Doctor Who: Orphan 55
January 12, 2020 7:53 PM - Season 12, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Having decided that everyone could do with a holiday, the Doctor takes Graham, Yasmin and Ryan to a luxury resort for a spot of rest and relaxation. However, they discover the place where they are having a break is hiding a number of deadly secrets.
posted by oh yeah! (38 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is there no one on the production team who read the script and was willing to speak up and say, "That's really stupid."?
posted by ShooBoo at 9:39 PM on January 12, 2020 [10 favorites]

Painfully bad, that's 3 in a row now. They clearly didn't take a year off to polish scripts.
posted by Marticus at 10:51 PM on January 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

This was a weird Aliens tribute* that veered sideways into Planet of the Apes. It was also a strange turn for the Doctor to be so blase about abandoning the woman and her daughter to likely death on the planet. I thought there was going to be some sort of "you don't need to terraform, you can live in symbiosis with the former-humans since you both produce the other's required atmosphere!" resolution in the finale, but no.

* Hunting apex predators in abandoned terraforming facility
* Motion trackers
* APC that breaks down
* Victims pleading for death
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:43 AM on January 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

(Sort of duplicating something I wrote elsewhere, but...)

That started out better than last week's convoluted mess, but they're still overstuffing the plotlines and relying way too much on making up tech at the last second to solve problems. ("We need fuel, but we've got the wrong type!"/"But this fuel mutates, which is a thing fuel can apparently do, in the presence of this virus!")

And talk about "one possible timeline" notwithstanding, this thing directly contradicts at least two episodes about future Earth that I can think of. I know, timey-wimey and all that, but still.

Oh, and I agree with the episode's message about global warming,, was it preachy. Jodie Whittaker might as well have turned to the camera and told me to start recycling and taking public transportation.

Also, I think they pulled the "You all run while I heroically sacrifice myself" thing at least three times in this one episode. Maybe have more than one type of hammer in your storytelling toolbox, y'know?
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:18 AM on January 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

That was depressingly bad.

Look, it's the BBC so it's kind of ok to only being able to afford about 3 sets and 5 extra characters, but at least give those characters a decent story arc. Instead, the writers tried to cram in about 936 plot points, few of which made sense. Just stick to 1 or 2 and make them good, then you'll have time to flesh out interesting characters.

It's just so frustrating when Jodie Whittaker is so good and yet has to deliver that bludgeon of a speech about how Global Warming is Bad. Graham and Yaz were pretty much anonymous, and we've now all got Ryan's sexy thumb sucking stuck in our heads. I'm sure he was sad that Bella and Kane were abandoned back at the resort - if only they had some kind of ship that could instantly head back there to rescue them.
posted by milkb0at at 3:20 AM on January 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

if only they had some kind of ship that could instantly head back there to rescue them

I didn't think of that! Fucksake. The least they could have done is have the dreg(?) leader jump in the teleporter with them, and then they have to kick it out the Tardis door into space (also Graham finds a power loader in the Tardis basement "It's OK I'm qualified on forklifts - I have a class 2 rating").
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:35 AM on January 13, 2020

One thing I don't understand (I know, one thing?) was why it took so long for the Doctor to use her sonic, and why she didn't even try to scan or talk to the aliens first (unless she did scan them and I missed it), even to show that they didn't speak in an understandable way. A record-scratch moment for me this episode was early on when she referred to them as "those things" rather than "them." Again it felt so off, like the writers forgot who she was. Unless it's supposed to indicate something going on with her internal state of mind after the last ep.

It's not as if the Doctor hasn't seen violent beings with scary teeth before; there were supposed-to-be-scary-looking beings recently in the last series, and one of the comic book storylines with Thirteen even had a villain alien with long sharp teeth and she had no problem talking to them. It took practically the entire episode to see her attempt to communicate with a dreg.

And I was hoping that the writers wouldn't succumb to the trope of having main characters paired off with each other, but dialogue with Yaz and Ryan in the first Spyfall episode and especially in this episode did not help. Darn it.

