Please feel free to comment on my review.
Dregs with the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz
It’s time for the second TV story of Series 12 of ‘Doctor Who’ – ‘Orphan 55’! This episode is by Ed Hime, who previously contributed to ‘Doctor Who’ in Series 11 with the episode ‘It Takes You Away’.
I enjoyed that Series 11 episode by Ed Hime very much. I was looking forward to what he would provide in terms of delivering his ideas for ‘Orphan 55’. Would my expectations be met here though?
Well…okay, first of all, I had a fun time with ‘Orphan 55’! It starts off being a sunny holiday resort story to becoming a horror adventure in dark tunnels. There was a lot going on for my tastes here. 😐
Watching it recently as well as on a first viewing, it did seem to be all over the place. It did come together decently towards the end with a surprising plot twist and a very interesting moral message.
But revisiting it, there are things that could’ve been better. The episode has the Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz cleaning up in the TARDIS after…a monster attack? I’m not sure what occurred here. 😐
It’s not explained to us what happened with that tentacle in the TARDIS and what it was. I’m still not sure if the tentacle had gone by the time this episode finished. It could be still there for all I know. 😀
As you saw in that video clip, Graham found what appeared to be ‘coupons’ that can form a teleport cube. The Doctor warns Graham about putting it together and forming the cube, but it’s too late. 😐
The Doctor and her friends are soon teleported to Tranquillity Spa, which happens to be a holiday resort with an all-inclusive stay. 😀 Wow! How they managed to get there so quickly astounds me. 😀
Graham, Ryan and Yaz take the chance to enjoy themselves once they and the Doctor have been welcomed by their customer host Hyph3n. The Doctor meanwhile explores the place, rather curious.
I would’ve liked it if the first half of the episode showed the Doctor and her friends enjoying luxury at this Tranquillity Spa. It would’ve allowed us and them to appreciate the Tranquillity Spa they visit.
But soon, the holiday turns into a nightmare when a physical breach occurs. The guests are asked to assemble for a muster drill. This is before it turns out monstrous creatures are attacking the place. 😮
Pretty soon, the Doctor and her three friends along with some other characters venture out of the Tranquillity Spa. Gosh, not enough for the Doctor and her friends to enjoy their ‘vacation’, is there? 😐
It soon transpires that Tranquillity Spa is a ‘fakation’ – a place designed to look like a vacation within a fabricated environment that is like a dome. It’s on a desolate planet that’s identified as Orphan 55.
The monsters attacking the Tranquillity Spa turn out to be the Dregs. The Doctor uncovers horrific truths regarding the Dregs and the Orphan 55 planet. It also shocks her friends once they find out. 😐
As I indicated, this episode does have a lot going for it. It would’ve been great if ‘Orphan 55’ was told as a two-parter instead of a one-parter, as it’d allow us more time to enjoy the story and characters.
Things do seem crammed in, but that didn’t stop it from being very enjoyably entertaining. I look forward to when Ed Hime does the Target novelization on this story to expand things in more detail.
It’s a shame to talk about ‘Orphan 55’ in this way as I did enjoy Ed Hime’s ‘It Takes You Away’ in Series 11. You’d think he’d provide an equally good episode for Series 12 like he’d done for Series 11.
The presentation of the episode might also have something to do with who’s directing it. I don’t know much about Lee Haven Jones, but I wonder how a different director would handle this story. 😐
There’s also the issue of there being too many supporting characters to contend with. I get that this Tranquillity Spa place has a lot of guests and staff present, but I think a smaller group would’ve been better.
A smaller group would’ve allowed us to appreciate each and every character in turn along with the Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz. If anything, it runs the risk of our main leads being underused in this.
One of the episode’s strong points is how scary it can be, especially with its monsters – the Dregs. I’ve never seen ‘Doctor Who’ monsters as scary as them before and I did find them rather horrific. 😮
I recall someone describing the Dregs as being scarier than the Silence. I would concur there and I wonder how the kiddies would have reacted to them. I’m sure many kids were scared of the Dregs.
There is the argument the Dregs should’ve been held back before a final reveal was made in the second half of the episode. If ‘Orphan 55’ was a two-parter, I’m sure the commodity would be there.
Like I said, there’s quite a lot going on and it can be argued that the editing, the pacing and such was too fast for audiences to cope with. Maybe the close-up shots of the Dregs didn’t help matters here.
It was intriguing when it was revealed one of the guests Bella, who happens to be a fake hotel critic, turns out to be the daughter of the security chief Kane. It was something that came out of nowhere.
Granted, it was quite sudden with the mother and daughter being revealed as it needed more time to be developed. I’m sure I’ll be saying this again and again, but a two-parter would’ve been better.
Also intriguing was seeing the relationships of father and son Nevi and Sylvas as well as the elderly romantic couple Vilma and Benni. I wish ‘Orphan 55’ was a two-part story to appreciate them more.
