Stranded in a far-off galaxy in the future, the Doctor and her friends are stuck in a medical ship after getting caught in a ‘sonic mine’ explosion. But there’s no time to recover, as the Doctor, Yasmin, Ryan and Graham must form an alliance with the hospital staff and patients to face one of the universe’s most deadliest and unusual alien creatures.
This episode of ‘Doctor Who’ follows a format called the ‘base-under-siege’ story, where characters are trapped in a spaceship or a base and there’s a threat on board putting their lives in danger. Past episodes like ‘The Impossible Planet’, ‘42’, ‘The Waters of Mars’, ‘Under the Lake’ (and many, many more) have proven that this storytelling format can work really well. So why do I feel like ‘The Tsuranga Conundrum’ didn’t really succeed?
Mainly because of two things. One – too many characters, some of whom didn’t contribute anything to the plot. And two – the monster was way too adorable. This was a bit of a puzzling instalment in what I think has been a strong series of ‘Doctor Who’ so far. But anyway, let’s dive into this review so I can explain my feelings for feeling very underwhelmed about this episode.
Chris Chibnall has given us his fourth script for the series (well, five if you include his co-written work with Malorie Blackman for ‘Rosa’ – still the best episode this year by the way) and so far he’s been a strong head writer and has given great things for the series. It’s just a shame to say that he dropped the ball with this episode.
As you’d expect from a Chris Chibnall script, the main characters continue to develop in a really nice way, particularly the Doctor and Ryan, but it’s some of the supporting characters who suffer the most by a lack of character development, or they’re just there to make things difficult for the Doctor and not exactly contribute anything to the plot – which is pretty lazy writing in my eyes.
Some of the stuff going on in the plot is interesting, the first 15 minutes are really good, throwing us straight into the action of the plot, and the writing does set out the danger really well, but it loses its pace slightly after the monster is revealed.
How the monster was defeated though was a really clever ‘Doctor Who’ solution.
Last week was when the Doctor finally welcomed her new friends aboard the TARDIS properly, accepting them as her new companions – or ‘TEAM TARDIS’ as she calls them, so this episode should’ve ideally made ‘TEAM TARDIS’ more of a team. Except it doesn’t really.
Jodie Whittaker is brilliant as ever. I absolutely loved the scene where the Doctor was so focused on getting her TARDIS back but then realises that turning the spaceship back would risk the lives of the other patients. It seems the Doctor is beginning to discover a stubborn and reckless side to her, which I think is a nice character moment. And there is a wonderful little speech which Jodie beautifully delivers when staring at an anti-matter drive.
In terms of the Doctor’s friends, Ryan is the only one who develops more. We discover he has a bit of a traumatic past and it’s a moment Tosin Cole delivers perfectly.
As for Yasmin (Mandip Gill) and Graham (Bradley Walsh), the actors do well, their characters were alright here – they have their moments, but I just wanted a bit more from them, especially as they are also main characters.
As I said earlier, the guest cast was a bit too big; some characters served well, and some didn’t. I loved Lois Chimimba as Malbi (a medic). I love the pressure her character was feeling to look after her patients after someone died, and I love how she holds onto hope after the Doctor gives her a little lecture.
Brett Goldstein does well in the role as Astos (another medic) and Suzanne Packer is good as former heroic space fighter pilot – Eve Cicero. As for everyone else, the actors are good, but the characters aren’t serving the story well at all. I think they should’ve been removed from the script so the plot and the main characters could have more time to develop.
‘The Tsuranga Conundrum’ was directed by Jennifer Perrott who does a very good job with the very limited set she has to work with.
All Jennifer has is a few corridors and a few small rooms, but Jennifer makes every moment look neat and exciting.
I absolutely love the set design. They capture the feel of a really clinical far future, and the costumes are very good. And Segun Akinola continues to liven things up with a very energetic score that serves all the scenes very well.
Now onto the creature, known as… the Pting. The script sets out the alien as a dangerous life-form and while the concept was interesting, the Pting was way, WAY too cute to be taken seriously. It looked like Stitch from ‘Lilo and Stitch’.
I’m sure younger fans will adore the little gremlin. I did think it was cute, but it’s too hard to take seriously.
This episode had the right ideas and very good opening, but it fell flat after the Pting was revealed. There are good moments here and there, the visuals are very cinematic, but it had a silly looking monster that could not be taken as a threat at all and too many characters – most of whom kept getting in the way of the plot.
Sad to say that this has been the first ‘meh’ episode of Series 11, a series I have really enjoyed so far. But hopefully things will go back on track next week when the Doctor and her friends visit India 1947 in ‘Demons of the Punjab’.
‘DOCTOR WHO: The Tsuranga Conundrum’ result = 4/10