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TV Reviews: FTN Reviews Doctor Who Season 12 Episode 3: Orphan 55

January 13th, 2020 by Todd Black Comments

There are a few things that can bring down an episode of a TV show. One is terrible acting, two is a series of twists that are meant to shock people but don’t for one reason or another, and three is a forced message about something going on in the real world that is happening or has happened in the TV world that we should “treasure” because it’s relevant. Sadly, Doctor Who’s latest episode, “Orphan 55” did ALL of these things at once and we were left with an episode with many viewers no doubt saying, “Wait, what…?”

What might be the saddest of all though was that this episode started out in a great spot. With the crew still recovering from the “Spyfall” arc (including the Doctor not being in a good mood) in their own way, just coming off an adventure with some “mating squids” (I don’t want to know…) and then finding out that they had won a two week vacation at a place called “Tranquility”.

Now sure, we’ve seen “The Doctor does vacation” before, but this one really felt deserved after everything the Master, the Timeless Child tease, and more. Naturally, we knew SOMETHING would go wrong, but what?

The answer? Everything after that first 10 or so minutes of the episode. Because “Orphan 55” devolved into an exposition-heavy episode full of family dramas, “Fake-Cations”, and yet another dead version of Earth (via a “different timeline) that was this time caused by…wait for it…Global Warming. Now no, I’m NOT one of those people who thinks that Global Warming is fake, it’s not. But the “reveal” that this was Earth was forced, questionable, and honestly, kind of dumb given EVERYTHING that was going on in this episode.

This really was a case of every kind of plot twist you can think of being shoved into the episode, and then rushing in a “Save the Planet!” message at the end.  Which is sad, because there was some really cool stuff going on here. The virus that can go from machines to people, the fact that there are at LEAST 55 “Orphan Planets” in the universe, the Dregs (which to be honest were a really cool and frightening design), and more. They kept trying to add to it, when this was much more of a “less is more” situation.

The most eye-rolling bits though were the side-characters. Including the elderly couple who were going to get married, and then of course both died, the father-son duo who had the father ignoring the sons’ help, and the “reunited” mother-daughter duo with the mother abandoning the daughter for “her future” in the “Fake-Cation” and then the daughter returning to kill her and the entire place.

I mean…really? Really? It was so cringe-worthy at times. Including the elderly woman who was seriously over acting to the point where I was saying at the TV, “will you PLEASE shut up?!?!?!” Then, when the father berated the son when he was trying to help save the day, only for the kid to leave, get in trouble, and then get saved JUST IN TIME to save the day, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes multiple times.

Oh, and Bella was Ryan’s “love interest” (even though he was flirting with Yaz an episode back AND teasing going out with her sister…), and then she died when her mother “miraculously” reappeared to save everyone and be with her daughter at the end…ok…

Finally, the Doctor gave a “stirring” message about humanity, saving the planet and the future, and how this was just ONE possible future…and did it all within the course of about 30 seconds.

The difference between an episode like “Orphan 55” and last years’ “Rosa” is intent and content. Both were trying to deliver messages. But with “Rosa” they did it as a more character-driven thing, focusing on Rosa, Ryan, and how they needed to keep history alive. Whereas here, they were throwing things at the wall to try and keep you guessing, and hoping that they would stick. They didn’t.

Hopefully next week will be better, because this season (outside of the first part of the opener) is not off to a good start.

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Todd Black is reader of comics, a watch of TV (a LOT of TV), and a writer of many different mediums. He's written teleplays, fan-fictions, and currently writes a comic book called Guardians (guardians-comic.com). He dreams of working at Nintendo, writing a SHAZAM! TV series, and working on Guardians for a very long time!