Doctor Who: The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos

I don’t know if anybody else got a bit of a Fifth Season vibe from the beginning of this episode. I did, which got my hopes up but overall this was an episode of unexplored ideas. Not terrible but it felt oddly sketched out with hints of something better.

Take for example the idea of this mind altering planet, it gives one character a reason why they can’t initially explain what is going on but otherwise the idea goes nowhere. Which is doubly odd, because it is a concept that could be done really well with a smart script and clever acting.

Likewise the Ooks (sp?), the species of two people who can manipulate space-time psychically with their faith. Great idea but under explored. Also, why are they on the planet that is psychically dangerous? Did they make it psychically dangerous? It felt like we were supposed to get a connection between the two things and we don’t.

The Doctor’s more overt pacifism this season all sits badly at odds with her putting the Tardis crew in such danger. Yes, there has to be a degree of the Doctor being very careless with the lives of their friends otherwise plots just don’t happen as they’ll never let anybody out of the Tardis. Yet here she marches them off to mount a rescue mission into a war zone against a merciless killer. It’s triply odd because the story already has a mechanism for sending Yaz, Ryan, Graham and the Doctor off in different directions: the psychic hostility of the planet.

Chibnall also seems to be trying to do a commentary on religion, perhaps even Christianity. This is not uninteresting but its both too much and too little. Doctor’s more overt pacifism has a feel of a progressive Quakerish Christianity (also consider her riposte to the Bible quote in Witchfinders), we’ve had repeated examples of funeral rights and remembrance of the dead and in this episode the Ooks (sp?) are presented in terms of faith. On top of that, they end up posed in a kind of crucifix imagery. That’s laying it on a bit thick but without actually taking it anywhere. Chibnall is pointing at religion to the point where it is clear he wants us to pay attention to the topic but then…not really saying anything. Religion! Yes? What about religion? Maybe the message is “religion is OK but don’t get too carried away with it”. Which is fine but not a terribly interesting theme for a TV show to keep returning to.

There are multiple dials on every Doctor Who episode. At least one needs to be turned up a notch. Where this season has been fun is where at least one thing gets that extra Spinal Tap nudge to 11. The spider effects in Arachnid made it better, the messed up folktale vibe (and the frog!) of It Takes You Away makes it better. The teeth on Tim Shaw’s face in episode 1 makes it better. Allan Flippin’ Cumming eating scenery! GO UP A NOTCH OR TWO OR FIVE. If there’s already too much in the episode (like this one) that goes unexplored then either pick one and make that MORE or ADD EVEN MORE.

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10 thoughts on “Doctor Who: The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos

  1. My own overall feeling is that once I had bought into the idea that this season was really about Graham and Ryan, with the Doctor effectively being their companion, then I enjoyed it all a lot more. And this episode paid that season arc off really well for me. Even more so than the Eccleston season, where Rose didn’t get anything like as much attention as a character despite being ostensibly the core (Mickey got more progress and he was off-stage for a lot of the time.)
    Sure, Yas was almost entirely a loose-end all year, and I don’t think that the occasional three-way plot splitting that it allowed was ever really worth while in wholly self-contained episodes.

    But I do agree that turning the dial up a tad more on something in each episode would have been a good thing.

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  2. We watch with subtitles — because who can understand those Brits anyway? — and they spelled it “Ux.”

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      1. And now I’m imagining a crossover with Discworld where the Doctor meets the Librarian. Ook! I wonder what would happen if the TARDIS was to enter L-space.

        Anyway, episode definitely not zany enough considering we had reality-altering aliens and the return of Tim Shaw. I think there’s a case to be made that this could’ve (and maybe should’ve) been a double episode given the sheer volume of crazy crap going on.

        Disappointed that Yas was mostly sidelined even in episodes seemingly centred around her and her heritage. Graham-the-character, on paper, is perfectly fine. Having to deal with Walsh be entirely unconvincing in a role that is literally just himself but a few years older was hella frustrating to watch. Ryan was ok for the most part. Whittaker is definitely good at being the Doctor.

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      2. He’s not really “a thing” now to be honest. He’s most well known for being the worst thing about a terrible police procedural (the UK’s Law & Order) and the annoying host of The Chase. If you want to get a sense of his character in Law & Order, imagine Graham in a long coat, and if you want to get a sense of him as the presenter of The Chase then imagine Graham reading questions from cards and laughing at bad jokes a lot.

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      3. I heard Oox and thought “Ox? Ux? Oox?”

        I saw some of L&O UK — was he the one trying and BADLY failing to do the Jerry Orbach role of older cop? b/c your description sounds familiar.

        I saw him as a charity variety show presenter, in which he was Graham introducing music hall acts and laughing hysterically at old vaudeville jokes. It made me long for the stage presence and guests of Ed Sulllivan. I ended up scanning through all his bits and only watching the musical performances by well known people I was interested in. I felt sorry for the random royal prince who had to sit through it and pretend to like it.

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      4. Yep pretty sure that’s his character. And yep he does some cringeworthy hosting of various other things too.

        I wouldn’t feel too sorry for any of the royals sitting through that nonsense though; it’s a small price to pay for unimaginable privilege. (I’m of the opinion that the country would be better without any hereditary figureheads sponging up our tax money to live in palaces and have extravagant weddings. We should’ve followed France’s lead back in the late 1700s.)

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