Doctor Who 11x05 “The Tsuranga Conundrum” Review
I’m not going to beat around the bush here, so I just have to say…this episode was Not Good. I confess that I actually stopped taking notes about half way through and just decided to scroll through Instagram with the episode playing in the background. This week was truly a filler episode, and not a very good one. The premise seemed promising and reminded me of the classic “Midnight,” but the execution definitely fell short.
For those who don’t know, “Midnight” was the tenth episode of the fourth season and featured the Doctor, then played by David Tennant, on a transport across the remote leisure planet called Midnight. During the journey, some sort of creature breaks into the transport and chaos ensues. I’ll leave it at that for those who haven’t seen the episode but will in the future.
A similar situation happens here, when the Doctor and company find themselves on a hospital transport (“Tsuranga” being what we call the Red Cross in the future), having gotten caught in a sonic mine explosion while looking for parts on a junkyard planet. Once awake, the Doctor is obviously worried about the TARDIS being left behind on a planet that attracts scavengers. She soon realizes the worst has happened, and that they aren’t just in a hospital, but in an emergency medical transport. Transport as in ship — flying far away from where she wants to be. The Doctor being the Doctor, of course, tries to reverse course and send them back towards the TARDIS. Just one problem — if any change is made to the navigation or the systems of the ship, it will automatically be treated as a hostile threat and trigger a reaction that would only prevent the Doctor from reaching the TARDIS.
Soon after our heroes wake up, the monster of the week crashes into the ship, destroying everything in sight. The creature is called a “P-Ting,” an alien that is extremely violent, powerful, and ready to eat the whole ship. This would be terrifying if the creature didn’t look like some kind of insect/minion hybrid, but it’s not the alien that’s the focus of the episode — it’s the other characters aboard.
This is the strongest point of the episode (the ONLY strong point, to be honest). There isn’t a weak link in the bunch, in fact. After the death of head medic Astos (Brett Goldstein), the only other medic onboard is Mabli (Lois Chimimba). She is new at the job and unsure of herself, but she rises to the occasion all the same. General Eve Cicero (Suzanne Packer), another passenger and a war hero to boot, is suffering from a disease called “pilot’s heart” that she’s desperately trying to keep under wraps, especially from her brother who is also on board. We also meet the heavily pregnant Yoss Inkle (Jack Shalloo), a man about to give birth (yes) and struggling with accepting fatherhood or giving the child away.
Each story is touching, and while the Doctor and company are desperately trying to wrangle the destructive P’Ting, we see each of these play out as the most effective part of the episode. Part of me wonders if Chibnall made the P’Ting look so ridiculous on purpose as a way to get us to attach ourselves more to the stories of those onboard.
Even though the individual stories assigned to each passenger were touching, it wasn’t enough to carry the episode. Because of this, the highlight of the episode to me was the scenes with Graham and Ryan. Some truly knockout humor was shown when Ryan and Graham had to help Yoss deliver his baby (Graham quips that it’s a good thing he’s seen every episode of Call the Midwife). We also get a great emotional scene between the two when Yoss’ discussion about fatherhood reminds Ryan of his own father, causing him to open up to Graham about his father’s absence and his mother’s early death. Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole really knocked it out of the park with this one.
To be honest, there wasn’t much else I enjoyed from the episode. I didn’t necessarily hate anything either. Maybe if the P’Ting was better executed as a terrifying alien about to crash the ship I would have been more invested, but instead that whole plot seemed like an afterthought. This is one episode that you could skip without noticing that you missed one, and in a season with only ten episodes I would hope for more.