Doctor Who recap: Season 12, Episode 03, “Orphan 55,” Aired Jan. 12, 2020
Hello, Whovians! After a brilliant two-part opener to the new season, no episode was going to be able to follow, and “Orphan 55” definitely didn’t come close. It was, let’s say, complicated. There was a lot going on, and the episode probably would have benefited from a couple less plots.
Let’s attempt to sort through everything that went on.
Welcome to Tranquility Spa
A Doctor Who episode taking place at a spa – what could go wrong? I can’t help thinking of “Midnight” back from the Tennant days. I’ll add that “Midnight” was terrifying without us ever seeing the villain, while the scariest thing about “Orphan 55” was the appearance of the Dregs. I guess if you survived a fallout that made a planet uninhabitable, you wouldn’t look so pretty either.
The Tranquility Spa is full of quirky characters. We have Benni and Vilma, who have been together for nearly 50 years and are both sacrificed in the episode. Then we have Bella and Kane, the daughter and mother whose squabble caused much of the episode’s central problem. And there’s Nevi and Sylas, mechanic and his son, though Sylas has more mechanic know-how than his father. Also, we have Vorm, Kane’s security teammate, and Hyph3n, customer host. Phew.
Basically, Kane left Bella and her father so she could work on Tranquility Spa with the goal of making Orphan 55 habitable again for Bella. Unfortunately, Bella never knew the reasoning for her mother leaving, and she’s at Tranquility Spa to burn it down. Success, though at her and her mother’s peril. I do hope we get to see them again later in the season.
They’re not real bats
One thing I liked about some past episodes, Moffat episodes in particular (stay with me), was the attempt to make normal, daily occurrences terrifying. Moffat worked with shadows, Wi-Fi, and – oh, yeah – statues. This episode featured a computer virus that could pass from technology to humans, where it attacks the nervous system – the hopper virus.
I’m not sure the hopper virus really accomplished the level of scariness I was hoping for, but the idea was solid. If that was the focus of the episode, I think it had real potential. Ah, what could have been.
I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised the episode ended up being a commentary on society. The Thirteenth Doctor era has had its share of political commentary. Still, the Doctor gets a bit preachy at the end there…
Turns out the planet the spa is located on is Orphan 55, an orphan planet (aka uninhabitable) revealed to be a future Earth, but only in one possible timeline. Let this episode be a warning. Earth has to do something about global warming; just look what might happen if we don’t. And the Dregs that survived and adapted – they now breathe carbon dioxide instead of oxygen. This certainly is a grim view of the future, and I think it explained itself well enough we didn’t need the Doctor’s final speech to drive it home.
Well, my brain did not stop going this entire episode, piecing all those characters and plots together. Some episode had to try to follow “Spyfall,” so why not this one? I think I need a rewatch as things settle in my mind. This episode feels like it could have been split up into three different episodes with all the many plots and family issues. But the next episode looks promising. I do love the historical episodes.
See you next Sunday, when Team TARDIS runs into Nikola Tesla – err not-Nikola-Tesla.
What did you think of “Orphan 55”? Let us know at @PureFandom on Twitter!
Doctor Who airs Sundays on BBC America at 8/7c.