So What Happened?…
Deciding to answer a number of help signals, Thirteen and her friends travel to a planet called Ranskoor Av Kolos. Once they arrive, it becomes clear that the place has been a war zone and that it emanates a psychic field that alters perception. To combat the latter, The Doctor dons a neurobalancer and gives one to Ryan, Yaz and Graham too; later giving another one to a pilot with amnesia called Paltraki, who’s lost the rest of his crew. As they help him recover his memory, he receives a signal from Andinio and Tzim-Sha, who are holding his crew and are prepared to kill them if he doesn’t hand over the mysterious object they were recovering from the planet. Soon after, as they set about meeting with Tzim-Sha, Graham informs Thirteen that he intends to kill the alien creature as revenge for what happened to his deceased wife, Grace. She responds by telling him that if he murders him then he’ll never travel in the TARDIS again.
Once they arrive at the entrance to the citadel complete with the artefact that Tzim-Sha has requested; what appears to be some kind of extremely dense rock in an outer casing that Thirteen has attached bombs to; Graham and Ryan go to look for the kidnapped crew members, whilst The Doctor, Yaz and Paltraki set about finding the Stenza warrior they’d encountered before. On the way, the trio encounter Andinio who takes them at gunpoint to Tzim-Sha, and once there Thirteen also encounters Delph, soon realising that he and Andinio are the sole members of the Ux, an alien race that are able to control the fabric of reality with their minds alone. After Team TARDIS’ previous encounter with Tzim-Sha where he was teleported away, it’s revealed that he ended up on Ranskoor Av Kolos where Andinio and Delph mistook him for their ‘Creator’. Able to wield power over them because of their misguided belief, he’s spent 3000 years getting them to do his bidding in the form of taking revenge on the races that humiliated him by shrinking their planets and encasing them, which is also what the object was on Paltraki’s ship was. As Tzim-Sha sets his sights on doing the same to Earth, Yaz and Paltraki find four more shrunken planets and it becomes clear that the spaceships that litter the planet belonged to those who tried to retrieve their stolen worlds, but were defeated by Tzim-Sha and his indoctrinated Ux duo. With all of these planets already in such close proximity, and the threat of Earth being added to them, The Doctor surmises that there’s a real risk of the fabric of reality tearing.
In the meantime, Graham and Ryan have found Paltraki’s crew in stasis chambers, along with a slew of other prisoners. As they work to free them, an alarm alerts Tzim-Sha to what they’re doing and after they manage to dodge sniperbots, he goes after them himself. While he’s away, Thirteen disrupts the process of shrinking Earth by applying hers and Yaz’s neurobalancers to Andinio and Delph. She then convinces them to use their powers to return the planets to their correct places in Space with the help of the TARDIS, and restore them to their correct size. After defeating the bots when Paltraki comes to their aid, the pilot and Ryan lead the crew members to safety, whilst Graham prepares for a stand-off with his Stenza nemesis. He can’t bring himself to kill the alien, however, and ends up shooting him in the foot when Ryan returns and is threatened by Tzim-Sha, immobilising him for long enough to insert him in one of the now empty stasis chambers for eternity, leaving the younger man relieved his ‘Grandad’ proved to be the better man. Later, as Team Tardis are about to leave, Delph and Andinio board Paltraki’s ship to help him return the freed crew members to their newly restored planets.
Monster of the Week
Marieke: Hey look who’s back from his zap back to the past: good ol’ teeth stealing Tim Shaw! He managed to convince the Ux race that he is a God, and they do everything for him, even genocide! Yet it still felt like nothing and no-one was really in danger and Tim Shaw was just stuck, rather weak, making threatening speeches! Apart from trying to get Graham into revenge mode (we all knew he would never go through with it anyway) and because Tim never died, it was possible for the monster from the first episode to return. I almost half expected our white supremacist to pop up too at some point… Besides creating a full series circle, there was no real benefit to Mr. Shaw’s return.
Danielle: Not only did extreme!Smurf, Tzim-Sha make a return, we also saw him resurface those sniperbots from ‘The Ghost Monument’ as his personal guard. Technically, Delph and Andinio were also part of Team Evil this week, but rather than being actual monsters, they were good beings that were duped into monstrous acts by the betoothed one.
Marieke: We have already met Tim. We know what he looks like. Maybe the creepiest thing was how he manipulated the Ux. So you know, religion can be a scary thing, but since the Ux never really dealt with the repercussions of their actions, that also fell flat. Basically, there was not much ‘scary’ going around.
Danielle: I guess the Ux’s unquestioning belief in the disgraced Stenza as their ‘Creator’ WAS fairly creepy. It’d have been creepier still if Andinio didn’t come across as particularly dim, in spite of her powers. At least Delph was slightly more sceptical about their boss man.
