The Tsuranga Conundrum

Let’s be precise about something here, shall we? “Conundrum” refers to a problem that is both challenging and confusing. If you’re missing the challenge, it’s just confusion…sort of like freshman year of college. If you’re missing the confusion, it’s just an extremely difficult task…let’s say, landing a NASA probe on the side of a moving asteroid. When you have both, that’s your conundrum…like doing your own small business taxes.

Trying to discern how to deal with a virtually omnivorous, nearly indestructible invasive alien aboard a self-guided ship that cannot deviate from its trajectory else it be remotely destroyed, while dealing with one passenger who is terminally ill and another going into labor? CONUNDRUM.

So, with that out of the way, let’s eat!

This week, we tie on our bibs and tuck in to a heaping coil of antimatter with “The Tsuranga Conundrum”, marking the midpoint in Series 11. We’re all in agreement that this is stock-in-trade, dare we say ‘classic’ Doctor Who, involving a complex set of interwoven challenges, limited time, interesting but not distracting supporting characters, and a blend of scientific wonder and oddball humor from our Doctor. Was there a bit much packed into one story? Were there one or two characters too many? Was the Pting really what happens to Stitch when Lilo feeds him after midnight? Perhaps. But all things considered, we had a blast with it, and can itemize what we enjoyed while (simultaneously!) acknowledging those aspects which might have increased our appreciation.

That’s a nearly trademarked midseason Doctor Who episode, everyone: not the end all, be all; not the nadir of television. Just good old, rollicking, spaceships-and-sarcasm drama. Yes, please. We’ll take a few of those.

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Rosa

The word “no” is one of the smallest and yet most powerful words in the English language. It can be used gently or forcefully; it can decline a kind offer, or halt an angry reaction. It occupies a tiny space on the page, or on the breath, but when spoken with conviction, it is the single stone that turns the river.

Small decisions can change the course of history.

With equal parts concern and anticipation, we sat down to watch Doctor Who this past weekend, and see what would happen when Rosa Parks was depicted in a British science fiction television series. What tone would the episode set for one of the most iconic moments, and most important decisions, to be made in American history? What would the treatment of this most revered woman be, as interpreted by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall, that could honor and respect her incredible life, while still being what viewers would expect from this entertainment franchise? How accurate — how unflinching — would the accounts of segregation be presented? And how would our principal characters react to the time, the place, and the people of historical importance, coming from their diverse and poignant identities?

Without going into detail on our individual reactions, suffice to say this: we may have just watched one of the best — and most important — episodes of Doctor Who yet broadcast.

EXTRA: There be conventions on the horizon! Seek us out, and geek us out!

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The Woman Who Fell to Earth

The Woman Who Fell to Earth

Okay, quick maths analogy for you. When an equation has multiple variables, the risk of miscalculation goes up markedly, just like the odds of guessing a one-digit number versus two or more. With that in mind, when Chris Chibnall and his team spent the last many months telling us all the changes, revisions, and exclusions that would be made to first series of his tenure as showrunner, while we trusted him (it’s what we do), we knew that there was a wide margin of error to be mindful of. After all, when you change so many aspects of a known and well-established product, there are that many things that can be blamed if it doesn’t turn out to be something exceptional.

That said, here are two truths.

First, JODIE WHITTAKER IS THE DOCTOR, and has proven that now off and on the screen. We said it. We believe it. If you disagree, you’re really going to hate the next few years of this podcast. Heck ,you’ve probably been hate-listening to us for the past year, for that matter.

Second, for all the other facets of Doctor Who that we were warned would change, and heard the trepidation from various fans about this, that, or the other, we believe Series 11 is off to a start that has the four of us (and if that funny Twitter website is to be believed, more than a few others) very, very pleased.

This week, we finally drop from our levitation points above the couch to hug each other with adrenaline-fueled delight at the first full adventure of the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends in “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”. We take a look at the Series 11 premiere as a regeneration episode, as a “new viewer” introductory episode, and as a Doctor Who story in general. We note the technical and structural aspects that give it such a new (and interesting) tone and balance, the exceptional and in some cases surprising performances of primary and supporting cast, and the baseline this story and its delivery sets for the series to come.

One note of criticism with the episode: to paraphrase an adage, “Grace is when the heavens give us what we don’t deserve”. In an instance like this, the irony of that particular phrase is striking. 

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