This review contains spoilers for The Tsuranga Conundrum. If you haven’t seen it yet, come back after watching it!
Threat to life: Ultimate.
Injured and stranded in the wilds of a far-flung galaxy, the Doctor, Yaz, Graham and Ryan must band together with a group of strangers to survive against one of the universe’s most deadly – and unusual – creatures.
We’ve reached the midpoint of Series 11 everyone! So far we’ve encountered the Stenza, found the TARDIS, met Rosa Parks and felt sympathy for a giant arachnid. This week we have a good old fashioned base under siege story, with the Doctor and team stuck on the Tsuranga medical ship trying to survive the fearsome P’Ting. With a much more established Team TARDIS, we also get much more focus on the guest cast which makes a change from previous weeks, and I feel that the team were all well utilised. This is also the most the series has focussed on the Doctor, and Jodie Whittaker is great again.
The biggest issue with this story is the Pting though, which has been a problem with this series generally. This series has generally suffered from a villain problem with no really fearsome antagonists, and we’re not getting a return of any of the ‘classic’ enemies like the Daleks, Cybermen or the Weeping Angels. I didn’t totally hate the Pting, I thought that the design was good and I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the creature’s cute outward appearance with the fact that it was eating everything and was basically a tiny juggernaut. The way that the story and direction played with your expectations as well helped but when the alien finally appeared, I felt it took something away from the story. I liked that it was a creature that by its very nature was unknown, due to it being able to eat everything it was impossible to study. All in all, I liked the idea of the Pting but I feel once it was revealed it lost any real sense of threat. I’m sure it appealed to younger members of the audience though, and I’ve seen a lot of calls on social media for a Pting toy to be released.
The story utilises its guest cast really well here, and the story does use Team TARDIS well in doing this. With a more established team around the Doctor, this allows us time to get to know characters like Eve, Durkas and Yoss, allowing us to become invested in them and care about what happens to them. The best exchange here is between Yoss and Ryan, which obviously deeply affects Ryan, seeing a lot of parallels not only with himself but with his father, which leads us to learn what happened to Ryan’s mother and the difficulties in his relationship with his father. Ryan is definitely growing on me as a character and I still like the fact that things aren’t miraculously fixed with him and Graham quite yet, but I anticipate that it will be by the end of the series. I find the character of Astos interesting, despite his relatively short time in the episode. It is very rare for the Doctor to admit that someone knows more than he or she does and it does add a unique relationship between the two of them, but I can see why he was killed off. We need characters who feel like fish out of water in a base under siege story and Astos is more experienced and seems much more level-headed than the newly qualified Mabli. The relationship between Durkas and Eve is really strong, even though towards the end you can tell how the story will end for Eve, and again I am impressed by the guest stars that have been in this series. Unfortunately, Yaz doesn’t have much to do again but it looks as though she will be the focus again next week.
The advantages of having more established companions here is that it allows the Doctor to really shine and interact with more people outside of this core group. Whittaker seems really comfortable reeling off technobabble and this really helps when she is explaining things like the anti-matter engine, which in lesser hands could have really felt like it kills the pace. This new Doctor also has the enthusiasm when she learns new things or experiences something, like the anti-matter engine. Some of the sci-fi ideas we see here almost feel plausible for future developments, such as self-driving ships and the craft being essentially powered by a smaller version of the Hadron Collider, which also helps the story and we can share in the Doctor’s enthusiasm for them. The Doctor’s reaction when she finally works out the true motives of the Pting is so nicely played, and I love the fact that “Get a shift on!” is becoming a catchphrase for this Doctor!
I love it! Conceptually…and actually!
Verdict: A good base under siege story, slightly let down by the lack of threat packed by the Pting. That said, the Pting is very cute! 3/10
Behind the Scenes
- The Pting was created and named by writer Tim Price.
- The sonic screwdriver is seen to repair itself, as previously seen in A Christmas Carol.
- There is a brief shot of a couple of old foes before showing the Pting. These include Silurians, Cybermen and the Zygons.
Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Brett Goldstein (Astos), Lois Chimimba (Mabli), Suzanne Packer (Eve Cicero), Ben Bailey-Smith (Durkas Cicero), David Shields (Ronan), Jack Shalloo (Yoss Inkl)
Writer: Chris Chibnall (Tenth story)
Director: Jennifer Perrott (First story)
The meeting to discuss the threat, and the Doctor’s reaction when there are no questions at the end.
You’re probably wondering why I called you all here. Sorry – bit Poirot.