Doctor Who: Revisiting THE BATTLE OF RANSKOOR AV KOLOS - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Tony battles for consciousness.

Let’s be honest here: The Battle Of Ranskoor Av Kolos never stood a chance of being the blow-out series finale it needed to be. The single-episode format of Series 11 meant there was no chance to build up the thrum of approaching menace or high impact, leaving the most impenetrably named episode in recent years just the run-time of one episode to establish its menace and deliver it.

As a creative decision, that’s arguably madness, but clearly Chris Chibnall thought there was a way around it by bringing us full circle, for another encounter with the Tooth Fairy from the first episode of the series, Tzim-Sha. Or…y’know, Tim Shaw, as absolutely everyone, including the Doctor in an act of dramatic internal show-mockery, calls him.

The point at which that falls down is that nobody was particularly blown away by the Stenza the first time round, so The Battle Of Ranskoor Av Kolos was the return engagement literally no-one had been clamouring for.

Beyond that, there are just bushels of unanswered questions and dangling plot-threads in The Battle Of Whatsit Av Thingummy – multiple distress calls, but they only answer one, so were the others supposedly from the other crashed spaceships? And are all their crews dead now? Was there really a point to the atmosphere that messes with your mind? How do the Ux go from smashing some rocks together through telekinesis to beaming across the vast depths of space, crunching planets down to bowling-ball size and bringing them back to pointlessly sit around in perspex prisons until the plot needs them to become unstable and cause a late-stage tremor of peril?

It all feels monstrously forced, the plot of The Battle of Dewberry Av Whatchacall, with no natural flow to it, either within itself or from the adventures that have preceded it. What’s more, in her first series as the Doctor, there are only a couple of writers who’ve given us something particular to latch onto in terms of the Thirteenth Doctor’s character, and showrunner Chris Chibnall has only occasionally been one of them. Here, he seems to give us a Thirteenth Doctor who finds it difficult to cope with the drama and the pressure of her situation, before coming up with an idea for which there’s no back-up and which endangers others, in a kind of lash-up of The Pirate Planet and The Stolen Earth. The ideas feel stale, the jeopardy manufactured for the sake of putting something on the screen, and ultimately, we don’t believe for a moment that the Earth is in danger from the Tooth Fairy and his psychic acolytes. It’s all just ultimately…meh. What’s more, it’s ultimately meh in the slot where a big, bold, impressive series finale should be, which intensifies the meh-ness by virtue of its position. Meh…squared, if you will.

That’s not of course to say there’s nothing good in The Battle of Oojamaflip Av Falafel. Phyllis Logan as Andinio hits the thing head-on, and gives her character the kind of desperate hope you can find in many fervent believers in a misguided religion – it has to be right, it just has to be, or all her struggles have been in vain. And not for the first time in Series 11, the best thing in the episode turns out to be Bradley Walsh as Graham, who here gives a poignant alternative to the Doctor’s point of view, and insists on his own viewpoint being equal to hers, in a quieter, older, more grown-up and consequence-taking way than we saw with the likes of Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble. While it’s Walsh who shines brightest in the episode, the double act he forms with Tosin Cole’s Ryan as they debate which path to take to best honour Grace’s memory when faced with her killer is engaging, especially after the end of the previous episode, where Ryan calling Graham ‘Grandad’ felt like a watershed moment. Here, there’s a realistic puncture in the meaning of that moment, when Graham tells Ryan he’s been ‘waiting too long for that an’ all.’ You can’t stay in a Hallmark moment your whole life, and Graham’s demand for Tim Shaw to pay a life for a life feels like a thing honestly arrived at, and somewhat reluctantly moved away from.

As a mid-series episode, it’s tempting to think The Battle of Instantly Av Forgettable would have fared better, but if we’re honest, it would probably still have been down towards the Tsuranga, Ghost Monument end of the spectrum. As a series finale, the forcing of ‘adventure’ into the script, the return of a villain so anaemic as to be forgettable the first time round, the warmed-over leftovers of scripts gone by, the insecure Doctoring and the overly scripted Doctor-monologues of hope and surprise and I do believe in fairies, I do, I do makes this episode an entirely epic failure, despite the excellent Graham work and Phillis Logan acting her socks off. With Who not returning till 2020, rather than giving viewers an air-punching ending to see them through, it dropped them into a Twin Dilemma-style pit of wondering whether the show would still be like that when it returned, and it turned up the necessary expectation on Resolution, the New Year’s special, to deliver a story that punched at the entertainment-weight of which Doctor Who was – and still should be - capable.

Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at

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