After journeying to a scavenging planet, The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her friends end up being injured in a sonic blast. Waking up on The Tsuranga, a medical ship designed to deal with emergency cases. The Doctor must attempt to get back to the TARDIS or else she and her companions will be alone in space with no means to return home – and with the threat of attack from an alien species that could wreck the ship, it is a race against time for The Doctor to save everyone on the ship.
The mid-season blip that began with last week’s episode Arachnids In The UK continues with The Tsuranga Conundrum. Whilst the idea of a hospital in space, servicing emergency cases is an interesting idea and Chibnall deals with the rising danger of the ship’s near destruction well, the episode has a lack of drive to it. In fact, it feels a bit dull.
The characters don’t feel particularly special nor does the threat feel lethal. Whilst Chibnall is able to create great dialogue for his cast, particularly Graham (Bradley Walsh) both the situations he creates for his characters and the monsters that he pitches The Doctor against sometimes seem a bit lacklustre. Similarly, Chibnall’s reliance on the countdown to destruction gimmick to push the latter half of the episode forward was somewhat predictable and a problem the writer has been derided for before, most comprehensively in a video by the Youtuber NitPix. Given that Chibnall has written four episodes this series that aren’t forced to rely on the countdown to destruction, there is some hope that this won’t become a reoccurring feature of his writing or the series.
This week’s villain, the Tasmanian Devil like P’Ting is certainly different from the regular monster we’ve seen in the series of late. Almost cuddly looking, the beast certainly adds a Gremlin-like quality to the show and will certainly be an excellent monster for kids to enjoy watching – P’Ting has a great deal of energy and a unique design that toy manufacturers will love. It is a shame, therefore, that the wee beastie has a minimal presence in the story. This is perhaps that the P’Ting, aside from its design, has a pretty bog-standard idea behind it – a little monster that wrecks things. Doctor Who isn’t a show that necessarily needs clever villains to make it exciting, but it does need interesting ones and the P’Ting isn’t particularly interesting.
The episode could have had the same script but been far more enjoyable if the P’Ting had been replaced by Beep the Meep – a character from Doctor Who audio dramas and comics who, though apparently cute and cuddly, is a vicious monster bent on ruling the galaxy. This could have certainly enlivened the plot, made for greater conflict between the hapless crew and passengers and The Doctor and allowed the episode to be more engaging.
The music for this episode is particularly good with series composer Segun Akinola really ramping up the pressure in the climactic scene as Eve Cicero (Suzanne Packer) attempts to pilot the ship to safety whilst The Doctor deals with the P’Ting. Akinola really knows how to pump emotion into every scene and he is one of the true highlights of the new series – his composing ability is without question and he is a true asset to the show.
The special effects in the episode are pretty decent – the depiction of both the P’Ting and Space are handled very well and certainly help to make the episode more believable. One of the best sequences of this is when the P’Ting eats The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver – a seamless interlocking of real effects and CGI.
In conclusion, The Tsuranga Conundrum is probably the dullest episode of the series so far. It isn’t bad but nor is exceptionally good – it has some decent elements to it but they are never greater than the sum of their parts. It is a shame because the story certainly had a great deal of potential which, is properly realised, could have made it a classic episode enjoyed for years to come.
Doctor Who Continues Sunday at 6.30pm on BBC One.