The finale is here. Ten episodes and the culmination of the series is here for us all to marvel and gawp at.
Or at least it would be if it were a finale. I am not even sure that it is a culmination either. More of a book-end really.
This is a finale only in the technical sense of the word. Why? I’ll explain later.
The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos. A title better given to one of the Flash Gordon pulp serials of the 1930s than an episode of Doctor Who. Easily the worst title of any episode since they stopped giving individual titles to each episode in the mid-sixties. Grand Theft Planet would have been better if more spoilerish. The Pirate Planet 2 maybe? Honey, I Shrunk Some Worlds?
We start off on a planet which you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to know that is the titular planet of Ranskoor Av Kolos. We have two people. One male, one female, one black, one white. I don’t know why I phrased it like that but it is what it is. The female is Andinio and the male is Delph.
These two are religious pilgrims. Or just religious. Andinio seems to be teaching Delph something, Not sure what. But it comprises going glowy-eyed and making a rock totem pole with the power of his mind. An even t which is curtailed when something appears behind them. Not the TARDIS.
But where is the TARDIS? Our favourite blue box is somewhere in time and space, and the Doctor has received lots of distress calls all at once. So our heroes are going to answer them instead of following Graham’s suggestion of going bramble picking.
Please note that a lot of distress signals are picked up. Yet – beware the spoilers – our heroes only discover one lone survivor on the planet with the stupid name. So who sent the other ones? If they had been sent by the other people who have crashed upon the planet, where are the other people and why have they all come at once? It makes no sense unless there are other people and we just don’t get to see them. Perhaps the guy we do see has sent all the signals himself all at once?
“Ah, Ranskoor Av Kolos. Which translates as ‘disintegrator of the soul’. Bit quarryish.”
“Yeah, Doc, why do all of these planets you take us to look like quarries all the time?”
“Oi, Graham, that last planet didn’t look like a quarry.”
“Yeah, but that was Earth and you landed us in a quarry…”
Quarrylike world with crashed spaceships littering it? Sounds like Karn. Ooh, brain-snatching monster alert? No, sadly not. This is the same planet that we saw earlier but 3,000 years have passed. The future’s dull, the future’s beige.
But I am getting ahead of myself. The TARDIS materializes upon one of the spaceships which is more Centennial Pigeon than Millennium Falcon. It is better than it sounds.
Before leaving the TARDIS, the Doctor gives out neurobalancers because Ranskoor Av Kolos , as well as being a dungheap of a planet, also has some weird psychic field going on. Without the neurowotsits, their perception of reality would be altered. This is why Ranskoor Av Kolos is a haven for hippies. By the way, wasn’t there a similar planet in Death Comes to Time?
A man appears out of the dark. With a gun. But he is played by Mark Addy so we all know he isn’t going to be a bad guy.
“Why are you? Did they send you?”
“No one sent me, love. I am the Doctor and these are my familiars. Graham, Ryan and Not-Graham, um, Yaz. We sent ourselves. First class, second day delivery and all that. Who are you?”
“I can’t remember…”
“We picked up a distress signal. Did you send it?”
“I don’t remember… I might have done.”
“Do you even know where you are?”
“Of course I do!”
“Where are you?”
“I am right here!”
“Who are you? Did they send you?”
This man makes Douglas Adams’ Man in the Shack look like Mister Memory.
The Doctor slaps a neurothingie on the man and he suddenly starts to recall who he is. He is Paltraki. Nobody is any the wiser. He doesn’t even know why he has a giant cloudy crystal with some kind of vibrating ball thing inside. This crystal gets the Doctor’s interest, she is such a magpie this one.
A beep noise is heard. Somebody is calling Paltraki on his ship’s coms. He waves them out of camera range. Why? Because a Plot Point is about to occur, that is why.
“Ahoy-hoy!” says a voice. It is Andinio! But she is with somebody who isn’t Delph. Unless Delph has developed a 70-ciggies-a-day habit since we last saw him. No, this is other voice is one that the Doctor has heard before…
…which I thought was Sutekh. Yes, I know! I honestly thought it was him. Which is stupid really since the only monster it could have been is the one it was: Tzim-Sha. Given the sheer lack of monsters in this series, it is only him and Krasko that could have returned for this not-a-finale. It speaks volumes that you could have stuck Krasko in without drastically altering the plot. God, I wish it had been Sutekh…
The reason why this is a not-a-finale is because it isn’t a satisfying pay-off to a season-long arc. Yes, we had the Tzim-Sha the Stenza in two previous episodes and even then he/they only appeared in one of those. As it is, it is more of a book-end than a proper arc. And yes, the Graham-Ryan arc was satisfying but for a series like Doctor Who we need an all guns blazing dramatic Daleks falling out of the sky arc rather than this, a story which feels more of a mid-season episode than a finale.
