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Doctor Who Orphan 55

Review by Paul Bowler

Deciding its time for a holiday as the third episode of Doctor Who Series 12, Orphan 55, gets underway the Doctor and her companions get whisked away – thanks to a handy teleport cube – for a break and some much needed R&R at Tranquillity Spar. Naturally being Doctor Who it’s not long before it becomes clear this luxury resort is hiding some deadly secrets. The mystery of Tranquillity Spa crumbles as savagely ferocious monsters begin to attack, placing the Doctor and her friends in dire peril…

After the startling return of the Master and the revelations about Gallifrey’s demise in the two-part opening story Spyfall, Series 12 heads into somewhat more formulaic base under siege territory with Orphan 55, written by Ed Hime (who also scripted 2018’s It Takes You Away) and directed by Lee Haven Jones.

Jodie Whittaker continues to excel as the 13th incarnation of the Doctor, giving a fun and at times steely performances in this episode as the Time Lord goes on holiday with companions Ryan (Tosin Coyle), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) to the beautiful Tranquillity Spar leisure resort. Its nice to see Whittaker and Co exploring the fun side of their characters while they soak up the sun and enjoy some down time from their adventures, but they soon uncover there’s more to this planets luxury facility than meets the eye.

In reality the idyllic location of Tranquillity Spar is nothing more than an illusion. Beyond its walls this fake resort for cheap off-world holidays is actually based on an Orphan planet, a toxic uninhabitable world plagued by savage monsters.

Guest staring Breaking Bad’s Laura Fraser as Kane and The Inbetweeners’James Buckley as Nevi, along with Col Farrell as Benni and Julia Elizabeth Fogle as Vilma, and Gia Ree as Bela, Orphan 55 writer Ed Hime skilfully utilises the ensemble cast to build the air of brooding menace as the Doctor and her companions holiday is thrown into chaos. The early sunshine and jokes soon beings to fade, along with Tranquillity Spars façade, as the reality of why a holiday spar needs defending with an Ionic Membrane becomes apparent when the TARDIS team are faced with some of the scariest monsters to have appeared in the series in recent years.

Orphan 55 does indeed have some fearsomely scary new monsters, the Dregs, a native species that survived the fallout. The creatures are adaptive, apex predators, able to survive a nuclear winter. Once they break into Tranquillity Spar and begin attacking, Benni gets captured by the Dregs, so the Doctor, her friends and the surviving guest set out across the barren surface of Orphan 55 in an armoured vehicle to try and rescue him. The Dregs themselves look stunning, the great combination practical and animatronic effects used for the creatures are really impressive, and their bellowing roar also heightens their menacing presence.

Filming for Orphan 55 took the cast and crew to Tenerife, providing the perfect setting for the all-inclusive holiday resort of Tranquillity Spar, and director Lee Haven Jones captures some stunning scenery for this episode. The scenes where the Dregs attack the vehicle and the Doctor has to lead the group across the surface as the monsters close in are especially effective. Although there’s a large cast of characters to accommodate in Orphan 55, scenes never feel over cluttered, and everyone is key to driving the plot forward.

Jodie Whittaker is on especially fine form as the Doctor in Orphan 55. The Time Lord has to face some extremely challenging situations over the course of the episode while also trying to keep everyone safe at the same time. There’s a great underground chase though a Dreg nest as well which brings Whittaker’s Doctor face to face – quite literally – with the Dregs leader, and it’s a great moment that simultaneously showcases the 13th Doctor’s unflinching bravery and ingenuity. Tosin Coyle also gets a good share of the action as well when Ryan’s bravery is severely tested to the limit after he briefly becomes separated from the rest of the group and teams up with Bela (Gia Ree) – a guest that has come to Tranquillity Spar with very personal score to settle.

With a frenetic final race against time to hold off the Dregs long enough for the survivors to teleport away from Tranquillity Spar, Orphan 55 sees the Doctor and her companions transported back to inside the TARDIS. It is here that Ed Hime’s script and Jodie Whittaker‘s performance meld compellingly as the gang reflect on this adventure and the frightening realisation that the world they were on was actually Earth. Jodie Whittaker’s speech here as the Doctor clarifies the horror of the potential future they’ve narrowly escaped from, and its clear the stark environmental message it represents has shaken this TARDIS team to the core.

So, does this mean Orphan 55 is a return to the Preachy Who style of storytelling for which Series 11 was so heavily criticized, or were Orphan 55’s poignant final scenes a commendable and timely reminder for our own worlds current environmental crisis?

I thought Orphan 55 turned out to be a fairly enjoyable Doctor Who adventure for the most part. Sure, the script was a little clunky in places at times, the Doctor’s eventual means for escaping Tranquillity Spar and the Dregs were a tad convoluted, but the episode also boasted some exceptionally tense action sequences and the monsters were really superb. In fact I think the Dregs will probably be the main thing that Orphan 55 will be best remembered for. No doubt closing out this episode with a strong environmental message about global warming was intended to resonate powerfully, instead it was shoehorned in so quickly at the end that everything seemed a bit forced, and sadly the end result felt more like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Images Belong BBC

About The Author

Hi, I’m Paul Bowler, blogger and reviewer of films, TV shows, and comic books. I’m a Sci-Fi geek, a big fan of Doctor Who, Star Trek, movies, Sci-Fi, Horror, Comic Books, and all things PS4.You can follow me on Twitter @paul_bowler,or at my website, Sci-Fi Jubilee, and on YouTube and Facebook