Fingers crossed that this is a blip of a sophomore slump that will turn around soon. Because that's really what it feels like, especially after some notably inspiring episodes in series 11. I wonder if this episode went through major rewrites or what.

The next episode's writer is Nina Metivier (a story editor from previous series; next week's ep appears to be their first sole writing credit for the show). The episode after that is written by Vinay PatelI, who wrote "Demons of the Punjab" (one of my favorites from last series).
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 3:36 AM on January 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm afraid the first glimpse of the Dregs put me in mind of this Red Dwarf exchange:

Kryten: What about the Space Corps Directive, which states, "It is our primary overriding duty to contact other life-forms, exchange information and, whenever possible, bring them home"?

Rimmer: What about the Rimmer Directive, which states "Never tangle with anything that's got more teeth than the entire Osmond family"?

I might have thought the title cleverer if there wasn't a copy of Child 44 sitting three feet to to the right of our TV set.
posted by Major Clanger at 4:02 AM on January 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Whew I came here thinking "maybe I am just being overly grumpy" but I'm glad I'm not the only one who cringed at the preachyness. Like sure whatever do an episode on global warming but don't make the doctor say "global warming destroyed planet earth" *verbatim* and then, as cherry on top, give a FULL-ON SPEECH at the end to really hammer in that "Global Warming is Bad But We Can Still Save The Earth, mmmmmmmkay?"

I was already grumpy about the previous two episodes being preachy about how Big Tech is Bad (it is! i know! but you can be subtle about it!) but this took that to a whole new level. ugh.

also yes, the disposable characters aspect sucked too. it was a terrible episode. i'm now legit worried about this season, and i actually liked the previous one.
posted by KTamas at 11:48 AM on January 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I liked Voyage of the Damned a good bit, and I'm trying to figure out why that ragtag group's different backstories seemed like they rounded out the characters and gave them each nice little arcs, whereas this episode felt like their arcs were cobbled together. Just the lack of runtime? But I feel like some of the conflicts were just named repeatedly (Guy doesn't listen to his talented son), instead of moved forward.

And adding the mother-daughter conflict in, in addition to the questionable ethics, just confuses Bella's reasons for becoming a terrorist. Is it abandonment issues? If so, that really takes away a potentially powerful point about her commitment to some cause in opposition to her mother's motivations, which also seemed to get short shrift. They're portrayed as pure profit, at first, and then we get the last-second reveal that maybe it's because she wants to leave something for her daughter, but we have no particular reason to believe her on that, so it just sort of falls flat.

And very much agreed that there's not enough to show that the Dregs are definitely the bad guys--given that all of the deaths occurred offscreen, I was still going down the path of "is there a misunderstanding here?" Seeing a more concrete evidence of violence would have settled that faster.

Finally, how they captured/kidnapped one of the guests was left completely off screen, and didn't fit with how they were portrayed as operating when we could see them in camera. I kept thinking there was some sort of hidden thing there--like their "adaptability" meant that they were mimicking his voice, or that their intelligence was being underestimated such that they had been negotiating with him. But that's just sort of left hanging.

Hell, I thought that when they rediscovered Kane and she said she'd been thrown clear that she was one of the Dregs in disguise.
posted by pykrete jungle at 2:27 PM on January 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

I don’t know, I kinda got a kick out of the “Walking with Dinosaurs”-esque totally fixed puppet faces. But I don’t think that was the kind of reaction they were hoping for.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:43 PM on January 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

It just made me want to actually go off and watch Delta and the Bannermen instead. I think it was the holiday camp.
posted by Kyol at 6:54 PM on January 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

For context (and don't bite me!) I watched this episode whilst drinking and cooking the family dinner. I liked it, despite the flaws! A lot of it didn't make sense, esp. the kidnapped husband character stuff as described above. The whole though was very Who-ey (hooey? No, Who-ey!). If I was doing the old CTRL-F gag today I'd search for "pastiche", "base under siege" and "Ravolox".

