The Tsuranga Conundrum Review

(114 comments)

If the Chibnall era is, as theorized last week, a latter-day Pertwee era, this is the equivalent of The Sea Devils. Not so much flawless as without any major issues, at several points veering into fascinating but still basically uninspiring, and an all around good showing for the period. As is clearly usual for Chibnall’s solo scripts, it is simply unconcerned with the idea that it should be “about” something. Instead it is a jumble of elements being juxtaposed purposelessly, with all the unexpected pleasures and awkward dissonance that implies, although at some point one has to admit that the consistency with which the balance trends towards the former implies some sort of underlying aesthetic sense.

At its heart, of course, it’s a fairly unreconstructed base under siege. As is often the case with Chibnall, however, the reduction to influences doesn’t quite work as an explanation. The convention of base under sieges, especially in the modern era, is to use the support cast as a supply of potential deaths to be drawn from when things are getting a bit dry. There’s typically at least some effort to give them characterization so that these resulting deaths have some emotional resonance, but everyone’s point is still basically to die. But that’s not what’s going on here. There are only two deaths, and one of them is a heroic completion of an arc as opposed to a tension builder. Only Astos exists to die and advance the plot.

Instead we have an episode structured as a bunch of people getting on with their private dramas while an alien attacks their ship. The result is compelling in its weirdness, particularly around Yoss and his baby, a plot which ends up absorbing half the regular cast and contributing literally nothing whatsoever to the nominal focus of the episode. The resultant final sequence, where Yoss’s delivery is intercut with the defeat of the P’Ting, is possibly the most rawly batshit sequence we’ve seen in Doctor Who since The Zygon Inversion. It is not entirely unreasonable to judge the worth of a Doctor Who episode in terms of how completely insane its weirdest sequence would look to a channel surfer. By that measure, this is a thunderous tour de force. 

The plot around Eve is more straightforward: a character flagrantly marked for death dies. But it’s still handled competently, and keeps the cast doing things other than getting picked off by the P’Ting. Whittaker, meanwhile, is finding new ways to play figuring stuff out and being given new angles on the problem—her bit responding to the computer’s explanation of the P’Ting with an enthusiastic line about feeling really well-informed is a deft lampshading of kludgey exposition dump. The problem of dealing with the P’Ting feels well-sized and suitably vexing, and the resultant solution is a clever use of the gun that was carefully positioned on the mantelpiece. 

The whole is defiantly valued at the sum of its parts, but in this case the math checks out. And if the constant refusal to aspire to any sort of glory is getting exhausting (and certainly I’m starting to struggle to figure out how to review its endless parade of adequacy), it’s at least consistently an hour of fun every Sunday that’s capable of surprises. I’ve said for years that this is all I wanted from Doctor Who, and now I seem to be having that theory tested with a program that offers literally nothing else other than a vague and detached sense of “yup, that’s weird all right.” Which, I mean, this is probably how I’d feel watching the Pertwee era in real time. Hell, it’s more or less how I felt watching the Pertwee era at age eleven off of a bunch of VHS tapes. But at the end of the day, for all that I’ve made redemptive readings of the Pertwee era and come to terms with its virtues, it’s one of my least favorite eras of Doctor Who. And that’s about where we are here. This is clearly perfectly good, but I feel increasingly empty about it.

The main ray of hope, as I see it, is to remember Series 8. If we’d stopped time at the halfway point, just coming off of The Caretaker, we’d have a sense that the Capaldi era was a collection of slightly tired standards being done competently but unremarkably. Admittedly Series 8 had had Listen by this point to show that it could be brilliant, but it was still basically in the same position of doing the basics and ticking off boxes. Like then, however, we’re about to go into a stretch of four consecutive episodes by writers who have never written for Doctor Who. And several of them look tremendously promising—Kerblam! feels like it’s got a shot at being the next Paradise Towers. If we can get some classics over the next month this could quickly become an absolute stunner of a season. As it stands, the “no fuckups” streak makes it to five. 

  • I’m apparently setting “no fuckups” on my personal taste rather than consensus, given that GallifreyBase slagged this one hard. Which I wish I were baffled by, but nah, I’m not. In any case, if we define a fuckup as a story in the bottom 25%, the streaks per Doctor are Hartnell: 3, Troughton: 1 (I could be wrong there—I haven’t rewatched The Highanders since I wrote about it), Pertwee: 13(!), T. Baker: 2, Davison: 1, C. Baker: 0, McCoy: 6, McGann: 0, Eccleston: N/A (no stories in my bottom 25%), Tennant: 5, Smith: 2, Capaldi: 4. So Whittaker can’t take the record until next season, but she’s already tied for third.
  • A lot of people expressed consternation about the male pregnancy plot in the leadup to this episode. I thought it was basically fine. As with the Doctor’s gender, Chibnall gets away with this with a studious lack of awareness of the trans implications, instead telling a goofy and actually kinda sweet story about masculinity. I do wish that we’d stop acting like anxiety over parenthood is entirely a thing men feel, but I’m still utterly charmed by constantly cutting away from women fighting monsters for scenes of male emotional sensitivity.
  • The design of the P’Ting was also apparently not a hit. I’m almost at a loss for what to say to this. The idea that monsters have to always be scary, and with it that Doctor Who is always inherently better if it’s scary is one of the most banal and depressing viewpoints in fandom. The P’Ting is a solid concept with a genuinely delightful design. Cute but dangerous is an entirely coherent aesthetic category, and one not enough monsters fall into. (Really only the Daleks.) They’re the first new monster since the Boneless to immediately strike me as worth a return engagement. 
  • I’m still really grappling with the difficulty of dealing with Chibnall’s tendency towards stories that aren’t really about anything. It’s hard enough in reviews, but if I let myself start trying to imagine the Eruditorum entries for this era it’s more or less just flailing panic. I mean, maybe things will clarify in a few years when I actually have to think seriously about doing it, but for now it’s much easier to talk about quality than what the fuck all of this means. (Though I wonder how much of that is that the historical narrative is unsettled. Writing the Capaldi era suddenly became a lot simpler when 2016 happened.)
  • On a brighter note, halfway through the season we have final ratings that have the first four episodes in 1st, 4th, 4th, and 4th place for the week, and The Tsuranga Conundrum placed 6th on overnights. The series doesn’t need to hold up that spectacularly over the back half to be the first season of Doctor Who ever to have every episode land in the top ten. Whatever I might gripe about, this clearly isn’t harming Doctor Who in the long run. I said that what the program needed was to be less perfectly catered to me than late Moffat was. Looks like I was right.
  • Anyway, podcast this week with Beth Axford of The Time Ladies and the Doctor Who Magazine Time Team. It’s already in the can because the week was weird, and I can tell you it’s a fantastic one.
  • And next week we’ve got the partition of India. This might not have the flashy “don’t fuck it up” stakes of Rosa, but for my money it’s the story this season with the widest possible range of genius and cratering fuckup. Very happy with who I assigned to podcast it.

Rankings

  1. The Tsuranga Conundrum
  2. Rosa
  3. Arachnids in the UK
  4. The Ghost Monument
  5. The Woman Who Fell to Earth
 
 

Comments

kevin merchant 1 week, 4 days ago

This series reminds you of the Pertwee era but it reminds me of Davison's first season. But done a little more competently, and with more relatable characters. Graham=Tegan, Yaz=Nyssa, Ryan=Adric

Link | Reply

Aylwin 1 week, 4 days ago

And, barring an improbable collapse, will end up with the highest average ratings since that season (in absolute terms - relatively speaking, it's a cert for highest ever, whether or not it clears that all-top-10 threshold).

Which, if nothing else, surely guarantees that the series will outlive the Chibnall era, barring an OCP from the awful real world. To paraphrase that line about capitalism, at this point it is easier to imagine the end of the BBC than the end of televised Doctor Who (not that either is unimaginable, by any means, but easier).

