Doctor Who: Series Eleven - How well does it hold up? Part Two - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: Series Eleven - How well does it hold up? Part Two

Moo continues his journey through the highs and lows of the Thirteenth Doctor’s debut season.

Yesterday I revisted the first half of series eleven, an inconsistent collection of episodes. Has the second half of the season aged better?...

Demons of the Punjab
Demons of the Punjab is in the same vein as Rosa before it, proving that series 11’s strengths are in the historicals. Like that episode, it concerns itself with a complex period of recent history where people were turning on their own countrymen for no good reason.

I’d argue this is the better variation on the theme. It works by telling a story of ordinary people just trying to get by. We see a Muslim woman and a Hindu man who want to marry. However their native India is being divided between India and Pakistan that same day, and the groom’s brother has been radicalised by nationalists.

Also there are alien “demons” present.

The main story is a beautiful one. It’s not typical Doctor Who, but as a one-off I am so glad it exists. Special mention to composer Segun Akinola for his haunting score inspired by the music of the Indian subcontinent, especially his arrangement of the theme music. Yes please, keep doing that sir!

Oof, where to even start with this one? Positives first: This episode is gorgeous. The aesthetics, from set design to music to the Kerblam men, are all fantastic. The plotting is done well, with good pacing and action setpieces. The characters are all memorable.

The problems come towards the end. We’ve been told throughout to expect a reveal that Kerblam is an evil corporation, like we’ve seen a million times before. Supporting this is the treatment of their workforce, the stereotypical high-ups overseeing everything, all the usual trappings.

Then we learn that actually the episode is in support of this set-up. The Doctor announces that said system is not the problem at all, barely moments after seeing it murder an innocent person. That leaves a very bad aftertaste, and I can’t find in myself anything but hate for the resulting episode.

What was the point of this one?

The Witchfinders
We’re back in the historical setting for The Witchfinders, and it’s another good episode. This time it’s the era of King James and the witch trials. Finally we get an episode where the Doctor’s new female gender is relevant, and I cannot praise Chibnall enough for not making it an issue until it actually mattered.

Perhaps predictably, the Doctor finds herself on trial, and in some of Jodie Whittaker’s best scenes yet we see her confronting King James. He’s a highlight in this episode, played with a joyful campiness by Alan Cumming. He’s a delight to watch here, hamming it up and chewing his way through the gorgeous scenery.

The aliens behind the alleged witchcraft are a little underdeveloped and poorly explained, but they look great, animating corpses and wandering around the woods. This is classic Doctor Who of the finest vintage. Do more of this please!

It Takes You Away
I love it when Doctor Who writers look at the rules and set out to see how many they can break at once. Ed Hime does exactly that here, giving us a high concept and trippy episode that goes into some weird territory.

The Doctor and companions go through a mirror to discover that the dead are alive there. Graham gets a touching reunion with Grace, but it soon appears too good to be true. That’s because it’s actually a sentient universe trying to acquire another lifeform to be with it. Then it all ends with a talking frog.

Has Doctor Who been this weird and out there before? And yet at its heart this is the story of the love between a little girl and her dad, which is what makes It Takes You Away truly special. It concludes with Ryan finally acknowledging Graham as his grandfather. Wonderful stuff.

The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos
The finale to series eleven is… a sequel to the opener that brings back Tim Shaw for some reason. Who cares? Apparently nobody, seeing as they decided to go back to the eighties and wheel out the old BBC Quarry for one more go. In one sense, you can forgive them for this episode’s lack of content because there’s no stakes built up previously. All the prior season finales, even the weaker ones, at least got that much right. Here we’ve got nothing.

The greatest crime Doctor Who ever committed was that in the year of our lord 2018 they gave us an episode titled “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” unironically. This might just be the worst episode title I’ve ever seen on any show in my entire life. But here I am using up a paragraph to complain about it because there’s sod all else to talk about with this episode.

The episode itself gives us no reason to invest in its story or its characters, so we just sit there for fifty minutes wondering why this episode exists. Yet despite all of that, there’s nothing it does especially wrong other than exist in the first place. Still, I hope Chibnall has learnt from this one.

Yes, this one counts. And how could I not include it? The only episode here to feature any classic monsters or villains. We also get the Thirteenth Doctor’s first encounter with a Dalek, and it’s awesome.

The Dalek creating its own shell parallels the opener where the Doctor creates her sonic screwdriver, and the end result is one of the best looking Daleks ever. It’s like one of those fan-films where they made it themselves only it’s official, I love it! The Dalek seeing off the military is one of the best Dalek sequences since they first appeared, it’s easily one of their top tier stories this one.

The one-off characters are letting the side down here. Mitch and Lin never connect and Aaron comes out of nowhere with an unearned redemption arc for a character we’ve never met before. But it’s hard to complain overall. To the “big dumb blockbuster action” subcategory of Doctor Who stories, Resolution is a welcome addition.

Final Thoughts
Series 11 remains a mixed bag of episodes. The lack of a series arc is felt severely throughout the run and as a result there’s never much of a reason to invest in it. While the episodes that are good are very good, as a whole series it doesn’t really cohere.

It’s not as bad as some would have you believe but it’s equally nothing special. The first female Doctor’s debut season then landed not with a bang or a whimper. More a resounding shrug. It’s perfectly middle-of-the-road overall.

“Moo” is the pseudonym used by this Doctor Who fan. He can usually be found procrastinating by thinking about Doctor Who. Follow him on Twitter @z_p_moo for more of his unusual takes, but do so at your own risk.

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