It was time for the annual base-under-siege episode of Doctor Who, and this time, Team TARDIS were stranded on a ‘Red Cross-esque’ medical spacecraft in transit to a populated planet in the 67th century. Of course, it is not smooth sailing for The Doctor, as she has to contend with a creepy yet cute monster who will consume any and all matter, a pregnant man, and the ship’s impending self-destruction. ‘The Tsuranga Conundrum’ was the perfect example of an episode that marks the difference between ‘good’ and ‘great’. I wasn’t really offended by any part of this episode, but I feel like I’m already forgetting a lot about what happened.
The plot in this outing was simple enough, and the hospital-spaceship setting was quite interesting. I found myself wishing they did a little more with it; the final half of the episode could have been set on any spacecraft without a single change. Our heroes are placed on the ship after a rogue sonic mine blast (which seems to injure The Doctor more than anyone else) and due to this introduction, we waste a good amount of time in the orientation of the episode with The Doctor clutching her abdomen while trying to find ‘the exit’, before revealing the surprise that the obvious-looking spacecraft is, in fact, a spacecraft.
We are then introduced to the monster at the heart of the episode—the adorable P’Ting.
Does it look super threatening? Well, no. It is difficult to even call this thing a ‘big baddie’. More chaotic than plain evil, the P’Ting eats electronic gear for its energy and draining ships of their power—not killing people directly, but inadvertently leading to their demise. We are given a monologue from the ship’s computer detailing the P’Ting’s qualities, and we learn that although it is able to be stunned, its skin is too tough to break and poisonous to the human touch. This monster is an insane conception, and I loved every minute it was on screen.
Flashing to the ‘good guys’, we don’t get as much character development as we have in the previous episodes, but really, I didn’t miss it too much. It still feels a little crowded on the TARDIS, especially since I still feel like I don’t know enough about Yaz to really care about her. Whittaker continues her strong performance as The Doctor, but I feel like Chibnall is still trying to constantly remind us that this is still the Doctor Who we know and love. The more the writer tries to comfort his audience, the less risks will be taken, and I would like to see some new, more engaging narrative directions for the show soon.
Did I enjoy this episode? Sure. Will I be tempted by a plush P’Ting? Probably. While we can’t have an incredible episode of Doctor Who every week, I am getting a little worried that this series isn’t going to gift us anything truly groundbreaking. For an average episode, ‘The Tsuranga Conundrum’ was fine… but halfway through this series run, I want something more special.