Link | Reply

kevin merchant 1 week, 4 days ago

Yes the Doctor is a permanent resident of the Land of Fiction now, alongside Peter Pan, Sherlock, Robin Hood and Aslan

Link | Reply

Etana Edelman 1 week, 4 days ago

It feels like what the show would be if Tegan, Nyssa, and Adric were able to mourn properly.

Link | Reply

AuntyJack 1 week, 3 days ago

That'd make Grace Auntie Vanessa then?

Link | Reply

Tom B 1 week, 3 days ago

Or it makes her the planet Traken.

Link | Reply

Alex Watts 1 week, 4 days ago

I feel like 'pregnant mother wants to give baby up for adoption, but giving birth magically persuades her to change her mind about everything' is a pretty well worn and really quite iffy plot beat and the mother being an alien man on an embattled spaceship doesn't pep it up sufficiently to avoid the unfortunate implications.

BUT, crucially the show's loose approach to structure and theme means it's not too much of a problem. If the episode was determined that everything should resonate thematically, if not actually connect to the plot, the beats of the dodgy 'blackmail a parent into keeping their baby' would echo through the whole episode and make the whole thing feel a bit grubby. As there's no attempt to connect the alien and the father's issues on even a symbolic level, it's easy to isolate that concern and enjoy the rest of the episode.

Is that good? I don't know. It avoids problems like this, but it also means episodes never really feel like they're making a statement. Nothing joins up. It all feels a little uninspiring to me.

Link | Reply

Alex Watts 1 week, 4 days ago

A few minutes further thought makes me wonder if the series is reluctant to be 'about something' - to take a stance or deliver a resounding message - is the the vastness of the issues we're currently facing.

Moffat had the luxury of writing in a period where it wasn't clear how bad thing could get: the first year of Trump's presidency. Early Brexit, when it was still all ludicrous political theatre.

Chibnall's Who was written with Trump's clique ascendant, the increasing obviousness that the UK's being driven over a cliff by a small group of financiers and racists, and the dawning realisation that unless we take actions there's little political or commercial will for, we'll start to cook in the next couple of decades.

Maybe, in the face of all that, broadly well meaning is all a TV show can be. As El articulated so clearly with her review of Rosa, Doctor Who is not coming to save us. It can't. It's ultimately an entertaining TV show, not a revolution.

And you know, broadly, as a result: oh shit.

Link | Reply

G. Salt 1 week, 4 days ago

That might be an acceptable excuse if the show was presenting villains or concepts of any complexity, but it's all been one-note bad guys and simplistic moral quandaries. I can't tell if it's just bad writing or if it's intentional, but the Doctor's moral evasion (and I'd even go so far as to say cowardice in some instances) has been a real sticking point for me.

Link | Reply

Mica 1 week, 4 days ago

And I think that's the main way that the Chibnall era is nothing like the Pertwee era, which tried to introduce a lot more moral complexity (especially in Malcolm Hulke's stories, but even in stuff like "Day of the Daleks"). To me, these stories are combining some of the worst elements of the Davison era and the RTD era.

Although I would agree with El that none of these stories is terrible, collectively they're giving me the impression that Chris Chibnall is a terrible writer.

Link | Reply

Przemek 1 week, 4 days ago

For me she's more ineffective than cowardly. It's not like she wants to punish bad guys but can't bring herself to do it - she seems to be unable to figure out if she should, and if so, how.

Link | Reply

kevin merchant 1 week, 4 days ago

That's why she reminds of Davison, always caught up in events, always reacting, mostly having problems solved by other people or making no difference to the plot if he wasn't there

Link | Reply

Aylwin 1 week, 4 days ago

Yes, and she certainly showed ruthlessness in the way she set up Tim Shaw. (In a tempered and very Doctorish poetic-justice way, of course, but still towards the trickster-bastard end of the Doctor's ethical spectrum. Hence the incongruity of reprimanding Karl.)

Certainly it seems pretty safe to say that Chibnall took the criticism of the Doctor's murder of Solomon to heart.

Link | Reply

Aylwin 1 week, 4 days ago

On not making statements, that may be broadly true in terms of thematic subtext and coherence, but that may say more about Chibnall's difficulties with subtext and coherence than about any reluctance to make statements. Certainly on the level of direct speech there has been no shortage of (for me) blaringly explicit and gratingly platitudinous Statements About Things, generally falling on my ears with a clang or a wet thud and making my toes curl with embarrassment. (Not quite as much they curled at "Bro" and "Sis", mind you.)

Which may well be because I'm a nasty, bitter, sad old cynic with a withered husk of a heart, but there it is. It's the thing that more than anything else has me making excuses to myself for the series, of the "It's a children's programme, for kids!" variety, in a way that never used to be the case with Doctor Who. And I feel it might be another echo of the Davies era, in a way - that Chibnall is, like Davies, a writer with a basically bleak view of the world (from the people who brought you Countrycide!), working in an uncharacteristically family-friendly register. But doing so without Davies's talent, so that what comes out are trite, forced Positive Messages For The Kiddies.

Also, in the case of this episode at least, I think that through all the clutter an underlying thematic message can be discerned too - "Everything seems terrifying and unmanageable and you don't think you can handle it, but believe in youself, you can!". And with the allusions to "dark times", that's given a clear political resonance. I'm not making great claims for the message and certainly not for the efficacy of its transmission, but there is a statement there.

Link | Reply

tom 1 week, 4 days ago

"consistently an hour of fun every Sunday that’s capable of surprises"

For a casual Who viewer like me this is a pretty good deal. I never watch the show on catchup so if I miss an episode I miss it but on Sunday evening sandwiched between the last 10m minutes of Antiques Roadshow and the Strictly Come Dancing results show it feels like a good way to end a weekend with family. Whilst the show might lack depth and 'meaning'/about-something-ness it does feel situated and contextualy aware in a way that the last few series haven't to me -- maybe since the early Christopher Eccleston series? Whether this is in the form of a public information bit about 'only idiots carrying knives' or a Stormzy tune soundtracking a bunch of giant spiders rushing about I feel that this is part of what the show needs at this point to keep going.

Link | Reply

Rodolfo Piskorski 1 week, 4 days ago

"a good way to end a weekend with family"

I'm glad you're enjoying it as background for family life. Some of us are watching it attentively though.

Link | Reply

Sleepyscholar 1 week, 4 days ago

Not intended, I'm sure, but you do realise the air of superiority this comment conveys?

Link | Reply

Chicanery 1 week, 4 days ago

Unfortunately, I hated this one. I've been able to find something redeemable in the previous episodes this series, even though I haven't liked any episode overall. However, this one has little to recommend it.

I have several issues:
- The P'Ting was poorly implemented. I have no problem with a cute monster. A cute monster can work, but no effort was made to make it work. They needed to highlight the discrepancy between cute and deadly, or discuss that aesthetic value isn't everything when it comes to animals. They did neither, so it comes across like trying to make Crazy Frog scary.
- The pregnant man subplot came across as vaguely transphobic/cisnormative to me. I'm sure that Chibnall meant well, but to depict gay pregnant men as weird aliens who couldn't possibly exist shows an ignorance of the existence of gay pregnant men. Additionally, the delegitimisation of adoption left a sour taste in my mouth. This story came across as saying that putting your kids up for adoption isn't a valid response when you're not ready to be a parent.
-The character work is astoundingly poor. We have Asos tell the nurse character that he believes in her and then a scene later she says he's the only person who believed in her. It's redundant, it's lazy, it's hack work. There's no insight to be gleaned from this. It just sits there and is repeated as if Asos saying he believes in the nurse is in itself an interesting and profound thing. Worse, we have Ryan saying his backstory for no reason other than to have him say his backstory. The episode comes to a screeching halt to acknowledge a thematically irrelevant monologue. Yaz also served to do nothing but make half convincing analogies and kick a gremlin down the hall. I appreciate the camp, but it doesn't really sit well with her character as we know it. Although you could argue police brutality is consistent.
- Finally, what was the point of the explanation of the anti matter generator? It wasn't correct science for one, it wasn't really used in the climax for two, and it brought the episode to a halt for a couple of minutes. It was a confusingly inefficient script.

