After the disappointment was “Arachnids in the UK” Doctor Who returns to form with a more exciting adventure in deep space – even some bizarre moments.
The Doctor and her companions get injured when salvaging a junk planet. A medical ship crew comes to their aid, and takes them to a space station. But the ship has a stowaway that’s causing damage and may destroy the ship from the inside out. It is up to The Doctor, her companions, the crew, and the patients to work together. They have to stop this creature, guide themselves to their destination and cure their ailments.
Back in Series 3, Chris Chibnall wrote the Doctor Who episode “42.” That episode described The Doctor putting a number of fires out at once. “The Tsuranga Conundrum” has a similar feel, making the episode energy as the Doctor faces a number of threats. “42” is often criticized by fans, and is not regarded as a classic episode. However, I thought it was perfectly entertaining and overly hated.
The best aspect of “The Tsuranga Conundrum” is its visuals. Like the episode “The Ghost Monument” “The Tsuranga Conundrum” shows a huge investment in the production values. Other modern Doctor Whos have episodes that show space travel to be dirty and gritty. Comparatively, “The Tsuranga Conundrum” ship is bright white, high tech and filled with touch screens. It looked like a futuristic Black Mirror episode.
While the episode is stuffed with plot, Chibnall and director Jennifer Perrott balances them all out. The new characters especially shine. Mabli (Lois Chimimba) worries about stepping up. General Cicero (Suzanne Packer) keeps her brother (Ben Bailey-Smith) in the dark about her condition, as a way of protecting him. Ronan (David Shields) has some serious fatherly doubts. All these new characters are really compelling.
The episode is female-centric and reverses gender roles. The Doctor, General Cicero, Mabli, and Yaz take charge of the ship, while Ryan and Graham are assistant midwives. This will probably trigger certain viewers, but they’d be upset no matter what. A legitimate criticism, however, is the role of Ronan as a pregnant parent. The episode only used for some cheap jokes, which stretches plausibility, even for Doctor Who. If Ronan were an alien, it would have been more acceptable.
“The Tsuranga Conundrum” has some little touches that added to the world building. Ronan was prepared to give up his baby because this time period is that brutal. This gives “The Tsuranga Conundrum” a connection to “The Ghost Monument,” where Angstrom says she grew up in poverty and warfare. It won’t be surprising if Chibnall looks deeper into this bleak future.
The new Doctor’s belligerent side comes out on the spaceship. It’s especially apparent when one of the ship’s medic takes her down a peg. It is strange to see, but it can be put down to The Doctor being injured and disorientated so not thinking straight. It is interesting to see Doctor Who explore all the sides of its character’s psyche.
“The Tsuranga Conundrum” has the air of the classic Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” That episode also featured a creature destroying a plane and potentially killing everyone onboard. The creature, called a P’Ting is too cartoony and cutesy, coming across a bit like Nibbler from Futurama. That said, the concept of a crew with limited resourcing having to stop a nearly indestructible creature is solid.
“The Tsuranga Conundrum” has received quite a beating from some critics, and it’s far from vintage Doctor Who. But it’s still an improvement over last week’s episode, and it looks stunning.