“The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” completes the first season of Doctor Who with Jodie Whittaker in the lead role. She is accompanied by Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, and Mandip Gill. Mark Addy and Phyllis Logan guest star in this episode which is penned by showrunner, Chris Chibnall.
The Doctor and her companions answer a distress call and find a planet littered with crashed spaceships where they encounter a long amnesiac survivor played by Mark Addy. They also find the Stenza warrior Tzim-Sha has been waiting for her since their first encounter in “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”.
This episode seems to be pretty low-key for a season finale. Low-key works sometimes and I was hoping that the new producers would resist the temptation to have some galactic menace every week. A season finale needs to have a story where the stakes are higher. Tzim-Sha did have some plans to destroy Earth, but the threat did not seem that urgent since everyone was on a distant planet.
Once again, it is Walsh and Cole who get the more compelling personal material. Walsh’s Graham O’Brien has an opportunity to settle a score over the tragic death of his wife which could be laid at Tzim-Sha’s feet. The two of them work well together, and it was kind of moving when Ryan Sinclair called Graham granddad and admitted his love for him. Graham had been married to Ryan’s grandmother and had yearned to be acknowledged as family by the younger man. Yasmin Khan, played by Mandip Gill, still isn’t all that germane to the story. Chibnall’s team of writers could stand to take some cues from the original writers of 1963 since the initial three companions each were able to contribute to the momentum of the story.
Whittaker had a few interesting moments, but she still lacks that moment where she really grabs me. The Doctor’s little pep talk about traveling with hope at the very end of the episode was kind of cool. Some fans feel that this year has been a disaster for the show. I haven’t quite gotten to that point, but I can understand where some of the harsher critics are coming from.
The title is somewhat misleading because there really isn’t much of a battle. Some battle is alluded to that took place in the past, however the title still doesn’t seem to have been really justified.
This particular addition once again had a few moments that worked well enough, however the overall story still doesn’t really make an impact. The only real triumph was how Graham and Ryan finally connected and acknowledged that they were family.
I thought there has been some minor improvement in Whittaker’s take on the Doctor although she still seems to be channeling her more recent predecessors. Her reaction to Graham’s stated intent to avenge his wife’s death rang with a certain familiarity. Some critics claim that her acting is just atrocious. She’s not going to be a favorite Doctor of mine, but I don’t think her actual acting ability is that bad. I think Chibnall makes some terrible decisions in his plotting, so I lay the bulk of the weaknesses in this series at his door.
So, there is going to be a special New Year’s Day episode and no new Doctor Who episode until 2020. I will have more to say about that in an upcoming blog as well as some pontification about the direction the series has taken this past season.