Link | Reply

TomeDeaf 1 week, 4 days ago

the "didn't-matter" generator, as I've seen it described.

Link | Reply

Rodolfo Piskorski 1 week, 4 days ago

I agree with everything, except:

Who says the pregnant man was gay? We have no idea if the partner he conceived the child with was male or female.

I thought Mabli basically babbling at the Doctor that Astos was the only one who believed her served to show her that she was panicking. Of course it was inappropriate, but she was cracking.

Link | Reply

Chicanery 1 week, 4 days ago

I don't think it's explicitly stated, but the performance suggested to me that he was coded gay. Of course, I think they attempted to code 'woman' and managed to code 'effeminate man', which in BBC soap tradition means gay man.

Link | Reply

AuntyJack 1 week, 4 days ago

I was rolling my eyes throughout.

It's like an episode of Casualty had been as seamlessly integrated with Doctor Who as the Empress had with the Hecate in Nightmare of Eden. What was the Tsuranga Conundrum? To write a bad episode of hospital drama, or Yet Another Base Under Siege? Hey, let's throw both ideas into a blender and see what happens?

Some of the dialogue felt as natural and flowing as in "The Rimmer Experience" from Red Dwarf's "Blue". Characters spouting exposition that we didn't really need at odd moments, especially Yaz - quick, instead of showing something, let's pull the string in Yaz's back and she can tell us in case we can't figure it out ourselves.

Forced emotional beats, lots of "I / We believe in you" - surely there are other ways to show or express that without resorting to tired soap opera cliches? Some dialogue flowed, and other times it felt like it had been quickly hacked out of a pine log.

Brett Goldstein was excellent - I loved how he dealt with the Doctor when she was injured and irrational and potentially endangering his ship. Shame he had to die to make us think for five minutes that the P'Ting was deliberately malevolent, but oh no, it was an accident after all as the creature was really just a hungry animal.

The Ronan character felt a bit irrelevant - the General could have easily been by herself and scrounging to feed her own painkiller addiction. It felt like Chibnall had been watching Lexx and had really wanted to write a version of Kai but didn't know where to insert him until he thought - "an episode of Casualty, in Space! Perfect!"

(BTW anyone else a bit turned off by the Doctor getting starry eyed over a military figure? I guess it was meant to be her admiring another strong woman, but it didn't sit well with me).

As an atheist, I was also a bit stunned at the Doctor joining in with their prayer meeting at the end, considering the Doctor's stance on gods. Maybe Chibbers was trying to evoke the communal hymn singing of Gridlock in a terribly clumsy way?

All in all, a clumsy genre mash up, wooden, expositional dialogue (I could sense that the cast were really trying but had fuck all to work with), shoddy script and an antagonist with a rule book 5 times longer than the Weeping Angels. I almost expected the Doctor to say "Don't get it wet... don't feed it after midnight..."

So far, for me, this is the worst yet of the season.

Link | Reply

Przemek 1 week, 4 days ago

I keep thinking that for all that we rightly criticize the clumsy exposition and wooden dialogues, most of the audience really doesn't notice any of it. I've seen several casual viewers' reactions to these episodes and none of them complained. Perhaps stilted TV dialogues is just what people expect when watching TV.

As for the Doctor joining the prayer... Well, people were celebrating surviving such an ordeal and she just joined them for social reasons. I don't see anything wrong with that, regardless of her faith or lack thereof. It's a bit like an atheist attending a Catholic wedding because her friends are getting married.

Link | Reply

TomeDeaf 1 week, 4 days ago

I liked the prayer bit a lot. I'm not religious, but I think it's respectful to join in, especially with what is ultimately a funeral rite.

Link | Reply

AuntyJack 1 week, 4 days ago

Fair enough - Perwee's Doctor had that aspect of respect for other cultures and symbols.

Link | Reply

Alex Watts 1 week, 4 days ago

Joining in with the prayer was a bit I actually really liked (and not because I'm religious, perish the thought). I like the way the TARDIS team actually seem to join in when they land somewhere. Makes them feel like actual people, not characters in a TV show who know this is just 'this week's adventure'.

Link | Reply

DeRiven 1 week, 4 days ago

OH THANK GOD I'm not the only one who couldn't stop thinking of Lexx, or remembers Lexx in the first place.

Link | Reply

Aylwin 1 week, 4 days ago

Being unable to stop thinking of Lexx sounds...distressing.

Link | Reply

Roderick T. Long 17 minutes ago

Man, I haven't thought of Lexx in ages. Did that show really exist?

Link | Reply

Nick R 1 week, 4 days ago

> (BTW anyone else a bit turned off by the Doctor getting starry eyed over a military figure? I guess it was meant to be her admiring another strong woman, but it didn't sit well with me).

Yeah, that bit stood out to me as well. Maybe if it had been made explicit that it was a heroic piece of non-violent piloting that the Doctor admired her for (e.g. helping evacuate civilians), it wouldn't have seemed odd.

Link | Reply

Przemek 1 week, 3 days ago

Well, the Doctor keeps hanging out with UNIT, so...

Link | Reply

Aylwin 1 week, 4 days ago

Please believe that I mean it affectionately when I say that only you could declare there to be no fuckups in season 24. (Cue a half-dozen people saying "Actually, I too...") (Also, wow, New Earth's gone up in your estimation a lot, hasn't it?)

Link | Reply

G. Salt 1 week, 4 days ago

I'm not seeing the Pertwee era comparison, sorry. So far, I'm finding it to be the "I Forced a Bot" era of Doctor Who.

Link | Reply

Sleepyscholar 1 week, 4 days ago

I have to write to say how much this post reminded me how much I love this site, and this feeling has been amplified by the previous comments, which echoed those in newspapers and elsewhere that I encountered after watching the episode.

Because although I wouldn't rate it massively highly -- any higher than you, El, and thanks to my age I actually like the Pertwee era -- I did enjoy it and found it strangely moving. Not through thematic unity, but just because of little bits and pieces that I found amusing, or even touching.

Being a mere 4 years younger than Bradley Walsh, I found his line about having watched every episode of Call The Midwife particularly apposite, as it's also true of me.

And like you, I find the 'Boo, hiss, there wasn't a scary monster' critique that keeps being dragged out truly tedious. Who fandom bangs on about 'darkness' and being 'edgy' as if it is somehow inherently a good thing. I had few expectations of the Chibnall era, just the faint hope that it might have a little bit of cheerfulness and positivity mixed in with the jeopardy. And that hope has been amply rewarded.

Link | Reply

Aylwin 1 week, 4 days ago

On the other tack, it's odd how many people have complained about it not being as funny any more. I mean, it's true, certainly when comparing with Moffat, but that's a bit "dog bites man", and in a series of episodes with so much wrong with them, it's the funny or goofy bits that have probably had the highest level of success (though some have also fallen flat).

In this episode, I enjoyed the 51 seconds bit, and the Doctor's failed attempt at being self-effacing. (Which could also be considered a note of character development about this regeneration: "I am a different and better person now, and can show humility and not big myself up all the time ... well, OK, Rome wasn't built in a day".)

(Incidentally, about that bit, shouldn't it be "Celebrands", not "Celebrants"?)

Link | Reply

Sleepyscholar 1 week, 4 days ago

I agree. I enjoyed the humour in Moffat's episodes, and expected Chibnall's to have none (Broadchurch wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs, and any laughs from his previous Who work were unintended), but have been pleasantly surprised.

