Doctor Who Season 11 – Ep. 10 “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”

The season finale approaches and the Doctor again faces her first enemy with her new face.

SUMMARY

The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) detects distress calls from planet Ranskoor Av Kolos (translated as “Disintegrator of the Soul”). The Planet contains a field which alters the perceptions of reality for any conscious being, but in practice appears to just cause amnesia. She and the TARDIS Trio head to the planet, with neurobalancers attached to counter the effects of the planet. When they arrive they find an amnesiac pilot named Paltraki (Mark “Robert Baratheon Flintstone” Addy) who threatens them until the Doctor puts a neurobalancer on him. He then receives a call from a woman named Andinio (Phyllis Logan) and Tzim-Sha (Samuel Oatley), the villain from the first episode of the season. He demands the return of an item that Paltraki had recovered from him in exchange for the rest of his crew.

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… He was also Bill Miller on Still Standing, which I also liked.

On the way to help find Paltraki’s crew, Graham (Bradley Walsh) informs the Doctor that he wants to kill Tzim-Sha as revenge for the murder of his wife. The Doctor tells him that if he does that, his adventures are over. He and Ryan (Tosin Cole) go to find the crew while the Doctor and Yaz (Mandip Gill) go to meet with Tzim-Sha and Andinio. Andinio is revealed to be part of a race called the Ux who are capable of manipulating reality, however, there are only ever 2 of them alive at a time. The other, Delph (Percelle Ascott), has been held captive by Tzim-Sha, who they obey because they mistake him for their creator god.

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They have cool eye effects. That’s how you know they’re powerful.

It’s revealed that the item from the ship is actually a miniaturized planet. Tzim-Sha has been using the Ux to shrink down and imprison planets that have defeated him, with Earth being his next target. However, the Doctor manages to convince the Ux that they’re being deceived before the shrunken planets start to cause breaches in reality from the impossibility of their size. Graham and Ryan find the crew and hold off an army of robots with the help of Paltraki. Graham stands off with Tzim-Sha, but declines to shoot him. Tzim-Sha tries to shoot Ryan, but Graham shoots Tzim-Sha in the foot to stun him and they lock Tzim-Sha in a prison chamber. As the group departs, the Ux ask Paltraki’s help in returning the planets they shrunk to the right places.

END SUMMARY

So, we had a really solid premise in parts of this episode, plus some great guest stars, but it just didn’t quite build up as well as it should. The planet that disintegrates the soul? Oh, it’s mostly just amnesia and migraines. The race that can bend reality? Oh, they’re tricked easily by a blue guy like they were the Aztecs and he was Cortes. The return of Tzim-Sha? He’s basically an asthmatic a-hole, like Darth Vader but without the powers or gravitas. His army of robots? Basically just cannon fodder for Robert Baratheon off-screen. This episode should have been explosive, but it ended up being more cap-gun than cannon.

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Ryan and Graham defeat them… by ducking slightly.

Graham’s refusal to kill Tzim-Sha was great, but much of the rest of the episode just didn’t connect with me enough and the stakes, despite being stated as being huge, never FELT huge. It’s like someone saying calmly “this bomb will explode and kill us.” Yeah, it gets the point across, but it doesn’t get the emotions across.

I also have to say, we kind of hit the point where I’m ready for the season to end. Fortunately, it’s the season finale, but this episode kind of exaggerated a few of the flaws of the past year.

First, we are not giving enough character development to Yaz. We have barely given enough to Graham and Ryan, but at least they had an arc that they finished with Ryan finally acknowledging him as a grandfather and Graham forgiving Grace’s killer. What was Yaz’s arc? What changes has she gone through? She’s so well portrayed by Mandip Gill that I almost forget that she is usually ancillary, including in this episode.

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She does stare at other people talking well, but dammit, give her lines.

A major theme of this season has been trying to condemn hatred and I can’t fault that. It’s an element of the Doctor’s character and it’s a big part of what makes the show amazing. The most famous villains in the series are a species that live solely to hate everything that isn’t them and, aside from their designs, that’s why they’re memorable. However, in this season, they’ve gone out of the way to try and show that hatred is much of what has made everyone miserable throughout history and that a lot of that anger comes out of not understanding the other side. We’ve also had the Doctor going out of her way to try and be more merciful than some of her previous incarnations, particularly against monsters acting on instinct.

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Lot about hatred…

The problem with this theme coming from the Doctor kind of comes to a head in this episode: The Doctor is a mass murderer. The Doctor has killed armies and planets and species. Sure, she’s usually only done it when confronted with an unrelenting force that won’t stop, but she still has done it. Yet, her response to Graham wanting to kill Tzim-Sha or King James wanting to kill the queen of the Morax is basically to call them out as being murderers. Now, I’m fine if she was saying something like “I’ve killed a lot of people and it weighs on me” or “you can kill to protect people, but not in vengeance,” but her statement to him basically is “no killing. Ever.” Now, if the Doctor wanted to explain why she’s adopted this position now, that’s great. But that’s going to be really, really hard to deal with if the Daleks or the Cybermen or the Weeping Angels return, species that LITERALLY NEVER STOP TRYING TO KILL YOU.

