Doctor Who Review: The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos

Episode: The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos
Story Number: 286
Series: 11
Screenwriter: Chris Chibnall
Director: Jamie Childs

Thoughts:

And so Series 11 goes out with a fizzle rather than a bang.  It’s not since Series 7 of Doctor Who that I’ve felt such a lack of consistency in tone and writing quality.  But at least Series 7 finished with The Name of the Doctor, which in addition to being an instant classic, legitimately tied up the themes of the series.  I can’t say that for The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos, which is arguably the worst episode of the entire series, and emphasizes all of Chris Chibnall’s worst instincts as a writer and show runner.

Throughout Series 11, fans have been speculating that the Stenza would return, and I didn’t think it would be true, or at least I didn’t want to believe it to be true.  First, Chibnall didn’t seem interested in telling a series long arc or particularly gifted at doing such a thing.  Second, the Stenza is a mediocre monster, suitable only to a regeneration story where your so busy introducing characters and settings that you just need something simple and villainous to move the plot along. We have a character that was mocked as “Tim Shaw” and kicked off of a crane, a boastful coward easily defeated, not a dire threat. And he’s even more easily defeated in the finale.

Graham’s character arc of “man seeking revenge redeemed by his innate goodness” is totally artificial.  While it might be argued that any person would want to kill the person who murdered the person they love, nothing in Graham’s character or storyline this series set up Graham’s behavior in this episode.  The Doctor is right to tell Graham not to seek revenge on Tim Shaw – it’s strategically unsound, it might get Graham killed, and there are more effective alternatives – but the words she uses are awful and reinforce the weird passivity of the Doctor this series that verges on immoral.

The dialogue in this episode is uniformly bad, especially for the Doctor.  Jodie Whittaker is obviously invested in her character and works hard to make it work, but most of the time she ends up just shouting out exposition about what’s in front of her.  Whittaker deserves better.  The plot feels derivative of older, better Doctor Who stories.  About the only thing I’m grateful for is that Chibnall chose not to depict the battle promised in the title (albeit, most fans seem to want a battle.  It would’ve been bad, folks!).

There were some good parts.  The Graham and Ryan character beats were good as always.  Mark Addy was used well in his guest role as an amnesiac captain.  The Ux – or as I like to call them, The Psychic Construction Worker Sith – were an interesting concept, and may have been better developed in an episode written around them.  The sets, make-up, music, and production values continue to impress, even if they seem totally wasted on these bad scripts.

All through Series 11 it felt like the show was taking one step forward and two steps back but I held out hope that it would finally find its grove.  It’s going to take quite a remarkable New Years Day Special to avoid spending the entirety of 2019 with a bad taste in my mouth regarding Doctor Who.  On the other hand I hope they’re using that time to bring in some talented writers and put together a Series 12 that will blow us away.

Rating: 4 of 10

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Series 11 episodes ranked!

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