‘The Tsuranga Conundrum’ (TV)

‘THE TSURANGA CONUNDRUM’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Attack of the Pting

I saw ‘The Tsuranga Conundrum’, the fifth episode of Series 11 of ‘Doctor Who’ on BBC iPlayer with my parents. The episode is by Chris Chibnall. I did enjoy watching the episode with my parents then.

With that said though, comparing it to the first four episodes of Series 11, I found this one to be the weakest of the season. Mind you, I’ve enjoyed it more on several re-watches online and via Blu-ray.

Let’s talk about the story first. It begins with the Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz on the alien junkyard planet of Seffilun 27. They find this sonic mine that very soon goes off whilst they are standing there.

I was surprised they didn’t run for their lives once they saw the sonic mine. I mean, I know the Doctor told her friends not to move, but even when she couldn’t disable the mine, shouldn’t they run for it?

Anyway, after four days, the TARDIS team wakes up to find themselves on board a medical spaceship called the Tsuranga. The Doctor seems to know the name of that medical ship when comes around.

Our heroes are in the 67th century by the way. The spaceship is on its way to the Resus One space station where our heroes are to be decontaminated. The Doctor however doesn’t want to have that.

She wants to get back to the alien junkyard planet where she and her friends left the TARDIS. The medical staff on board the Tsuranga consists of Brett Goldstein as Astos and Lois Chimimba as Mabli.

Incidentally, my best mate Stephen informed that Lois Chimimba and Jodie Whittaker had worked together before in the drama serial ‘Trust Me’. I saw that before seeing Jodie in ‘Doctor Who’ itself!

Astos and Mabli are very concerned about the Doctor and her friends’ well-being. Before long though, the Tsuranga faces trouble when the ship gets attacked by an alien creature called the Pting.

It infiltrates the Tsuranga and causes havoc by eating the spaceship’s power supply. The medical ship is in danger whilst on its journey to the Resus One spaceship and carrying its passengers on board it.

The Doctor and Yaz have to find a way to stop the Pting creature whilst Graham and Ryan are called to assist a male patient…who is pregnant and about to give birth? I will get to that bit a little later on.

Okay, so you have the story. A medical hospital spaceship is on its way through space and is attacked by an alien creature that causes trouble on the journey before the Doctor and friends have to stop it.

That’s fine. In fact, I think the beginning; the middle and the end parts of the story manage to hold up quite well. I would have taken this as a pretty good old-fashioned style adventure in outer space.

However, I do feel that the second half of the TV episode is weaker than the first half. Not to say the episode had a rushed conclusion compared to ‘Arachnids in the UK’, though I like that episode a lot.

But there was a lot of sciencey stuff that got a bit beyond me. It was a bit of a challenge to process. Having watched the episode more than one now, I’ve been able to appreciate some of the concepts.

The science stuff was interesting. I think it would’ve benefited the episode if more time was given to explain what was happening to appreciate the urgency of the perilous situation our heroes were in.

I found the first half intense and exciting before it got above me during the second half. I did feel my attention drift from watching the episode on first viewing. It is something an episode should not do.

It was tense when the Doctor was trying to find an exit out of the hospital before she realises that she and her friends were on a spaceship in flight. She’s anxious since she’s only just her TARDIS back.

It was also interesting to see the Doctor relationship with Astos, the chief medic on board the spaceship. They seemed to bounce off each other really well before Astos got sucked out into space.

I liked Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor in this episode. I know there are still people out there who haven’t taken to her as much as I have. But I like it when she works things out and solves a situation.

This is especially when things become critical and she has the energy and enthusiasm to resolve it. It’s essential for the Doctor to cope well under stress and Jodie’s Doctor achieves that well in spades.

I enjoyed it when the Doctor found a way to lure the Pting out of the spaceship and into the airlock. She uses some sort of bomb to act as a ‘cheese’ to lure the ‘mouse’ away. I really liked that moment!

I also found it really good when the Doctor surmised Suzanne Packer as Eve Cicero didn’t need the certain medication she was having. This reveals an interesting back-story for Eve Cicero’s character.

The Doctor also becomes an encouragement and a beacon for Mabli to keep on going in doing her job when things became bleakest and when Astos wasn’t around. She is a really reassuring presence.

I found it funny when the Doctor lost the power in her sonic screwdriver for a bit and she had to cope without it in order to solve the big crisis. Thankfully her sonic screwdriver gets restored in this.

I’m noticing a trait in the Thirteenth Doctor where she says random things that make her awkward. This includes her claiming to be a doctor of medicine; science; engineering; candy floss (?) and more.

But what I like most about Jodie’s Doctor is that she loves humanity and hope. There are definitely echoes of David Tennant’s Doctor in Jodie Whittaker’s interpretation which I personally like here. 😀

Bradley Walsh is good as Graham. His cynicism does comes through at times. I enjoyed that moment where he kept asking questions and the Doctor gives her replies of “Yeah” to all of them in the story.

