What I Like About Who: No. 8

This is the eighth column in a weekly series from Rob Hull, Figures and More. Check back Mondays for a weekly journey through time and space, or read all of our adventures here

The latest episode of Doctor Who presented viewers with a classic “ship under siege” plot. To make things worse, it’s a hospital ship. And, if there’s one thing we learned last season, it’s that nothing good ever happens on a hospital ship. I mean, Bill got turned into a CYBERMAN for heaven’s sake. To be honest, nothing good really happens in any type of hospital in Doctor Who, but hospital ships seem to be particularly nasty.

In “The Tsuranga Conundrum,” Team TARDIS wakes up on this hospital ship after an experience with a sonic mine, which just sounds horrible. The ship, which is the titular Tsuranga, looks like it has been designed by whomever designed J.J. Abrams’ version of the U.S.S. Enterprise. They all come to, and are being tended to by two medics, Astos (Brett Goldstein) and Mabil (Lois Chimimba). Also on board this “pleasure cruise” are celebrated general Eve Cicero (Suzanne Packer), her son Durkas (Ben Bailey-Smith), and her android companion Ronan (David Shields). And, for good measure, they have included a pregnant man, Yoss Inkl (Jack Shalloo).

The fun really starts when the ships’ shields are breached by something and the alarms start going off. The Doctor, of course, can’t help herself, and she starts investigating. From here, there are a number of subplots—some are important, some are not. Unfortunately, as is usually the case, one of the ancillary characters has to bite it, and in this case it’s Astos.

The biggest problem with this episode for me comes from the fact that it is almost impossible to hate the “enemy.” His name is Pting—and, he is as frightening as his name sounds (not very). The briefing the Doctor listens to on him is pretty terrifying, but he himself is a little less so. There is no other way to say this: He is Doctor Who’s version of Stitch. And, if they don’t make a toy out of him, they are throwing money away.

Now, just because he’s not terribly frightening doesn’t mean Pting isn’t a destructive little bugger. He feeds on energy, so the ship is really a floating buffet for him. Their goal from the word “go” is really to stop him from eating the anti-matter drive that powers the ship.

But, as if that wasn’t enough, it turns out that this episode takes place in the 67th century, and it turns out that the medical establishment is so paranoid that when a hospital ship is suspected of carrying an infection, they are blown up before they can reach the hospital. Which, I suppose is an effective, if a bit extreme, method of sanitation.

So, you have a ship-eating alien, and a bomb about to explode on a hospital ship with all the life pods jettisoned. Now, THAT sounds like Doctor Who.

While all this is going on, Graham and Ryan are discovering the situation with the pregnant man, who—big shock—is not human. His name is Yoss, and he is planning to give up the baby, because he does not feel he is ready to be a father. Graham and Ryan talk with him and Ryan talks a little more about his father. Graham and Ryan help to deliver the baby, again mentioning what Grace would think.

The general for her part is, surprise, hiding an illness from her android and her son. And, of course, she has to put herself at risk to play her part in the resolution. Again, this is the unwritten rule of Doctor Who. No victory without tragedy.

All in all, this was a very busy episode and the writer had to work very hard to make sure everyone had their moments. I think Yaz might have been a little short-changed this week, but it looks like they will make up for it next week.

Again, the “villain” gets away. But, he’s so cute, nobody really minds. I’m serious all you toy license holders, make this character in plush, vinyl, plastic—anyway you can.

Next week, it’s another historical, as we meet Yaz’s Gran in 1940’s India.


DID WHO KNOW?

  • This is not the first time the Doctor has encountered a hospital. Just in the new series alone, hospitals, or hospital ships have been featured in The Empty Child/ The Doctor Dances, New Earth, The Eleventh Hour, The Girl Who Waited, Into the Dales, World Enough, and Time/ The Doctor Falls.
  • This is the first time the Sonic repairs itself without fashioning a new one.
  • Pting follows a long line of “cuddly” Doctor Who monsters. My favorite are the Adipose.