A tale of the TARDIS and a Stenza called Tim. Victoria Walker reviews the last story of Series Eleven of Doctor Who.
As a Doctor Who series closer, I can’t say I expected much more than was delivered by Chris Chibnall with The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos. It did not blow me away, not by any considerable measure, and I can’t say it held my attention particularly well. Despite this, I would never say it was a bad episode, and there were a lot of good elements there.
Let us start at the beginning, as is convenient, and let me say I was disproportionately happy to see the crew start in the TARDIS this week, and was just as happy to see the TARDIS actually used to help put planets back where they belong. To steal a complaint, the TARDIS has felt like little more than a mode of transport to get between mysteries. This would be fine, but to a certain extent the TARDIS is a valuable character in the show, and to ignore it as we have this series is a shame. Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor has not had a close relationship with her TARDIS that previous Doctors have had. The start in the TARDIS was exciting, as it reinforces its presence in the show. I hope that the New Year’s Day special and the next series, however far in the future it may be, continue the trend this last episode has set.
Graham was a focal character this episode, and I’m still not quite sure if I liked what it did with him. His want for vengeance seemed uncharacteristic, as he is usually the light relief, even when the episode centers around serious development for him. It can be argued that his want of revenge was justified, as he blames Tzim-Sha for Grace’s death (although with some reconsideration I’m not sure if that is fully correct.) The fact Graham didn’t function to take the edge off until after he shoots Tzim-Sha in the foot leads to this episode feeling like it takes itself far too seriously. I still refuse to see how Tzim-Sha can be taken as seriously as the show demands we take him. I wonder if the Stenza only hunt species with human-like teeth? (Although that isn’t difficult when you consider that most alien species tend to be very humanoid.) His insistence that he is now effectively a god is almost slightly pathetic. At no point did I feel like he’d win, and without the fear from us, he can’t command respect.
Speaking of Tzim-Sha, I can’t say I was surprised when I saw he was back. I’d like to see more of the Stenza, excluding him. He appears to be somewhat of a renegade when it comes to his species, as he was trying to cheat and whatnot. The Ghost Monument gave us a glimpse into what the rest of the Stenza may be like, or at least have been like in the past, however, I have a sneaking suspicion that was only put there to set up the Sniper Bots and awesome tech in this episode. The reuse of a villain for this episode did have a curious consequence for the pacing, as I felt it was slow (shock-horror). After complaining after every Chibnall episode that the pacing was too fast, we’ve got one where the opposite is true. I have a feeling this is a result of having very little mystery to the episode. The only real question was what the things in the minerals were. The question was restated over and over, and we could have done with reaching the climax a bit earlier. Most of the parts with Paltraki and Yaz felt useless, as they were not really plot driving in the slightest.
I’d like to end on a high note and talk about the Ux. I like the Ux, as I tend to like all Doctor Who aliens who have a more naturalistic approach. Sure, the chrome and plastic of things like Kerblam! are fun, but I’ll always be a sucker for those like the Ux. I do question how there are only ever two, but they exist on three planets. Presumably, there is actually a maximum of six? I’d love to have a fact-file on them, they’re the most interesting aliens we’ve had this series.
Tides 43 is, at time of publication, available to buy through this link