Many of the complaints it is receiving can be boiled down to 'It's not Moffat Who', and I may be very unfair to suspect that they are coming from people who slagged off Moffat Who. Like El, I think it's good that it isn't Moffat Who, even while probably preferring Moffat.

Link | Reply

kevin merchant 1 week, 4 days ago

I laughed out loud at the "Tim Shaw" joke

Link | Reply

AuntyJack 1 week, 4 days ago

I want to see more hints dropped that she is Banksy

Link | Reply

Nick R 1 week, 4 days ago

I liked the Doctor's line that was something like "10 points to Yaz - and yes, I am keeping track."

(Although it did make me think of "10 points to Gryffindor"!)

Link | Reply

Simon Blake 1 week, 4 days ago

"endless parade of adequacy" - I am so stealing that phrase.

Is nobody going to praise the set and costume design? I thought the general's uniform was amazing, and the interfaces and control panels and stuff were lovely. Not enough of them, obviously, and it's hard to get a sense of scale of the ship (is it 20m long or 200? How can you tell?), but on production design alone this episode is really, really good. The rest of it, meh, sure, and put a moustache on that droid and he's Freddie Mercury which I found distracting, but I agree fully with the "endless parade of adequacy" conclusion.

Link | Reply

Aylwin 1 week, 4 days ago

Yes, though in the scene with the Doctor and Astos looking at the displays I found myself thinking "Why are the panels at that height, so that you have to bend down to look at them? Isn't that going to get really uncomfortable and be bad for your back? Shouldn't a medical ship, of all things, be designed to avoid that sort of problem?". Which may or may not say something about how gripped I was by the story at this point.

Link | Reply

Sleepyscholar 1 week, 3 days ago

Wheelchair-friendly

Link | Reply

Mica 1 week, 4 days ago

This story was almost impressively bad at building a sense of dramatic tension and urgency. They had all the ingredients for it, but Chibnall kept mucking it up (partly so he could insert nonsensical science lectures from the Doctors and the little soap opera scenes with the companions that pass for character development these days).

A good example of those missed opportunities: the dropped plot thread about the pain the Doctor was in. Just imagine if the medical devices had misaligned her alien organs, putting them in a human configuration, and she needed to get to a real hospital urgently in order to fix the problem. Then there would be real dramatic tension, particularly as the Doctor's health deteriorates and the companions have to step up to save the day. But instead we get Jodie Whitaker overacting for one scene like she's playing charades and the answer is "thorn in my side," and then she's suddenly all better again.

Link | Reply

TomeDeaf 1 week, 4 days ago

We're halfway through Series 11 now; we've had all of Chibnall's episodes bar the finale; and, as it happens, he's just passed the Gatiss mark in terms of number of DW episodes written, putting him in third place behind Davies and Moffat as far as the new show is concerned -- so it seems a good time to take stock! As I've seen Jon Blum comment elsewhere, the big difference between Chibnall and his predecessors is he doesn't seem to care about anchoring the SF plot with the character work - making monsters a metaphor for something, or allowing the resolution to flow accurately out of a character's need to overcome their fears. It's more "these two things exist in the same 50 minutes" than "they're organically part of the same story".

I thought the direction of this episode was quite poor after Sallie Aprahamian's impressive showing last week.

Final note -- I'm guessing this was a rushed job last-minute replacement script. The Pting creature is credited to Welsh playwright Tim Price, who worked in Chibnall's writers' room for a bit but clearly had to leave before he could write a full episode. It looks like Chibnall had to rush to create an episode around the pre-existing creature.

Link | Reply

Matt Walker 1 week, 3 days ago

"...Chibnall's writers' room..."

What an absolutely terrifying thought.

Link | Reply

Przemek 1 week, 4 days ago

I hated last week's episode while everyone else here seemed to like it and this week, it's the opposite. For me it was the second best episode this season (right after "Rosa"), if only because it was fast-paced, adequately tense and had some nice weird bits. The sets and costumes were nice as well. Whittaker is a delight, as usual. And, for once, there was a bit too much to explain as opposed to too little. I really enjoyed this one.

P'Ting being scary cute was fine but I think it shouldn't have been presented as this incredibly dangerous killer. It was clearly a classic machinery-disrupting gremlin and they should've embraced that - make the creature itself relatively harmless (if indestructible) and use the fact that it's slowly causing everything on the ship to malfunction as a source of danger. Exploding oxygen tanks! Doors failing to open! Fire on board! So many possibilities right here.

The TARDIS crew was finally used well, even if their inner lives and interactions still leave much to be desired. (Although I liked the conversation between Ryan and Yaz). Everyone got their own small problem to work on instead of just standing around asking questions. Here's hoping they actually evolve into three-dimensional people soon.

The pregnant male alien bit was risky but ultimately nice - I agree that this episode being about nothing in particular probably saved us from a lot of unfortunate implications. If anything, this subplot challenged Ryan and Graham in an interesting way, forcing them to quickly decide if they feel confident enough in their own masculinity to face a completely different version of it. Had I watched this episode as a kid, I would've had my gender horizons widened. And this aired on nationwide TV. I think that's worth a lot.

Link | Reply

John G. Wood 1 week, 4 days ago

I've finally caught up and I would probably agree with all of this. My current rankings go

1. Rosa
2. The Tsuranga Conundrum
3. The Woman Who Fell to Earth
4. The Ghost Monument
5. Arachnids in the UK

(Rosa is currently the only story I've seen twice, because the rest of my family were away and I watched it on my own first and then again with them when they were home.)

Meanwhile my "run until the first story in my bottom 25%" would go WH 1, PT 1, JP 13, TB 0, PD 1, CB 0, SM 0, PM n/a, CE 3, DT 1, MS 2, PC 6, JW 1.

Conversely my "run until the first story in my top 25%" would go WH 5, PT 0, JP 2, TB 1, PD 0, CB 2, SM 1, PM n/a, CE 0, DT 3, MS 0, PC 3, JW 0. I notice that more than half of them hit both these marks in their first three stories...

Link | Reply

Dan L 1 week, 2 days ago

I think El was doing "longest run without a bottom 25% story", i.e. without the condition that it had to be at the start of their run. I could be wrong though.

Link | Reply

Dan L 1 week, 2 days ago

Ignore me, I am wrong. (Evergreen sentence there.)

Link | Reply

Przemek 1 week, 4 days ago

One more thing that came to my mind: is this season's tendency to solve plots by teleporting the villains somewhere else another weird echo of the Pertwee era? Specifically, the Earth-bound format?

Being stuck on Earth means the Doctor could never truly defeat the invading aliens - unless he murdered every single one of them, the best he could do was to make them go away and then wait for another invasion to happen. It's not so much a base under siege as it's a tower defence game. Keep defeating waves after waves of enemies until you lose or the game ends. Perhaps, seeking inspiration in the Pertwee era, Chibnall accidentally absorbed this mindset, not realizing that it doesn't really work when his Doctor has a fully-functioning TARDIS.

Link | Reply

Etana Edelman 1 week, 4 days ago

I've kind of always seen the Pertwee era as a sort of necessary evil (although that's probably way too strong a word). Basically, after a strange and psychedelic era like Troughton, the show needs to embrace populism for a little while in order not to completely alienate a mainstream audience.

Link | Reply

Stan Etienne 1 week, 4 days ago

Hmm, fascinated by the perception of series 11 not being about anything because to me it is all about class. If there’s a criticism about Doctor Who as a whole it is that it is almost irresolutely middle class, with the exception of the Davies era. For all that I liked the Moffat era, it was incredibly middle class in its approach to, well, pretty well everyone. The core of the Chibnall era so far, in my opinion, is the Ruffallo conversation from The End of Time, and the importance of the ordinary person. So we have bus drivers: the poor entering competitions out of desperation; secretaries; hotel workers and nurses. While the antagonist is mainly representative of the upper classes both directly with Tim Shaw, Robinson and Ilin, and indirectly with the Pting: The personification of greed and, as with the former three characters, dismissive of the effect his actions have on others.