The only proper arc is the one of Ryan and Graham grieving and becoming a family unit. I feel that Chibbers is trying to piggyback the Tzim-Sha arc on top of this. Shoehorning two arcs together just doesn’t work, not when it is done like this. The Stenza needed to be seeded through more episodes rather than the first two and tenth episode.
And what happened to the Timeless Child or Child of Time or Orphan of Time or whatever it was called? Will that be followed up on? Given that the next series is in 2020, will anyone care?
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Tzim-Sha who was previously T’zim-Sha. Don’t ask, I went with that case file video that the BBC made and now they changed his bloody name! If I ever collect these unreviews up as a book, I will change the previous spelling so that I appear much smarter.
Yes, Tzim-Sha. The alien with more teeth than the entire line-up of The Osmonds. I really need to update my cultural references…. The guy who wanted to become leader of the Stenza by hunting somebody not worth hunting. Yes, him. He is back and is still alive three thousand years later. Which is astonishing. Andinio is still alive too. She must be long-lived as well. Hmmm.
Tzim-Sha and Andinio want the crystal back. In exchange, they will return the members of Paltraki’s crew who have been kidnapped. Paltraki has one day to deliver the goods or his crew will have something bad happen to them. Maybe Tzim-Sha will cover them with bacon and throw them into the wolf pit?
They hang up without even saying goodbye. How rude.
Graham is silent. He is not angry but he has to tell the Doctor something:
“Hey, Doc, I am going to kill that tooth-faced cockle.”
“I cannot let you do that, Graham.”
“I will grind his bones to make my bread.”
“I cannot let you do that, Graham.”
“But he killed Grace and I haven’t eaten since we left the lost moon of Poosh which incidentally looked like a quarry!”
“Gra, if you kill him, I will leave you here. All alone. Plus I will take all your marmalade sandwiches away.”
“All of them?”
“All of them.”
This is interesting. A companion who might kill? Given that Tzim-Sha is likely to be murdered, I wonder who will do it? I doubt Graham will go through with it. If only because I know that he is in the New Year’s Day special.
Our heroes take the crystal and arm themselves in case they come up against a door or something. The Doctor attaches grenades to the gem, clever lass.
They pop out to take the maguffin to Tzim-Sha who lives in a giant floating egg made out of boulders. I bet his neighbours aren’t happy. “We bought our property because it faced the dusk sun and now we live in constant shadow! The value of our bungalow has plummeted!”
To get in, they must stand in the middle of a supersized puddle and get teleported in. Which they do.
Not much better than Paltraki’s ship but it is grander I’ll grant it that.
Our heroes have their missions: Graham and Ryan will look for the kidnapped crew, free them, and treat them to a slap-up meal at Maccy D’s. The Doctor, Yasmin and Paltraki will look for Tzim-Sha and stop his fiendish plan.
Yasmin and Paltraki find a room full of crystals with round rocks vibrating inside. Well, I say full but there are only four and it is a small room.
The Doctor is found by Andinio who seems to be more Rambette than Mother Teresa. She is packing heat which for those who aren’t up-to-date with movie lingo means that she is carrying a gun.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Look, grenades attached to this thing you want. What is this thing by the way?”
“Give it here and I won’t shoot you. Much.”
“What? And risk harming this crystal? I think not. Take me to your leader.”
“He is more of a Creator than a leader. And no, I shan’t!”
“I like how you pronounced the uppercase C. Show him what I look like. I reckon he will want to see us.”
He does want to see her. Did you think he wouldn’t? Along the way, the Doctor gets chatting to Andinio who isn’t as surly as she appears.
Andinio is one of the Ux. A mysterious race who are unique in that they can never have a ménage à trois. Apparently only two of the race can exist at any one time. Which brings up all sorts of questions such as:
How do they survive? Are they as inbred as the royals in Game of Thrones? No really, how do they survive?
Doesn’t make sense to me unless they spontaneously pop into existence when a member of their race dies. Oh, and they can also use the power of their minds to control the fabric of reality which might explain how they pop into existence in the first place.
Andinio brings the Doctor into Tzim-Sha’s huge ballroom.
“Ah, you may go now and do that thing I want you to do.”
“But where will I find a pig, new bed sheets, and a bucket of soapy cola at this time of day?”
“Not that thing! The other thing.”
“Oh, that thing. Gotcha!”
