‘The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos’ – ‘Doctor Who’ Series Finale Review

The eleventh series of Doctor Who ends on an extremely weak note.

It’s rare that I leave an episode of Doctor Who not really wanting to talk about it. But hey-ho I’m the one who has to write the review. So here goes.

The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos is a bad episode and an even worse finale. But what is seriously frustrating is that it’s not even an interesting type of bad. It just has such little ambition as a story that most of its shortcomings come across as a failure to understand itself and its characters on a basic level.

I don’t want to be negative for the whole review. So here are all of my positive notes: the actors and their acting were great as always…

Moving swiftly on.

First of all, why did they have to butcher Graham’s character? Throughout the whole series it was never suggested that he wanted revenge for Grace’s death in The Woman Who Fell to Earth. For the few instances where they did focus on Graham coping with Grace’s death in the series, it was just that. Him learning to cope, to move on, and live his life. It’s not the best depiction of grief on TV, but it had its moments and most importantly, it was sincere.

And now they want to pretend he is capable of killing? For revenge? Give me a break!

I despise the type of writing and ‘character development’ where a character regress to an unrecognisable state, and then build themselves back to their status quo. It is backwards storytelling.

But here’s the thing, the issue with Graham is only one symptom of a larger problem that The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos has. It’s that everything, and I mean everything in this episode feels so inconsequential.

There are no stakes! I mean the characters say there are, and they say it quite frequently. But it never comes across like that. Show but don’t tell, anyone?

Going back to the whole deal with Graham wanting to kill Tim Shaw (oh yeah, he’s back by the way), does he come close to acting on it? No!

He just announces his intention to kill to the Doctor. And that’s about it. He has a few discussions with Ryan about it. Doesn’t mean anything. We all know he was never going to do it. It is just so insincere. The conflict is false. So, when Graham does get his big hero moment at the end, it doesn’t feel like it.

There are no stakes to anything here. Towards the end a giant red beam of death gets fired at Earth. At first it makes you think that there’s an actual threat to the planet. But no, we cut back to it a minute later and half the planet is covered in red. You know no one was ever going to be hurt. And the fact is, it would have been such an easy fix. Cut back to people on Earth! How were they reacting to giant red death beam? Literally anything to make the danger feel more real.

This is the least Doctor Who-y Whittaker’s Doctor has been written this series. Her character seems to have taken a back seat to just be an exposition machine. And it’s all so uninterestingly done. She doesn’t really get an opportunity for her Doctor’s personality to shine through. Instead it’s just moving onto explaining the next bit of plot, and the next bit, and the next bit and – you can see how frustrating this is getting right?

Also, Tim Shaw is a naff villain. I know he wasn’t great in The Woman Who Fell to Earth, but here he’s so boring. All he wants is revenge on the Doctor by committing mass planetary genocide, and he doesn’t even have the decency to snap his fingers. Do they do anything with this? Does he and the Doctor share more than one scene together? Is it worth asking more questions for you guys to get the idea?

Nothing stands out, either in the episode’s direction or its visuals. Everything is so dull. The Ux (basically Jedi but for Doctor Who) allegedly have the ability to create anything with just their mind. Think of all the possibilities! Which is why it makes perfect sense that their shrine looks like a generic evil alien spaceship from both the outside and the inside.

Notice how I have failed to mentioned Yasmin at all? Exactly. Three companions are too much.

There are so many more little problems I could go on about with this episode. But it’s just not worth it. It’s a pot noodle Doctor Who, but if the pot noodle was being served to you at a five-star restaurant… and had a fly in it… that was slightly on fire.

I was going to do a retrospective of the whole series as a separate article. But honestly, this episode has bummed me out to the point where I don’t think it’ll be worth it. Like I said, it is a rare thing where I don’t want to talk about Doctor Who. So, I think it is wise to wrap up series 11 with a neat little bow here.

Series 11 as a whole is… average. Now that’s not a bad thing at all. In fact, when I had a go at ranking all the series of the revived era, series 11 ended up right in the middle. So, it did quite literally turn out as the average.

However, I think it would be fair to say that for me, series 11 was a bit of a disappointment. I think my expectations were a bit too high going in. In fairness the marketing for this series, both prior to and during the airing, has been excellent. It just feels like something got lost in translation.

We were promised something that was new, fresh, different, exciting! And I think, even if its script wasn’t great, The Woman Who Fell to Earth fulfilled that. It did feel new and interesting, and unlike anything Doctor Who had done before. Especially in its first fifteen minutes.

And then as the episodes kept coming out, we lost all that freshness. Again, speaking on a purely visual level, what started the series as unique and new, morphed into something that very closely resembled the previous era of Doctor Who.

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. I think the show still looks good, it’s just that what was once ‘new’ is now back to ‘as expected’.

I also think the dedication to make each episode a standalone this series both helped and hindered it. On the one hand, when a standalone story is great, you can just watch it without having to keep up with the rest of the series. However, it does mean when you string these episodes together to form a whole, the series is lacking.

None of the characters evolve. Ryan, Graham and Yasmin at the end of episode 10 are the same Ryan, Graham and Yasmin at the beginning of episode 1. There is no sense of growth, or that their characters have changed. Yes, they are a likeable TARDIS crew. But it is not enough to make you care for them.

The series feels stagnant. Again, not referring to the individual episodes. Because a fair number of them are good, with some leaning very heavily into great. But there was never a reason to keep watching week on week.

This issue does reach its peak with the finale, because at the end of the day The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos feels like just another episode. And if it was placed anywhere else in the series, it would have more than likely been forgotten about. You don’t feel like the characters have completed a journey. Beyond the companions constantly parroting it, you don’t get the sense that being with the Doctor has had any significant impact on their lives or their characters. It’s just annoyingly empty.

What’s particularly frustrating about this is that I know Chris Chibnall can be a great showrunner. All you need to do is watch the first season of Broadchurch. It does set up, build and pay-off almost perfectly. And it quite frankly hurts not seeing this get translated over to Doctor Who. Because it is so close and needs the smallest nudge.

This retrospective is turning out far more negative than I intended it to be. Because I did enjoy series 11 for the most part. And it does have some great episodes. But these issues keep eating away at the back of my mind.

That being said, who foresaw the guest writers being the stars of the series? That came out of nowhere, and honestly, I am pretty glad it did.

I am honestly fine with the ‘bigger’ stories being a bit naff if we keep getting more like It Takes You Away and Rosa.

And there are a lot of other great things this series has done behind the scenes. Putting a greater focus on hiring people who normally would not be given the opportunity to write for Doctor Who is a legitimately wonderful thing. And I hope it is something the series maintains for the future.

It has been a lot of fun writing these reviews for ASM. At the very least it’s given me something to do on a weekly basis. So, there’s always that.

I shall leave you with my final rankings for each episode of Doctor Who: Series 11.

  1. It Takes You Away
  2. The Witchfinders
  3. Rosa
  4. Kerblam!
  5. Demons of the Punjab
  6. The Tsuranga Conundrum
  7. The Woman Who Fell to Earth
  8. The Ghost Monument
  9. Arachnids in the UK
  10. The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos