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Doctor Who: “The Tsuranga Conundrum”

While I definitely felt this episode was a step up from last week’s “Arachnids in the UK,” I didn’t find it all that great, either. It has some funny bits and some good character moments, but the Pting was ridiculous (it reminded me unfavorably of the Adipose, those cutesy little “fat babies” in the season four episode “Partners in Crime”), and the spaceship-under-attack-by-an-alien plot felt worn. Yaz punting the Pting down the hallway with a reference to Siobhan Chamberlain made me roll my eyes so hard I thought I would go blind.

There were things I enjoyed about the episode, though. Yoss, the pregnant male Gifftan, had me chuckling in his every scene. Everything Graham does and says pleases me, in particular this time his stated love for Call the Midwife; he’s quickly becoming my favorite character this season. The strained relationship between Eve Cicero and her brother Durkas was both touching and well acted. As a writer, Chris Chibnall knows to take a moment to let characters talk to each other, and as a result the character development works well, as with the Cicero siblings or whenever Ryan is talking about his father. But the problem is that Chibnall doesn’t always let the right characters talk.

In particular, it seems to me that he’s not letting the Doctor talk to the other characters much except to explain things or make the occasional joke. Believe it or not, we’re halfway through the season now, and yet I still don’t have a clear idea of who this Doctor is. The reason for that, as I see it, is that Chibnall isn’t letting her open up to her companions, which in turn means she’s not opening up to us, the audience. One thing both Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat were very good at was forging a strong, personal bond between the Doctor and the companions. I don’t feel that here, and I miss it. I think Graham, Ryan, and Yaz are good characters who make for interesting companions, but I don’t feel the connection. That shouldn’t be the case halfway through the season. By now, we should have a much better sense of where everyone stands and what they mean to each other.

And now for a little bit of Doctor Who neepery. When the Doctor wakes up aboard the hospital ship, Mabil asks for her detailed medical information, worried about accidentally botching her treatment by not knowing the Doctor’s biology. This kind of information definitely could have helped the Doctor in the 1996 TV movie, in which the Seventh Doctor is shot, but when Dr. Grace Holloway attempts to save his life in surgery she doesn’t understand his alien biology and only makes matters worse, forcing him to regenerate into the Eighth Doctor. When the Doctor and Eve Cicero say the same thing at the same time, the Doctor exclaims, “Snap!” This is something the Doctor also does upon meeting previous incarnations, such as when the Sixth Doctor met the Second Doctor in the 1985 serial “The Two Doctors,” and when the Tenth Doctor met the Fifth Doctor in the 2007 Children in Need special “Time Crash.” Lastly, according to the Internet, images of a Cyberman, an Ood, a Weeping Angel, a Raxacoricofallapatorian, a Sontaran, a Silent, a Silurian, and a Zygon appear on a console screen before Mabli selects a briefing on the Pting, but if they did they went by too quickly for me to notice.

Next episode, we have another chance to learn more about Yaz, who remains the most underdeveloped of the companions. (Frankly, I’m surprised the writers haven’t made more use of her police skills. Also, unrelatedly, is it just me or has Ryan’s dyspraxia pretty much been forgotten now?) Anyway, here’s hoping the next episode is a better one that offers more insight into her character.

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