I enjoyed how the Doctor found out more about the Dregs in terms of what they were doing on Orphan 55 and how they got on the planet in the first place. She also gets to mind-meld with a Dreg.
Through the mind-meld, she sees images of the Dregs’ past which are shocking! She also gains oxygen from the Dreg and even uses oxygen as a special weapon to sort out these nasty monsters. 🙂
Jodie Whittaker is excellent as the Doctor in this fast-paced episode. She has a lot to contend with so much madness is going on. She works things out pretty quickly with what’s happening on the planet.
She does this through interacting with people like Kane in order to find out the answers to some pretty disturbing revelations. Jodie’s energetic performance as the Doctor is non-stop throughout. 🙂
It was tense when Jodie’s Doctor got manhandled by one of the Dregs after getting oxygen from it and having her mind-meld with it. Thankfully she gets rescued by Kane from the Dreg in the episode.
The Doctor also manages to negotiate with the same Dreg, I believe, understanding their language. Well, she’s a Time Lord after all! Why not? I find it easy to believe Jodie’s performance as the Doctor.
I think Jodie saved the episode for me in terms of her performance as the Doctor whilst most things seemed to be haphazard. That’s one positive I can say about Jodie’s era of the show. She assures me.
Of the three companions in this episode, Tosin Cole as Ryan stands out for me. I found the comedy stuff with him getting infected by a Hopper virus popping out of the vending machine really funny. 🙂
Seriously, I couldn’t help laugh out loud with Ryan’s antics and getting hallucinations with the Doctor around. 😀 I wish we could see more of that as Tosin Cole’s comedy-playing as Ryan is pretty good. 🙂
I enjoyed the sort-of semi-romantic relationship Ryan had with Bella when they teamed up together in the episode. Ryan and Bella do have some nice scenes together and they share things in common.
This includes talking about their families as Bella’s father died and Ryan’s mother died. Ryan however is against Bella’s plan to blow up the Tranquillity Spa to get revenge against her own mother.
Graham and Yaz do seem to have the short straw of character development throughout the episode. That’s not to say they’re too weakly developed. Bradley Walsh and Mandip Gill are very good in this.
They get the most interaction with the Doctor, but there isn’t very much to say that stands out about them as characters. This is why having a huge group of guest character in the tale can be a big issue.
Graham is very keen about enjoying himself at the Tranquillity Spa. He’s disgruntled when things go wrong once the physical breach occurs. Graham also gets asked to help out once Nevi’s son is absent.
He’s asked to help Nevi try and fix an engineering problem. I did find it funny when Graham complained “I’m a bus driver!” Surely Graham has his mechanical skills since ‘The Ghost Monument’.
Yaz has her moments when using oxygen that bursts out of cables to ward off a Dreg to save herself and Ryan in the Doctor’s plan to defeat them. She also helps Ryan place a bomb in Tranquillity Spa. 🙂
This is to blow up the place itself along with the Dregs inside it. I liked it when Yaz admired the Tranquillity Spa view earlier on. It’s one of those moments where Yaz proves to be pretty likeable. 🙂
It does feel though that companions like Yaz are getting underused again as was the case in Series 11. I hoped that wouldn’t be entirely the case when I was watching Series 12 in 2020’s early months.
I hoped that Yaz and Graham would get to have an episode each in Series 12 to make them stand out more. ‘Orphan 55’ is a tale where Ryan stood out. I wondered when Yaz and Graham’s turn was.
Just to side-track, I wrote for Yaz, the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham and Ryan in ‘Hank Prank’ in 2019. Even I could find something for Yaz to do and make her a more competent character than on the TV.
The guest cast are very good despite not getting much in terms of character development. There’s Laura Fraser as Kane, the hard-hearted security chief whom the Doctor often has clashes with in this.
I found out whilst researching this episode that Laura Fraser was in the film ‘A Knight’s Tale’ with Heath Ledger. I haven’t seen that film in years. I must get around to revisiting that film some day. 😀
Gia Ré guest stars as Bella, whom Ryan befriends and she turns out to be Kane’s daughter. It was interesting to see how that gets unveiled and how she’s responsible with what’s happening in this. 😐
She happens to be responsible the Dregs attacking the Tranquillity Spa and such. The Doctor condemns Bella for this before she gets to persuade her to help with sorting out this deadly madness!
James Buckley guest stars as the green-haired Nevi along with his son Lewin Lloyd as the green-haired Sylas. I have seen one person on TV with green hair like that. In ‘Power Rangers: Time Force’! 😀
I’ve not seen ‘The Inbetweeners’, but James Buckley is very well-known for playing Jay Cartwright in the E4 sitcom series. He and Joe Thomas have now done ‘Doctor Who’. Joe was in ‘Castle of Fear’. 🙂
I did find Nevi to be wasted in this episode though. With a stand-out name like James Buckley, you’d think he’d get a lot of character development. Mind you, it was so intriguing to see Nevi’s character.
