'Doctor Who':There's A Massive Continuity Problem In 'Orphan 55'
Politics should be the least of fans worries.
After thrilling two-part opener 'Spyfall', which saw The Master return, 'The Fam' playing spy, and The Doctor team up with historical figures Ada Lovelace and Noor Inayat Khan, Doctor Who got back to more business as usual in 'Orphan 55'.
Unfortunately, the episode wasn't the greatest. Like quite a few other Chibnall-era episodes, the writing was sub-par, and many fans found the climate change message to be a little on the nose.
However, one of the biggest issues with 'Orphan 55' was a glaring continuity error, ignoring an important part of The Doctor's physiology.
'Oh no, The Doctor's nearly out of Oxygen!'.. Hang on a second..
For a large portion of the episode, after leaving the relative safety of the Tranquility dome to search for Benni, the characters are left relying on oxygen tanks to survive.
For the most part, everyone manages to conserve their oxygen long enough to make it back to the dome. The Doctor, according to Kane, talks too much, burning through her oxygen faster than the others. At one point, The Doctor's tank runs dangerously low. She cannot talk to her companions, and we see her begin struggling to breathe. Thankfully, she manages to refill her tank when she realises the Dregs breathe out Oxygen, and makes it back to the dome with the others.
But.. Running out of Oxygen should not have been an issue for The Doctor at all. Why?
The Respiratory Bypass System
Due to possessing a binary vascular system (two hearts), The Doctor, and all Gallifreyans, have access to a respiratory bypass system. This ability allows them to survive without breathing for much longer than a regular human being could.
This isn't a Classic Who Easter Egg, like Matt Smith's 'The Snowmen' actually acting as a prequel to Patrick Troughton classic 'The Web Of Fear', the return of the Tardis's Hostile Action Displacement System (HADS) in 'Cold War', or the appearance of Alpha Centauri in 'The Empress Of Mars'. The Doctor has used the ability on numerous occasions throughout both Classic and NuWho.
In Classic Who, notable occasions in which The Doctor has made use of the respiratory bypass system include the Third Doctor using it to avoid being strangled by the Nestene Consciousness in 'Spearhead From Space', The Fifth Doctor obtaining an ingredient for the Spectrox Toxaemia antidote from an airless cave in 'The Caves Of Androzani', and The Sixth Doctor using it to avoid breathing in vorum gas in 'The Two Doctors'.
The ability has also come in handy multiple times in NuWho. The Tenth Doctor uses it to carry Martha Jones to safety after the oxygen supply inside Royal Hope Hospital runs out during 'Smith And Jones', and The Eleventh Doctor briefly uses it while fleeing the Two Streams facility in 'The Girl Who Waited'. The most recent use of the respiratory bypass was in the series 10 episode 'Oxygen'.
Having given up his helmet to save Bill, the respiratory bypass system allows The Twelfth Doctor to survive exposure to the vacuum of space with the only consequence being damage to his eyes.
Other characters with Gallifreyan biology have also made use of the bypass. Romana uses it to survive a gas leak in the Tardis in 'The Horns of Nimon'.
In the audio story 'I Went To A Marvellous Party', River Song uses her respiratory bypass system to keep from passing out when all the oxygen is sucked from the room she is trapped in.
So, it's safe to say that the respiratory bypass system is a well-established feature of Gallifreyan physiology.
The Writers need to do better.
The Doctor and most of the other members of the failed Benni rescue mission return to the dome almost immediately after her oxygen runs out, at which point they no longer need extra oxygen. The Doctor running out shouldn't have been an issue at all. Using the long-established canon of the Gallifreyan respiratory bypass system, she would have been absolutely fine for the few minutes between her oxygen running out and returning to the dome.
Doctor Who scripts are reviewed multiple times before they go into production. The fact that absolutely no one on the show's writing staff picked up this oversight regarding one of The Doctor's biggest physiological differences is a big problem.
Chris Chibnall needs to enlist writers who know the show's lore to ensure nothing like this happens again. Otherwise, Doctor Who could run into trouble.