Wait, that’s it?! Doctor Who Series 11 is over? Done and dusted? You could have fooled us. To be perfectly honest, if we hadn’t of known prior to watching this week’s episode that it was the last in the current series, we’d have expected another episode next week. That’s how ultimately uneventful this series finale is.
There’s nothing big or final about The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos, though there’s promise in the first ten minutes or so. The Doctor and her companions arrive on the titular planet after receiving nine distress calls. There, they find the aftermath of a battle, a lone survivor with a clouded memory, a strange crystal with something hidden inside, and an old enemy. Yes, the Stenza from Episode One, the unfortunately monikered ‘Tim Shaw’, is back! Only this time, he has some super-powered religious fantastics at his beck and call. Cool.
From there, the episode more or less goes through the motions. The Stenza wants revenge, he has a plan to destroy Earth using psychic religious nut-jobs or something, and the Doctor stops him using the TARDIS and some mumbo-jumbo involving the psychics. Oh, and some planets get shrunk. It’s about as achingly average as you can possibly get. There’s no big conundrum, no epic struggle, no difficult choices, no ultimate sacrifices. Granted, it’s not as if the previous nine episodes have been setting things up or building to any earth shattering revelations, but even so, it would have been nice to have something to make proceedings feel less mundane.
Chris Chibnall‘s script is as pedestrian as they come in this respect. You could easily take this episode, plonk it in the middle of the run, and it would fit perfectly – that’s how uneventful it is. It doesn’t help that the Stenza is less-imposing and threatening then he was in the series premiere, nor that the episode never quite combines its multiple concepts into a cohesive narrative.
The one thing going for The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos is, as with most episodes this series, the character of Graham O’Brien. Bringing back the alien responsible for Grace’s death was always going to be a a sore point for Graham, and thankfully Chibnall uses this to great dramatic effect. Bradley Walsh delivers a fantastic, heartfelt performance which lends plenty of fire to his confrontations with both the Doctor and Ryan, whilst his eventual face-off with Tim Shaw is emotionally charged yet beautifully downplayed. After last week’s long-awaited bonding between Graham and Ryan, we were certainly concerned for Graham’s immediate wellbeing, but thankfully he’ll be with us for plenty of stories to come (if all goes to plan in the New Year’s Day Special, that is).
Sadly, the other characters aren’t as well served. Jodie Whittaker‘s Doctor never gets a defining moment or even a chance to steal the show (which is long overdue at this point, as she’s certainly more then capable), whilst both Ryan and Yasmin are once again relegated to window-dressing. The characters all have potential, but devoid of proper story arcs, they simply exist to ask questions and run about a lot on the Doctor’s orders. Compared to previous companions, it’s pretty regressive.
The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos is one of this year’s biggest missed opportunities. There was plenty of potential for a big, powerful, shocking, and moving finale after nine episodes of low-key stories, but what we get is just another low-key story. It might even be the lowest of the entire run. Where’s the ambition? A finale, after all, should leave you wanting more, it should leave you with questions. This? It doesn’t leave us with much to get excited about. Which is pretty difficult for a show as infinite and full of possibility as Doctor Who.