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Doctor Who the Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos
Review by Paul Bowler
A reckoning awaits the Time Lord and her companions in The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos, as the The 13th Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) Graham (Bradley Walsh) , Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole ) must answer nine separate distress calls on a remote battle ravaged planet with a perception altering psychic field. On this strange world were swirling mists enshroud dark secrets, a military commander has lost his memory, and who, or what, are the mysterious Ux?
The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos, written by show runner Chris Chibnall and directed by Jamie Childs, is the concluding episode of series 11 (before the special episode on New Years Day), and as season finales go it offers a decidedly unusual, sombre and rather emotional note to round off this years adventures in time and space for the new Doctor and her companions.
Team TARDIS are certainly put through the wringer in this episode as they face their deadliest challenge yet, Its also something of a roller coaster ride of emotions for them too. Furthermore it’s intriguing to note how Chibnall’s scrip focuses on how much the Doctor, Graham, Yaz, and Ryan’s adventures together have forged a strong bond between them. They are all very different people now than when they first met the Doctor, and The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos really challenges the new dynamic that has emerged between them.
Along with the endearing genuine warmth and sense of fun which Jodie Whittaker brings to her incarnation of the Time Lord, she also gets a chance to showcase her Doctor’s powerful inner strength as well. Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole also give exceptional performances in this episode as the Time Lord’s ever dependable team of Graham, Yaz and Ryan. With each of their characters getting a chance to shine as they unite against the threat they face.
This season finale also features a strong guest cast that includes Phyllis Logan (Downton Abby) as Andlinio, Percelle Ascott from Wizards and Aliens as Delph, along with Game of Thrones actor Mark Addy as the amnesiac commander Paltraki, and Jan Le as Umsang.
Following their discovery of a wrecked space-ship on the planet Ranskoor Av Kolos, the Doctor and her companions help commander Paltraki regain his memory (using the same neurobalancers that allow them to resist the psychic field), and together they set out to rescue his crew who have been imprisoned by a familiar foe… the Stenza warrior T’zim-Sha (or Tim Shaw as the Doctor calls him) who was vanquished by the Time Lord and her friends in the series premier: The Woman Who Fell to Earth. But on this world known as “disintegrator of the soul” in its native language the Doctor learns T’zim-Sha has manipulated the Ux, faith driven dimensional engineers of which only two can ever exist at any one time, into believing he is their god and the Stenza intends to use their ability to meld reality with the power of their minds to get revenge on the Doctor by destroying the planet Earth.
I have to say I wasn’t all that surprised to see the warrior T’zim-Sha return for the series finale. It was a tad disappointing to see this toothy alien menace make a comeback, as I don’t think he was that great a monster or threat in the first place, and his scheme to destroy Earth in planet The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos does echo concepts from The Pirate Planet (1978) a bit too much for my liking. That said The Battle Ranskoor Av Kolos did turn out to be a better finale than I was expecting in the end. I especially liked the conflict between the Doctor and Graham that this episode served up. Bradley Walsh once again gave an amazing performance, with his character remaining true to himself, his late wife Grace, and his new friends as good old Graham ends up being the better man for the choices he ultimately makes in the final battle with the Stenza warrior T’zim-Sha.
Chris Chibnall’s script certainly delivered some strong character moments once again for the Doctor and her companions, the plot however did feel a little bit like Sci-Fi by numbers at times, so not quite the epic finale we are used to for Doctor Who really, but the stylish direction by Jamie Childs just about managed to hold everything together – even if resolution bamboozled you with techno-babble and threw all logic out the window to get the job done. So, now that Doctor Who series 11 has concluded and The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos proved to be a relatively good – if somewhat unremarkable – season finale, I guess its time to look back at this series and ask ourselves… was it any good?
One thing’s for sure is that Jodie Whittaker has been a revelation as the 13th Doctor, her performance has been exceptionally good, and she’s no doubt proved a lot of the naysayers wrong who’d dismissed the very notion of having a female Doctor outright. Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole have also been good as Yaz and Ryan, although I’d have liked to have seen Yaz get a bit more character development. Ryan’s growing confidence as he coped with his Dispraxia on his adventures with the Doctor and the others was also handled well throughout the series. For me though, it was Bradley Walsh as Graham who really gave the standout performance of this series. His portrayal of Graham as he coped with his grief over the death of his wife, Grace, along with joining the TARDIS crew and his subsequent adventures in time and space, and being a granddad to Ryan were all brilliantly played by Bradley Walsh.
Chris Chibnall has been ok as show runner, but some of the scripts for this season have at times been a bit hit and miss. For me, this season’s highlights have been Rosa, The Demons of Punjab, The Witchfinders and It Takes You Away. My least favourite story was Kerblam! I think because I had to go into hospital for a couple of weeks mid-way through this series, my interest in this season obviously waned a bit, but despite this no matter how well I thought the regular cast worked together and how different each episode was in tone and style I still can’t shake the feeling that series 11 could have been a lot better than it ultimately was.
The longer episode length did allow a bit more room for plot development, but I really missed not having the two-part stories this year, and the lack of any obvious season-wide story arc coupled with series 11 only being comprised of ten episodes also made it feel like this new season was done and dusted just as it began to hit its stride. I really liked the new theme and title sequence though, although I think it just needs either the Doctor’s face or the TARDIS added to give it that added Doctor Who magic and the new crystalline TARDIS interior was also visually striking and refreshingly different from anything we’ve seen before.
I guess in hindsight Doctor Who series 11 will be probably be regarded as innovative, game changing even, despite being a little too PC and preachy at times, but overall I think series 11 held together quite well. It’s just a shame that the scripts for this season weren’t always as consistently good as they could, and really should have been for the beginning of a new era like this – especially considering the strong performances given by Jodie Whittaker and the rest of the regular cast.
Although sadly the Doctor and her companions wont be back in time for Christmas this year, we’ve still got the New Year’s Day special episode Resolution to look forward too where a terrifying evil from history rises to face the Doctor, Graham, Yaz and Ryan as they return to Earth! While a new adventure with the Doctor should certainly get 2019 off to a great start, the announcement that Series 12 (staring Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor, along with Bradley Walsh as Graham), Mandip Gill as Yaz and Tosin Cole as Ryan) won’t arrive until 2020 will no doubt come as a disappointment for many fans, and perhaps cloud expectation for the New Year’s Day Special a little because we know there’s going to be rather a long wait for the next series of Doctor Who…
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