And against them possibly the most human Doctor since Ecclestone, full of wonder, empathy and caring.

Again, it may not be subtle, and it very much has ignored subtext for the text with a capital T.E.X.T. but for all that there are faults to the new series, I’m finding it rather wonderful at the moment. Especially after having been alienated by the characterisation of the 12th Doctor in recent years. As Elizabeth says, there haven’t been any of the standout Moffat episodes, but similarly there has been a consistency missing for a while.

Link | Reply

TomeDeaf 1 week, 4 days ago

I like the rest of what you're saying, but I think reading the Pting as emblematic of the upper class is a bit of a stretch.

Link | Reply

FezofRassilon 1 week, 4 days ago

I can just about see it as a metaphor. It's pleasingly aesthetic and harmless on the surface, but toxic to come into contact with. It consumes energy on an enormous scale, taking up the resources others need, and it does this while effectively dismantling a metaphor for the NHS (by notably ejecting a POC doctor) because it has the privilege of being "unkillable". So yeah, feasibly upper class.

Link | Reply

mx_mond 1 week, 4 days ago

And as with the upper classes, the solution is to eject them into the cold vacuum of space.

Link | Reply

Aylwin 1 week, 4 days ago

We cross-posted there, sorry. Astos is white though, surely?

Link | Reply

FezofRassilon 1 week, 4 days ago

Having since looked up the actor, yes he probably is white. I don't know what made me think otherwise. Probably the lighting. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

Link | Reply

TomeDeaf 1 week, 4 days ago

Replying to both you and Aylwin here - I'd buy this more if there wasn't the detail that the Pting doesn't eat organic matter. Because to my mind that blows the metaphor apart. Yes, the upper class thrives on guzzling up resources, energy, 'living space', what-have-you, but it also eats people. As literally as you can make that sentence work without it being actively cannibalistic. A factory owner is eating people's lives, as is the owner of a chain of hotels or a fast food chain. There's no other way of putting it.

Link | Reply

Aylwin 1 week, 4 days ago

There necessarily are other ways of putting it, because that is also a metaphor, and anything expressed by a metaphor can alternatively be expressed by a literal description or by another metaphor. And whereas "this metaphor does not match the real phenomenon it pertains to" is a viable type of objection (though of course the mismatch must be fundamental, as all kinds of analogy are by definition inexact in their correspondence to what they illustrate, and metaphors especially so), I don't think "this metaphor does not match this other metaphor for aspects of the same array of real phenomena" can be.

Link | Reply

Aylwin 1 week, 4 days ago

I think Stan has a good point there (and in general), given how the P'Ting does not directly attack people, but its all-devouring greed destroys the systems they need to survive. Specifically, a hospital.

Link | Reply

CJM123 1 week, 4 days ago

The P'Ting might not, but the fact that the Doctor has also got to stop high command blowing the ship up definitely gave the thing a sense that even benevolent upper-classes aren't to be trusted.

Link | Reply

Aylwin 1 week, 4 days ago

Looking forward to the mostly-not-Chibnall half of the season, the announcement of The Witchfinders seems to confirm a shift towards historicals which, though certainly not "pure", depart substantially from the celebrity model, moving towards a focus on real events. Granted, it seems clear that it will be playing fast and loose with the events of the 1612 Lancashire witchcraft trials, notably by putting King James I on the scene, but I rather doubt that this will amount to making the episode a celebrity historical about him ("You're a genius! Your Bible's brilliant!").

Link | Reply

Greg S. 1 week, 4 days ago

El,

I'm a little confused by the numbers in your "no fuckups" bullet point. Could you clarify, if possible? Are the numbers the numbers of stories between "fuckup" episodes (being in your lowest 25%). I'm confused by the C. Baker zero and the Smith 2. Having read all your Smith episode entries, I didn't think you were of the opinion that every third episode was a "fuckup".

Obviously, I'm missing something.

Thank you.

Link | Reply

Aylwin 1 week, 4 days ago

She means the run from the beginning of their time as the Doctor, not the longest run anywhere during it. So after two stories Smith plunges into the chasm of Victory of the Daleks.

Link | Reply

Greg S. 1 week, 4 days ago

Thank you @Aylwin. I missed the "from the beginning of their time as the Doctor" part.

Link | Reply

Mark Pompeo 1 week, 4 days ago

I think it was Jack who mentioned this in a comment last week and it's really starting to hit me with this one. Despite every episode so far this season qualifying as "perfectly fine" Doctor Who, they're so lacking in depth that there's no desire or reason to rewatch them. During the Davies and Moffat years, even the bog standard, "perfectly fine" episodes had enough going on and enough small details to enjoy that they offer good rewatch value, but there's none of that here with Chibnall. Just none. Compare this to, say, "The Shakespeare Code" - a perfectly fine but unremarkable episode. I've rewatched that one a whole bunch of times, and enjoyed it each one. But here I don't even feel a desire to rewatch. And if I were specifically looking to rewatch something bog standard and perfectly fine, I'd pick any one of the Davies or Moffat bog standard entries over any of the episodes this season.

It's really disheartening to watch Doctor Who episodes, find them quite enjoyable, but still feel zero inclination to watch them again. And I don't think it's the recency that's driving this feeling. It's not a case of, "I don't want to rewatch this now but might want to rewatch this in the future." It's a feeling that there is nothing to make them worthy of rewatch now or ever, despite being perfectly fine on first viewing.

Link | Reply

Rodolfo Piskorski 1 week, 4 days ago

I've watched every episode of this series twice, basically because I'm so DW starved, even if I hated it upon first watch. I noticed that I enjoyed all the episodes a bit more upon rewatching.

Link | Reply

Mark Pompeo 1 week, 3 days ago

Might I ask what aspects were more enjoyable on rewatch?

Link | Reply

Jack 1 week, 4 days ago

Yeah, that was me. And that still remains true: I haven't re-watched a single episode-and that includes this one- since the exception of the first, which was mandatory given how BBC America slaughtered it with ad breaks. And even then that was the once.

I have more to say below about this, but the series just doesn't reward re-watching for me.

Link | Reply

Tom B 1 week, 3 days ago

Yeah, it seems like their aspirations for the stories this season are to reach a middle of the road competency. It's like Chibnall took his story 42 and said "This is the level that we want all our stories at"

Link | Reply

Jack 1 week, 3 days ago

This one, in fact, I did compare to 42...and it came off the poorer for the comparison.

42 at least had the brazenly open conceit of "Doctor Who does 24!" going for it. It's not much to hang a hat on, admittedly, but it's there.

Link | Reply

Steven 1 week, 4 days ago

I thought this was OK - the fundamentals established in episode 1 can carry weaker scripts. Because the music is good, the core cast are good, Jodie has a good take on the role (not much to do this week though!), it all takes potential 4/10s and makes them 6s.

I am certain though that this script was a wrap-around, as per the decision to credit the Pting's creator separately (and google tells me he's a playwright).

Everything about the episode suggests to me that they had this expensive CG model of a little alien, but whatever script had been intended to function as his home didn't pan out, for whatever reason. Feels like Chris lifted the things they'd prepped (and probably coming up with a detailed character model is the thing you'd start on first) and came up with an episode they could do on the cheap. Cos that was basically just some corridors and empty rooms - and even the big action shot, whatshername flying the rig - was done without recourse to the FX or even showing much of the actual flying. As Doctor Who goes I can't really think of an episode in the revival era that'd require less prep, the alien itself aside.

