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"The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos" (review)

Now here's an episode title that I am never going to remember. The season finale that wasn't a season finale.

Don't get me wrong: I like it! I like that this was just another episode, much like it used to be in the classic show. It wasn't some overblown epic throwing the known universe into mortal peril or dredging the darkest corners of the Doctor's soul. It was just another adventure, with the tension ratcheted up a bit by the return of an old adversary and the clash between the Doctor and one of the companions. Except for Tim Shaw choosing to destroy planets, including the Doctor's favorite, the story was kept small and personal, and to me, this was brilliant.

It's also pretty singular that this episode is understandable with only knowledge of the season opener. A viewer who didn't keep up with the series would know who Tim Shaw was and could extrapolate from Grace's death to understand why Graham wanted revenge. Though, I feel sad for such a viewer, as he/she missed a great season.

The story provided enough peril that it really needed the entire TARDIS team - to rescue the ship's crew, figure out what was going on, and face down Tim Shaw - and didn't need to slow down the action when it focused on this character or that. Interestingly, other than the sniper robots, the team was barely in any personal danger. Instead, the pressure came from what they were trying to accomplish: rescue the ship's crew, save the Earth, not crush the planet they were on with five other planets.

The star of the show - and this seems to be a trend here - was Graham. He was strong enough to go toe-to-toe with the Doctor when it was important to him, and strong enough to change his mind and be the better man when confronted with the actual choice. With everything else that was going on, that was the real meat of the episode, and it's wonderful that the season finale focused on this tiny story. I also liked Graham's and Ryan's solution to the problem of what to do with Tim Shaw. Very fitting. (And of course someday, someone's going to let that bastard out and fuel a whole new episode.)

As soon as the Doctor handed out the psychic blockers to protect everyone's minds, I knew that someone was going to lose one and get into a lot of trouble... and the episode turned that around with a surprise: the Doctor and Yaz voluntarily gave theirs up to solve a problem, and then actually got them back!

A lot of the elements of this story reminded me of old episodes without being rehashes. The planets pulled out of their orbits and stored somewhere to fuel another purpose had me picturing the Dalek magnetron and the Lost Moon of Poosh. And then of course the Doctor went ahead and directly mentioned towing the Earth with the TARDIS. And then Ryan and Graham ducking down to let the robots shoot each other reminded me of "The Day of the Doctor", though at least this time, it actually (almost) made sense that the two sides managed to wipe each other out.

At the end of the episode, my husband said, "That made me sad." I was surprised, because he had been excited about the story after the first couple of scenes. I said, "Oh, you didn't like it?" and he said, "It made me sad that this is the end of the season!" And he wandered off, humming and grinning like an idiot. Thanks, Doctor Who! It really feels like you're back again.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 16th, 2018 12:56 am (UTC)
Regarding the whole Tim Shaw thing, someone at a DW viewing party I attended made the comment, "Am I the only one who remembers Khan?" I agreed with that, as that character was also trapped and later freed. He'll be back. I know the Doctor is all about avoiding killing. The sad thing is that sometimes... it seems like someone taking on the burden of killing would prevent a lot of trouble and save lives. I suppose that would make a very complicated philosophical argument within a story. If I ever decide to tackle it.

And yes, I'm commenting because I finally saw some of the episodes. Only the last two, but they were worth seeing,
Dec. 18th, 2018 06:56 pm (UTC)
Well, DW did already address that at least once: the Doctor having to decide whether or not to prevent the creation of the Daleks in "Genesis of the Daleks". I suppose you might also count that Twelve episode where the Doctor saves the life of child Davros, knowing full well where that life was heading, but the actual point of that scene was that saving Davros and telling him about mercy would cause Clara's life to be saved (earlier in the episode).

(Hm. I suppose that brings up a far worse philosophical argument: Was it ethical to save Davros's life, knowing he would go on to create the Daleks and kill billions and billions of people across the universe, just to save your best friend's life?)

Anyway. One approach might be to have the Doctor visit a place she visited in an episode and left the villain alive and see the greater evil that's grown since then, and question her original decision.

I've liked the episodes in general this series. I definitely feel the latter half were stronger than the first half. I hope you enjoy them!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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