It turns out that Nevi isn’t a good mechanic like his son Sylas is and that he can’t solve many engineering problems without his son. I wish that had been explored more without so much rushed.
But again, you’d think James Buckley would be given a meatier role and one with a lot of jokes due to his ‘Inbetweeners’ fame. I wondered what James Buckley thought of the script when he read it. 😐
The episode also features Julia Foster as Vilma and Col Farrell as Benni, the elderly romantic couple. I was shocked and saddened by how Benni got killed off by the Dregs in this tale. It was so saddening.
Mind you, I did think Vilma was hysterical at times when it came to searching for Benni outside the Tranquillity Spa. Julia Foster could’ve toned it down a bit as Vilma needed to calm down in the story.
Perhaps Julia Foster didn’t know when to take it seriously during the episode’s production. 😀 Vilma did self-sacrifice herself to save others, though it could have been done without being over-the-top.
There’s also Amy Booth-Steel as Hyph3n, who must be of an alien humanoid species that I can’t recognise. She’s the first person to welcome the Doctor and her friends upon arrival to Tranquillity Spa.
She also lets the Doctor into the ‘linen cupboard’ area where all the action behind-the-scenes of Tranquillity Spa occurs. There’s also Will Austin as Vorm, one of Kane’s security troopers in the story.
When the Doctor, her friends and the guest characters go outside of Tranquillity Spa, they have to wear blue things on their noses to provide them the oxygen they need in order to breathe outside. 😐
They also wear these bulky wrist devices that monitors their oxygen levels when going outside. I did wonder if the Doctor would look so silly with one of those blue things on her nose. Thankfully not! 🙂
Like I said, the episode features a surprising plot twist. It turns out that Orphan 55 happens to be…the planet Earth in the future. I wasn’t expecting to see that! It came as a big surprise indeed. 😐
I did wonder whether we had landed on Ravalox from ‘The Mysterious Planet’ segment of ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ story. It would’ve been nice if that were the case in this story. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.
But as the Doctor explains to Graham, Ryan and Yaz at the end, Orphan 55 could possibly be one of Earth’s alternative futures. So Ravalox might not happen in the end as the Sixth Doctor suggested. 🙂
It also may be that the Earth’s destruction in ‘The End of the World’ might not happen in the year 5 billion. I am curious how Earth’s future will turn out. It depends on how we as human make choices.
The episode’s climax was a little bit clumsy, but quite thrilling and gripping. Nevi and his son Sylas manage to escape whilst the Dregs are attacking on all sides via teleport. It’s all pretty intense here.
The Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz also manage to escape via teleport whilst Kane and Bella hold off the Dregs with their gunfire! Wait, Kane managed to survive? I assumed that she had been killed off!
I wondered how Kane managed to survive after she held off a Dreg for the Doctor to escape earlier. I rechecked the scenes on BBC iPlayer to be sure. Kane’s fortunate arrival by the end seemed sudden.
Ryan and Bella also share a quick kiss before they part. Again, I think this episode would’ve benefited being a two-part story in order to allow the romance between Ryan and Bella to blossom a bit more.
The Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz thankfully return to the TARDIS. Ryan is upset about what happened to Bella and Kane whilst Graham and Yaz also confront the Doctor about Earth’s future. 😐
From the questions asked, the Doctor gives his three companions a moral message about how the future is in flux and how humanity can be better than that. The message does have some value in it.
I quite like that final scene in the episode where the Doctor gives a moral message not just to her companions but also to us as an audience. Humanity does need to improve with the way things are!
And this isn’t just with the Earth ending up being devastated with a lot of war and political division occurring. It could also be to do with global pandemics such as what many of us experienced in 2020.
Actually, I’m rather curious. I wonder if many ‘Doctor Who’ fans and audiences look at this episode differently in light of what happened in 2020 with the Covid-19 pandemic. Could be wrong of course!
I did enjoy ‘Orphan 55’ very much when I first saw it. Yes, it can be messy in places and there are issues with too many characters being featured and not getting enough development for them here.
But I enjoyed the episode for featuring some scary monsters in the Dregs as well as an interesting plot twist about Earth’s future and the moral message at the end. Jodie Whittaker is excellent too. 😀
I would’ve written ‘Orphan 55’ a lot better, limiting the group of characters to a small number and extending it to two episodes would help. It needed breathing space as everything felt crammed in! 😐
The DVD/Blu-ray special features for this episode are as follows. On Disc 3 of ‘The Complete Series 12’ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s a ‘Closer Look’ on ‘Orphan 55’.
‘Orphan 55’ rating – 6/10
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