TARDIS 11-10: The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos

Oh my goodness, I can’t believe we’ve reached the end of season 11 already. I’ve really enjoyed this journey in the TARDIS, getting to know these characters, and writing these pieces. Overall, I thought this was a very good finale, but a very different one from past seasons, which is only fitting for the Doctor who’s the most different from all her predecessors. I am glad the team made it through the season intact, which I was not sure would happen, though I will NOT be calling them “fam” anytime soon. Anyway, let’s get into it, shall we?

Speaking of the team, they all did well in their roles. The first instance in the episode of the Doctor using all her resources was how well she split up the team and gave them the assignments that suited them best. She knew that Yaz was the most qualified to help Paltraki, but also the most compassionate and would able to help him stumble through as he recovered his memory. She knew that Graham would be tempted toward revenge and that Ryan would have the best chance of talking him out of it. And she knew that Graham would be the best backup for Ryan if and when they encountered the unexpected. As she says, she’s clever. I really appreciated that Graham was only able to make the right choice at the last second. Any sooner wouldn’t have been true to the character.

This finale introduced a lot of new concepts and characters/species. The Ux were a cool new race that I felt were well-used. At their introduction, I joked that Delph was an Earth-bender, but I was kind of a little right, wasn’t I? Seeing Downton Abbey’s Mrs. Hughes as a powerful psychic alien threw me off a little, but the world of the BBC is so very incestuous, so I’ll just have to get over it. I really enjoyed Mark Addy in the role of Paltraki as well. I can’t say as I felt he had a ton to do, but the plot needed someone to represent all the people who came before in this battle and his part was well-acted. The idea of kidnapping planets isn’t new, as even the Doctor herself mentioned in this very episode, but condensing them down and trapping them as paradoxical “objects” is and is pretty…well I can’t say “cool,” so I guess “impressively horrible” describes it best.  

As I mentioned, this finale was really different from ones we’ve seen in the past and also fitting to the Doctor we’ve met this season. The threat wasn’t to blow up or take over the universe nor was it an all-out gunfight with an army of enemies. It was specific to the Doctor, this Doctor, and her circle. I’m not going to make an outright generalization along gender lines, but the approach to the conflict was definitely told from a female-skewing perspective. The battle was on a smaller scale. It was the battle to figure it out and fix it, rather than the battle to fight and win. I’m going to solve this, rather than I’m going to beat you. She had to use all her resources, the tools she had at hand, as well as the people and her skills. She had think on her feet as there were too many problems that needed solving at the same time. She had to prioritize them, multi-task to solve them, and adapt as the solution to one problem had an effect on another. These talents are far from exclusively female and they are also traits the Doctor has shown in all her other incarnations. However, the talents the Doctor used in this episode are those often associated with women, so it only made sense that was how she chose to fight her enemy. Of course, we can explain her approach as the result of a Doctor who is tired of fighting and just wants to help and to fix and to problem-solve, as we’ve seen this Doctor do all season. In doing so, she did things the Doctor’s way.

The show took a cue from its heroine, using all its resources to bring back one of its most-impressive new villains from earlier in the season. Reusing Tzim-Sha was the best way to make the finale bigger and more impactful, given that we’ve known we weren’t going to see any of the Doctor’s usual big threats. Plus, I really enjoyed seeing this Doctor meeting one of her enemies again and facing the consequences of her having mercy on him, as has happened so many times. This finale took a unique approach to this somewhat familiar situation. Her showdown with him happened much earlier in the episode than it normally would, and from them on, it wasn’t about a showdown with the baddie, threatening or shaming him, it was about trying to solve the problem herself. It was left to others to capture and administer just punishment, which the Doctor can trust her team to do. She’s the leader, but she can’t do everything, she has to play to her strengths and again, use the resources she has, in this case Ryan and Graham, to get the job done. I appreciated her showing compassion to the Ux. They were complicit, but they were deceived. I guess my biggest nitpick is that she didn’t seem angry enough at Tzim-Sha about the 5 counts of planetoidal genocide, but when you’ve too many problems and not enough time to solve them all, I suppose there’s not enough room for useless fury and outrage.

I am very much going to miss this show until it comes back. We have the New Year’s special in a couple weeks, which I will write about, and then we’re done until 2020. Luckily, Doctor Who fans are at least used to droughts like this. We do know that Jodie will return for Season 12 and after what we’ve seen from her for the past few months, I can’t think of a better holiday gift for Whovians. I hope you all have wonderful holidays and I will see you back here for more TARDIS in the future.

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