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Doctor Who - The Tsuranga Conundrum - Review: "Hope"

© BBC Pictures
Episode: 11.05 "The Tsuranga Conundrum"
Directed by: Jennifer Perrott
Written by: Chris Chibnall
Air date: 4 November 2018

The Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yasmin are scavenging on a junkyard planet when they're caught in the middle of sonic mine's explosion. They wake up on a Tsuranga ship transporting them to a medical space station. When trying to leave the ship and get back to the TARDIS they encounter the rest of the patients - legendary General Eve Cicero, her brother Durkas and synth robot partner named Ronan, as well as a pregnant man, Yoss. It doesn't take long to discover that a mysterious alien creature got on board of Tsuranga and is slowly eating non-organic materials that the ship is made from. The group has to find a way to get rid of the creature, protect the ship's anti-matter power source, help Yoss deliver his baby, pilot Tsuranga through an asteroid field and remove a built-in failsafe bomb to safely arrive at the space station. Despite the odds, the Doctor manages to come up with a plan that saves almost everyone onboard, except head nurse Astos who dies at the beginning and Eve who sacrifices herself to protect everybody else. The creature (called Pting) eats the bomb and the Doctor jettisons it into space, thus assuring the ship can reach its destination in the end.

I liked it. I've seen some very contradictory opinions, from the people who genuinely loved the episode to the ones who absolutely hated it. Personally, I think it was a good hour, probably falling somewhere in the middle, if I were to rank the episodes of the season so far. It's a familiar story, a race against the clock set in space, where the Doctor and her friends prove invaluable to ensure the survival of others. It definitely felt like an improvement after "Arachnids in the UK", with higher stakes, a sense of urgency and a new surprising monster of the week. The monster itself was quite a mystery, Pting seemed to be one of the most dangerous beings we've had to face yet (since it couldn't be touched, imprisoned or killed) but also one of the "cutest" at the same time. The description of his abilities and the threat he caused, especially with the death of a good man at the start, were definitely a reason to be concerned. However his general appearance was closer to Adipose or a Slitheen child than a monster like the Silence, thus resulting in him somehow being much scarier from the distance than up close. The story itself worked pretty well, it was intense, engaging and generally interesting. There might have been a bit too many people and events to cover during one hour but I didn't really mind that, we didn't learn everything we could about the guest characters but we did see the most important parts that impacted the Doctor and her friends and balanced the episode without any issues.

There's not a lot to share about the patients of Tsuranga. I did like Yoss' story, especially considering what it meant for Graham and Ryan. I think Ryan did a wonderful job, reaching out to Yoss when he needed it the most, also taking a moment to explore his own past and mention his father. I do wonder if we'll get to meet him, with all the small references to him in this and previous episodes. I feel like, at the very least, this adventure across time and space is allowing Graham and Ryan to build a relationship, to become a real family. It's clear that Graham has been trying to find a common language with his late wife's grandson but isn't very successful most of the time. Step by step, moment by moment, I think these two might actually become stronger together in the end. Meanwhile, Yasmin is becoming quite an impressive character. She's brave, ready to face any challenge, last time the giant spider, now a deadly Pting. She found her inspiration in the Doctor and is following her steps in the best possible way. Her interactions with Thirteen are a joy to watch, like their final encounter with the creature ("You could've picked a bigger number!"). Speaking of brave, General Eve turned out to be a better character than I originally assumed. I didn't like her initial conversations with her brother but I did come to understand her better in the end. She truly was the hero all these people needed. She knew exactly what her condition meant but she dedicated her life to saving other people and she refused to stand still when the ship was in danger. It was nice to see everyone honouring her life in the episode's closing scene. Her brother also took over her position after she fell and managed to bring the ship safely back on its course. In moments like that, it's always good to see the best in people and realize there's so much more of the good than the bad. One other thing to mention, I was surprised by how hurt the Doctor was by the sonic mine's explosion at the beginning. I kept thinking it's going to come back and her condition will worsen at one point. Interesting... I wonder whether there's more of a connection between the Doctor and anything sonic than we might have known. Or she simply had the worst luck and was caught in the center of the explosion. Also, her initial reaction to being trapped on the ship, far away from the TARDIS again, it was both unexpected and understandable. I have to say, calming down the selfish Doctor - quite a way to introduce a character. Shame that Astos never had a chance to survive.

Since we're done with the first part of the season, let's talk about how it's going so far. For me it's been good. Well done, well acted and written, beautifully shot. I like all the main characters and the interactions between. There are some plots that I'd like to revisit and people I want to learn more about. However, the only "problem" for me is that the story doesn't feel very memorable. Yes, Rosa Parks episode was certainly a highlight, but all the other hours, while good and entertaining, didn't leave a lasting impression on me or made me want to rewatch the story or more powerful scenes multiple times. Recently I've found myself coming back to the earlier episodes of New Who and there were so many exciting things about them that I wanted to share with other viewers, to discuss, to theorize about. As much as I'm enjoying the season so far, I can't think of a lot of moments like that. Even the quotes. It's a similar feeling with Thirteen. She's kind, hopeful, clever and caring. She might represent some of the best qualities of the Doctor but I do find myself missing all the rest of them. Looking back at the previous incarnations of the Doctor, they've been funny, brilliant, mad, big-hearted but also a force to be reckoned with. I'm not looking for a darkness to overshadow the new light in this Doctor, the hope born with Thirteen, but I am waiting for a moment when she will truly feel like both herself and the person carrying all her past selves inside. The "Oncoming Storm", the Doctor of War, ready for the fury of the Time Lord, but also the Doctor of Hope. All of them evolved into this one incredible person. Quite a challenge but always a moment worth the wait. Still looking forward to it.

Whovian notes and questions:
1. What are your thoughts about the season so far? Better than you expected, more of the same, something is still missing? How about the Doctor?
2. Did you enjoy all the different stories taking place during this hour? If you could, which story/character would you rather not include in the episode? Or maybe there's a story which you think might have been added here?
3. What's your most memorable episode and/or scene of the season so far?
4. Is it just me or do we seem to be losing TARDIS even more frequently this season than in the past? Do you think there might be a theme there? How do you imagine the TARDIS feels about this new Doctor & friends?

1. The Doctor: "You're a medic, I'm the Doctor."
Mabli: "A doctor of medicine?"
The Doctor: "Well, medicine, science, engineering, candy floss, LEGO, philosophy, music, problems, people, hope. Mostly hope."

2. Computer: "Condensed advice: Never engage with Pting. Risk to life: Ultimate."
The Doctor: "On the plus side, I now feel very well informed."

3. Graham: "Whilst you've been mucking around on YouTube, I've been learning useful life skills!"

4. Ronan: "May the saints of all the stars and constellations..."
All: "...bring you hope as they guide you out of the dark and into the light on this voyage and the next and on all the journeys still to come."
The Doctor: "For now and evermore."

5. The Doctor: "It's beautiful. Anti-matter powering the movement of matter. Bringing positrons into existence to move other forms of life across space. I love it! Conceptually... and actually."

What did you think about "The Tsuranga Conundrum"? Any favorite scenes, quotes or theories? Feel free to let us know in the comments. Check out the press release & promo for the next episode "Demons of the Punjab". As always, thanks for reading!

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