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Doctor Who review Orphan 55 - we're all going on TARDIS holiday

by Dana Andersen. Published Tue 14 Jan 2020 16:33

Episode three was just the holiday The Doctor ordered - and a necessary move in a different direction after the huge reveal from two part feature story Spy Fall.

Orphan 55, this week's episode, needed to have a real punch to it and it was packed full of surprises and with yet another comedy guest star. This time James Buckley, returning to the monster of the week format we all know and love has never felt so good.

Beginning in the TARDIS with Graham collecting coupons like any good granddad, we think Team TARDIS are finally going to catch a break. As if that ever happens with The Doctor around.

The alien spa they visit, Tranquility looks beautiful, but its still difficult to forgive Yaz for interrupting a proposal because she’s too busy looking at the view. At least she’s not dealing with the Hopper virus like Ryan and his ‘needed for a later plot’ love interest Bella.

Velma and Benni are a cute and fantastic addition to the characters in the Time Lord's orbit this episode. The Doctor collecting people to help is such a classic trait and although we find out little about them - introducing them with Benni trying to propose leaves us emotionally attached from the start.

We do also experience the typical ‘unseen monster’ for a while at the start of the episode, possibly because once we do fully see the Dregs they’re the most typical, cheesy, clearly-a-man-in-some-rubber monster we’ve seen in Doctor Who possibly since the Abzorbaloff.

Season 12 is shaping up exactly how Doctor Who should be. Corridor chases, an orphan planet that looks suspiciously like a Welsh quarry, and a Doctor that just can’t stop talking.

The Doctor having a whole conversation with herself, anxious to figure everything out, is an impressive dramatic device. Reminiscent of the Steven Moffat Sherlock introspective monologues, but not boring or difficult to keep up with.

Whittaker has a real talent for long legs of uninterrupted dialogue. It can be boring, or confusing, but with Whittaker the viewer remains invested in what she’s saying. We’re also able to figure out whats happening alongside her, which was difficult or impossible to do during the Tennant era.

The death of Benni is heartbreaking despite him being a one episode character, while Velma’s death, with Yaz watching is subtly horrifying.

On the first watch it may seem we have no call back to The Master, but watch more carefully and you’ll notice that when the Doctor’s oxygen tank alerts her that its low, we first hear the sound of drums rhythm once again before it steadily beeps.

It’s definitely not obvious, but its nice to know that Chibnall hasn’t decided to just ignore The Master, until his eventual return.

Creating fear and tension through having The Doctor in a dangerous situation is something we've become accustomed to and because she just can’t shut up, is becoming a definitive Thirteen hallmark.

Kane running in to fight the Dregs, giving the others time, is heroic, but out of character. Even if she was doing it for Bella, revealed to be her daughter, why would she suddenly care about her daughter now?

Many character actions in this episode feel that they were driven by a need for them in the plot, rather than because its something the character would do.

Revealing the Dregs to have once been human, but now destroyed by climate change and war is topical and accurate while still feeling relevant to the show. Things like this can easily feel shoved in, but on this occasion it fits the plot well and feels suitable.

Playing back to the start of the episode, the Hopper virus is used to fix the teleport so that the gang can finally get back to the TARDIS to tie off the episode with a provocative speech from The Doctor.

Be the best of humanity, or we end up like the Dregs. Quite a political message from Doctor Who at the minute, but one that needs to be spread with the hope and perseverance that Whittaker expresses so well as the Doctor.


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