Doctor Who: The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos Review

Broadcast Date: 09 December 2018
Written By: Chris Chibnall

Series 11 of Doctor Who is concluded with a finale that doesn’t quite hit the spot with lacklustre action and a narrative that feels half-baked, but reminds viewers of the series’ strengths with a great portrayal of Graham by Bradley Walsh.

*Warning: This review contains spoilers*

I think the biggest misstep for this series finale is that it takes on a slower pacing required to actually build tension. The TARDIS crew arrives on a crashed spaceship and immediately meets the concussed Captain, who conveniently has amnesia and so can’t remember the reason why he is on the planet, let alone why his ship crashed. Isolating this, the amnesia trope feels like it drags the finale episode from the start, as The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions discuss for a few minutes about what could have happened, before the perpetrator is revealed to be episode 1 villain Tzim-Sha (still being called Tim Shaw by the TARDIS crew). Then there is more talking, a journey across a dangerous planet void of any real menace, more talking with the alien pair working with Tzim-Sha and an encounter with the most unmemorable monsters of the series: the Sniper Bots from episode 2. Even though this series hasn’t had the most explosive or pivotal episodes in the show’s history, I would have hoped for a crisper and faster-paced narrative.

The abilities of the Ux felt underused working with Tzim-Sha (BBC, 2018)

I think the main reason why fans have responded so poorly to this series is clear to see in “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”. Modern day viewers of Doctor Who have been spoiled – firstly with the Russell T Davies era, and then with the Steven Moffat one, with episodes that are action packed from start to finish and retain an individual flavour that makes them so liked. The series finales of post-2005 Who have consistently involved the potential destruction of Earth or the universe, or a life-or-death scenario for a major character that results in their departure. Earth is on the verge of destruction, but not in the year the companions live, robbing Tzim-Sha’s revenge of the power it should have. A couple of the stars of the show get shot at by Sniper Bots, but at no point does it feel like they are on the verge of life or death. If I would have to describe this episode, I would compare it to the Doctor Who stories of the classic series, which normally spread across four or six weeks; this episode feels like the last two parts of such a story. This could explain why it felt so underwhelming in pacing and content to me.

The return of the most bland robot guards in Doctor Who history (BBC, 2018)

By far, the most successful part of this episode is Graham’s (Bradley Walsh) dilemma about whether to exact revenge on Tzim-Sha for being responsible for the death of his wife Grace. I had wondered whether Sharon D. Clarke’s appearance in the previous episode was meant to bring this narrative to the forefront or was the closing chapter in that story; it is clear that the former is definitely true. The main thing that Chris Chibnall’s era of the show has over the other two modern eras is how they have fleshed out the emotional and psychological sides of The Doctor and her companions so that they feel like real people – there’s no melodramatic love story here! I think Graham’s struggle in this episode is portrayed so well, from The Doctor threatening to return him to Earth if he was to kill Tzim-Sha, to having a gun pointed at the villain and seeing his eyes as he considers what to do. Though the solution feels like the obvious one, it is very good writing and acting from Bradley Walsh, who has consistently felt the most real, and a good finish to his arc. Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) don’t get any real arc here, which is probably the right decision to let Graham step into the spotlight.

Bradley Walsh was sensational as Graham O’Brien (BBC, 2018)

Series 11 of Doctor Who has unveiled a much more personal and character-driven show, which has created some obvious problems in the spectacle department but has pulled it out the bag when exploring the TARDIS crew’s character arcs. “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” thus feels very on par; there is a lack of any real action that feels satisfactory to close off the Tzim-Sha story arc but the acting and writing around Graham’s character is some of the best of the series. I hope that the writers can keep the quality of the latter whilst delivering on more memorable moments in Series 12.

Star Rating: 3/5

What did you think of “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below and don’t forget to like and subscribe to keep up to date with all of my posts.

My final review of Series 11 of Doctor Who sees something evil getting unearthed by archeologists, but what is it, and what does it mean for The Doctor and her friends? You can find out my thoughts on “Resolution”, the 2018 seasonal special, very soon!

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