The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos.



TV During the revival we've become accustomed to big, brash season finales filled with massive cosmological shenanigans, giant emotional storylines, companion departures, deaths and resurrections and a sense of bowing up the season which has come before.  In keeping with the rest of this series which has largely been about presenting redux of the original twenty-six years, it's fitting that The Battle of the Who In The What Now? is more subdued than we're used to, with armies living and dying off screen, a tiny guest cast with epic back stories, a resolution involving someone pressing a few buttons in the TARDIS, a shouty returning antagonist and a long introductory walk through a quarry.

Except of course, the New Year's Day episode is clearly going to be the more traditional finale and will seem as much after all this has been uploaded to Netflix for posterity (and presumably the shiny disc box set).  Battles across time, explosions involving soldiers flying through the air and whoever the Doctor's referring to at the end of the trailer, who we're all assuming will be the Daleks but given the way this series is going, might as well be some new monster we haven't met before.  Big Finish granted, I've always been drawn to the idea of being introduced to some fully formed arch nemesis for the Doctor who she's apparently fought against for centuries in the mode of a Terry Nation creation but we just haven't had an onscreen adventure with yet.

Setting the usual expectations aside, how'd it go?  It was fine.  As Liz Myles said on Twitter earlier, this has been a "very warm, comfortable, cosy series of Doctor Who" and this "finale" is the epitome of that.  Perhaps in the edgier Moffat version, Graham would have shot Tim Shaw stone dead and caused a schism in the TARDIS team, but despite Bradley's understated anger that was never going to happen.  This is an iteration of the show designed for Sunday nights with a more subversive rather than overt edginess, one closer to Tom Baker's description of his run: "The smallest child terrified behind a sofa or under a cushion, and the next one up laughing at him, and the elder one saying 'sh, I want to listen', and the parents saying 'isn't this enjoyable'."

Indeed Tom would certainly recognize a few elements from his era.  The stealing and compacting of celestial bodies ala The Pirate Planet.  A previous decision coming back to haunt the Doctor leading to the fostering of a false religion and untold horrors on complete strangers as per The Face of Evil.  Ancient beings of immense power led astray from The Deadly Assassin (I appreciate that last one is a bit tenuous).  Essentially its the resolution of a season long project to bring the show back into some kind of manageable state of lower expectations.  A more expensive episode might have had cutaways to the planet as the pink ray enveloped it, but we've probably seen enough shots of bewildered people looking towards the sky already.

Instead, we have a Doctor who's compelling because of what she doesn't say.  The BBC uploaded the "dome new man goes sauntering away.." cafe scene from The End of Time to YouTube recently, which is beautifully acted all round but you simply can't imagine Jodie playing through with Graham because she doesn't articulate in that way.  Even on discovering the pain she's potentially caused in not ending Tim Shaw on Earth and sending him half way across the galaxy, it's underplayed and all in her eyes, rather than simply adding to some nihilistic angst as might have been the case with more recent incarnations.  She's on a singular mission to help people, as best she can, her own emotions be damned.

But she's also not one for righteous fury.  Again, her male counterparts might have treated Tim Shaw with greater contempt especially given that he's even more genocidal than Solomon from Chibbers's previous Dinosaurs on a Spaceship whom the Eleventh Doctor was quite happy to make explode (a move I was cross and curious about back in the day).  But she's adamant that Graham doesn't kill his nemesis because of what it would do to him, which is also a contrast to his reaction to how Amy dealt with Madam Kovarian, albeit an alternative version.  She trusts that he'll do the right thing, to such a degree that despite her storming confrontation with Tim, the Doctor's more interested in reversing the results of his experiments and happy to leave the boys to deal with the other problem.

She's also pretty sexless.  Given the flirtatiousness of 10th, 11th and let's be honest 12th, 13th has barely looked sideways at another person, male or female.  Yaz seems to have the most potential, but even then the only whiff we've had of that ship was her mother's confusion as to the nature of their friendship.  Asking to remain with the Doctor during the danger tonight was more to do with the usual "I want to stay with you" than hanky-panky.  Should this change?  If more recent incarnations have been allowed to kiss seemingly anyone with less pulses than them, from royal mistresses to Hollywood actresses, why shouldn't this incarnation?  Dunno.

Either way, we've finally reached the end (or middle) of the casting trailer with Phyllis Logan, Percelle Ascott and Mark Addy, both of whom, like the actor Kevin Eldon last week, feel like they should have been in Who before but a pleasure to finally have them here (although granted Eldon played Antimony in Death Comes To Time but does that count?  Honestly?).  Logan and Addy in particular demonstrated their depth of experience offering acres of lived history within the short screen time - we could absolutely believe the former could have lived thousands of years.  Perhaps they'll bump into Captain Jack or Me as they visit the galaxy and swap immortality tales.

So that's everything over bar another hour on New Year's Day.  It's been a season without any particularly rubbish episodes and only a couple of stone cold classics, probably Rosa and It Take You Away.  The latter is probably my favourite thanks to its gonzo ending which revealed that the receiver of the Doctor's emotional farewell, so intriguing in the trailer, turned out to be a rubber frog.  If I've a request for the future, now that we know that everyone's going to survive Resolution would be more Yaz.  Mandip Gill's felt slightly under utilised and that's something which should be corrected.  Oh and some returning monsters.  I think we've earned a  Cyberman stand off.  Happy Christmas.

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