…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

Cast
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

Premise

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?