That last one really got me, when they found the Russian subway station sign, esp. in the context of last episode's setting up of "Everything you know [about the Time Lords] is wrong" I did really think for a minute that Chibnall was having a run at re-doing that unexplored Trial Of A Time Lord subplot, but moreso. Still very faintly hoping.

Also, still laughing at "TARDIS wankers!" from above. What a waste of Jay!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 7:55 PM on January 13, 2020

While I'm listing heresies, the clunky moral drop at the end was fine by me although maybe not every episode eh? Also, as an Old Who person, I'm firmly on Team Fuzzy-To-No Earth Continuity* so that's OK by me. So long as a story itself is internally consistent and the characters are consistent, continuity can be handwaved. Unless you're doing something clever natch, in which case it's on you Dear Writer to land it.

*relatedly, from flaky memory The Second Doctor's Wheel In Space story was set in 1997, yes? With Cybermen everywhere? On our Wheel? IN SPACE?!?!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 8:04 PM on January 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

All that said, echoing the sentiment from the DoG review that it's a bit of a shame to see the author of the fun and interesting "frog" episode from last series churn out something quite so heavily trad.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 8:10 PM on January 13, 2020

Meh. Less is more. Either the script could have used another round of edits or the raw footage could been better edited. This was not worth a location shoot.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:12 PM on January 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

I didn't hate it, it wasn't un-fun to watch, but holy cow was this a mess. Like, MAJOR plot holes all over the place. If I found out that this was cut down from a two-parter or something it would explain a lot. Otherwise there was just some absolutely incompetent scripting going on here.

Some of this stuff was so nonsensical it almost played like a Doctor Who you kept falling asleep during and then your brain would turn it into weird dreams. The whole thing with Benni was just bizarre. Were the dregs just carrying him around? Why? Why did he want to die, instead of being rescued? Why did he apparently tell Kane that he didn't want to leave the dregs because he was "having fun"? (Did I mishear that? Did he actually say he was having fun? Then why did he want to die?) The episode was just chock-full of stuff like that, really baffling things. And the makeup on the dog lady was so bad it wouldn't have passed muster in the Colin Baker days. It looked like an office Halloween outfit somebody might throw together at the last minute based on random crap they found at Party City. Did they blow the entire makeup budget on the dregs?

As a showrunner, Chibnall is just... not very good. He showed us who he was with Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, that's his baseline for this show and he rarely rises above it. I know he didn't write this one, but his era of the show is full of awkward, clunky stuff.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 11:29 PM on January 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

I liked the recurring gag of machines talking in gentle relaxed tones as they warned you of certain death. Everything else in the episode was a mess.
posted by Gary at 12:27 AM on January 14, 2020 [8 favorites]

Why did he want to die, instead of being rescued? Why did he apparently tell Kane that he didn't want to leave the dregs because he was "having fun"?

I think the line was something about the dregs keeping him alive for fun. The real reason he was being kept alive was to cram in another Aliens reference.

I liked the recurring gag of machines talking in gentle relaxed tones as they warned you of certain death. Everything else in the episode was a mess.

While I'm looking up Alien(s) scenes...
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:14 AM on January 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think the line was something about the dregs keeping him alive for fun.

Oooooh. See, I heard it as Benni was having fun and so did my girlfriend, but that sounded like it couldn't be right. Your interpretation of the line makes so much more sense. The scene (and the episode) was still a real mess, though. Even having Kane shoot Benni offscreen (and the weirdly matter-of-fact way she delivered the news) felt like a mistake and made me wonder if Benni was even really dead. Then there's the thing where the genius green-haired kid threw a tantrum about not being listened to and stomped off to a hallway he knew was full of deadly monsters... or Bella becoming a homicidal terrorist because she was so mad about her mom neglecting her... and the stunning thumb-sucking callback at the end. Just, wow. There were the bones of a good episode in there and a skilled showrunner could have saved this, but instead we got something that felt like a well-produced first draft.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:08 AM on January 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

I booed the TV at the end of this one. I literally shouted "BOOOOOO," and gave thumbs down.

