Television

Doctor Who 11.10 Review: The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos

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.

 

 

Doctor Who returns to BBC One on New Year’s Day. 

4 thoughts on “Doctor Who 11.10 Review: The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos

  1. I think 3-stars would have been fair but I can why you’d go with the 2, considering it’s a finale. I didn’t find it as bad though, I quite liked the wider story but…. in fair context… when something’s called ‘The Battle Of..’ they had opportunity there to be absolutely huge and, in that respect, it really wasn’t.

    I still think we’ve got too many ‘companions/friends’ though to let the Doctor have her time. That being said, I do think she’s got a lot more to do in the last few episodes than the start of the series. Chibnall has some interesting ideas but they’ve got to be bigger, and the Doctor needs her time to really break through like she did in the Witchfinders.

    I quite liked the conclusion but it’s fair to say it could have been any old episode. I also think Graham has been glorious, I loved that focus on what he wanted to do, it makes sense and was worried we’d lose him because of it.

    Finally, New Years Day looks like an old foe, it kinda has to be otherwise with a year – which is ridiculous – to S12, the entire thing might really suffer when some momentum was finally building.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Matt Dennis, I couldn’t agree with you more. I rated this one 4/10 on IMDB, for me the poorest of the season. It’s so frustrating what they’ve done with the show. Unfortunately much of the genuine criticism will be lost amidst the anti-feminist minority who are still sore about Doctor Who being a woman.

    I happen to think Jodie Whittaker is a terrific actress and, after seeing her in Broadchurch series 1, I was quite looking forward to the season. I still think the pilot was good and very promising of things to come, but the quality of the scripts and the rushed production style have really dragged it down over the course of the subsequent episodes.

    I’ve actually noticed a similar issue, albeit it less pronounced, with Broadchurch series 2 which I just finished watching. Markedly lesser than series 1. Too many characters, too many events, all crammed into a slightly tighter running time, and with much of the dialogue reduced to expositional summary, so as deliver as much explanation to the audience about what has happen or how someone is feeling in as few words as possible. It was still a decent season, thanks mainly to strong performances, but was probably only a 7/10 compared to an 8.5/10 for season 1.

    DW season 11 has these same issues writ large. The makers of the show just don’t trust the audience to stay tuned if they don’t understand what is happening or aren’t being bombarded by amusing lines or exposition. Poor old Jodie has had to regurgitate pages and pages of hurried technobabble (echoing the worst of mid-90’s Star Trek) rather than really being able to show what she is capable of. People don’t need wall-to-wall events and endless talk. They are more than happy with silence and mystery and atmosphere. Just look at Peter Capaldi’s best episode, Heaven Sent. Only one character in the whole show (plus a faceless monster) and really no clarity on what was happening until right at the very end.

    I’m not giving up on the show, but am hoping for substantially better in Season 12, as is my 9 year old son who adores the show, but has had palpable indifference registering on his face throughout this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Barry, good stuff, cheers for commenting on our site and Matt’s review!

      I’m also a huge fan of Jodie’s work but do think she’s been let down here and there by underwhelming scripts. I think it was only The Witchfinders, so far, where she’s really had a chance to shine. While I like the ensemble, there’s too many and because of it we lose those small moments of individuality.

      I haven’t minded the Science too much but, I do agree, sometimes actors of Jodie’s calibre can achieve even more with no dialogue, just as well as with a lot. See Adult Life Skills for a brilliant example of how bloody good she is. Capaldi’s episode is a great example there, definitely.

      I’ve heard there’s a slight power struggle between the BBC and Chibnall, which is sad if it’s true, but we’ll see what NYD brings (maybe finally an old foe) and then 2020, even though that’s far too long a wait!

      Like

  3. Thanks for the comment Barry. I’m with you – Jodie’s great, but this series has played it so safe with both her and the stories that it’s been pretty unremarkable. The ratings are up, but if the show is to continue beyond series 12, it needs to start being challenging and ballsy again. There’s too many companions and not enough villains or monsters. Two-Parters would be good to see again as well – gives the show more time to tell a bigger story.

    I am looking forward to NYD special though – the trailer looks superb (better production values too). Hoping Chibnall can pull off a proper epic finale with that one, as this one was sorely lacking.

    Liked by 1 person

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