Tonight, the Doctor and her friends took to the planet of Ranskoor Av Kolos on a mission of mercy—only to find a dark threat and an echo of the past. Want to talk spoilers about Doctor Who’s season 11 finale? Join us!
Cor blimey, it’s Tim Shaw! Hey, people did say they wanted returning monsters this season.
If you didn’t expect the toothy fella from the first episode of the season to be back with a vengeance in “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos,” then join the queue. But it was actually kind of a fun surprise, not only because of a familiar face, but because it gave “Battle” a fascinating opportunity—instead of an all-out whizzbang end-of-all-things season finale with massive stakes, it became something this season of Doctor Who has excelled at: a story where the stakes are personal and character-driven. The Doctor is forced to reckon with the consequences of her own slapdash actions putting vast quantities of people in danger, and Graham is faced with the moral dilemma of whether or not he should get vengeance on the Stenza for Grace’s death.
It’s a little weird then that “Battle” also tries to be a bit of a whizzbang end-of-all-things season finale with massive stakes, with the reveal that Tim Shaw has been marrying Stenza technology with a bizarre race of powerful psychics to kidnap entire worlds, amping up the Stenza’s hunt-driven culture to swiping whole planets instead of a single trophy. It does add more consequences to the Doctor’s actions of attempting to punt Tim Shaw back where he came from in the season premiere, and you get the fun added peril in an episode that, like many others this season, would otherwise be a lot more subdued.
But those stakes are built up and then dealt with so quickly to focus on the excellent character drama—Earth is threatened with capture for all of what, three minutes?—that they feel flung into the story just for the sake of it being the finale, rather than being driven by factors that have organically built up over the season, like the rest of it did. They added some fun scale, at least, but the finale would’ve stood just a strongly (thanks to the Doctor and Graham’s arcs) without them.
We’ll have more to say about “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” in our last recap of the season tomorrow, but for now, share your thoughts on the finale (and season 11 at large) in the comments below.
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