If this is Chris writing to fill a gap in a (presumed) crisis then that's fair enough. Moffat could falter sometimes when he didn't have enough time to draft and redraft by not scaling down his expectations or ambition for the episode. Sometimes that gets you a Blink, but he clearly didn't have enough time to redraft the 2017 Christmas special and it meant that he, and Capaldi, to my eyes bowed out on their worst ever episodes.

But if I'm wrong and this is the sort of story Chris sat down and thought best represented the mark he wanted to make on DW, well, oh dear.

Link | Reply

antimony 1 week, 4 days ago

One thing I was struck by: this is the second time this season we've seen the Doctor at a funeral. Now, granted, she couldn't leave before this one because they didn't have the Tardis back yet, but that's a writing choice that feels intentional. She was even up-front-and-center in this one.

It's different. Don't know what I think of it, but I think I like it?

(Also I really enjoyed this episode even if its emotional beats were telegraphed a mile ahead of time. I did feel like the auto-destruct etc stuff could have been handled better rather than info-dumping -- have alarms actually go off when the Doc tries to turn back for the Tardis, etc, rather than just Astos talking at her.)

Link | Reply

Rodolfo Piskorski 1 week, 4 days ago

Just for some background info: of all the 90 episodes that have aired since Gallifrey Base opened, this one has the lowest average ranking of all.

Then again, Sleep No More is in the bottom 5, and it's clearly not that bad.

Link | Reply

David Ainsworth 1 week, 4 days ago

A general thought first, then specifics. Antimony's post above brings into stark relief a thought I'd been having about how the new Doctor is almost a repudiation of elements of some previous Doctors, an underlining of the character's compassion and kindness in the face of the Timelord Victorious or the traveler who needs a young woman along to remind himself not to viciously murder his enemies (or notecards to observe basic politeness).

And it's a contrast with Seven that brings the point out most strongly. The Tim Shaw confrontation was deliberately written in a way to invoke and yet critique Seven's "I beg you, Davros, don't use the Hand." Thirteen unquestionably does NOT want Tim Shaw to kill himself. And when he appears to have done so and she does have a moment of Doctorish smugness in explaining her clever trick, it gets almost instantly undermined ("You had no right to do that.").

Seven leaves before a funeral. Thirteen has now stayed for two. And importantly, she stays both out of a sense of compassion for the dead but also for the living: she's there, in the sense that Ryan's dad wasn't.

Which makes compassion the overall theme thus far. In the face of "save the planet" or "save the multiverse" plots, Chibnall places a focus squarely on people, to the extent that even in a puzzler like this episode, reassuring the man-in-labor matters as much as anything else. We've seen the small signs (thank yous delivered that another Doctor would not have) as well as larger ones (the shift from the Doctor's separation anxiety from the TARDIS to her apology). As with the pregnant man here, I'm never quite sure whether Chibnall's deployment of gender is almost entirely clueless or if it's clever but limited, but the message seems clear enough.

With compassion as the key, enemies/monsters become dangerous to the extent they lack it. The spiders aren't capable of compassion, where Robertson should be, so he's the greater monster. The time-traveling white supremacist isn't as big a monster as the cop or the bus driver because he's alone while they are working together in a way destructive to their own empathy. Protecting Rosa Parks' moment of triumph shifts from saving history (which may or may not really have been endangered) to showing her compassion: not saving the movement for her, but protecting her dignity. Graham's horror at being a part of a small wrong act of racism reflects his ability to feel for Rosa; the inability of the white people around the crew to feel for her condemns them.

And so, to this episode, which is really about compassion for all the characters (even if that doesn't land well with the second medico or the android/clone/whatever), ultimately including the P'ting. The "puzzle" elements are secondary at best, as is the shape of the plot. I like that but am unsurprised many Who fans might not.

I also loved (as I did in Image of the Fendahl) the extent to which we get information that's either misleading or outright wrong, and certainly incomplete. It's unclear even at the end of the story the extent to which the P'ting is a critter, sentient or not, whether it's a bioweapon, something natural, something engineered to clean up junk planets that went wrong. What matters in this episode is that instead of treating the P'ting as an enemy that must be outwitted or destroyed, the Doctor employs empathy. Even if the result seems implausible (a la Deadly Assassin, where the Doctor puzzles out things that should surely already have been known), it is unquestionably humane.

I do think Chibnall's staked out a clear spot in the ongoing debate between "monsters" (all Daleks are evil) and "people" (there's hope even for a Dalek). His position certainly seems clearer thus far than either Davies (Dalek, but The Parting of the Ways) or Moffat (stressing Cyberman humanity, but also slaughtering them casually).

Link | Reply

Patman 1 week, 3 days ago

This. Exactly this. The season may be far from perfect (it's DW we're talking about, after all!), but to treat it as contentless pap is silly.

Link | Reply

Aylwin 1 week, 3 days ago

Besides not being written by Davies, I don't think Dalek says there is hope for the Daleks at all. If anything, it is the least hopeful statement on the Daleks ever. Usually, the prospect of change for the Daleks is simply not on the table, while occasionally it is suggested that some sort of positive change is possible, as in Evil, Evolution or Into. What Dalek says is that even if change is accomplished, it cannot lead anywhere, because for a Dalek that ceases to be Dalek-like, life will be unbearable.

Link | Reply

Daru 1 week, 2 days ago

Hi David - I really agree with and feel the same as you. I have not had much time and space to comment (thought I have been reading every post), but felt moved to here.

The one thing that has been interesting me with the stories so far was how it has seemed that humane responses and the characters were being foregrounded more than before (it feels like) and I am finding that really interesting. Often I find myself watching the performers now much more than paying attention to the sci-fi aspects. Thanks for your thoughts David.

Link | Reply

Rodolfo Piskorski 1 week, 4 days ago

I agree that there is very little thematic coherence here.

So I rewatched it trying hard to find some. I think it's mostly about disease and about immunisation against external threats.

Regarding Graham's experience with cancer, it is he who first asks about what "destabilising my internal organs" means. Crucially, the medics couldn't find any medtags on them, which might explain why they don't pick up (and treat) Graham's cancer. I think that such a hi-tech space ambulance relies so much on nanoimplants that can give you info that they are not prepared for other types of diagnoses.

Crucially we get a scene with Graham about lying about one's own health and your loved ones' snooping into your health history. And he instantly reacts with passion to say some people have reasons to lie about their health. Seems like anvilicious foreshadowing.

The folks in Resus 1 are worried that the ship is compromised and they might want to destroy it remotely to protect their base. Rather nasty. But I wonder if we are to think of the pting as some kind of virus, bacteria, or disease (even cancer). The irony is that this is a hospital (or ambulance) that got sick itself. And some people think it's okay to euthanise it so as not spread the infection, in a kind of hyperbolic auto-immune strategy.

And of course it connects back to other instances of things being "implanted": cancer, DNA bombs, neural neutraliser (on Krasko), translator implants, the built-in bomb in the ship itself and - finally - a baby. The idea of gestation as a creepy form of alien parasite is not the only thing this episode got from Alien. But I think it's interesting that it uses the (initially unwanted) baby to put forth that not all things that "infiltrate" you are evil. You do not need to immunise yourself against all external things. Also, the most dangerous thing - the bomb - was being harboured at the heart of the ship all along.

The Doctor seems to think the pting will be able to sense that the bomb is about to explode and seek it out... So if we think that the pting approached the ship because it sense its energy potential (maybe even including or especially the bomb) it's almost like the pting comes into the "body" of the ship to rid it of a nasty implantation, making a havoc in the process. Like chemo? Of course, the bomb itself only activates because of the pting, so they're both self-destructive auto-immune processes in a way.

Interesting parallels between getting the bomb out of the ship (via the pting) and getting the baby out of Yoss. These ideas are all over the place, though, so I'm not sure if they make any thematic coherence. Just like the extraction of the pting and the extraction of the bomb, the baby has to be removed traumatically. Ryan must have some kind of psychic powers, because it was very easy for him to convince Yoss! Also: very neat, classical juxtaposition of Eve dying and the baby being born.

