Doctor Who: The Tsuranga Conundrum Review – “Team TARDIS vs Space Plushie”

Release Date: 04 November 2018
Written By: Chris Chibnall

After last week’s disaster, this episode had all of the potential to be a white knuckle ride but sadly fell short in delivering.

*Warning: This review contains what River Song would call “Spoilers”. You have been warned!*

This review is a late release due to unforseen circumstances. My thoughts on episodes 6 and 7 will be up in the next week.

The opening minutes are without doubt the highlight of the episode; having a sonic bomb detonate near the TARDIS crew produced the kind of shift that takes them out of their comfort zone and actually reminds them that mortal danger can be lurking in every location. The abrupt move to a completely different location was a good change up in my books. Just when viewers may have started to get comfortable, the writers bumped off a character who, based on the patterns of the first four episode, would be a big player in the narrative. It also reminded viewers that The Doctor can’t save everyone, providing a real sense of danger that has been missing in weeks previous. This was a big plus.

Unfortunately, the episode divebombed in pace soon after, which was strange considering the ship was about to blow up. This wasn’t helped at all by yet another on-the-nose secondary narrative involving Graham, Ryan and a pregnant alien male. Whilst it was a good try at trying to open up Ryan’s backstory and relationship with his father, this was not the episode to do it in. It sucked some of the momentum out and more weak writing created a combination between comedy and relatable drama, neither of which were successful.

The Tsuranga Conundrum Promo Shot2
The pregnancy storyline bogged down what could have been an exciting episode (BBC, 2018)

I have had various issues with all of the villains in this series and though this one, the Pting, was an improvement, it suffered from not presenting enough dangerous characteristics on camera. Even though it looked like a plushie toy, this was supposedly one of the most dangerous races in the universe. Apart from eating some nuts and bolts, showing big teeth and blowing up an escape pod containing a character, we were told too much about what it could do. It was apparently lethal to touch and much like the deadly water in ‘The Ghost Monument’, I was left disappointed by the lack of presented power on screen. The solution involving the creature eating the bomb was a bit unimaginative but did its job. We have yet to see an enemy with widespread capabilities to destroy, including the spiders of episode 4, and I hope there is a big threat coming up in the next couple of episodes, instead of a singular entity or individual.

The acting was a mixed bag, with the pregnant male playing on just the wrong side of comedy to make it believable that Ryan would be affected by the child, Avacado (yep, this fell flat for me), being born. However, I felt that the brother and sister relationship between Ben Bailey-Smith and Suzanne Packer (Who I loved from Casualty) quickly became the emotional rock that propelled the plot and kept this episode together. I’m not sure that the plot would have held up as well under scrutiny if it weren’t for the brilliant acting of these two. The other characters were just alright, though Yaz wielded a taser and kicked the creature into touch; probably the most she has done so far.

The Tsuranga Conundrum Promo Shot1
Excellent acting from the guest stars elevated the bog standard narrative. (BBC, 2018)

The strong acting from Packer and Bailey-Smith, as well as the occasional exciting set piece, helped bring quality to an episode that aimed for the stars with a countdown plot that wasn’t as exciting as it should have been.

Star Rating: 3/5

So what did you make of The Tsuranga Conundrum? You can let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!

In the next episode, The TARDIS crew lands in India during Partition, but would it leave me feeling divided. You can find out when my take on episode 6, Demons of the Punjab, is released soon. Don’t forget to subscribe to be the first to get notified of new posts.

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