It doesn't help that we were just watching episodes of Tenth Doctor with Donna the day before. I had actually been thinking, "how awesome if somehow Thirteenth could meet Donna! Yes, supposedly it can NEVER HAPPEN but come on! this is Doctor Who and they could if they wanted." But, ugh, imagine wasting Donna on one of these scripts. I like Jodie Whittaker and I liked Peter Capaldi both so much. But the show just hasn't been giving them anything good.
posted by tomboko at 4:08 AM on January 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

Some Anvils Need To Be Dropped, but the collapsing scaffold of this plot didn't give the environmental anvil much height to fall from.
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 4:59 AM on January 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

I wonder if the Dregs are part of the same timeline as the Haemovores.
posted by homunculus at 5:17 AM on January 14, 2020

Why am I so much more forgiving of this style of somewhat-naff Who than I was of Moffat-era Who? I guess because it resonates with me as feeling of-a-piece with the classic show, down to its faults. Look back on the vast majority of those old serials and you'll ask yourself why do we think of Doctor Who as being a smart show when so often it has been demonstrably dumb? And I think the answer is that the show demands its fans have imagination. We have to imagine the effects the classic producers wanted us to see in our minds, because what they had time and budget to build can only imply it. We have to imagine coherent backstories for the characters-of-the-week because often they are barely-sketched cardboard cutouts. Yes, the best of each era give us more. But each era has more than its share of filler, quarries, and corridors.

Moffat's show was trying to be shiny and clever and intricate and lore-filled. And it worked for a bit, but the longer it went on, the more it felt like Trial of a Timelord, up its own ass. Chibnall is back-to-basics Who, and at worst it feels like the cornier bits of Peter Davison's run. That's not a bad place to be IMHO.
posted by rikschell at 5:29 AM on January 14, 2020 [7 favorites]

Never thought I'd see a Doctor Who/Fallout 4 crossover, but here it is. Those are totally Deathclaws.

This script is so terrible. All that cutting to monster closeups instead of any actual action. That ending is going to make a lot of 'worst Doctor Who episode endings' lists.
posted by Catblack at 9:24 AM on January 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

worst it feels like the cornier bits of Peter Davison's run

Everything about the green haired father and son seemed like a perfect re-creation of 80s live-action children's television. The outfits, the "costume" being green hair, the joke about their green hair, and definitely the precocious son being impossibly smart while the dad is impossibly stupid. Then they have the fight and almost instantaneous resolution with the son showing off his brilliance with nonsense science.
posted by Gary at 1:18 PM on January 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yeah, a big problem I have with Chibnall's run is that it often feels like an awkward mashup of grownup stuff and cheesy children's TV. There's always been this thing where people in the UK (including the people who make the show) refer to it as a kid's show, while to people in the US it seems about as sophisticated as a lot of shows made for adults. We look at characters like Jack Harkness, Lady Cassandra, et al, or the kind of snappy, emotionally complex dialogue you could find in a Davies or Moffat script, and it doesn't just seem like a show adults can watch... it seems like a show you shouldn't necessarily let your children watch! (I would, but if somebody else didn't I wouldn't think that was weird.)

Of the classic series I almost exclusively watched the Tom Baker years (that's all that was widely available in the US) and while it was less sophisticated and more kid-friendly than the modern Who, it was still a lot smarter than US sci-fi of the era like Buck Rogers or Star Wars. It was maybe on par with Star Trek, a show adult geeks could watch without shame. So for me this 1980s cartoon stuff that Chibnall's brought in, with the cheap-ass dog lady and the green-haired genius science boy, and the thuddingly unsubtle moral at the end, it seems to come out of nowhere... and then that's combined with stuff that does feel more complex and of a piece with the new series, like Ryan's prickly and sad relationship with his estranged dad, and it's like steak sprinkled with Pop Rocks.