Andinio shuffles off and the Doctor settles in for a chin-wag with Tzim-Sha over cucumber sandwiches and a nice pot of tea.
“So. How have you been, Tim Shaw? I have a new coat. Snazzy, innit?”
“How the [expletive deleted] do you think I have [expletive deleted] been? You stupid [expletive deleted]! You sent me to this [expletive deleted] piece of [expletive deleted] instead of my [expletive deleted] home! But on the plus side, I have these new boots. I made them out of wolfweeds.”
Yup, when the Doctor sent Tzim-Sha packing in The Woman Who Fell to Earth, she didn’t send him back to the Stenza’s homeworld. Nope. He was sent to Ranskoor Av Kolos. Apparently the Doctor’s calculations were still a little fuzzy after her regeneration.
It was him that Andinio and Delph discovered that day when they were making themselves a stone totem pole. They thought that he was their Creator because, well, they aren’t overly qualified in the brain department, bless. For the last 3,000 years he has made the Ux shrink planets and encase them in crystals. Worlds that have humiliated him.
Hang on, humiliated him? Six other worlds where he messed up big time. So Tzim-Sha is a bit of a loser, yes? This is probably why he had to hunt a 7lb weakling on Earth, his people probably didn’t think he capable of hunting more dangerous prey.
Another thought is this, 3,000 years to shrink only six planets? That is one planet every 600 years or so. Why such the long pause between each shrinkage? Are the Ux slacking off? Or is Tzim-Sha prolonging the pleasure? Why hasn’t Earth been shrunk? Is he doing each planet in order of humiliation? Why hasn’t he left?
That last question might be explainable. Tzim-Sha seems to be attached to some kind of oversized bellows which helps him to breathe. Which begs further questions: if the Ux can alter the fabric of reality, why haven’t they fixed the injuries cause by the DNA bombs? Why has he chosen to remain on this rock instead of going back out into the universe and becoming the leader of the Stenza?
The ships coating the surface of Ranskoor Av Kolos like flies on a fly swatter, remember them? They were from races who were trying to stop Tzim-Sha. With just a little help from his friends, he had them killed.
The problem with this planet shrinking is that it has already been done in The Pirate Planet. More serious though is that all those planets in close proximity could tear the fabric of reality and the Doctor doesn’t know how to sew.
But never mind all that. What are Graham and Ryan up to? Well, they have found the surviving members of Paltraki’s crew but also the survivors of the other ships as well. They are Tzim-Sha’s trophies, locked in stasis chambers for whenever he feels like a gloat.
However, a few scenes back before they got to the trophy room, an alarm sounded and those Stenza sniperbots from the second episode were sent out to stop our friends. They were foiled when Graham and Ryan ducked, the bots destroying each other in crossfire. Now they are back, and trying to get into the trophy room. Or am I conflating events again?
These sniperbots are the best the Stenza make. They got scientists to work decades on these war machines. They spent millions of bars of gold-pressed latinum on these bots. They are destroyed when a couple of chumps duck. Says it all really. First we get Tzim-Sha who has to resort to cheating just to capture a wimp who couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag and now we learn that the Stenza’s top weapons can go in mob-handed and still be beaten by an old man and his dyspraxic grandson.
In the room of crystals, Andinio appears and we discover Delph is crucified on the wall. He is part of the building that it is a weapon in itself, the world shrinker. She turns him on but not in a sexual way, she is old enough to be his grandmother. Paltraki slopes out at some point in order to appear in…
…the trophy room just in time to shoot up the sniperbots sent to stop Graham and Ryan freeing the hostages. He may not know what day of the week it is but he is an expert when it comes to shooting robots. I think this wee bit may have been the titular battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos.
Ryan and Paltraki need to get the survivors out but more bots are coming. Paltraki gives Graham an explosive device to aim at the door. Which he does. Bang and the dirt is gone! Also the sniperbots.
Do you recall Tzim-Sha’s breathing apparatus? When we last saw him, he took off his mask but had to replace it after a few minutes to help him breath. Do you have that in your mind? Well, he disconnects himself from the machine keeping him alive and goes off to see what is happening in his trophy room. Those aforementioned few minutes are eclipsed by the minutes it takes him to go from his throneroom, past the bins, pass the swimming pool, pass the stable with room for a pony, to the trophy room. He doesn’t drop dead. Either he was shamming or Chibbers made a mistake. What do you think? Send your answers on a postcard to the BBC.
