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Nine different distress calls. A mysterious planet. The Doctor’s first enemy, alive and hungry for revenge as all roads lead to a final showdown where the fate of Earth hangs in the balance.
The stakes…could get higher than this, but that’s not the point. If anything, this season of Doctor Who wasn’t about threats to the very fabric of space and time, but was about getting back to the heart of the show. Of finding the characters who drive the plots, the personalities whose inner turmoil juxtaposes perfectly with the cosmic dangers in front of them.
That’s not to say that The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos didn’t have some real clear and present danger around. Planets being stolen, a hostile battlefield designed to attack the mind and the return of the tooth-faced T’zim-Sha all made for an episode whose threats were numerous and hellbent on taking the Doctor to task for events that began at the beginning of the season.In a way, that’s just the kind of direction that Doctor Who has been focused on this year. Preserving an air of mystery, but grounding it with stakes and science that feels believable in its approach as the Doctor deals with the consequences of her actions as the show asks viewers if a more merciful approach is more efficient. If ol’ Tim Shaw can come back from the brink of death and spend thousands of years building up his power and becoming a threat to existence, maybe the Doctor needs to be more careful with how she handles her foes lest she stumble into a reckoning against a truly deadly foe.
On the other side of the coin, there’s Graham. Bradley Walsh’s older and more chipper character has been a breath of fresh air in comparison to Doctor Who’s over-reliance on giving the Doctor companions who hold the fate of all time and space in their destiny-heavy hands, as Graham has been a voice of reason and an all too human reminder of just how great and terrible our species can be.
It’s Graham’s story arc coming full circle, finding redemption and not giving in to his darker urges that makes him the real star of this episode, as the idea of having a companion who succeeds in becoming more of who he truly is at his very core, that results in one of Doctor Who’s best Tardis additions in recent memory.
It’s a bittersweet finale to Doctor Who and Jodie Whittaker’s debut season, as beyond a new year’s day special, Doctor Who will only return in 2020. Still, if this season is any indicator, it’ll be well worth the wait.
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