TL;DR – A deeply emotional episode that using the entire ensemble to their best, a truly wonderful episode of Doctor Who
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
This season we have had the highs of Rosa (see review) but also a lot of awkwardness in the construction of episodes, like the show is exploring how to make it all work. Well, this week we see it all come together when you have the emotional weight as well as the tight construction and flow of the episode, that also allows each member of the ensemble a moment to shine.
So to set the scene, we open in on a junk heap as our gang Graham (Bradley Walsh), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Yas (Mandip Gill) are scanning for something for The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker). Some light banter about junk galaxies ensues and we get into that familiar grove when Graham find what they are looking for, wait nope, he found a sonic mine. One explosion later and we wake up in a bright room being helped by Astos (Brett Goldstein) and Mabli (Lois Chimimba) and asking that very important questions as their organs resettle “where are we”. Well, the where is a hospital ship, not great because they have left the TARDIS behind on a junk planet to get stolen, but workable, that is until something crashes into the ship and all hell breaks loose. From this point onwards we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead.
For me, there were a number of reasons why this episode worked as well as it did, and the first is the use of the ensemble cast. Because we are on a hospital ship there are a whole bunch of patients with their own issues, like the pregnant Yoss (Jack Shalloo) or the mysterious Eve (Suzanne Packer) that is not being honest with her ailments. So when everyone splits up to fight the Pting there is this wonderful symmetry to everything. This means that you have Graham and Ryan helping Yoss deliver his baby, which allows both a bonding moment between the two and for Bradly Walsh to get in another of the best lines of the week. But as well as this, it also is the big hit in the guts for Ryan that Yoss is about the same age that his father was when he ditched him, the same age he is now, and you feel that emotional weight and realisation really impact him. Oh Ryan, my dear, you have such a sad backstory.
We also see that in the rapport between The Doctor and Mabli, who have to work together to stop the ship being blown up from the inside by the Pting, or remotely by the hospital complex to protect the facility from the terror inside. Mabli is just a rookie, but she has a lot of potential and both Astos and The Doctor see that in her, and so there is that mentor helping situation going on. Then there is the siblings Eve and Durkas (Ben Bailey-Smith) who bicker and scheme and hide things from each other. However, when the push comes to shove, they work as a team, knowing the sacrifices that must be made and that deep down all of it was a façade for the love they had for each other. It is these emotional touchstones that really drove the episode.
I also have to say I really liked Jodie Whittaker acting in this episode, because we really get to see quite a range today. At the start when she is confused and smashing around the ship with little care as to what she was doing, there was an air of arrogance and selfishness. However, there was that moment where she realised that no, people are not trying to kill her, the threat to her and her gang has passed, and that she was acting irresponsibly, and you see it in her performance. Also in this episode, she had to be the one to take charge, also the one to sit back and let people work, geek out about antimatter, and then go all chaotic-neutral and use a bomb to lure a monster without telling anyone else what she was doing. It also led to the line of the day when Ronan (David Shields) mention his ‘comprehension deficiency.’
This leads us to the monster of the week the Pting, and okay like we can all agree that it was just Stich from Lilo and Stitch and move on right. Okay, that is being a little harsh but in the end, the show was not about the monster per say it was about how do you keep everyone alive when there are competing forces trying to kill them all, one of which was a monster on-board that likes to eat everything inorganic it can get its hands on. However, I do have to say that I really liked the design of the hospital ship. It had all the designs of what you would expect in what is really an intergalactic ambulance. Where basically you need to be able to get people back as quickly as possible, but also have the ability to contain and treat along the way if need be. Also, there is a really interesting colour palate that they used in both the set design and also in the lighting of the episode that really worked.
In the end, do we recommend The Tsuranga Conundrum? Yes, yes we do. This is the first episode in a very long time that evoked a deep emotional response from me. The only way it could do that is because the writing was solid, the acting was top notch, and the design behind the episode. If this is where the rest of the season is going to go, well then we have a strong season of TV to look forward to.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Doctor Who
Directed by – Jennifer Perrott
Written by – Chris Chibnall
Showrunner – Chris Chibnall
Starring – Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole & Mandip Gill with Brett Goldstein, Lois Chimimba, Suzanne Packer, Ben Bailey-Smith, David Shields & Jack Shalloo