Davies and Moffat certainly weren't perfect, but they were both capable of truly great stuff. In his early days, before he figured out what he was doing, Davies could stumble into some Chibnall-like awkwardness, but he always had a weird spark of inspiration and great dialogue to keep you watching. I haven't seen anything great from Chibnall yet, and at his very best I think he produces an episode that would've been a middling effort from the other guys. He's given us some compelling characters in the companions and Jodie Whittaker's Doctor has lots of potential, but a lot of that is probably down to the actors. I am a die hard Who fan and I will cut this show plenty of slack, but increasingly I feel like this will probably be kind of a C+ show until Chibnall's gone.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:04 PM on January 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

I didn't hate this episode (I have a high tolerance) but it did contain some mystifying choices. The script was not great but what really let the episode down was the direction and editing. Lots of shots of aliens looking vaguely menacing but almost no shots of the creatures and the heroes in the frame together - are the creatures close by, moving towards us, who knows?

And for a big budget show it sure did have some ratty costumes. Hyph3n and the father/son double act looked like something out of the 80s.

In my opinion the episode would have been stronger if they cut at least one of the 75 subplots (the mother/daughter revenge thingy would be first on my chopping block) and spent the time on slowly developing the tension. All this poorly done frantic action is very unsatisfying.
posted by AndrewStephens at 6:06 PM on January 14, 2020

Doctor Who: 2033

This was such a mess. I would totally have been on board for an unsubtle polemic against climate change and militarism if it hadn't been handled so badly.

"We don't have enough fuel, but wait, we can make more from [prior plot point]" is just silly, plot-wise, because it brings in a problem and then immediately solves it. Why even bother?

What about a planet being dead makes it an "orphan"? What's orphany about it? Other than for making a cryptic episode title... why "orphan"? It was abandoned? But, it was nuked first. So that's not it.

The baddies got one small note of redemption when the Doctor was briefly able to negotiate a truce. Which, sure, but it lasted no time, and the Doctor didn't use it as an opportunity to talk to them much. Sure, there's a hint that she thinks this remnant of humanity might be redeemable, but... barely? Does the Doctor just think this particular timeline of humanity is a dead end? Just because they're the mutated remnants of a race that killed itself, they've inherited the exact worst parts of the humanity? She doesn't seem that sad about it

Benni didn't sound like he was being tortured when we heard the last of him, he sounded fine. Why did he sound fine? That seems... hard? Was Benni and fiancee human, if not, why did they look human? Are we supposed to assume they were actually descended from the Elon Musks who fucked off after the planet was nuked? The weird thing is, we've seen humans in space over and over in NuWho. I get that the exact chronology of the Earth is timey-wimey (fine) but if this chronology is right, then either all those encounters were descendants of either Elon Musk or lucky intergalactic hitchhikers...
posted by BungaDunga at 6:45 PM on January 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Space Spa seemed way too much like an Earth Spa. Why isn't the space spa more... space? That would have been fun! Why did the space spa give them the holidays for free? Seems like a losing proposition? If the money-making idea was terraforming, why build a spa and then give away free holidays? It's not like they built the spa to get zoning approval. Also, if one person can terraform a planet and get rich... why didn't some Space Corp make a business out of it, rehabilitating Orphan Planets? "Sure, it's gone through a nuclear war or two, but you, my colonists, will have a better time of it. Welcome, to New Terra, brought to you by SpaceCo!"

Are meant to think that the reason the atmosphere is all CO2 due to... carbon emissions? If not, it's left completely unexplained. If so, that's... breathtakingly bad science, so why are we doing bad science in an episode that's about climate change? If we're doing an episode about climate change and militarism, why is the solution to blow up and/or shoot the remnant humans? I mean, they're welcome to, it's self-defense, but then, militarism is sold that way too.
posted by BungaDunga at 6:58 PM on January 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

> It doesn't help that we were just watching episodes of Tenth Doctor with Donna the day before. I had actually been thinking, "how awesome if somehow Thirteenth could meet Donna! Yes, supposedly it can NEVER HAPPEN but come on! this is Doctor Who and they could if they wanted."

I'd love to see the 13th Doctor meet up with Donna! To make it happen, all they have to do is have Donna start remembering the meta-crisis experience, and the Doctor would have to come running.

