“Doctor Who – The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” (Episode 10, Season 11)
Produced by: Chris Chibnall
Featuring: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill
The Doctor: “Don’t quote my own rules back at me!”
This weeks episode “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” marks the final one of the eleventh season of “Doctor Who” (1963 – present) which has seen, I believe, some very good episodes, not absolutely great ones but some decent ones that have highlighted the new Doctor as well as her friends as they all get to know each other, as well as letting the audience in on these new relationships. This episode is a trip to outer space with a largely convoluted plot that reintroduces an old villain, although only from episode one, not as I had personally hoped one from the classic series. This, for me is a half hearted attempt at making this season mean something by book ending the bad guy, as well as giving some closure to at least two of the new Doctors companions, my guess as a parting of the ways that once again attempts to give meaning, which it definitely does not. It seems there is too little too late to really make nothing more than a diversion for the show something wasted especially in terms of a wonderful new actress playing the Doctor as well as her companions who are all great, in my opinion.
One of the strengths that Chris Chibnall brings to the show, is the ability to cast characters extremely well which is not only bourn out by the main cast but by all the excellent guest stars we have seen over the first nine episodes. The only really issue is that in most cases the guest stars have little to grab onto, this is no more than the case than this week with the excellent Mark Addy who should steal the entire episode but just drifts from scene to scene with very little scenery to chew on, something he is a master at. This show has been given everything, a great cast, excellent special effects, a friendly time slot and a history like few other franchises before it. Yet week after week it has attempted to distance itself from everything that has gone before so while many of the central plots have been fine, it is the villains or antaganosist that have been ho-hum, and not interesting in the least, this week is a prime example of that – truly a forgettable foe that means nothing in the scheme of things.
Audiences both old and new in this age of peak viewing need a reason to hang around week after week, the only way to do that is to make them return to see what happens next in the plot as well as, hopefully, in an overarching narrative. Now while I am not a fan of heavy serialization in my television I think a page out of the Tennant era is required, that is a light narrative that loosely connects a season together with some revelations made in the final few episodes – this is something that is not happening as of yet for entire season. My hope is that next season we see some memorable antagonists that have some weight to them and don’t feel like afterthoughts which is a true crime in sci-fi. What is needed are clear aims as well as some unique and memorable antagonists that are three dimensional beings who we understand as ‘Who’ villains not cutouts that seem like they are made up on the spot.
Unfortunately, for me this was not a great episode at all, the reason for its existence as well as bringing back the alien from the first episode was to arbitrarily have a reason to reduce the number of ‘Who’ companions as well as tying the knot on a relationship that I thought had been ‘fixed’ last episode. It also seems to be attempting to bring morals to the show which I thought were inherent as well as being obvious to anyone that has seen the show even once before. This weeks episode then is another monster of the week that really is entirely forgettable, not just the monster or villain but the actual episode itself.
This is a finale of what should have been one of the most important seasons in the history of “Doctor Who”, possibly just after the reboot all those years ago. Say what you want about the Davies era, that first season was unmissable with a new Doctor, new effects, a great companion as well some stories that had big payoffs and really went for it, they knew that it could end at any point. Now we have the same circumstances but it really has been mediocre because of the structure of the season as well as the foes that have been put forward. Don’t forget that first season brought back at lease two classic Who villains who were used very wisely – I think that is what is missing here.
Normally I would say that I am very much enjoying these new episodes quite a bit, it is a big step up from last season, with stand alone episodes being a very good decision to get audiences used to some very big changes, I am looking forward to what is to come. My hope is that next the season will be another step up, follow through on some of the early promise as well as making the show relevant, not forgetting that it is a sci-fi show first that operates on the fact that the central character is a Timelord who is not only one step ahead of her friends but also knows instinctively what is going on around her, think back to not only classic Who but also the very best of new Who as well.
“The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”
Written: Chris Chibnall
Directed: Jamie Childs
The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos finds the Doctor and co on the planet of Ranskoor Av Kolos amongst the remains of a brutal battlefield, where they must field nine separate distress calls.
The planet, however, holds far more secrets. Who is the mysterious commander with no memory? What lies beyond the mists? Who or what are the Ux?