“Doctor Who: The Tsuranga Conundrum” Does Its Job Just Right

Synopsis 11×5- the Doctor and Friends get wounded on a scavenging trip, only to find their med-ship is under attack by an adorable demon creature.

Rating:
I love a good “base under siege” story. It’s a tried and true Whovian plot line that (usually) works out well. This was one of the good ones, and perhaps on the re-watch, it will become great.
The episodes starts with the Doctor and Friends scavenging on a junk planet. (Think the planet of Sakaar in Thor: Ragnarok, but before Jeff Goldblum arrives.) Just when Graham thinks he’s found something good: BAM! It’s a sonic mine explosion.
Cut to the gang getting fixed up in a hospital. But not just any hospital. They are on Tsuranga, a med-ship that floats around space and picks up patients to bring them to the real hospital, Resus One.
Aboard the ship are other patients, Yoss (Jack Shalloo) a male Graftan who’s about to give birth, and Captain Eve Cicero (Suzanne Packer), a famous neuro-pilot. She has along side her Durkas (Ben Bailey-Smith), her younger brother who’s an engineer, and Ronan (David Shield), her consort and Android.
Taking care of them all are two orderlies: the veteran medic and de facto leader, Astos, and the new girl, Mahbli.
The first act of the episode features the Doctor freaking out over her ship, having lost the TARDIS. Again. And it’s just sitting on a junk planet, waiting for someone to take it. Then, Bang! Crash! Tsuranga is a base under siege.
The offensive thing who’s made landing on the ship is called a Pting. A cute name for what could be a cute creatureExcept it’s baring multiple rows of sharp teeth, can eat literally anything and is exceedingly violent and hard to kill. It’s like an evil Stitch. Not something you’d want to find at Disneyland. But I imagine there will be lots cute Pting stuffies on Etsy in just a few months.
It’s a smart creature too, managing to send Astos off in an escape pod, which promptly explodes. (Not sure why Astos had to die in this one; that felt excessive.)
After a lovely monologue about an anti-matter generator, the Doctor immediately gets to work saving the ship. Yaz and Ronan are on anti-matter watch. Eve and Durkas must safely pilot the ship to Resus One. And Yoss gives birth with the help of Mahbli, Ryan and Graham. All hands are on deck.
If there’s a theme I’d pull from this episode, I’d say it’s about having faith in people. As Astos flies off to his death, he tells Mabhli he believes in her as a doctor. Ryan tells Yoss he must believe in himself to be the best father he can be. And Eve, who’s suffering from a disease called Pilot’s Heart, must make amends with Durkas, and trust him to fly the ship to their destination. It’s very Doctor Who, and a warm-hearted thought to a melancholic ending.
I also couldn’t help but notice the gender swapping. There’s the obvious one — Yoss being a pregnant male instead of female (shoutout to Graham’s Call the Midwife reference.) There’s the slightly subtler one of the vainglorious pilot being a women instead of a man, which is how these gender roles usually play out.
And then there’s the most subtle of Astos, the male medic passing responsibility on to the less experienced and visibly female Mahbli. All while Jodie Whitaker’s Doctor is still figuring out her new body.
This episode played it quite safe. Classic Whovian plots with classic Whovian themes. I think on the rewatch, the episode will be great.

Doctor Who airs on BBC America on Sunday nights at 8pm ET