Doctor Who Review: “Orphan 55”

…people sat at home arguing about the washing up while the house burned down.
–Doctor Who

After a fairly strong opening, Doctor Who gives us an episode that might have aired last year, or during Matt Smith’s run, recycled from familiar tropes. That doesn’t mean it has to be a bad episode, but….

Let’s take a closer look.

Title: “Orphan 55”

Directed by Lee Haven Jones
Written by Ed Hime

Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor
Tosin Cole as Ryan Sinclair
Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan
Bradley Walsh as Graham O’Brien
Will Austin as Vorm
Amy Booth-Steel as Hyph3n
Julia Foster as Vilma
Col Farrell as Benni
James Buckley as Nevi
Lewin Lloyd as Sylas
Laura Foster as Kane
Gia Ré as Bela
Spencer Wilding as Lead Dreg


The Doctor and her companions go on vacation, only to encounter a danger, familiar tropes, and a social message.

High Points

The Dregs may recall other, more familiar Aliens and stranger things that we’ve seen, but they remain impressive threats nonetheless, with a serviceable backstory that could have been used more for its horror potential.

Likeable guest-characters face real consequences.

Low Point

I have no problem with the message– Doctor Who has always featured theme-heavy episodes—but the awkwardly-paced, “Who Goes There?” type of story doesn’t do enough to make that message feel anything but tacked-on. And you do not hit the audience over the head with the message when it feels tacked-on. You maniacs! You blew up the script’s potential!

The Scores

Originality: 1/6 “Who Goes There?” blends with elements reminiscent, in particular, of pop-SF from the 60s and early 70s, and aliens derived from designs we’ve seen before. A strong story can be made of these elements, but it won’t be an original story.

Effects: 5/6 The Dregs look great. The rest of the episode is BBC standard. Squirrely Hyph3n looks doggone awful, like a refugee from the dance at an SF Con or an episode of Doctor Who from the 1980s.

Acting: 5/6 The performances are fine, but the cast has to battle….

Story: 4/6 …a choppy script that gives that develops the characters inadequately.

Emotional Response: 4/6

Production: 4/6 See “Effects.”

Overall: 4/6 This episodes doesn’t serve up the dregs of the series, but, like my pun, it’s disappointing.

In total, “Orphan 55” receives 27/42

Lingering Question

The Doctor reminds the companions that we’re seeing one possible future. This serves as both a warning to the audience and a means of lampshading the fact that we’ve seen multiple contradictory futures over the course of the series. Is it also foreshadowing for the Gallifrey plot underlying this season?

5 replies on “Doctor Who Review: “Orphan 55””

    • You know, timey-whimy….

      Not necessarily. The novel All Our Wrong Todays uses a concept of time-travel that allows for multiple realities, while requiring certain Fixed Points. Everything changes, but that one point remains the same.

      But it’s really problematic.

      Doctor Who has wrestled with the concept before. The Tom Baker-era episode “The Pyramids of Mars” comes to mind. And it’s not for nothing that a noteworthy 1995 book about the series is called The Discontinuity Guide.

    • Yeah, but continuity has never been something Who has slavishly adhered to. Biggest problem with it is that if everything is a “potential future” then there are an essentially infinite number of them, so how can a Timelord have *any* knowledge of events that are ahead of a point in their personal timeline before which everything is fixed history? That was far from the only point over which the writer diverged from generally established canon, to the point I was wondering how many episodes of the show they’d actually watched.

      I also found the preaching exposition at the end to be waaay over the top. Not so much laying it on with a trowel as just dumping the entire contents of the delivery truck over the head the viewer, which rather ruined the ending for me to put it mildly. In the lack of subtleness stakes (with a nod to Hitch’s comment below), they’ve gone to plaid.

  1. On reflection, I get the impression that the planet was just going to be “generic post apocalyptic planet” when the first draft of the script was written. I mean, that would have worked fine for the story. If they had left it as such, it would have freed up a few minutes of screen time to fix the choppiness of the editing.

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