Each week the Blogtor Who team give their first thoughts on the latest episode of Doctor Who. Here’s what we thought of series 11 finale The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos.
Needless to say, this article contains massive spoilers, so only read on if you’ve already watched The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos.
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Tonight, Doctor Who saw the return of a sci-fi adventures our screens as well as this series key villain –T’zim Sha aka “Tim Shaw” of the Stenza. The Doctor and her companions answer several distress signals on the planet Ranskoor av Kolos and find the disabled warrior bent on the destruction of anyone and any planet that opposed his tyranny and that included the Doctor and Earth. And even though our toothed villain was just a tad easy to defeat, seeing Team TARDIS work together challenging themselves and the Doctor was enjoyable. Jodie, Bradley, Tosin and Mandip were at their best although we still need to see more of Yaz. Here’s to New Year’s Day.
Well, here we are at the end of Series 11! I don’t have enough space here to fully reflect on the series as a whole, but it’s hard to deny that this finale felt very different to those of previous series. This is largely due to the lack of an overarching series arc or natural end-point that the series was building towards. On a first viewing, this wasn’t my favourite story of the series, but despite my previous comment, it was satisfying to see what loose ends there were tied up. The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos was without question Graham O’Brien’s episode. As in last week’s episode, I loved seeing some real conflict play out between Graham and the Doctor, as well as between Graham and Ryan. This brings me to the return of Tim Shaw (sorry, T’zim Sha), which I wasn’t entirely surprised by after seeing the trailer for this episode. He’s definitely one of the creepiest, most sinister villains we’ve had this series, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him again one day. As well as this, I can’t not mention the brilliance of the guest stars, as well as how visually stunning this whole episode was. It really drove home the cinematic quality Doctor Who now has. This was further cemented by the epic trailer for the upcoming New Year’s Day special, which is starting to look like it’ll be centred around something which rhymes with ‘garlic’…?
This series finale felt quite different from the kind of finale we’ve become used to since Doctor Who returned to our televisions in 2005. With a series comprising standalone stories, there hasn’t been the now traditional story-arc as such, however what there has been is the growing relationships between the TARDIS team since episode one featuring that horrible villain, Tim Shaw and the death of Graham’s wife, Grace. What difference could the 3,407 years that have passed since those events have made? Well, Tim Shaw has become a false God, exploiting the faithful Ux on a planet that looks uncannily like a Welsh quarry (yay!) in order to take revenge on all he perceives as having wronged him, including the Doctor and the planet where they first met – Earth (eek!). The Doctor and Yaz’s friendship has grown, even if Yaz has been criminally underused this series and this Doctor continues to be a bit daft and heavy on exposition. But hands down, the best thing about this whole series has been Bradley Walsh’s Graham. Graham has been the beating heart of series 11 for me. If The Doc has been a brilliant woman; then Graham has been a good man. Did we ever really believe Graham would kill Tim Shaw to avenge his dead wife? Not on your life. If this episode was anti-climactic storywise, it did a decent job of wrapping things up in terms of the relationships we’ve seen develop. Now PUH-LEASE let New Year’s Day bring a big, horrible, squarky DALEK!
The series finale brought us tension, a returning villain to bookend the series and once again some truly brilliant acting from Bradley Walsh but also some heavy expositional dialogue and some wasted use of a villain. For a series that was going to avoid ‘Story-arcs’, having Tim Shaw return from the opening episode was probably the best we could hope for is some kind of narrative end to this series and the reveal of his presence worked well to add to the already established sense of tension and peril. But in the later parts of the episode he seemed wasted, his scene with The Doctor was far too exposition heavy on both sides and he was taken out by Graham and the Ryan with far to much ease than he should have been. Mark Addy was a great guest cast addition and played his clouded memory character in a way that made it seem less like a convenient plot device and instead something that actually added to his character. But the star of this episode was once again Bradley Walsh, from his initial confrontation with the Doctor and their ideological difference on if it would be right to kill Tim he went on a character arc in this episode and played it with his usual subtle acting genius. It was fantastic to see his relationship with Ryan develop to its natural climax “We’re family, I love you” Ryan says to the man he now acknowledges as his Grandad, Graham even got a fist pump.
Tonight marked the end of series 11, a series which in my opinion has been a festival of what Doctor Who means as a show and as a cultural icon. The series has been filled with action, adventure, comedy and sadness and tonight was no different. The bombshell was dropped quite early on that “Tim Shaw” was the main villain. One thing that saddened me was that all of the trailers clearly led fans to the conclusion he would make an appearance. If they had released less in the plot summaries and trailers it would been a more enjoyable reveal. The episode itself was crafted superbly by Chibnell. Although some have put his writing in the firing line in recent months I have found it refreshing and a look back on classic era episode styles. T’zim-sha was an excellent villain it must be said and the story arc for his character has been ended now in an artful and tasteful way. Admittedly I had hoped for an appearance from my favourite villain of this series, Krasko. I can only hope they continue his story arc in the next series. Graham’s emotions ran high in this episode and was an interesting test of what it takes to be a companion of the Doctor. None of this would have come across if not for Bradley Walsh’s wonderful portrayal of the character. The episode also reminded me of why Whittaker deserved the keys to the TARDIS. She has been an inspiration for many and an incredible Time Lady. Overall I thought the episode was an incredible end to the series and it has got me excited for seeing the 13th Doctor star in the New Years Day special and the 12th series of the show which we have to wait almost a year for it to appear on our TV screens.
We have finally reached the finale of Series 11 and my anticipation levels were pretty low. If my expectations matched the anticipation levels then they were met. The return of Tim Shaw was incredibly predictable. He was a joke in the very first episode so for him to come back was frankly nonsensical. This error was compounded by bringing back the Sniperbots from ‘The Ghost Monument’ who were completely ineffectual then and were ineffectual yet again in this episode. To be brutally honest, the entire episode was scene after scene of conversation, continuing the trend for Series 11. I didn’t feel like I was enlightened by the explanations and constant info dumping. Attempts to ramp up the tension didn’t really work but all was resolved. Yaz and Ryan were reasonably anonymous with Graham the undoubted standout. If rumours about a return of the Daleks in the New Year’s Day special are to be believed then it will be an episode too late. Instead of feeling like a dramatic series finale ‘The Battle of Rankoor Av Kolos’ should be regarded as another average instalment of Doctor Who. Simply underwhelming.
That was good. Lots of atmosphere. Moody lighting. A real villain and menace. Suspense. Lots of references to the past…when the two Ux were together at the beginning of the episode, I was much reminded of the opening of the Blake’s 7 episode Duel, with two other immortals contemplating the universe. And a quarry! How ‘Who’ is that? Then the false God on the podium (compare the Emperor Dalek), the Ux on the cruciform sacrificing himself (compare the programme Controller in The Parting of the Ways and The Great Machine in Babylon 5), and the planets held in perfect stasis (The Pirate Planet) only to be sent back to their proper places in space and time (The Pirate Planet again) … Graham listening to the Doctor’s new found pacifism was good and putting Tim Shaw in eternal solitary confinement even worse than death. Some excellent CGI and visuals…things are looking up for New Year’s Day!
You can watch The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos now on BBC iPlayer.
Doctor Who will return to BBC on Tuesday 1st January 2019 with Resolution, a New Year’s Day Special featuring Charlotte Richie, Nikesh Patel and Daniel Adegboyega are set to star alongside regular cast members Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), and Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien)..