I think the Ciceros seem to mirror Ryan's family. With Grace gone, Ryan must learn to bond with Grace's "consort", like Durkas reconciles with Ronan in the end. With Ronan coming to the end of his service, is that foreshadowing for Graham's fate?

Durkas invites Ronan to "incant" for Eve. I noticed that more than one character exclaimed "oh my saints" and the incantation starts "may the saints...". Are they religious? The Doctor knows the words of the incantation, but then so does Yoss. Is Yoss part of the same society as the Ciceros? Is this a cross-species religion?

Link | Reply

TomeDeaf 1 week, 4 days ago

They're certainly different species - Gifftans and Keebans (so the script says). Perhaps we are meant to assume that the prayer is from a religion that is just very very widespread in the 67th century (akin to someone knowing the words to the Lord's Prayer even if they're not terribly devout themselves).

Link | Reply

Tom B 1 week, 3 days ago

This episode felt like Chibnall could have also used a returning monster - the nucleus of the Swarm from The Invisible Enemy (not necessarily the same one, but another Swarm with its own nucleus). That would have been a more direct nod to what you're talking about. I wouldn't have been surprised if he had done a two parter and we had a cliffhanger that they arrived at the medical base and find out that the Swarm already took it over.

Link | Reply

Rodolfo Piskorski 1 week, 4 days ago

About Yoss, the pregnant man:

Upon meeting him, the companions clearly read his as a man just because of the way he presents himself, despite coming across as biologically female. They grasp at his cultural performance of gender as a way of reading his biological sex. To be fair, mere seconds later, the Doctor (who has recognised the species), refers to him as male, and he confirms it. But I would prefer it if the companions simply assumed that this is how a female alien of this species (or just this female) looks like.

I think Yoss is very sweet and I like how weirded out he is by Earth reality. I also like that Ryan's "I couldn't do it" stems not from a point about biological impossibility (which is what Yaz stresses later) but from obvious putting himself in Yoss's place. I like that he starts to sympathise with a father's perspective of not being good enough, but I would think that he would most likely find Yoss selfish, at least initially, given his background. Also, Yoss seems very flippant about the process of giving away a child. Is that a common thing for his species, especially considering that pregnancy is so short? What are these turbulent worlds he is afraid of? More Stenza shit?

Link | Reply

Rodolfo Piskorski 1 week, 4 days ago

About the pting:

I like the pting. It looks sort of demonic, like some sort of chaotic force of nature. I just wish it weren't so dumpy, as it would make its agility more plausible. Also, I wish it had acted more threateningly towards the humanoids. Somehow it also reminds me of an old lady: the wrinkly mouth, the folds around the eyes, etc. Maybe he represents old age?

We see a VERY quick thing hitting the spaceship, which I think looks like a shapeless asteroid lump. It seems to big to be the pting anyway. That would suggest that the pting did not arrive at the ship by propulsing itself through outer space. But then the Doctor does state clearly the pting can not only survive a vacuum but it does not need oxygen.

When the Doctor realises that the pting is eating energy, she does state that it was able to home in on the ship, so it suggests that the pting can fly in outerspace unaided. Well, I guess if he consumes so much energy, it's not that far-fetched that he may have some super-powered fart thrusters that can propulse him across space. But I would still have liked the Doctor or the others to have considered beforehand to just throw the pting outside. Then someone could have suggested that it would be able to fly back into the ship. The way it's scripted it does not seem like that knew of its energy-focused hunger before, so they would have probably thought they would be safe if they jettisoned it.

The computer clearly states that the pting may be an engineered creature, as no one really knows. A Stenza bio-weapon?

Okay, "impossible to wound or kill" is just lazy sci-fi writing. It sounds like magical hand-wave for when you want something to happen in a plot. If the pting can withstand a bomb explosion inside himself and not rupture, does that mean he would be immune to an explosion outside? Is a room or a vehicle made of pting skin the safest place in the universe? Hell, is pting skin the strongest material in the universe? Can a pting easily destroy a Dalek fleet?

Link | Reply

TomeDeaf 1 week, 4 days ago

I like the two word solution to the plot hole that's been pointed out regarding the Pting being impossible to keep in a cage of any kind, whilst also being a creature that doesn't eat organic matter:

Flesh. Prison.

Link | Reply

David Ainsworth 1 week, 3 days ago

Human beings don't eat buildings but that doesn't prevent us from demolishing them.

Link | Reply

TomeDeaf 1 week, 3 days ago

Granted, but the Pting is presented as more of a mindless feeder and gobbler than a scheming tactician...

Link | Reply

Rodolfo Piskorski 1 week, 4 days ago

Capitalism watch:

In my comments about Arachnids, I wrote that it looked like the episode was trying to say that capitalism is not inherently evil, even though it's often mutated towards evil.

Here we are told that anti-matter is improved by progress, by means of which things get smaller, faster, cheaper. Isn't this usually the description and defence that we get of the private sector and commercialisation of technology ("the iPhone version of CERN"). Read: CERN is a governmental/university institution and it's bloated, expensive, and huge. If only CERN were sold to Apple we would have cheap, personal anti-matter drives...

Link | Reply

Rodolfo Piskorski 1 week, 4 days ago

Companion watch:

Does Yaz remember everything she learned at school? Is that why she's so frustrated being a police officer, because she can't use her wide knowledge of physics on the job? Also, this is the moment where Yaz is not only lectured (about anti-matter, presumably so she understands how important it is to protect it?) but also told what to do. Does she see a problem with that, considering that we know she wants to be in charge? Also, she said she wanted "more". Does it not bother her that most things she encounters are just variants of things she knows from Earth? And as someone who wants more, would she really be enjoying finding similarities with Earth, instead of marvelling at the differences? This is where we get to Chibnall's terrible treatment of the companions, especially Yaz. This episode would be much better as a Tennant special where it's just the Doctor with a group of random people.

By the way, that ending was just SO NAFF. As many people have said, we need more scenes in the TARDIS where the companions can talk to the Doctor before and after the adventure so we can know more about their reactions and impressions. So because they keep sacrificing those scenes for group prayers and whatnot, the companions have so far done two things: made side comments that "boring regular people from 21st century Britain" might make, and went over a list of biographical points about their lives. All the real character beats and the character drama happens with the guest characters.

In general the episode was more fun and thought-provoking upon rewatching, because I just knew I should not expect anything from the companions.

I want all the companions to die in the finale, and then the Doctor meets baby Avocado all grown-up and he becomes the next companion!

Link | Reply

Kazin 1 week, 4 days ago

Honestly at this point I don't even have anything to say about the show. I don't intend that as a condemnation, either. It's just... there.

Link | Reply

Jack 1 week, 4 days ago

I continue to be puzzled by the comparisons to the Pertwee era, which every episode to date, but especially the two set in space, scream to me at least "Season 20 with a budget."

The space ones in particular just feel so Eric Saward to me; this one seems so much more interested in the heroic space pilot than the Doctor or any of her companions. We don't even have a particular reason for the story to start, we just need the Doctor and company to be on a medical ship. Flying through an asteroid belt. With no pilot or navigation crew. A medical ship that has a quarantine protocol of "when in doubt, blow it up."

(I mean, at this point, I could launch into a tirade about the silliness of flying straight through an asteroid belt when there's over and under it, or that Space is Big and there's no way you'd have the kind of volume of rocks to justify taking the long way, but at this point everyone just runs with 'traveling in space is like traveling on Earth' and goes with it. Nitpicking the plot contrivance in a story this empty is piling on.)

