“The Tsuranga Conundrum” is the halfway mark of Doctor Who’s eleventh season and it is indeed quite a conundrum. There are a lot of secondary characters and intriguing concepts that are all crammed into one filler-ish episode.
It was the first foray for Thirteen, Ryan, Yaz, and Graham as an “official” TARDIS team and started off with a promising concept. They are rummaging through a space junkyard when a sonic blast renders them unconscious.
They wake up four days later on Tsuranga, a 67th century medical spaceship hurtling away from the TARDIS with two patients: Eve (a terminally ill and decorated female general) and Yoss, a pregnant man giving birth to a son.
There are some solid character interactions between the companions. Yaz is still not as prominent as I would like her to be because she’s still getting lost in plots that give the secondary characters more to do.
But, I like Yaz’s interactions with The Doctor and LIVE for her heart to heart conversations with Ryan. He opened up to her after she sensed his dismay over Yoss’ decision about whether he will keep his child.
Ryan reveals that he found his mother after she died from a massive heart attack when he was a child. He also sadly justifies his father’s absenteeism by blaming it on his resemblance to his mother.
It’s a common issue that has come up with children with an absent parent, especially when the present parent makes disparaging remarks like “you’re just like your (insert insulting word here) mother/father.”
Yaz is so supportive in this moment and asks enough questions to get a full picture of Ryan’s plight without being overbearing. When he abruptly decides to end the conversation, she gives him the space to walk away.
It’s a small yet significant moment that shows how their friendship is blossoming at a crucial time. Ryan is reeling from feelings of abandonment and loss while Yaz appears to have a break in her relationship with her family.
Again, it’s hard to get a hold on Yaz because she has been underdeveloped, but it’s clear that they both need each other.
Ryan and Graham also had some great comedic moments between them when it was time to deliver the baby. It was a hilarious flip on Earth gender norms when Yoss insisted that he needed “blokes” to be his doulas while the women took on the brunt of facing the enemy.
The Call to Midwife references (which is a real show btw) and their initial looks of confusion as they tried to develop their bedside manner was gold. But Ryan finally got it together and told Yoss to focus on being a present parent versus a perfect parent.
He truly has a heart of gold.
Pting is the second cutest antagonist next to the squishy Adipose. This little guy was great when we saw him chomping on the ship while The Doctor had to work fast to figure out how to stop its seemingly relentless need to tear things apart.
But, there are long stretches when the tiny monster seems to fade to the background in favor of diving into several interpersonal relationships on Tsuranga as well as the possible explosion brewing due to the ship’s terrible design.
There’s just too much going on with characters whose names I don’t care to remember and Pting wasn’t even necessary, especially when its story ended with the meh conclusion of stuffing it with energy and shooting it out of a pod into space.
This season’s antagonists have been mostly underdeveloped and lost in the story among the one-off characters. It gets balanced out a bit by the great performances with the actors, but a big part of Doctor Who‘s allure is the villain and so far the show hasn’t given us any new ones worth loving.
As usual, Thirteen delivers in this adventure with her pure delight, joy, wit, wonder, and pulsing energy. Jodie really elevates any material she is given and makes magic out of the tiniest moments with her expressive reactions.
I love when she calls herself The Doctor of many things, including cotton floss and hope because she’s absolutely adorable. And, she continues to be very Hufflepuffy with her warm heart for others and ability to admit her faults.
Overall, this episode was okay but certainly not the worst Doctor Who episode in the modern era. That still goes to “Sleep No More.” Thankfully, next week’s episode appears to focus on Yaz and is the first one written by South Asian writer Vinay Patel.
So, let’s keep moving forward and seeing what happens next!