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Doctor Who The Tsuranga Conundrum

Review by Paul Bowler

The new adventures of Team TARDIS become fraught with danger in The Tsuranqa Conundrum, as the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions Graham (Bradley Walsh), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole) find themselves injured and marooned in a distant galaxy. But to survive this crisis they must team up with a group of strangers against one of the most bizarre and powerful monsters in the entire universe…

The Tsuranqa Conundrum, written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Jennifer Perrott, finds the Doctor and her new companions stranded in a futuristic medical facility after one of their adventures has gone disastrously wrong on a junkyard planet. Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is at the heart of the action, quickly discovering they are on board an automated spaceship bound for a medical space-station, but she’s far from the only hero here, and she inspires Graham, Yaz and Ryan to be as resourceful as ever to deal with their current predicament.

Of course, the other patients with them in the facility also have a key role to play. The extensive guest cast for this episode includes Brett Goldstein and Lois Chimimba as the medics Astos and Mabli, actor and stand up comedian Ben Bailley Smith plays Durkas Cicero, and Casualty star Suzanne Packer is Eve Cicero.

Chris Chibnall’s fast paced script hardly pauses for a moment, further heightening the danger faced by the Doctor, her friends, and the other patients in the facility. After the Earth based stories The Tsuranqa Conundrum is a welcome voyage into full on science fiction territory, boasting a glittering universe of sleek spaceships, new cultures, there’s a physics lesson veiled in anitmatter technobabble, and the Doctor and co even get to meet a pregnant male alien. Australian director Jennifer Perrott and director of photography Simon Chapman (who is also Australian), have stylishly crafted this episodes vividly futuristic setting, the scope of it all is highly impressive, and the result is a truly remarkable looking Doctor Who adventure!

The medical space-ships course soon takes the vessel into disputed territory. Before long a dangerous alien threat gets on board, a ferocious Pting (created and named by Tim Price room during series 11‘s early development), and its this diminutive monster that the Doctor encounters in this episode which presents a very new and different kind of threat for the Time Lord and her companions. The Ptng is a tiny, incredibly strong, speedy little beast with razor sharp teeth, toxic skin, and well known throughout the galaxy because of its voracious appetite for devouring all non-organic matter – including energy!

Now… here’s where this review goes off on a slight tangent, because this is the point while preparing this review that I fell ill and got rushed into hospital. It feels a bit strange now, after just over two weeks, looking back over what I’d written about The Tsuranqa Conundrum while trying to gather my thoughts and opinions together in summing up this episode. To be honest my memory of it’s all a bit hazy, so I really need to see it again to judge it properly, but for now I’ll stick with the initial notes I made.

Although exciting and fast paced, I felt that The Tsuranqa Conundrum was crammed almost to bursting point with a lot of good ideas, but sadly few of them were either developed successfully or worked collectively as a whole. The episode certainly put the Doctor and her companions though their paces, delivering strong character moments, but the supporting cast and frenetic plot made The Tsuranqa Conundrum feel overstuffed – a bit like the Pting at the end of the episode! The little Pting was actually The Tsuranqa Conundrum’s saving grace, the monster was a really fun and dangerous menace, and it thankfully brought the scripts lazy fix-all overuse of the Sonic Screwdriver to an abrupt halt – for a little while anyway.

The Tsuranqa Conundrum is far from Chris Chibnall’s strongest script to date in series 11, however, the solid performances from the main cast, together with Jennifer Perrott’s stylish direction, and of course the insanely cute Pting do make up for some of the scripts failings.

Reflecting on seeing The Tsuranqa Conundrum now feels very bizarre to me, especially considering the paradox of actually going into hospital myself after watching this episode. I will probably revisit this story again at some point, but strangely, just like any stay in hospital (no matter how well they look after you, and believe me they certainly did and I‘m immensely grateful for the care I received), its not necessarily something that I want to do again any time soon; and I think that sums up exactly how I feel about The Tsuranqa Conundrum as well. An above average Doctor Who story – but one that oddly felt like it was still a couple of drafts away from reaching its full potential.

Images and Video Belongs BBC