The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos – Doctor Who Review
It’s rare that Doctor Who has a series finale that is not a multi-part story. I went into this a little apprehensive that it might fall flat if it wanted to produce something big and impactful without the time to do so.
However, The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos delivers a fairly decent piece of drama with some weighty emotional punches. While there are certainly ways it could have been better, it had a gravity and scale that impressed, as well as plenty of smaller scenes that kept me on the edge of my seat.
While it is ostensibly a stand alone story, it could also be seen as part three of a trilogy. With The Woman Who Fell to Earth and The Ghost Monument filling the first two. Indeed, if you watch them back to back like that, it does feel a little more like a tight, coherent narrative. The Stenza Trilogy. Or maybe the Tim Shaw Trilogy.
It’s not just about Tim Shaw, though. It is about grief, and revenge. Both of these themes are enhanced by the rest of the series, especially in the case of Graham and his character arc.
Tim Shaw has become isolated and obsessed with vengeance, having little to no interest in changing or developing as a person. Graham, on the other hand, has grown and developed over the course of his adventures with the Doctor.
The fact that Graham’s desire for violent vengeance hasn’t been explored is one of the ways this falls down slightly. It shows itself in a cold fury, which is there if you know to look for it, but could have done with being a little more explicit.
Arcs of Time
This story rounds off the big character arcs for this series, which focussed on Graham and Ryan. Their building comfort around each other and growing mutual support has been a delight to watch.
The focus and time spent on them paid off, but it did have the side effect of letting both the Doctor and Yas feel a little like side characters. Neither had particularly strong character arcs, nor did they really develop through the series. Which is highlighted by the fact that one could easily watch episodes 1, 2 and 10 back to back and not really notice a difference between Yas and the Doctor’s characteristics therein.
Chibnall has hinted that he has a five year plan, which suggests that perhaps series 12 and 13 will give us more of Yas and the Doctor. When focussed on a single series it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there is more to come and that the story isn’t over yet.
Mark Addy as Paltraki was a delight. Addy has really developed as an actor over the years and here showed some real talent for putting emotional weight into his words. Though his character had minimal screen time, he came across very powerfully.
His character, plagued by the planet’s psychic field, cannot remember his own name. This is a useful plotpoint, and the Doctor’s mental balancers act as a way of staggering the flow of information throughout the episode. Something of an improvement on previous stories that have seen all the answers being given at once.
However, the psychic field which distorts perceptions of reality was a really interesting concept that wasn’t really given air. Perhaps if this had been a two-part story we might have had part-one exploring a plant of lies and the Doctor figuring out that they needed the mental balancers. An ending revealing the return of Tim Shaw would have made for a good cliffhanger, too.
A Series in Parts
While I will come back next week for a full account of this series, one thing that is on my mind is the stand alone nature of the episodes. Did it work?
Doctor Who is very much a show that appeals to a very wide audience and on a lot of levels for a lot of reasons. Having each episode stand alone can be a good way of jumping stories, genres, and styles to suit as many people as possible.
However, Chris Chibnall has more of a talent for story arcs and playing the long game. His work on Torchwood series 2 and Broadchurch display this clearly. I do not think he is bad at writing stand alone episodes, but it’s clearly not his greatest strength. Which is interesting, as it is the opposite of my main complaint about Steven Moffat.
New Year, New Foes
All that being said, we can look forward to a new year special with a new foe. Right? Brand new villain that is deffinately not a Dalek. Definitely not. I mean… It could be TWO Daleks!