Now, I'll be honest, I'm not someone opposed to telling stories that just tell stories, without deeper thematic resonance or whatnot. I mean, for crying out loud, I enjoy big dumb action movies for being big dumb action movies. As much as I agree that Doctor Who under Moffat, which pleased me greatly, probably was no longer a good way to make a show that appeals to a wider audience...this really isn't a way that appeals to me. It's dull and safe.

Doctor Who is disposable now. And that's not what Doctor Who should be.

And yes, I haven't re-watched it.

Link | Reply

prandeamus 1 week, 3 days ago

Interesting to see Whittaker as in a similar position to Davison. Think about all those scenes in TC where she wanders around corridors clutching her lower left torso (what was it, an exospleen? I missed the dialogue). Now imagine other doctors doing the same - it's trivially easy to imagine the Fifth doctor in the same situation, but hard to imagine most of the others. Tennant would eject the pain from his fingers, Bakers T and C would mug their way through it. I've no objection to having a Doctor who experiences pain and other obstacles; quite the reverse as it prevents the character being too much of a demigod. But this physical vulnerability reminds me of Davison a lot.

Link | Reply

Rodolfo Piskorski 1 week, 3 days ago

Subtitles said "ecto-spleen".

Link | Reply

Alex G 1 week, 4 days ago

The absence of theme bugged me, as I felt this episode to be in the shadow of Ursula Le Guin's "Intracom". That short story is a Star Trek spoof which parallels pregnancy with the ship incubating an alien life-form. So it has some of the same stuff going on as Alien (an influence observed above), but it's a very focused and witty take on the base-under-siege structure. A 2018 TV version could have been so good, and what we have here is more a succession of events than a narrative with thematic consistency.

Link | Reply

prandeamus 1 week, 4 days ago

I have just watched this episode and I'm feeling disconcerted, yet not knowing exactly why I should feel like this. I'm sure there's an aside in one of the Hitch-Hiker books where Arthur Dent encounters a culture where all books are exactly the same length, regardless of where the story should end. It's like this year's mission statement is to has as its primary goal the creation of exactly 50 minutes of thngs that happen. Like the clone, I have a comprehension deficit.

The Doctor visits a junkyard. Piles of once-useful items. Plot devices, character beats, tawdry quirks, discarded monomyths. Nothing organic, nothing alive. There is loo, but no Yeti. The call to action detonates. Logic dissolves as the story starts. Doctor and companions stagger around the wreckage of a story, the stark white Nerva invaded by a space monster. This time, it does not seek organic life. This time the monster wants inorganics. The creature no longer wants to inhabit the bodies of sleepers, it seeks only to devour sense, to absorb narrative. The technobabble containment field has ruptured; the TARDIS team must battle a ruthless torrent of establishing shots, countdowns, infodumps, reversals and mise-en-scenes. Narrative autocompensators kick in, knowing only that the illogic must be neutralised by increased illogic. The arbitrary "override three times" plot device is mirrored by an arbitrary pentagonal 51. Talented actors and occasional jokes do not save it. The final tsunami of backstory forces the catharsis pods to eject, their spurious morality cascading across a galaxy of semiotic auxilliary performance codes. The story that contains within itself the pseudo clone life of the android creates life in the form of Avocado Pear, named in in honour of a false memory of a hero who never existed. Finally the narrative becomes recursive. To solve the conundrum one must realise there is no conundrum to resolve.

It makes about as much sense as the episode.

Or maybe I need to increase the medication.

Link | Reply

AuntyJack 1 week, 3 days ago

Made far too much sense to me...

Link | Reply

Simon Blake 1 week, 3 days ago

I really enjoyed that. Someone ought to commission its development into a script...

Link | Reply

prandeamus 1 week, 3 days ago

Thanks. I'm particularly pleased with the ruptured technobabble containment field.

If you like reading this nonsense, you'd probably enjoy reading the Thursday Next series of Novels by Jasper fforde a great deal. He not only does it with a much greater skill and panache than I, but manages to add actual plot and a reasonable amount of internal logic.

Link | Reply

TomeDeaf 1 week, 3 days ago

I second that recommendation: they're brilliant.

Link | Reply

Dan L 1 week, 2 days ago

I third that recommendation. Also wanted to add that "technobabble containment shield" reminded me of my favourite line from Graham Duff and Mark Gatiss's parody 'Nebulous':

"The amount of paranormal activity in the Cardiff area alone is threatening Earth's plausibility shield!"

Link | Reply

MatthewB 1 week, 3 days ago

"Mostly Harmless", when Arthur goes to live on Bartledan.

Link | Reply

5tephe 1 week, 3 days ago

"Cute but dangerous is an entirely coherent aesthetic category, and one not enough monsters fall into. (Really only the Daleks.)"

Brilliant.

Link | Reply

Shannon 1 week, 3 days ago

As we watched the episode, I turned to my husband and said, "It's like Stitch (from the movie Lilo and Stitch) was actually a threat." And he's absolutely adorable.

Link | Reply

Camestros Felapton 1 week, 3 days ago

There's not a like button, so this reply is a more verbose 'like' :)
Stitch and also Nibbler from Futurama. And Gremlins obviously.

Link | Reply

Dan L 1 week, 2 days ago

I found this episode to be a fun way of learning which DW podcasters watched Futurama and which watch Disney films.

Link | Reply

FezofRassilon 1 week, 3 days ago

Not sure Chibnall's quite got the monsters right yet. In this series, his monsters all have an odd grab-bag of powers that don't quite come together as a singular vision. The Stenza are freezing cold, travel in onions, create tentacle monsters, and kill people and take their teeth, except for when they don't kill people and keep them as trophies. Tgey're mainly hunters, but they also have a vast evil empire. The remnants are sentient bandages who can fly and suffocate you but also have psychic powers. And the Pting has acid skin, eats energy, can survive in a vacuum, can't be killed, and moves either very quickly or very slowly. I'm probably being a bit disingenuous here, but they don't have a unity of purpose, which means it's hard to have a unique identity as a monster. To use Moffat terms, there's no game to them.

Also, while this episode was basically fine, The Tsuranga Conundrum must be the most boring possible title for an episode.

Link | Reply

prandeamus 1 week, 3 days ago

What exactly WAS the conundrum?

Link | Reply

Rodolfo Piskorski 1 week, 3 days ago

I. HAVE. NO. IDEA.
The closest thing to a conundrum I could find was Eve having to decide between risking her life to pilot everyone to safety or not.
Yoss's indecision whether to keep the baby?

Link | Reply

Tom B 1 week, 2 days ago

The conundrum was whether they should go with the cute alien as is and risk the lawsuit from Disney, or spend more money on visual effects to change the look of the P'ting and risk the wrath of the BBC bean counters. Their answer was obviously risk the Disney lawsuit because that's not money they have to spend right now.

Link | Reply

Rodolfo Piskorski 1 week, 3 days ago

You forgot that the pting can also propel itself in the vacuum of space. Via explosive farting, I presume.

Link | Reply

FezofRassilon 1 week, 3 days ago

I quite like the idea that it can't propel itself, it just gets thrown out of air locks at speed and just goes with it until it collides with another ship and the cycle continues.

Link | Reply

Aylwin 1 week, 3 days ago

I prefer to think of it as the Turangalîla Panjandrum. It makes only slightly less sense in the context, and the words are more fun.

Link | Reply

Dan L 1 week, 2 days ago

I like to think the Tsuranga is a reference to Turanga Leela, given the P'Ting's resemblance to Nibbler from Futurama.

Link | Reply

Aylwin 1 week, 2 days ago

Not implausible!

Link | Reply

WmK 1 week, 2 days ago

"a bunch of people getting on with their private dramas while an alien attacks their ship."

A perfect summary of Broadchurch.

Link | Reply

New Comment

required

required (not published)

optional

Recent Posts

Archive

Tags

Authors

Feeds

RSS / Atom