Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: S10E05 – The Tsuranga Conundrum

In the fifth episode of the eleventh series of Doctor Who, Team TARDIS finds hope in the darkness. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who. 

HI, I LOVE SERIES ELEVEN SO MUCH, HOW ARE ALL THESE EPISODES CONSISTENTLY SATISFYING AND THRILLING. Every single one!!! “The Tsuranga Conundrum” had so many things to love, so let’s discuss them.

Design

I remain impressed by the look and feel of Doctor Who under Chibnall. Every one of these episodes has been gorgeous and filmed in a style that fits the story being told. The audience has to feel like they’re trapped alongside the Doctor and the companions; we have to believe that we’re in the 67th century on a state-of-the-art ship. The design for the ship is crisp and bright, and loved the mixture of blues and whites. Plus, the shape of the ship made sense, especially once we’d seen from the outside and through the digital schematics. And the cinematography remains stunning, y’all. STUNNING. Every episode has been so beautiful! 

And then there’s the Pting, who I find endlessly perfect. There is something beautifully hilarious about a creature who can consume any non-organic material, that cannot be seriously harmed or killed, being that tiny and silly looking. The absurdity works so well for this episode. This is a story about hope during the darkest of times; thus, this creature had to be designed in a way to maximize the lack of hope these characters felt. And what is less hopeful than this tiny fucking monster tearing apart a ship that could be remotely detonated at any moment? 

A conundrum indeed.

The Tsuranga Conundrum

It’s difficult not to see this episode as a product of its environment. We, frankly, live in a pretty depressing and awful time in human history, and there are days when imagining hope—as the Doctor asks of Mabli—seems impossible. How can there be any hope in the darkness that surrounds us? Which is precisely why this episode hit me so hard. Sure, it’s a sci-fi thriller about a dangerous alien and being trapped on a spaceship. But of the many plots that intertwine in “The Tsuranga Counundrum,” there’s a pervasive theme: the world may seem impossible, but we can imagine a way through. 

The main plot here, referenced in the title, is the seemingly impossible situation that occurs when the Doctor and her companions are injured by a sonic mine and must recover on the Tsuranga, which is basically a high-tech ambulance in the future. While on the way to Resus One, a Ptinga breaches the hull and begins eating energy sources. The conundrum then, comes from this: the Ptinga will destroy the ship in a matter of time, so they need to get off of it. However, if the controllers at Resus One learn of the Pting, they’ll remotely detonate the ship. So how can these people stay alive without life pods to escape the Pting? 

This main plot twists and turns until it reaches a rather hilarious conclusion, but prior to that, this was STRESSFUL. Again, it has to be; these people have to believe at one point or another that they’re not going to make it. The first of those to do so was Mabli, who, after the loss of Astos, worries that without her mentor, she’s not going to be able to do what needs to be done. The Doctor is SO wonderful to her, helping her to find the strength to imagine hope.

We see this theme over and over again. There’s Eve and Durkas, siblings who are on the ship because of Eve’s terminal heart condition known as Pilot’s Heart. The conflict here is both physical—in order to pilot the ship back, Eve will have to risk her life—and emotional. Eve cannot imagine telling her brother the truth. Actually, it’s not just her brother: she cannot imagine hope in a world where people discover that she’s got Pilot’s Heart. So even though her brother knows the truth, she keeps this information to herself. The fear of disclosing this prevents her from being close to her brother. 

Then there’s Yoss, whose pregnancy—which is not subject to the usual jokes we often see with male pregnancy storylines—has left him unable to imagine a future where he can be a father. I’m curious if we’ll see Ryan’s father by the end of series 11, as this episode introduces the first moment where Ryan begins to empathize with his father. This doesn’t mean he’s forgiven him, which is why I’m saying this is just the beginning. When Ryan watches Yoss agonize over having a son—alone, on a ship with strangers, uncertain of the future—he is taken back to his own father’s grief after Ryan’s mom died. Like I said, I don’t think Ryan is going to run back to his father immediately and everything will be all right, but at least now, Ryan has some context or understanding for how grief affected his father and why it may have pushed his father out of his life. 

I’m just so happy that there continues to be this much character depth within the show. I feel like I’ve gotten to know these three companions a lot in a relatively short span of time. And this episode was entertaining, frightening, and heartwarming, too! YOSS GIVING BIRTH WAS SO AMAZING, THIS SHOW IS SO GOOD, I AM FULL OF EMOTIONS.

The video for “The Tsuranga Conundrum” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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