Orbis

Posted in Audio by - September 10, 2017
Orbis

Released March 2009

With the televised Doctor Who airing only a series of specials throughout 2009 rather than the block of usual weekly episodes, the third season of The Eighth Doctor Adventures arrives to provide fans with more consistently-released serialized programming. Following the ultimately disappointing ‘The Vengeance of Morbius,’ ‘Orbis’ is tasked with resolving the Doctor’s apparent death after tumbling off a cliff in Morbius’s grasp as well as Lucie’s apparent death after being shot by the Headhunter.

Accordingly, co-writers Nicholas Briggs and Alan Barnes use what essentially amounts to a blank slate going forward, choosing to have the Doctor teleported before his death to the aquatic world of Orbis by the Sisterhood of Karn where he has been living among the native jellyfish-like Keltons and protecting them from the invading clam-like Molluscari as a terrible storm season hits the planet. Controversially, ‘Orbis’ states that the Doctor has been living here unassumingly for some six hundred years, a time span so long that he has literally forgotten about his brief travels with Lucie. The Eighth Doctor is certainly no stranger to amnesia, but having him simply forget because of the passage of time is a neat variation that spotlights just how long his lifespan is and just how short his time with individual companions is as well. Perhaps because of his seeming freedom due to his forgotten sense of responsibility to the universe as a whole, Paul McGann gives a much less burdened performance than usual, and he portrays the Doctor’s perpetual compassion and happiness superbly here, especially as he seriously considers staying on Orbis permanently to continue his peaceful life.

The second season ended without any real risks or creativity, but ‘Orbis’ is brimming with both from the very beginning. It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into the world of Orbis, the Kelton culture, and the planetary conflict on display, and the Keltons have such short lifespans that he Doctor has become something of an old sage for them, at one time even convincing the Keltons that their practice of eating and regurgitating their dead is not the best way to compost the seabed. However, the creativity most prominently allows Lucie Smith to step into the spotlight. The Headhunter has taken Lucie after shooting her with a quantum-tipped bullet that she can control, trying to find the Doctor for her own means as she claims that the universe is being destroyed from the inside out and that he TARDIS is leaking destructive time waste after being separated from its bonded Time Lord for so long. After Sheridan Smith convincingly sells Lucie’s desperation and frustration about not being recognized by the Doctor after everything she has been through both with and without him and after even being accused by the Doctor of working with the Headhunter with more nefarious intent, the revelation that the Doctor was saved from death only because he was holding Rassilon’s stellar manipulator remote is a shockingly satisfying one, and the fact that the Doctor miscalculates and causes Orbis to be consumed by the stellar manipulator masquerading as the planet’s moon is quite brutal and is sure to have lasting consequences.

‘Orbis’ is a rather off-beat story that goes places the televised programme could never go. While the nature of the alien races will appeal to some more than others, the inherent drama on display is indisputably strong and boldly sets the scene well for the stories to come. As a season opener, ‘Orbis’ achieves everything it is meant to do thanks to strong performances, direction, and sound design, salvaging the ending of the Morbius encounter to take the Doctor and Lucie into wholly unexpected territory.

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