Doctor Who – Series 11, Ep. 5 – “The Tsuranga Conundrum”

A creature invades a hospital ship. And it’s hungry.

“The Tsuranga Conundrum” starts off with a bang, literally. It’s one of those episodes that throws you immediately into the action. On a junk planet, the team accidentally uncovers and detonates a sonic mine on a junk planet. Next thing they know, they’re in a hospital. The staff patched them up, but rather than stay and recover, The Doctor wants to get back to the TARDIS ASAP. Leaving a valuable ship on a junk planet is not the best move. Our heroes soon discover that they aren’t in a hospital, but a med-ship, already four days space flight away from the TARDIS.

The Doctor, in a bit of a panic, tries to force the automated ship to turn around. But one of the two medics on board, Astos, tells her she’s acting hostile and selfish, and not thinking about the other patients on-board. The Doctor realizes he’s right and backs off. This is the first instance of 13 showing some of that Time Lord superiority that always comes into play a bit, though it’s couched in worry over her TARDIS and her bumpy recovery from the sonic mine.

While searching the ship, they run into General Eve Cicero, her brother Durkas and her android consort Ronan. The Doctor’s a bit starstruck by the general’s victories, stating that she’s mentioned in the Book of Celebrants. They also run into a pregnant male Gifftan named Yoss.

No time to relax or recuperate though, as something breaches the ship and starts running around inside. The Doctor and Astos investigate, only for Astos to become trapped in an escape pod and jettisoned when it malfunctions. The pod explodes, killing him, and leaving the rookie Mabli as the only staff on the ship. The team discovers a small, Gremlin-like creature eating its way through the circuitry.

Through the ship’s computer, they learn that the creature is called Pting. The computer ranks it at the highest threat level, and for good reason. The creature is incredible violent and could eat through any non-organic material. While Team TARDIS and the patients aren’t on the menu, the ship could quickly be wrecked by such an organism. They’re also near impossible to wound or kill and their skin is toxic to most lifeforms.

To make matters worse, the ship’s sensors detect the Pting. The Doctor reports to the ship’s destination planet that all is fine. But if the sensors detect the Pting two more times, it will remotely detonate the ship as a precautionary measure. To make matters worse again, Yoss’ water breaks and he goes into labor.

Yoss’ pregnancy makes Ryan think of his own dad, who had him around the same age Ryan is now. While Ryan feels that he wouldn’t be ready to handle a kid, he’s still angry at his dad for not being there later in his life. Ryan also reveals to Yaz that his mom died of a heart attack when he was 13, and he was the one who found her. It’s a powerful scene between the two of them.

The Doctor assigns Yaz and Ronan to protect the antimatter drive, which is powering the ship. The Doctor realizes that the Pting isn’t just eating indiscriminately. It’s searching for energy. And what do you know, there’s a bomb onboard that the destination planet just activated! Yes, after three strikes, the self-destruct sequence starts. The Doctor uses the bomb as bait for the creature. It eats the bomb and absorbs the blast in the nick of time, right before being ejected into space.

Meanwhile, Durkas puts together a basic rig, for General Cicero to divert the ship to a faster, more dangerous course. It’s revealed that she has a condition called Pilot’s Heart, which causes adrenaline to surge to her heart. That was the secret she was keeping from her brother and everyone else. But to save everyone, she fights through it to fly the ship. In the end though, it winds up killing her. Durkas takes over in the home stretch, landing safely.

“The Tsuranga Conundrum” is a decent episode. Nothing wrong with a mid-tier story occasionally. Elevated by a strong supporting cast, advanced characterization of our heroes and a nice way to tie up all the plotlines, it comes off as a proto-typical Doctor Who adventure. Still a great bar to reach.

Show Notes:

  • When General Cicero learns who The Doctor is, she asks if she is also in the Book of Celebrants. Appropriately, The Doctor has her own volume.
  • The Doctor tells Mabli that she’s a Doctor of Medicine, Science, Engineering, Candy Floss, Lego, Philosophy, Music, Problems, People, Hope. Mostly Hope. That about sums it up!
  • There’s a great moment where The Doctor talks about the anti-matter drive, passionately talking about what an incredible device it is. It’s wonderful whenever we get to see her find pure joy in scientific progress.
  • The Doctor has also seen all 900 casts of Hamilton.
  • Yoss names his kid after an ancient Earth hero: Avocado Pear