Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Doctor Who 11x10 Recap: “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” (The Return of Tim Shaw) [Guest Poster: Stephanie Coats]

“The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”
Original Airdate: December 9, 2018 

On a bare-looking planet, Andinio and Delph, members of the Ux people, have been walking for decades but have finally found the right place to build a shrine. Delph’s earth bending is interrupted by a figure materializing behind them — a very familiar figure. I’d draw out this reveal but it’s pretty obvious it’s Tim Shaw, the villain from this season’s premiere. I guess he didn’t get sent back home after all.


Roughly 3,500 years later, the TARDIS Team answer a distress call from that same planet. They arrive inside an abandoned spaceship and are met by a man with a gun and short-term memory loss. The Doctor is able to talk him down and persuade him to attach a neural balancer, which she and the team are also wearing. It blocks out the signals on the planet that make you forget things. The man, Paltracki, slowly remembers details and his ship is found to be in perfect working order. He receives a call from Andinio and the “Creator” (again, obviously Tim Shaw) demanding the return of an object Paltracki stole. Either he gives it back, or the remainder of his crew will be killed.

The object looks like a crystal with a small, black mass inside. The Doctor isn’t able to identify what it is exactly and Paltracki can’t remember. They take it with them as they trek towards Tim Shaw’s ship, passing through the wasteland of the battlefield on the way. In a true show of honesty, Graham privately tells the Doctor he intends to kill Tim Shaw as payback for Grace’s death and nothing she can do will stop him. It’s unusually bloodthirsty for the typically easygoing Graham.

Once aboard the ship, the group breaks apart. Yaz and Paltracki go one direction while Ryan and Graham search for the surviving members of Paltracki’s crew. On the way, Ryan picks up where the Doctor left off in criticizing Graham’s plan to kill Tim Shaw, saying Grace wouldn’t approve and neither does he. Ryan even tells his grandad, for the first time, that he loves him and doesn’t want him to break up their TARDIS Team. The argument is interrupted by cyber bots, but a swift-thinking Ryan tricks them into shooting one another. They quickly locate the crew, who are trapped in stasis chambers.


Wandering off on her own, the Doctor encounters Andinio, who is now wielding a gun. She claims people came to attack Tim Shaw and so the Ux defended him because they believe he is their messiah. While speaking to Yaz, Paltracki expands on this for our benefit. His crew was part of the last fleet sent by the Congress of Nine Planets in response to the atrocities the Ux and Tim Shaw were committing. Those atrocities might have to do with the crystal, especially when several more crystals are discovered in a room.

Tim Shaw has the Doctor brought to him and helpfully tells her that she’s the reason for every wicked thing he’s done. She damaged his recall device and injured him with his own DNA bombs, so he accidentally landed on this planet instead of returning home, and was gravely ill. But he got lucky. The Ux believed he was their messiah and nursed him back to health and have preserved him all these years, doing his bidding because they believe he’s a god.

Using Stenza technology and the Ux’s powers, he has been stealing planets and trapping them in the crystals. He orders Andinio to attack a new target: Earth. The Doctor cries that the technology isn’t stable; the planets are trying to break out of their crystals. Bringing another planet on board the ship would be catastrophic. Of course, Tim Shaw doesn’t believe her or care. He does unhook his Darth Vader breathing mask to go after Ryan and Graham, though, who are freeing Paltracki’s crew. Alone with Tim Shaw, Graham decides to be the bigger man and not seek revenge, although he does shoot the alien in the foot when he’s about to attack Ryan. The pair lock Tim Shaw in his own stasis chamber and leave him there.

The Doctor and Yaz place their own neural balancers on the Ux and convince them to put the planets back where they belong. Using the TARDIS, the Ux, and the Stenza tech, the planets are sent back to their rightful places in the universe. The Ux seal the ship so no one else can get to Tim Shaw (though I sense this will ultimately happen at some point) and Paltracki agrees to transport them somewhere new. The Doctor advises them all to “travel hopefully,” then steps into the TARDIS and departs with her friends.

Final Thoughts:

  • I noted that this season is full of too many standalone episodes and not enough continuity and plot arcs. Then in the finale, Tim Shaw reappears. But this is probably the laziest version of an arc, if you can even call it that. We could’ve easily gone from episodes one or two straight to the finale and it would’ve made complete sense. Nowhere else in the season was Graham thirsty for revenge or keen on vengeance because of his grief over Grace. Just in this episode. The Doctor is fundamentally the same here as in the premiere. We’ve had maybe two hints that Tim Shaw would reappear and none of them on the level of say, the Bad Wolf arc in season one or even the less-than-subtle Hybrid arc in season nine. 
  • This was a perfectly fine episode but lackluster for a finale. It felt like every other episode this season. I hope the New Year’s special (the show is skipping the annual Christmas special for the first time ever) gives us something really substantial because it’ll have to hold us over until early 2020, when season 12 premieres. 
  • By the way, Whittaker and the rest of the TARDIS Team are returning for season 12. Rumors have been floating around the Internet for weeks that Whittaker and Chibnall were ducking out after one season but those have proven to be false, as most of us suspected they would be.
  • I did appreciate the references to Nine and Ten when the Doctor talks about other crazy things she’s managed to accomplish with the TARDIS. “I once towed your planet halfway across the universe with this TARDIS and turned a Slitheen back into an egg. So let’s give it a go!”


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