Doctor Who keeps surprising us this season –both positively and not so positively. The new series has started strong thus far, with episodes that, overall, stay true to the nature of the show, but keep reinventing it. New showrunner, new Doctor, new show. But, all in all, same idea.
Same software, different case.
But last night’s “The Tsuranga Conundrum” took us back to those purely sci-fi episodes set in crazy spacecrafts navigating space and under the attack of monsters that are seemingly impossible to defeat. So, in its honor, here are five moments from “The Tsuranga Conundrum” we can’t stop thinking about.
1. Eve Cicero, Legendary Pilot
A female Doctor set the stage for this to happen over and over again, especially in defiance of those fans that were enraged and threatened to abandon the show when news of Jodie Whittaker’s casting caused shit to hit the fan. And showrunner Chris Chibnall made it clear numerous times before the first episode even aired that this season was going to be all about diversity and parity.
And boy, with this, he’s delivered.
We’ve seen strong characters like Rosa Parks fight their way through history with remarkable female resilience, and we’ve seen one of our companions, Yaz, stand up for herself with the help of an equally badass mother who loves and supports her. So far, this season of Doctor Who has shown us nothing but women being comrades, women being friends, women supporting each other.
And The Doctor is first on that list.
‘The Tsuranga Conundrum’ did not disappoint either. It showed us that a woman can be the greatest pilot of her kind, the greatest and justest and kindest leader, and can be as brave and as sentimental as anyone else. Her unbelievable strength and resistance during the episode’s climax proved that a woman can be in control and can perfectly manage a desperate situation with incredible resolution. And The Doctor never once wavered in her belief in Eve.
Not to mention Mabli’s role in all of it, and how everyone believed in her capabilities even when she was doubting herself. And Astos was first on that list.
Speaking of Astos…
2. The Doctor Called Out On Her Bullshit
Must everyone always die in every episode this season? And must it always be characters we instantly adore? What I’m saying is, did Astos really have to be shot into space to die a horribly tragic, very explosive death? He –unfortunately– didn’t last long, but he lasted long enough to perform a trivial task I’ve only seen companions do: he called The Doctor out on her bullshit.
Listen, The Doctor is kind. She specializes in kindness without agenda, she’s got a PhD (pun fully intended) in hope. She says so herself this episode. But, at times, like any thousand-year-old time traveller who has seen too much, she gets so caught up in her own stuff that she momentarily loses focus from everything else that’s important.
It’s one of The Doctor’s most interesting and beautiful contradictions, if I may: she is the epitome of kindness, but she can also be the utmost representation of selfishness.
To be fair to her, the TARDIS was –yet again– in jeopardy and God knows how they’re going to get back to it –if they even will, although they probably will, let’s be honest. But as good as she is at avoiding panic, at imagining a way out of the hardest of situations, at being the best at seeing hope when the last sliver of it has disappeared for everyone around her, she can be awfully narrow-minded and self-involved.
So when she puts the rest of the patients in jeopardy, we’re all screaming at her to focus and realize the bigger picture –something that not all characters always do on Who, mostly because they’re too dumbfounded or too much in awe about The Doctor’s abilities and general awesomeness to even try and start to question her.
But Astos wasn’t just any other character. He proved that The Doctor must be kept in check and put in line every once in a while, and not only by those closest to her. And The Doctor, brilliant and mature and kind as ever, realized her mistake and backed down. Which, in turn, gave a whole new depth to the character we’re so used to.
3. Yoss And Avocado
In line with Chibnall’s diversity and parity rules when conceiving this season of Doctor Who, it seems like defying gender norms and roles was also a priority for the Broadchurch creator. Who says a man can’t carry a child?
As wonderfully strange as it was at the beginning, Yoss’s storyline this episode ended up being a tender exploration of parenthood and what it means to be a father. Moreover, it proved that being a parent isn’t determined by who –literally– has the baby, it’s determined by actions, by choices, and, perhaps most importantly, mistakes.
How wonderful it was not only to see a man give birth, but to also see a vulnerable man accept and understand that making mistakes when you’re a parent is part of the deal. That making mistakes is perfectly fine and normal, and that, as long as you admit them and learn from them, there is nothing horrible wrong about it.
How incredible it was to see fragile masculinity shot down with the beauty and the grace –and the sense of humor– that Yoss’s storyline provided this episode.
There’s not much else to say about this traumatizing and weirdly adorable horrible little monster that ate up a spaceship this week. Not much, other than the fact that it had all the characteristics of a great Doctor Who monster.
It looked horrendously adorable, which seemingly posed no threat, but was actually one of the deadliest aliens we’ve seen to date. And yes, that includes the terrifying Weeping Angels, damn them. Pting was like the perfect cross between the Adipose and the Slitheen, only twice as deadly and twice as fast.
But, hard as it seemingly was to defeat it, it proved what Doctor Who proves best: that every living organism –alien or human, or otherwise– always wants something, and that something some times has nothing to do with humans. It proved that, as long as we try to understand and comprehend those alien to us, we can reach a peaceful agreement where no one has to get hurt.
And it that isn’t the best cure against racism and hatred, I honestly don’t know what is.
5. 900 casts of Hamilton
I’m a sucker for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical, what can I do about it? Where do I have to sign up to see all 900 casts? Beyond the fact that I had to pause the episode to laugh at the reference, it stands as solid proof of something that’s getting better and better with each new episode: we’re regaining some of the sense of humor that plagued the previous seasons of Who.
Perhaps it still lacks some of the poignancy and dialogue-based quickness that Russell T. Davis and Steven Moffat brought to The Doctor and her companions, but it’s getting there. It’s no longer just a melodrama of epic proportions, series 11 is starting to find the perfect balance between Science Fiction and history, between drama and comedy. And if that’s the case, sign me up for the next episodes to come.
Seriously, though, I’m gonna need tickets to see 900 casts of Tony Award-winning rap musical Hamilton.
Doctor Who airs Sundays on BBC One and BBC America.