What I Like About Who: No. 14

This is the fourteenth column in a weekly series from Rob Hull, Figures and More. Check back Mondays for a weekly journey through time and space, or read all of our adventures here

I thought a lot about what to call this week’s column recapping the Series 11 Finale. I think the title I chose is appropriate, because it feels like this episode is a reaffirmation of everything that has come before, bringing Graham and Ryan’s “arc of acceptance” to a satisfying end, and setting up the inevitable return of the only “real” foe the Doctor and her friends have faced this series. Was it perfect? No. But, I found it a satisfying conclusion to Jodie’s first series and yet another chance for some of these actors to deliver extraordinary performances.

The story sees the Doctor and the rest of Team TARDIS answering nine separate distress calls coming from the Planet of Ranskoor Av Kolos.

Landing on a ship, they encounter Patraki, who seems to be the only survivor of his crew. He can’t remember anything because the planet is broadcasting a telepathic field that messes with people’s minds. The Doctor and her friends have negated this by use of (MACGUFFIN ALERT!) Neural Dampeners.

Not long after, we get confirmation of some of the biggest speculation regarding this episode. TIM SHAW IS BACK! As if there was any doubt that the Stenza Warrior would menace the Doctor and her friends again this season.

This adds a layer of drama to the proceedings, as Graham’s sole purpose shifts to revenge, a course which the Doctor strongly warns against. There is some really great interplay between these two characters, with the Doctor warning Graham that if he kills Tim Shaw, it will be the end of his time travelling with her in the TARDIS. Now, we are set up to wait and see if he is willing to make that sacrifice to have his revenge.

But, Tim Shaw is not alone. Assisting him are the Ux, Ardinio, a female, and Delph, a male, a mysterious, and apparently, ancient species. And, they must be super-impressive, because the Doctor COMPLETELY GEEKS OUT upon meeting them. It turns out that they have the ability to use their psychic powers to manipulate the universe. If all that sounds like sci-fi gobbledygook, it is. But, it’s important gobbledygook, because it essential to the plot, and the resolution.

The meeting between the Doctor and Tim Shaw fills in the missing pieces. It has been 3407 years since the Doctor last saw him. It turns out that his return device was damaged, and so it sent him here. He encountered the Ux, who believe him to be their creator. At his direction, he instructed them to build a weapon that would use Stenza technology, powered by the Ux, to steal planets and place them in crystals like the one the Doctor found. If this sounds familiar, I invite you to revisit, The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End. The targets of this weapon so far have been all of the planets that have opposed the Stenza. Guess which planet is next? If you have watched Doctor Who before, then you probably figured out that the answer is Earth.

By the way, in another parallel to a previous adventure, Tim Shaw is on an elaborate life support system, due to the damage suffered from the DNA bombs from The Woman Who Fell to Earth. In this way he resembles Davros from The Magician’s Apprentice/ The Witch’s Familiar. And, just like Davros, I think Tim Shaw was more menacing here, in his hurt and weakened state than he was in all of his glory in the first episode of the series. The increased shadows and sparse letting helped set the mood of the scene.

In the end, the Doctor is able to help the Ux to see the truth, and give up their allegiance to Tim Shaw. And, in a moment that is Doctor Who in its purest form, the Ux, using both the Stenza tech and the power of the TARDIS’ telepathic circuits, return all of the planets to their proper locations.

I have to say, one of the only minuses of this episode is that Yaz doesn’t really get any huge shining moments. I mean, she goes with Patraki to complete his part of the mission, but even then he does most of the talking as he fills in the story. For what it’s worth, I think this is less because they don’t have anything better to do, and more due to the fact that they needed to bring Graham and Ryan’s season-long “emotional arc” to a close. Speaking of Graham and Ryan, this episode finally brings the emotional closure we have all been waiting for, as they work together to accomplish their goal. After taking a bunch of Sniperbots, which were last seen in The Ghost Monument Ryan talks Graham out of his revenge, telling him Grace would want him to “be the better man.” Graham gets his cathartic closure by shooting Tim Shaw in the foot. And Ryan finally tells Graham he loves him, and gives him the fist bump that he has been waiting for since Episode 1.

One last time this Series, Jodie Whittaker blows us away. This is a much more confident Doctor who shows no fear in confronting Tim Shaw. I also love that she hays a silent prayer to the Universe, showing that sometimes even the Doctor needs a little luck. I also love that she is resolute in her position on Graham taking revenge, taking an adamant stand against it. It is really the first time we have seen any real friction between the members of Team TARDIS.

All in all, this was a satisfying wrap up to the series, although not everything was tied up. We did not hear anything more about the “Timeless Child” that the Remnants mentioned in The Ghost Monument. We will have plenty of time to speculate, as the next series will not air until Early 2020. At least however, we can rest secure in the knowledge that Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandap Gill will all return as Team TARDIS rides agai in Series 12.

But, BEFORE that, we have the New Year’s Episode, which we now know is titled Resolution. Here is the teaser. Let the anticipation build commence.

 


DID WHO KNOW?

  • Tim Shaw’s plot in this episode is similar to the “Reality Bomb” plot of Davros and the Daleks that David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor faced in the Series Four Finale The Stolen Earth/ Journey’s End.
  • Those episodes are further referenced when the Doctor states that she used the TARDIS to tow the Earth back home. That was one of the only instances where the TARDIS had the proper number of pilots to man the console.
  • Another reference by the Doctor in this episode about using the TARDIS to turn a Slitheen back into an egg refers to the Series One episode Boom Town, starring Christopher Ecclestone as the Ninth Doctor
  • Again, the TARDIS’ telepathic circuits are used in this episode, having previously appeared in Demons of the Punjab, when the Doctor used them to travel to the date associated with the watch Yaz’s Grandmother gave her.