Series 11 / Season 37 comes to an end with the unnecessarily annoying to say “Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”. Sadly, once again, the limits of Chris Chibnall’s script writing rears its ugly head, as while the story wasn’t bad by any means, it was once again lacking in tension or interesting new characters. So, let’s take a look then, as the Thirteenth Doctor’s final outing until New Year’s… in a couple of weeks?!
Answering nine separate distress calls, the Doctor and team arrive on the remnants of a brutal battlefield on the planet Ranskoor Av Kolos. This planet has many secrets. An amnesiac commander? Mysterious mists? Who or what are the Ux? A deadly reckoning awaits the Doctor and team once they have the answers….
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
“Hi ho, hi ho, off to work I go, with a Planet in my arm and a cause for alarm, hi ho, hi ho hi ho hi ho!!”
The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) – The Doctor is always a sucker for answering distress calls, but finding nine all coming from one location on one planet is a new one on her!
Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole) – Ryan at this point is just along for the ride, and answering distress calls is par for the course… does anyone else remember when he had Dyspraxia?
Yasmin Kahn (Mandip Gill) – Yaz became a police officer because she wanted to help people in distress, so there is no doubt in her mind that they’re all going to the rescue on the planet named Ranskoor Av Kolos.
Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh) – Graham is happy to go where ever everyone else is going, though he may find this particular journey more challenging than he expects…
Tzim-Sha (Samuel Oatley) – Once on track to becoming the leader of his people, Tzim-Sha has spent thousands of years on Ranskoor Av Kolos, plotting his revenge against those who wronged him.
Paltraki (Mark Addy) – Paltraki and his crew were among the last of the ships sent to stop Tzim-Sha and his crazy plot of shrinking and capturing planets… At least, he thinks that’s right…
Andinio and Delph (Phyllis Logan and Percelle Ascott) – Two members of the Ux, a group of mysterious and powerful people who only two ever exist in the universe at the same time. They have been sadly manipulated by Tzim-Sha…
Plus more… extras!
“I don’t care Doc, I’m gonna kill him!” “What if I told you there are Arachnids on Ranskoor Av Kolos?” “I’d say that’s finally a worse episode title than Arachnids in the UK!” (Running gag over!)
The highlight of the episode was Graham, for the second episode in a row. Once he hears that Tzim-Sha, the man who’s responsible for his beloved wife’s death, is on the planet with them he frankly and plainly states to The Doctor that he’s going to find him and he’s going to kill him. The Doctor warns him off, saying it’s never the answer and he’d become just as bad as he is, even flatly saying if he does it she’ll drop him off back home, and Graham smiles and pretty much says “doesn’t matter, it’s fine by me.” Something about the fact he doesn’t get into an argument, he just smiles and waves it off was … really interesting. Even Ryan, who admits he loves him on top of calling him Granddad (there’s the final pay-off!) seemingly fails to get through to him.
Obviously during the course of the episode Graham does go face-to-face with Sha and hesitates, The Doctor and Ryan’s words getting through to him, though he does shoot Tzim in the leg to protect Ryan, before the two bung him into a stasis pod for … eternity, or whenever they want to bring him back, I guess. Graham and Ryan’s relationship and love of Grace has been the proper highlight of the season, and while there may have been no arc to the series, that has been rewarding to viewers of the whole thing.
The rest? It had some moments. The Ux, two extremely powerful and near-immortal beings manipulated into doing no good by Tzim-Sha, were fun, just because they looked and acted like they were out of McCoy era late 80s Who, complete with cheesy eye-glowing effects. Why they thought Tzim-Sha was their sort-after creator after he hatched a plan to shrink multiple planets full of life down to a small cubes thus creating planet-wide genocide multiple times for seemingly no reason is another matter…
Paltraki, the amnesiac pilot who only existed to remember key points of the plot at the right time to explain them to the audience, was… only around to remember key points of the plot at the right time and explain them to the audience. That being said, he was good in the role, for what little it offered…
The planet of Ranskoor Av Kolos itself having a weird mental effect on people was interesting, but pointless beyond a few mentions of having to put on a “mental dampener”… plus the name is stupid.
“Oh God! I’ve just spent over 3,000 years committing genocide because I thought this clearly evil man with teeth in his face was you, oh Lord! Forgive my … immense stupidity!”
For the final time this series/season, Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor has failed to make any kind of memorable mark on the role. Just generic “funny Doctor” lines and a Fifth Doctor-level of nice person-ness. Also once again this series/season the lead villain just wasn’t interesting, and it left the episode with an empty feeling, despite the Earth actually being moments away from destruction, there was no real feeling of threat. These are two small points to type up, but they’re so, so important! The only two stories I gave proper praise too weren’t written by Chris Chibnall, and the one I’d put in third place was only co-written by him, so it’s not hard to see where the fault lies in these problems…
Alongside The Doctor, Yaz is falling into the background now, not having any kind of arc to play off of, unlike Graham and Ryan, and therefore just following The Doctor round without much of a personality, which is a damn shame after “Demons in the Punjab” did such a good job exploring her family and home life.
That’s about it, really. Everything was inoffensive, but not very memorable, but the first two negatives are pretty big ones!
I’d say being blonde-haired makes the Doctor overly nice, but then the Sixth Doctor was also blonde, and… well, yeah…
Tzim-Sha debuted in the first episode of the season, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”, and as per usual nearly all other call backs in the episode only related to previous episodes in this series, with three exceptions!
The Doctor mentions using the TARDIS to fly the Earth across the galaxy (Tenth Doctor TV story “Journey’s End”), mentions the Slitheen-related events of Ninth Doctor TV story “Boom Town”, and finally and thankfully, she remarks how Tzim-Sha isn’t the first madman who was shrinking planets that she’s encountered, which is a reference to Douglas Adams-penned Fourth Doctor TV story “The Pirate Planet”. Given it’s not something you see every day, even for The Doctor, it would have been odd if it wasn’t casually mentioned somewhere…
The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos is a generic slice of harmless Who, which is a shame as it was the series finale and the last chance for Chris Chibnall to show he deserves the reigns of the beloved series. Graham steals the show and his development with Ryan saves the episode from falling below average, but this still wasn’t the best note to end on. Still, at least there’s one more episode technically part of the Season left to go! The Christm… the New Year’s Special! Maybe that will be where it all comes together?