I get where they’re coming from with this and it’s a great message to try and combat hatred, but even the great pacifists: i.e. Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Leo Tolstoy, Mr. Miyagi, all had to acknowledge that without some form of pragmatic violence, then pacifism is just claiming the high ground on a graveyard. Now, the Doctor, much like Batman, can often manage to defend herself non-lethally, which is optimal, but she has often had to cross that line in the past. This show is in one of the best positions to actually start addressing the ramifications of applications of violence, but this season kind of tried and failed in my opinion. Jodie Whittaker has the emotional range to pull that sort of episode off, and I want the show to take that chance.

Overall, this just wasn’t the climax the season needs. We have the universe at stake, but it felt like they were basically delivering a complicated pizza order. Still, it did have some good moments and it’s almost worth it to have Graham whine about only shooting Tzim-Sha in the foot.

I give it a B-.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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Doctor Who Season 11 – Ep. 1 “The Woman Who Fell To Earth”

I love Doctor Who. I’ve loved it since I first saw it on PBS as a child, not realizing that the episodes I was watching were more than 20 years old at that point. When it came back, I was elated. I’ve enjoyed the majority of the episodes since the revival, putting two among the best episodes not only of the series, but of television in general. It’s truly a magical show for me and I was completely thrilled that someone requested that I review this season for the blog. I will try to have these up ASAP after airing, but life will get in the way sometimes, so Tuesday at the latest.

So, Allons-y! (if any of you are named Alonzo, then I am so f*cking happy right now)

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Where we last saw our hero….

SUMMARY (SPOILERS – In River Song’s voice)

Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), a young adult with developmental coordination disorder (your body doesn’t send the right nerve signals strongly enough), finds a set of strange glowing symbols floating in the air in the woods and, after touching them, a blue pod appears. Ryan calls the police and PC Yaz Khan (Mandip Gill), a former classmate, arrives to investigate. However, the pair get distracted by a call from a train containing Ryan’s grandmother Grace (Sharon D. Clarke) and her husband, Graham (Bradley Walsh). The train gets attacked by a creature made up of writhing tentacles and electricity which moves towards Grace, Graham, and another passenger named Karl (Johnny Dixon). They’re saved by a woman who falls through the roof of the train. Who is this mysterious woman. Yes, there’s supposed to be a period there because I love bad jokes and it’s the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker).

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Thirty minutes into not being Scottish.

The creature tags the passengers and the doctor with sparks before leaving. The Doctor reveals that these sparks have implanted DNA Bombs, a dangerous and mostly banned weapon. They try to track down the pod that Ryan found, only to find another alien creature has emerged from it. That alien disappears, apparently sensing the first one, after killing a man and taking his tooth. The Doctor rebuilds her sonic screwdriver and takes the group in pursuit of the tentacle monster, revealed to be a bio-data-gathering device called Gathering Coils. They are confronted by the second alien, revealed to be Tzim-Sha of the Stenza (Samuel Oatley) who is basically Predator if he collected teeth instead of skulls.

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… Arnold Schwarzenegger would kill him without trying. 

The Doctor’s group confront Tzim-Sha and the Coils at the site of his hunt. The Doctor manages to trick Tzim-Sha into taking back all of his own DNA bombs and saves the target, but Grace dies trying to stop the Coils. Ryan tries to learn how to ride a bike in tribute to her, but never succeeds due to his condition. After Grace’s funeral, the Doctor tells them she has to find the TARDIS which is supposed to be in space above Earth. She builds a teleporter to go to it, but accidentally teleports herself, Ryan, Graham, and Yaz into the vacuum of space where no TARDIS appears to be.

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And debuts her new outfit.

END SUMMARY

Well, let’s get it out of the way, the Doctor now has 27 X Chromosomes, whereas she previously had 17. Not my fault you didn’t take Time Lord anatomy if you don’t understand this joke, but you really should have at least taken Nth-Dimensional Sex Education so that you’d know about the Birds and the Branes.

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Yeah, but my name’s on the site, so… bite me.

Yes, the Doctor is now equipped with a vagina and, honestly, it didn’t impact the episode much. That was probably a solid move on the writer’s part not to go too heavy into pointing out the differences between her and previous incarnations. That made it seem less like Jodie Whittaker was playing a Female Doctor and was just playing The Doctor… WHICH SHE F*CKING NAILED. Seriously, this might be my favorite Doctor debut, right up there with “The Christmas Invasion” and “The Eleventh Hour.” Whittaker debuts by falling into the path of a monster and briefly incapacitating it, which is one of the most Doctor-y ways to be introduced.

The main thing is that Whittaker quickly embodied the Doctor, filled with all of the pain, curiosity, and excitement that usually define the character. I think one of the best moments is when she is forging a new sonic screwdriver and gazes at a spoon so enthusiastically, realizing that it’ll be one of the perfect components to the device, and you really feel almost drawn to her because of the sincerity she gives off.

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It’s the little things.

Her new companions are going to be more of a team than the usual one or two people who follow the Doctor at a time. I like most of their dynamics, although they seem to shift back and forth during the episode. Still, I think that they’ll serve a much different role than previous companions, if only because of the number.

As for the episode itself, it’s fine. The Coils are visually interesting. The jokes that the Doctor makes about Tzim-Sha’s name (mostly just calling him “Tim Shaw”) are pretty good. The main thing that shocked me was that they killed off a character that we were definitely starting to like… and one that was central to two of her companions’ stories. That’s kind of crazy for a show like this.

Overall, I liked this episode. I’d say that in Doctor Who terms, this was probably about a B+.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.