If this season has had one lingering, ongoing theme, it's family. "The Tsuranga Conundrum" keeps that going in several forms — the continued and expanding bond between Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Graham (Bradley Walsh), of course, but this episode also examines the relationship between Ryan and his yet-unseen father, as well as the sibling relationship between two new characters, Eve (Suzanne Packer) and Durkas (Ben Bailey Smith), and the father-son relationship between heavily pregnant Yoss and the baby he is not quite ready for.
All of these characters, and of course the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) find themselves aboard the Tsuranga, a hospital ship in danger after being attacked by the dreaded (?) Pting, an alien creature that is basically like someone fed the Adipose after midnight. But the episode doesn't seem to know the Pting is hilarious and adorable, which is fair. After all, it is potentially trying to kill them all, doing so by eating everything in sight including parts of the ship.
The Doctor fixes stuff, a strong capable woman sacrifices herself to save the day, the big bad gets rescued because it's not actually all that bad, it's honestly your standard Doctor Who stuff, which is fine. There's something about a business-as-usual episode in the Whittaker era that feels a kind of necessary her predecessors didn't require. Chibnall and co. could have gone overboard in making sure we know this is Important and History-Making and Therefore Revolutionary, which would honestly be kind of Exhausting. And a good ole monster-of-the-week episode is a good way to highlight what makes Whittaker special.
One thing I've noted a few times now is the 13th Doctor's endless optimism, even in the face of seemingly unbeatable odds. Because while she's seen horrific things in her long, long life, she knows the value of hope. Where her predecessors had moments of wallow, she thrives with a can-do spirit, ready to take on whatever comes her way, confident in the knowledge she'll figure something out to save the day. As well she should — if there's been one constant throughout time and space, it's that usually, she does just that. The difference is this iteration knows that. She believes in herself. She has hope.
And hope is what makes this Doctor so extraordinary, even in an otherwise run-of-the-mill episode.