of whom is working on systems in the bar. The guests are scrambling for safety throughout the spa, and the Doctor tries to coordinate efforts from the lockdown room. The Doctor repairs the ionic membrane and forces the creatures to retreat.

Outside, Kane describes the creatures as Dregs, locals who have broken through the invisible walls surrounding the “fake-cation” resort. Unfortunately, Benni and his oxygen tank have been taken outside the walls, so a team of volunteers is assembled to rescue him. The resort is located on Orphan 55, and the outside atmosphere is inhospitable. Luckily, the radiation levels have died down.


The team consists of pretty much everyone we’ve met so far, and they take a large armored vehicle into the outside area. The Doctor reasons that the Dregs have evolved to survive in the wasteland, even by adapting to weapons. Kane tries to call off the mission when she realizes that the Dregs have Benni, but Vilma and the Doctor convince her otherwise.

The truck eventually ends up stranded deep in Dreg territory after it hits a trap. The group can only survive for ten minutes on the surface, so Kane sets course for a nearby service tunnel. They are forced to retreat when the Dregs arrive and surround the truck. Benni’s voice sounds through the truck, pleading that someone shoot him. The Dregs attack the truck, everyone runs, and they make it to the tunnel. In the process, Hyph3n and Vorm are captured and Kane is injured.

Kane also reveals that she killed Benni. Vilma is horrified and Bella pulls Kane’s gun. In a twist, it turns out that Bella’s father is dead, she wants to burn the resort to the ground, and Kane is her mother. When a Dreg attacks, Bella and Ryan teleport back to the resort as the team continues their walk home.

Unfortunately, that path takes them right through a Dreg nest.

The Doctor finds evidence that Orphan 55 is Earth, a revelation that stuns Graham and Yaz. As the team’s oxygen supplies dwindle, Vilma sacrifices herself so that the others can run. The Doctor finds a dormant Dreg and discovers that they exhale oxygen. She also telepathically links with it and sees images of how they arrived on Earth. When it turns on the Doctor, Kane sacrifices herself to save the Time Lord.

Bella tells Ryan that she introduced the hopper virus into the resort. She also placed bombs throughout the place to destroy it. Ryan learns the truth about Orphan 55 when the group returns to the spa, linking the demise of their home to climate change and food chain collapse.

The survivors – the Doctor, Graham, Ryan, Yaz, Nevi, Sylas, and Bella – gather in the lockdown room. Sylas grows frustrated with Nevi and leaves, so the Doctor and Bella go after him while Nevi and Graham focus on the teleport, and Yaz and Ryan fight off the Dregs. The Doctor and Bella save Sylas and encounter the alpha Dreg. The Doctor traps the alpha and reasons with it, securing their escape.

As everyone reunites by the teleport (where Sylas has saved the day), Kane returns and joins forces with Bella to fight the Dregs. The teleport engages and sends everyone else home, including the travelers back to the TARDIS.

The companions are upset that their home is destroyed, but the Doctor reminds them that Orphan 55 is only one possible future, but humanity has the power to decide.

This is such a mixed bag. On one hand, the monster story was good, and if it had stuck with the simple monsters invading a resort, the episode would have been good. But, there’s the twist that one of the guests is trying to burn the place down because she has mommy issues. And if the plot wasn’t convoluted enough, we get a great message about climate change presented as a bonk-bonk-sledgehammer-to-the-head.

There’s subtlety and then there’s Orphan 55.

The production was also shoddy, probably due to the same budgeting issues that have plagued the Whittaker era. The monsters outside the dome were inconsistent, often disappearing from longer shots when we’re told they’re surrounding the survivors. Also, scientifically, fires shouldn’t burn in such oxygen-poor environments. Holes in a story can be compensated by good production (and vice-versa), but it is obvious when both are found lacking.

Also lacking in this story is the Doctor’s character. By the end credits, Kane and Bella are still on Orphan 55 fighting the monsters. The Doctor has control of a time machine, but does not immediately set a course to save them. What? Even if this is one possible future for Earth, the two women can still be saved with minimal contribution to the already messy timeline.

Writer Ed Hime forgot this fact while musing about climate activism. I sympathize with him and his views, but his story was lacking. Notably, this was his second and final story (to date) for Doctor Who, following after It Takes You Away.

Sadly, all of this combined means that the pace set by Spyfall slams to a halt as this season tries to get off the ground.

Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

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