We’re in a much more generic ‘monster of the week’ story this week on Doctor Who, after the mutant 8-legged beasts in Sheffield last week, which we shall speak of no more.
‘The Tsuranga Conundrum’ felt a little Who-by-numbers, and considering the layers of peril, a little anticlimactic. After an accidental run-in with a sonic mine on a junkyard planet, Team TARDIS find themselves on a shiny and largely un-staffed ambulance spaceship. The team is quickly fixed up, though it’s fair to say that doctors really do make the worst patients. The Doctor is desperate to get back to the TARDIS — having only just got her back a couple of episodes ago, she’s not keen on some junkers nicking it while she’s en route to the medical mother-ship, Resus 1. Following a scolding from Hunky Medic Astos, she apologises for being selfish — a nice touch here, and not something that we have seen a great deal of from previous Doctors.
Astos and Mabli have an interesting collection of patients on board: General Eve Cicero, legendary hero pilot, with her brother Durkas and her ‘consort’ Ronan, an android with a very un-androidy name. And in another room, Yoss the Pregnant Dude, who is at full term a week after a night of passion on holiday. So far, so familiar in terms of tropes. The looming birth gives us a few gentle chuckles, but also provides another ticking clock; you know that Baby will be on the way at the worst possible time. And what mystery ailment is Cicero concealing?
There’s no time to dwell on that, because almost immediately, there’s a problem: Something has breached the hull. It gets rid of the life pods, blowing up Hunky Astos in the process. The remaining patients and sole-surviving medic are stuck, unable to change course, and facing relentless ‘are you OK?’ notifications from Resus 1, which, if ignored too many times, mean that the ship will be destroyed, just in case. Space quarantine is tough, folks.
Their fearsome foe? Perhaps the second best species name in the Who-niverse (the Ood are in first) belongs to this week’s
Big Little Bad: PTING. It’s meant to be sinister, but it sounds like your microwave has finished heating up a lasagna for one. It sounds like it should always come with an exclamation mark. PTING! And look at how cute it is!
It’s like a cute ickle baby Slitheen, except instead of farting a lot, it is possessed with such an insatiable hunger that it can devour an entire fleet. (Relatable.) Chompers the PTING won’t eat the people on board, but will eat the whole ship around them, so unless they can find a way to contain the threat, they will die, from Chompers or from Resus 1 blowing them up for bringing Chompers their way. Either way, it doesn’t look good.
Did you clock all the species on the information screen when Mabli looked up the PTING?
It was a bit blink and you missed it, but I loved all the other monsters that the control panel scrolled through before settling on the #pting. 📺 #TheTsurangaConundrum #DoctorWho #cyberman #ood #weepingangel #slitheen #sontaran #silence #silurian #zygon pic.twitter.com/NTWT1XEwzc— ɢᴀᴠɪɴ (@gavinworby) November 4, 2018
So, how does one solve a problem like Chompers? Uh, not easily. It can eat its way through anything non-organic. Its skin is toxic. And it’s impossible to wound or kill. At this point, my best idea was a cage made of bacon, but thankfully, Team TARDIS had a few other plans. In the meantime, Yaz and Ronan the Barbarian guard the anti-matter drive, the source of a classic Doctor Monologue™ about the beauty of energy. Comedy moment of the week goes to Yaz, with her approach to protecting the drive: Stun Chompers, cover him in a blanky and then goalie-kick him as far away as possible. Nicely done, Yaz. IT’S FINE; HE’S INDESTRUCTIBLE!
In the meantime, there’s the pressing issue of avoiding the emergency bomb. Fortunately, there’s a legendary pilot on board! And her genius engineer brother! Who would have thought it? Only trouble is, Cicero’s been hiding a bad case of Pilot’s Heart, and the slightest bit of stress could kill her. What else could go wrong?
No, don’t ask. Pregnant Dude goes into labour, and the power goes out, meaning his special birthing pod can’t be used and they will have to do it the old-fashioned way. Just as you’re thinking ‘oh god, how is that going to work? What’s he pushing it out of?’ we were saved from remembering that SNL sketch about tuliping, and there was some sort of caesarean birth happening. Ryan and Graham, not overly confident in their role as emergency doulas (or dude-las, if you will) continued to bond, with Ryan offering some pep talk about fatherly roles and keeping the baby, and Graham trying not to hurl. They still aren’t at the fist-bump stage, but they are getting closer. In honour of their support, Yoss decides to name the baby after Earth’s great hero, Avocado Pear. See what you’ve done, millennials?
Over in the control room, General Cicero is using her mad symbiotic neuro-piloting skills to take the ship on a short cut through an asteroid belt, because there just wasn’t quite enough peril already. Having figured out that Chompers the PTING is craving energy, the Doctor tracks down the self-destruct bomb and decides to use it as the cheese on a mousetrap. It works: Chompers is drawn to it and wolfs it down, looking delighted with his full, glowing belly before being unceremoniously ejected into space. IT’S STILL FINE; HE’S INDESTRUCTIBLE!
Hooray, PTING peril neutralised! Unfortunately, the stress proved too much for General Cicero, but Durkas took over, proving that he has mad skills too, and saving the day. We end with the spaceship safely docked at Resus 1, with time for a little blessing for Cicero, and a pep talk for Mabli, who managed to hold it together after the untimely death of Hunky Astos.
Team TARDIS will be teleported back to the junkyard, hopefully to be reunited with the TARDIS. Judging from the preview of next week’s episode, that reunion looks like a safe bet, because we’re going to visit Yaz’s grandmother in 1947, in ‘Demons of the Punjab’.
Even though this wasn’t as epic as some of the other episodes we’ve seen so far, the way Whittaker’s Doctor was shot this week was beautiful. So many over-exposed close-ups!
I’d like to see the Doctor’s certificates for all these advanced degrees. Also, where can I study advanced candy floss?
Header Image Source: BBC