It was also amusing when Graham points out to Yaz that maybe the Pting won’t eat them alive but will eat up the spaceship with them inside. Surprised Yaz didn’t realize that before Graham said it. 😀

It was interesting when Graham caught Ben Bailey-Smith as Durkas Cicero, Eve Cicero’s brother out when he was accessing computer records over his sister. The conversation they had was interesting.

Graham helps with Ryan to deliver a pregnant man’s baby in the episode. I laughed at the ‘Call The Midwife’ references Graham made. Since then, I’ve watched a series of ‘Call the Midwife’ episodes.

Tosin Cole is also good as Ryan. I don’t think he and Yaz have a strong outing in terms of character development in the episode, but there were some good moments in the story to enjoy throughout.

I liked it when Ryan shared his family background to Yaz. This included what occurred between him and his dad and what had occurred when his mum died. This is all before we get to meet Ryan’s dad.

It was interesting to see Ryan’s reaction to Jack Shalloo as Yoss Inkl who’s about to have a baby aboard the Tsuranga. I can appreciate and understand his reaction. I’d be surprised and startled too.

It was also interesting to see Ryan helping to deliver Yoss’ baby along with Graham. Ryan becomes encouraging towards Yoss as telling him to be strong, especially when he’s soon about to be a father.

Mandip Gill is equally good as Yaz. But like I said, she and Ryan don’t get a strong outing of character development here. She’s not completely useless though, since she’s given a job to do by the Doctor.

In the episode, Yaz and David Shields as Ronan, Eve Cicero’s android have to protect an anti-matter device on the ship. This they do, as Yaz and Ronan zap the Pting creature out with energy weapons.

This is to trap the creature and stop it from eating up the anti-matter device. It was bizarre when Yaz kicked the creature away in a bag like a football. I’m not sure why Yaz felt the need to do in the tale.

I liked it when Yaz accompanied the Doctor to witness the Pting being lured into the airlock with bomb acting as cheese for it. Yaz gets sceptical of the Doctor’s plans. I do like how she questions her.

 

Now I must address a few things regarding parts of the episode that I consider to be weak in terms of presentation. The first is Yoss Inkl who happens to be a pregnant man. Now I’m not against this here.

I like how it gets established in the episode that Yoss is of an alien species called the Gifftans. It makes sense since our heroes are in outer space as well as the future and would be in alien territory.

However, I do feel Yoss didn’t look alien enough to establish his species can be pregnant on the male side. Yoss acted too human when identified as a member of an alien species despite being pregnant.

Wouldn’t it have helped to make him blue-skinned; give him pointy ears or put tattoos on his skin to make him appear more alien? I’m just saying that he seemed more human than alien in the episode.

Then again, Nyssa and Adric were aliens from other planets and they looked just as human as well as the Doctor in the TV series. So what do I know? I should not expect Nyssa and Adric to act all human.

Also I couldn’t help but feel that Jack Shalloo’s performance as Yoss was a bit over-the-top. This is especially in the scenes where he gets emotional and gives birth with Ryan and Graham helping him.

Mind you, I can’t blame Jack Shalloo for giving it a try to play a pregnant male alien who became overwrought with emotion. I’m sure he gave it his best shot as it is tough to play it very convincingly.

It must have been a challenging character to play and it’s not without its disadvantages. There are moments where Jack Shalloo as Yoss can be convincing; but there are also moments when he is not.

Another aspect to this episode that I found a bit weak was the alien creature called the Pting. It was simply a small creature that had a ravenous appetite for energy. And that’s it! It doesn’t grow bigger.

Wouldn’t it have been better to see this creature grow to giant-size in order for it to become deadly and a lethal problem to the spaceship? At least the tension would get raised and become escalated.

I think it would’ve been great and more intense if the Pting grew to a Hulk-sized form. It would become hard for the Doctor and her friends to stop it with the spaceship about to crumble apart too.

I would’ve done it if I was writing this episode. Sadly that didn’t happen, which is a shame. Still I can’t complain too much. I suppose it depends on your writer’s mindset when watching this episode.

There were also some people saying the Pting resembled Stitch from Disney‘s ‘Lilo and Stitch’. I can see where they’re coming from as the similarities are there, in terms of size and seeming very fierce.

Overall, ‘The Tsuranga Conundrum’ isn’t the greatest ‘Doctor Who’ episode I’ve seen in Series 11. It’s such a shame. I had been enjoying Series 11 for the most part and this happens to be the least good.

But this was still a fun and enjoyable episode to watch as it had good moments. I enjoyed watching the TARDIS team in this TV story. It might not have been the greatest outing for them as characters.

But there were still some good moments for the Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz as well as for the supporting characters involved. I did hope the next episode in the season would be better than this.

The DVD/Blu-ray special features on this episode are as follows. On Disc 2 of ‘The Complete Series 11’ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s ‘The Tsuranga Conundrum’ – Closer Look’ featurette as well as a commentary with Mandip Gill, Suzanne Packer, Ben Bailey-Smith and producer Nikki Wilson.

‘The Tsuranga Conundrum’ rating – 5/10


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