Marieke: The mystery is why this episode would be seen as a great finale, because it highlights a lot of flaws this series had. The Doctor was unsure and inconsistent (no guns! But grenades are fiiiiine), Graham was used best, Ryan was a bit wooden trying to connect with his Grandad and Yaz, well, another mystery occurs.. What actually is Yaz’s role in #TeamTARDIS?
The Ux could have been mighty interesting, look at their powers! We come in duos! We have faith! But in the end the looked more promising than the delivery. I also feel I have no idea what actually happened in the episode. It seems complexity was tacked on for complexity’s sake. “Hey, we can do complicated too you know!”, Chibnall seemed to scream for his finale. But it still needs to hold up, and more often than not, it did not.
Danielle: The mysteries that moved this episode forward were obviously the whereabouts of Paltraki’s crew, and what the hell was inside those odd shaped containers that ‘Tim’ was so keen on having. The thing that’s most plagued me since the episode aired has been why the hell did Tzim-Sha take 3000 years to come up with such a terrible, convoluted revenge plan?
Two familiar faces turned up this week in the form of Mark Addy and Phyllis Logan. Addy, most famous for his role in Game of Thrones, played the amnesiac pilot, Paltraki, whilst Logan (Girlfriends, Downton Abbey) took on the part of Ux, Andinio.
Scene of the Week
Marieke: Duck, and then you won’t be shot by sniperbots! Apparently, they are too stupid to aim. That was a rather ridiculous scene, but it was a nice metaphor for the entire episode.
Danielle: I did enjoy the scene where Yaz insisted that she was going to stay with The Doctor while she attempted to stop Earth from being shrunk by ‘Tim’ and the Ux, even if it meant that she could die. It’s nice to see that they didn’t fall into the ‘women and children first’ trope, and at the very least, that they’re committed to showing that women (alien or not) can be brave and heroic too, all in line with our first female Doctor.
Marieke: After a fresh start and an uneven series, Who sadly bows out this year with a very bad episode. The title is as complicated as the execution of what was potentially a simple ‘Rah! I am an evil alien, let’s destroy planets!’ plot. As I stated before, I don’t understand why this was chosen as the finale. The stakes seemed high with those planets in boxes and Graham’s vendetta, but there never was the sense of a real threat. Besides, after the penultimate episode of 2018 with two dimensions at stake, this all felt rather small. It wasn’t of course, and endless speeches by Tim Shaw were necessary to emphasise the big threat. The Ux looked very interesting, but they never seemed to face any consequences for their worshipping and killing. Graham obviously never was going to kill Tim Shaw, and came to that conclusion on his own. It would have been nicer for dramatic purposes if any member of Team TARDIS had stepped in, and made him see sense.
The Doctor hates guns, but loves grenades. Of course at first she did not know there were planets in the boxes, but they are still (destructive) weapons. Yaz was just trying to activate Paltraki’s memory and her pairing up with him seemed to echo her talking to Dan in Kerblam! I thought at one point Paltraki might get killed as well. All in all, I don’t feel like I know what the episode was really about. I hope the New Year’s Day special will be better, especially because it replaces the Christmas special tradition. In the new year we will round up our thoughts on the 13th Doctor. For now, this series started a lot more promising and fresh than it ended. With the baddies being sub par, we will have to see if the special will indeed feature the Daleks. Wouldn’t that be ironic? If they were the ones to save the monster record his series…
Danielle: It’s safe to say that ‘The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos’ was much, much weaker than the sum of its parts. It was expected that Stenza dirtbag, Tzim-Sha, would turn up again at some point, but his return was so disappointing that it’s hard to think of a reason why Chibnall insisted on it, other than to wrap up his maiden series in a neat bow just in time for Christmas. The thing that really didn’t stack up was the episode’s own internal logic. As Marieke pointed out, not only was Thirteen hypocritical in the way she enforced her ‘no weapons’ policy, it was her decision not to kill ‘Tim’ in the first place, and teleport him elsewhere, that led to his vengeful plan here. The fact that the Doctor’s commitment to pacifism caused even more suffering and hardship, and yet wasn’t even discussed, seems like lazy writing and a glaring plot hole: all so Graham could have his ‘better man’ moment. In that sense, it feels like the tail was wagging the dog. It’s a shame because the Ux could have been an interesting, new entity in the Who-verse if they hadn’t been tacked onto Toothy!Tim’s revenge plan.
The real issue here is that this finale is representative of a series that has sometimes felt like it was painting by numbers. Of course there have been some highlights in this run, but it’s often felt like Chibnall has paid far too much attention to the calls to return to the lightness and simplicity of Russell T Davies’ era, deterring him from putting his own stamp on the show. Because of that, the energy and ingenuity of Moffat’s tenure has slowly drained away, and all we’re left with is with a retooled facsimile that just feels ‘off’. Whittaker, Gill, Cole and Walsh deserve better. Chibnall can do better.
Our Fezzy Score:
What did you think of ‘The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos’? Let us know in the comments…