The TARDIS receive nine distress signals from the planet of Ranskoor Av Kolos. Deciding to investigate, The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions arrive on the planet to discover a war-ravaged world. Discovering a battered and seemingly abandoned ship the TARDIS team realise that something is very wrong with Ranskoor Av Kolos – who is the mysterious commander Paltraki (Mark Addy) who has no memory of his mission or who he is? What is causing the mist on the planet and what lurks behind it? Who and or what are The Ux. The answers will leave The Doctor and her friends in more danger than they could possibly have imagined.
Every series of Doctor Who has a final episode which marks that seasons’ finale. Like previous years it usually calls back to either an ongoing series arc or a particular element of the series so that the whole series feels properly wrapped up with a neat bow. As there hasn’t been a series arc this year, it seemed that Chris Chibnall would find some difficulty in adequately linking the opening episode to the finale.
However, Chibnall manages to do this by bringing the villain of the first story, Tim Shaw (Samuel Oatley) back to menace The Doctor and her companions. Chibnall artfully manages to make Shaw’s reappearance seem natural and carry on perfectly from the first episode.
Like previous finales, Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways seems the most obvious, Chibnall links The Doctor’s actions in a previous episode to those in the final episode allowing The Doctor’s actions from the previous story to have consequences. Often in Doctor Who, the actions that The Doctor takes in one episode aren’t revisited and we never see the impact of them. The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos reminds us that sometimes The Doctor makes the wrong decisions and that the consequences of them can be disastrous.
Perhaps the only problem was that the episode has is that it lacks a certain grand feel about it. Because of the lack of a story arc for the series or a main villain throughout it this episode feels just like any other. Unlike the first two episodes which introduced the new Doctor, her companions, her TARDIS and her Sonic, The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos doesn’t bring anything new to the table or makes us think of the series in a radically different way. There is no sense of completion, no book ending to this particular run.
There is certainly some resolution for Graham (Bradley Walsh) but because his desire to kill Tim Shaw or his need to feel revenge hasn’t really been touched upon even that doesn’t feel as impactful as it should do. Every series of Doctor Who, regardless of quality, has at least had a final episode that gave the audience this feeling that they had seen a complete story, a full run of the programme. Instead, the audience is left with a feeling of enjoyment but not contention. Hopefully, when the show returns in 2020 Chris Chibnall will have learnt from both his successes and mistakes of this run and produce an excellent series of Doctor Who.
The acting throughout the episode of great. Bradley Walsh certainly delivers an excellent performance. Both Walsh and his character have been one of the highlights of the shows this year and Walsh does not disappoint with the material he’s been given. His resolution to kill Tim Shaw and the reaction it provokes from The Doctor are perfectly done and help to demonstrate the inner turmoil that Graham is going through. Equally, his conversations with Ryan (Tosin Cole) allow us to see Graham realize that he doesn’t need revenge to heal himself – his time with The Doctor has done that already. Graham’s mini-arc is beautifully completed by him not killing Tim and ensuring that he is sealed away in his own prison.
Doctor Who has never been a perfect show and this final isn’t perfect, but it is still an exciting and engaging story that will be remembered in years to come. The evolution of the programme over the past ten episodes have demonstrated that despite, in fact, because of, changes to the show’s format it can still grow and endure. Doctor Who is again one of the most popular programmes on television and long may it continue to be so. The future is ahead of us and it looks brighter than ever.
Doctor Who returns New Years Day on BBC One.