"Orphan 55" is the second story of Season Thirty Eight (New Series 12) and was written by Ed Hime and directed by Lee Haven Jones. Ed Hime wrote the previous season’s story "It Takes You Away".
The Doctor and her three travelling companions, Graham O'Brien, Ryan Sinclair and Yasmin Khan, travel to a possible future of Earth, in which it has become known as Orphan 55, with the surviving residents having mutated into creatures known as Dregs.
Lee Haven Jones directed the second recording block, which comprised this story, and the second part of the opening story "Spyfall". He also directed the 2020 Christmas special.
Playing the part of Nevi, James Buckley was revealed to be appearing in this story in June 2019. Then in December 2019, Laura Fraser was announced as a guest star – she played the part of Kane. Further cast were announced in Issue 547 of the Doctor Who Magazine that was published in early January 2020.
This story was filmed on location in Tenerife, including the Auditorio de Tenerife for the external shots of Tranquillity Spa and the area around the dormant volcano Mount Teide for the barren wasteland.
This story starts with Graham having collecting holiday coupons from the Bandohzi Herald. The ‘Six Coupon’ offer gets delivered through the coffee machine in the TARDIS. These coupons, when put together, become a teleport cube which transports The Doctor and her three companions to Tranquillity Spa which they discover is inside a dome on the planet Orphan 55. There is a pool, Bar and Refreshment Zone, muster stations, teleport pads, a linen cupboard in the north corridor and a steam room. There are security cameras in the Aqua Spa Zone, the Ocean View Zone, the Tropical Vista Zone and the Peaceful Paradise Zone.
The Doctor previously investigated a holiday resort which was hiding a secret in the Big Finish Productions’ The Lost Stories audio story "Paradise 5".
Bernice Summerfield previously visited Gigamarket where the humans were hidden behind a force-wall to stop the Borvali from hunting them down (see the Big Finish Productions’ Bernice Summerfield audio story "The Greatest Shop in the Galaxy").
This story showed one possible future for Earth, in which global warming and nuclear warfare eventually lead to it becoming an orphan planet. The Doctor states that Earth's fate as Orphan 55 is ‘one possible future, one timeline’. She explains that the relative future is always in motion, with multiple timelines hanging in the balance, dependent on the decisions of those who act in the present.
The underground tunnel historically served residents of Novosibirsk in Siberia. This is realised when Graham comments that a name plaque, they discover in the tunnel, looks like it is in Russian, but The Doctor informs him that it is Novosibirsk.
In the 1986 story "The Mysterious Planet" (the first story that made up The Trial of a Time Lord, the season-long storyline that constituted Season Twenty Three) the Sixth Doctor previously identified a planet as Earth thanks to an underground railway station.
Also confirming that they are on Earth Ryan notices a sign on a vending machine that states it was made in China.
The Twelfth Doctor and Clara Oswald previously visited a future Earth devastated by climate change in 2089. The Doctor indicated to Clara that this future was not fixed. (see the short story "All the Empty Towers" which is part of The Scientific Secrets of Doctor Who collection of short stories).
The Second Doctor previously witnessed a devastated future Earth in the Big Finish Productions’ The Companion Chronicles audio story "The Apocalypse Mirror". The Seventh Doctor also encountered a possible version of future humanity mutated by pollution in the 1989 story "The Curse of Fenric".
The Doctor mentions scientist warnings of the environment being in danger. She is also heard mentioning a food chain collapse, mass migration and war. While Yasmin mentions global warming.
On exiting the dome they discover Dregs are roaming around the planet. They are apex predators and can adapt to guns and nuclear winter. The Doctor calls the Dreg leader Wheezy and the alpha dog.
Orphan 55 has toxic mists all around it and gets slowly roasted by sunlight because of having no ozone layer. To be outside the dome, people need oxygen tanks as there's not enough oxygen in the wastelands.
Kane justifies the building of the spa on an orphan planet with the radiation having dropped. She is hopeful that the CO2 levels can be reduced and the planet can be terraformed to become habitable.
The Doctor uses her psychic paper to masquerade as a ‘Pan-Galactic Standards and Practices Officer, Health and Safety, Security and Hygiene and Resort Inspector’.
Ryan again mentions that he works in a warehouse (see "The Woman Who Fell to Earth"). While Graham says that he is a bus driver (see "The Woman Who Fell to Earth" and "Rosa").
Graham briefly wonders if he is having a stroke after bumping his head on an invisible void panel.
The symptoms of the Hopper virus in a human include wiggling fingers, which immediately signal the legs giving out, and hallucinations.
The Doctor is heard to say ‘When I say run, run’. This was a favourite saying of the Second Doctor.
The Doctor instructs her companions to be the ‘best of humanity’ (see the 2010 Eleventh Doctor story "The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood").
Unlike both parts of the previous story "Spyfall" this story does not have a pre-title sequence.