Borrowed Plots and Being Shot In The Foot
The past few weeks have seen Doctor Who get back into its groove and find its feet after a rocky opening few episodes. The question of whether this is thanks to Chris Chibnall not writing is answered tonight as he takes back the pen to write this series finale. Despite a promising start, the final episode fails to ignite excitement and urgency, instead regressing back to the expository-laden dialogue that his stories have had in abundance this year. While the lack of social and political agendas this time is welcome, the episode ultimately leads nowhere with a plot borrowing heavily from Season 4’s finale, The Stolen Earth.
After an ominous prologue that sets the scene to come, The Doctor and her three companions begin in quite the alien place this year. The TARDIS. It’s somewhere we haven’t seen much of this season but it’s very much welcome here as The Doctor answers a distress signal and sets her co-ordinates for the planet Ranskoor Av Kolos. Once there, they come across a strange man suffering from short term memory loss. It’s at this point where the episode begins down a course of expository laden dialogue, explaining in detail the history of every race and historical fact about the planet, leaving little to the imagination, much less the camera.
As we learn of a sinister plot involving stolen planets and using ancient technology to bring about the destruction of all creation, you can’t help but feel a niggling sense of deja vu. We’ve seen this plot before haven’t we? Right down to the big reveal of a returning villain from earlier in the season. This brings its own set of problems but interestingly, a serious moral dilemma for Graham. If there’s been one shining light this season it’s his character and credit where credit’s due, Bradley Walsh has done a fantastic job bringing him to life. With Graham as the focal character the episode is injected with a newfound sense of energy which is later squandered by an absolutely bizarre ending. Ryan is almost given a few decent lines here but Yaz doesn’t bring much to the table beyond a few one liners and as a plot device to get more information from the strange man they meet when the TARDIS gang first touch down on the planet.
It’s not all bad though and if there’s one thing that Doctor Who has excelled at this season it’s the visual effects. Once again Doctor Who delivers an impressive amount of set design and cinematic visuals making it a much more stylish show than it’s been in the past. You really get a feel that this season is more epic, at least visually, and all of this is thanks to the great cinematography used throughout the series.
On its own, The Battle Of Ranskoor Av Kolos is a perfectly serviceable story but the similarities to previous Doctor Who episodes make it difficult to praise. Much like as what should be the last hoorah and a climactic season finale. The lacklustre villain and truly woeful ending bring about that feeling of lackadaisical indifference and this is the biggest problem with the episode and in truth, the season. There’s no continuity, no structure and certainly a profound lack of vision. I genuinely cannot remember a time I’ve been less interested in Doctor Who, even going as far back as the 6th and 7th Doctor before the show was eventually cancelled. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, the weak link here is Chris Chibnall and unless he goes or improves, Doctor Who will continue to be a ghost of the show it once was.