So, our first off-world (or so it seems) story for series 12 and it’s a holiday for the team at Tranquility Spa in Ed Hime’s Orphan 55. I really, really didn’t like this episode for a number of reasons I go into. It looked fabulous but almost everything else failed for me. I had expected innovation from Ed Hime after his previous story (It Takes You Away) but I didn’t see a lot here. There is a spoiler for the big reveal, so click away now if you haven’t watched yet. Still here? Let’s chat…
Where to start?
Maybe the beginning. I don’t mind the action starting as they mop up the remains of a not-seen encounter, but I do mind the teleport gimmick. The rule seems to be the TARDIS shields are impenetrable unless it’s funny or not putting a threat in the TARDIS. See Kerblam! for example. Never mind making this worse when the TARDIS is in the Vortex. So, I started off annoyed.
My lists of observations centres on:
- The new characters
- The plot
- The companions
- The Dregs
- Orphan 55
- The Doctor
- The Web of Time
An interesting and very varied mix of people (a bit like The Tsuranga Conundrum) but each had just one aspect to their backstory. They told us it then moved on. There was a little more in the daughter / mother line but it was raced through from left home to blow the place up. Really?
I’d have preferred half as many people with some decent storylines and a few non-speaking extras.
Back to base under siege with a spin on Alien and a plea for the environment. Now we’ve had plenty of eco-aware stories going back to the ’70s (at least) but none as heavy-handed as this. We guessed the Orphan 55 twist (see below) and the speech through the fourth wall was laying it on with a trowel.
Let’s talk about the ride in the special car. Why did everyone have to get on board? When we found Berni was outside, why did we never see him? I get not showing his mercy killing in a programme for younger viewers but this all felt poor.
Then there’s the oxygen supply gimmick. Just when we thought the Doctor would pull a variant of the respiratory bypass we find the Dregs exhale oxygen. Interesting but underused (see Dregs below) never mind how enough oxygen is produced in thirty seconds to recharge the Doctor’s air supply. Rubbish.
This could have been a solo Doctor story. Ryan’s romance had no impact on the resolution. Yaz was there solely to get angry about the future of humanity and the Doctor for guessing. Graham was there for a cheap joke at the beginning. I really do want them to have a decent chance. This was poor.
Very nicely realised if too similar to the monster from Alien when seen in shadows. A real sense of menace and the idea for breathing out oxygen could have been explored. Maybe a desperate symbiosis solution?
Oh dear. Orphan 55 was really Earth!!! Didn’t see that coming! The reveal was very much as Mysterious Planet but let’s remember that story was shown in 1986. That’s 34 years ago. I think most viewers won’t be thinking about it being a repeat. Curious that the trial series brought Chris Chibnall to public attention though.
Earth is meant to have been laid waste a few times. Eco-disaster -> war is a realistic story line. Does it fit with the show? Does it allow Daleks to turn up and conquer the Earth in Dalek Invasion of Earth? See the web of time below.
I thought this was solid enough. A bit dark, a bit too chatty, leading, pragmatic and didn’t need the regular companions at all. I like how she was meant to be a bit preoccupied at the start. Overall I’m liking how Jodie Whittaker is developing the part.
The Web of Time
What happened to fixed points and not changing history? This whole it’s just one possibility undermines vast swathes of the show. On this basis just go back a few centuries and keep resetting until you like the result. Have I missed something or is this really out of keeping?
Loads I didn’t like. Actually some strengths when I write it all out but a lot I’d have liked different. Maybe if I wasn’t looking at it so critically I’d have got more from it?
What did you think? Let me know!