I really wish they'd have the 13th Doctor meet several of her previous companions and old friends. I want to see their reactions and their new chemistry, especially Jack, Clara & Ashildr, Bill, and Madame Vastra & Co. And also River, even though I'd gotten tired of River's character I'd still love to see the Doctor and her wife together at least once.

All of which reminds me, there is at least one more pseudo-Gallifreyan out there who I hope we see again: Jenny. It'd be nice to see the Doctor being a mentor and a mother, especially now that her own people are back to being gone.

I doubt any of this will happen in the foreseeable future simply because the writers probably don't want to distract from the current companions. For myself, I'm beginning to lose interest in the current crop because the writers don't seem to know what they want to do with them.
posted by homunculus at 3:17 AM on January 15, 2020

The base-under-siege episode this reminded me of was the one with the vat-grown clones that Eleven dealt with, which (in my memory) was pretty moral-laden but actually mostly worked. I might blame it being a two-parter, but that can't be it, really.
posted by BungaDunga at 10:08 AM on January 15, 2020

Gary: Everything about the green haired father and son seemed like a perfect re-creation of 80s live-action children's television.

Ursula Hitler: Yeah, a big problem I have with Chibnall's run is that it often feels like an awkward mashup of grownup stuff and cheesy children's TV. There's always been this thing where people in the UK (including the people who make the show) refer to it as a kid's show, while to people in the US it seems about as sophisticated as a lot of shows made for adults.

With this framing, the decision to show scary monster, but all violence against people-type beings is off-screen, or shown in silhouette, makes more sense. "We don't want to scare the kids!"

In addition to The Doctor almost breaking the fourth wall to tell the viewers "it's up to YOU to save earth!," it was pretty heavy-handed on the "sins of the parents are carried by the children" and "come to terms with your children being who they are, even if they show that you as the parent screwed up" messages. Not bad messages, but definitely not subtle, which made it all feel so forced.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:39 AM on January 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm beginning to lose interest in the current crop because the writers don't seem to know what they want to do with them.

One of the things I've enjoyed about Doctor Who is the way the dynamic between The Doctor and The Companions changes. Love interest/lost-love interest/mate/friends/mentor/spouse. The Companions aren't interchangeable because the relationships are very different.

I've been puzzled by Doctor Thirteen's relationship to a bunch of folks she met on a train. Is she Mary Poppins, dropping in fix things among the Banks's? There's not a lot of fam-feeling there. Does it even make sense for The Doctor to view some ape-descendants as her family? I don't think the relationship between The Doctor and her current crew has ever really jelled like it did in the previous regenerations.
posted by SPrintF at 1:03 PM on January 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

This was really a stinker...
posted by Pendragon at 7:31 AM on January 18, 2020

This was not worth a location shoot

About halfway through I became convinced that they fell in love with the location and decided to write a show around it. There were just far too many shots of the dome and the desolate landscape (which I assume is a mine or something.)

In the tunnel when The Doctor discovered that the Dregs exhale oxygen, refilling her tank, I was sure that the resolution was going to be something along the lines of using the Dregs as part of the terraforming process. Which would have been more in line with Who solutions than what we got.

And also if the Dregs are us, apex predators who have evolved/mutated to live in a dead world. . . they can't be the only creatures on the planet - what do they eat? Predators need prey.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:33 PM on January 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

Just came back to Who after "Spyfall" put me off for a while. It was kind of darkly funny to see this episode now—the Doctor's recitation of events that led to the Earth's destruction un-presciently left off "lack of preparation for pandemics by incompetent government leaders."

The episode was terrible and I agree with everything everyone above said. The one bit I enjoyed was looking at Kane and thinking "where do I know her from??" Had to look her up on IMDb—who knew Lydia from Breaking Bad was actually Scottish! (Probably everyone but me.)
posted by ejs at 1:26 PM on March 18, 2020

Made no sense that Kane was both owner/operator (?) of the spa and head of security -- although apparently only 3 people work there total.
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:29 PM on February 24, 2023

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