The Doctor meanwhile convinces the Ux that Tzim-Sha is “not the messiah, he’s just a naughty boy” and they believe her. It isn’t that hard really, the Ux are gullible at the best of times apparently. Mind you, if you spell their name backwards and get the ‘X’ on a triple-letter square, you are sorted.
Just as well really, the Ux were about to shrink the Earth. Everything has worked out well. With the help of the Ux and the TARDIS, they return each planet back to its location in space and, presumably, time.
Tzim-Sha is in the trophy room. He still hasn’t suffocated. His trophies have all scarpered except for his bronze swimming certificate. Graham awaits him with a rifle half-inched from a sniperbot.
“Hello, cockle. I am Graham O’Brien. You killed my wife. Prepare to die.”
Graham advances on Tzim-Sha but stumbles due to a sprained angle. Tzim-Sha tries to attack but Graham throws him back with the butt of the gun and gets up.
“Hello. I am Graham O’Brien. You killed my wife. Prepare to die.”
Tzim-Sha tries to attack again but Graham parries more fiercely. Is he gaining more strength?
“Hello. I am Graham O’Brien. You killed my wife. Prepare to die.”
“Stop saying that!”
Tzim-Sha attacks twice but Graham jumps out of the way and knocks the teeth off Tzim-Sha’s nose.
“HELLO! MY NAME IS GRAHAM O’BRIEN! YOU KILLED MY WIFE! PREPARE TO DIE!”
Graham has Tzim-Sha cornered and knocks the teeth off his cheek.
“Offer me money.”
“Power, too, promise me that.”
“All that I have and more. You can have my Ux mistress! Please…”
“Offer me anything I ask for. ”
“Anything you want…”
Tzim-Sha makes one final lunge but Graham shoots him in the foot.
“I want my wife back, you son of a bitch!”
It is at this point that Ryan comes back, worried about Graham.
“You shot him!”
“It is only a flesh wound! Don’t tell the Doctor!”
“Well, he ain’t dead. I guess you are the better man, grandad.”
“Could one of you ring for an ambulance, please?”
Graham and Ryan shove Tzim-Sha into a stasis chamber and tell him to remember one name: “Grace.” They then fist-bump at bloody last!
All the planets are back where they are meant to be. Earth is safe. Tzim-Sha is locked up in his former evil base which will now be his prison for all eternity, or until Chibbers brings him back in 2020.
And that is essentially that. Paltraki and the Ux leave together. Team TARDIS leave in their ghost monument. The end!
Given what I have said about this story, you might think I don’t like it. I do, I do! I loved it but like a parent whose child has three ears, I am not blind to any faults. Yes, there are some glaring mistakes but there are glaring mistakes in every single episode since 1963 so it would be churlish to dislike it for that. For me, it is a solid adventure with plenty to recommend for it. Easily Chris Chibnall’s best solo-written episode this series. It just ain’t a finale.
Samuel Oatley was Tzim-Sha. He was alright. Generic monster with a Smurf aesthetic. I do quite like his character even if he happens to be a bit of a wuss.
Percelle Ascott did some fine wall-acting as Delph. His best scenes were near the end but also at the beginning. Not much to say really. He does unconscious really well.
Paltraki was played by Mark Addy. Another solid performance from the Addy. He never sets a foot wrong except for that time he played Fred Flintstone, that was naff. I liked his character even though we never knew what he was really like due to his amnesia.
Phyllis Logan was Andinio. I remember she looked so beautiful when she appeared in Lovejoy. Now she looks like one of those women who go to foreign countries and comes back with dreadlocks, debts, and a much younger man who will later ditch her when he becomes a naturalised member of her country. Um, the character that is. Loved Andinio. Subtle and elegant. I won’t say I wanted her to join the TARDIS because I have overplayed that card in previous unreviews.
Mandip Khan was good if still the Adric of the crew. I do like her, believe me. Some fine moments here as usual for her. I loved when she wouldn’t leave the Doctor, nice touch.
Tosin Cole. Excellent. Ryan finally gives us fist-bump closure. Like I said earlier, at bloody last! Ryan is easily as great a character as Graham.
Bradley Walsh finds the six-fingered ma… Ahem, the tooth-faced alien who killed Grace by proxy. Loved his acting here. He is not obviously angry but with his usual underplaying, you can see it simmering beneath the surface. Brilliant as usual.
And finally Josie Whittaker. What can I say, She is the Doctor whether you like it or not. She has nailed the part no matter what people might say. She is her own Doctor and that is to applauded. Loved her.
Besides sharing odd details with The Pirate Planet, this is a fairly original story. Should you watch it? Yes, you should, cockle. Because you’ll have naff all to watch next year bar the New Year’s Day special.