Doctor Who is one of those shows that has a knack for picking itself up from the ground, dusting itself off and delivering some compelling science fiction. A lot has been said about this season, and Orphan 55 remains the worst episode of Doctor Who ever created – in a show that’s had a cheap candy man, literal tin-foil monsters and racially-motivated Daleks.
This episode in particular shows a drastic, changing fate with Doctor Who, one that combines both Russel T. Davies and Moffat influences to produce something that feels very unique and different. There’s certainly potential here to move the show forward in a bold, interesting direction if there’s competent writers to pull it off, but given what we’ve seen across these past two seasons, the show feels in danger of destroying a 50 year old legacy. We’ll get to THAT twist later on in this recap.
The episode begins in Gloucester with an introduction to a cheerful lady called Ruth, asking people if they want a guided tour. After being wooed by the cafe owner, he hands over a dossier he’s created of her partner Lee which she laughs off. Meanwhile, the Judoon close in on Earth while the Doctor attempts to track the Master in the TARDIS but to no avail. Soon after, they receive an Emergency transmission about the Judoon and rush to try and find a way to stop them given there’s a force-field around Earth. Suddenly, they beam down right where our tour guide is.
As the Judoon start cataloging people, the Doctor and her companions arrive but Graham appears to be teleported elsewhere. Unfortunately the cafe owner gets himself killed while The Doctor finally begins to assert her authority and talks to the Judoon about what they’re doing, going on to talk about Earth Rule 12. Meanwhile, Graham finds himself on Captain Jack’s ship where he believes he’s the Doctor. When things are eventually cleared up, he tells Graham he needs to find the Doctor to try and save the universe.
Back on Earth, the Doctor arrives at Ruth’s house and learns they’re both human. Only, she finds a strange white box in the house and confronts Lee about it, leading to him staying behind with the box while they leave, as the Judoon arrive. Soon after, Commander Gat materializes there and after some back and forth, kills Lee after calling him her “faithful companion”. Only, it turns out the real fugitive is actually Ruth. She over-powers the creatures, ripping off the horn from the lead Judoon’s head and prompting it to teleport away.
Back on Captain Jack’s ship, he tells the companions to give a message to the Doctor – Beware the lone cyberman and don’t give it what it wants. It’s an ominous message and one that unfortunately sees Ryan, Yas and Graham teleported back to Earth soon after.
Meanwhile, Ruth and the Doctor travel to the abandoned lighthouse from her memory and after breaking the glass, she transforms into her true self and picks up her gun. It turns out Ruth is actually the Doctor. Is this a Doctor from the future? Another dimension? The past? Before we can get any answers however, she teleports our Doctor into her TARDIS. Neither incarnation seem to recognise one another until they start talking at the same time. “Stop doing that”, is a direct reference to Midnight and as she points out the Chameleon contraption, she explains how she was able to wipe her own memory.
Before they can continue, Ruth and the others are transported to the Judoon ship with Gat, who’s also working for someone else. On the ship, Jodie’s Doctor finally announces herself to Gat as The Doctor. Only, Gat mentions Gallifrey and it turns out she’s Gallifrian meaning…both of them have to be from her past? How far back are we talking here though? Our Doctor touches Gat and she sees the vision of Gallifrey burning. Unfortunately Gat tries firing her gun but winds up killing herself in the process. As Ruth cancels the contact with the Judoon, the two Doctors head back onto the TARDIS again.
After dropping her off, the trio of companions relay the message on to the Doctor (Jodie’s doctor) who tells them about the cybermen. It’s here she realizes something is coming for her – something big. As the TARDIS swirls into action, the Doctor prepares to figure out this mystery once and for all.
Doctor Who now stands at a pretty precarious point in history. On the one hand, something drastic needed to be done to shake the foundations up and while I personally feel killing Graham and having Ryan turn into a bitter, angry companion would have been a more interesting direction, introducing yet another Doctor to the continuity is something that seriously shakes the core of the show. If this a pre-Hartnell Doctor, it essentially besmirches the entire legacy of Doctor Who. On the other hand, this could also be a red herring and relate to a possible multiverse theory of another Doctor in a parallel universe.
If it is the latter, we could be on to a winner here and in the past, both previous show-runners have managed to deliver, from time to time, an excellent season-long arc. Chibnall however, is untested in these waters and a change this massive to the show could go either way. Either this will prove to be one of the more ingenious and exciting changes to the show in recent years, rekindling those old fires of passion and nostalgia to keep the show burning bright for years to come, or it destroys the entire legacy of Doctor Who and irrevocably damages its reputation forever. No pressure then!
One thing’s for certain though. In 20 minutes, Ruth has managed to play a more commanding, dominating Doctor than Jodie Whittaker ever has in 15 episodes. Hopefully this gives her enough spark to finally find her own voice and ideas to bring to the table as the Doctor but for now, time will tell whether this episode undoes the Doctor Who legacy or proves to be a genius piece of storytelling.
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