It only seems like last week that we all tuned into the opening episode of Series 11 to welcome a brand Doctor in Jodie and show runner in Chris Chibnall along with a very new look feel to the show in so many ways. It has been a rather bumpy season with some amazing episodes such as ‘Rosa’ , ‘Demons of the Punjab’ and ‘It Takes You Away’ but some missteps such as The Tsuranga Conundrum and Kerblam!! Chris Chibnall has returned to write this finale which as we approach it airing, does not feel like a finale which feels strange and as wrong as there being no Christmas Day episode this year. But, trailer looks promising and hopefully the series will end just as strong as it began!
Spoiler Warning – I will be talking about story points in this review, hard to avoid due to series finale
Going into this episode I really had no idea what to expect but more hoping for someking of connection to previous revealed through Series 11. The lack of a series story arc has perhaps been the most frustrating aspect to Doctor Who under Chris Chibnall with more time stretched trying to find roles for all the members of Team TARDIS to fill each week. New Aliens and characters have been introduced but also dismissed almost as quickly as they were introduced.
The finale brings Team TARDIS to the planet of Ranskoor Av Kolos after they answered nine distress calls from this world and discovering the ruins of a battlefield upon landing. The Doctor feels that something is not quite right here. But the story starting with a very Aliens style “Engineer” pair of characters on the same planet but thousands of years ago with the woman encouraging a younger man to fulfill his duty and do what she had been training him to do, to build something on that planet for the creator however they are stopped by the arrival of a mysterious person before the action jumps back to the TARDIS and the Doctor and Team arriving at the planet.
The opening is very sci fi and dare I say it, rather Doctor Who which is something I like, the first 10 minutes also suddenly made this feel like a real series finale. This feeling became even stronger then they meet a man who has lost his memory due to the effects of the Planet but with some help from The Doctor and the convenient use of a neural device, begins to remember his name and crew, who are missing. I have to admit, the Doctor’s ability to just handily having the right tech at a moments notice this series is a little…on the nose for me.
That being said, I was very much relieved when the identity of the person who has his crew mates was shown to be Stenza sounding very much like Tim Shaw from the first episode who you will remember, teleported back to where he came from after being defeated by the Doctor. By coming full circle this episode has very much become the series finale and instead of a series story arc, simply used the first and now this last episode as book ends for series 11 which I am still unsure is the right direction for Doctor Who going forward. But the return of the Stenza provided a great opportunity for Graham to perhaps complete his own story arc and I loved Bradley Walsh’s performance here as he warns the Doctor that he plans to kill ‘Tim Shaw’ for the death of his wife Grace resulting in the Doctor asking him and then ordering him not to kill and threatening that if he tries then she will not only stop him, but he will not be welcome to travel with her anymore.
As for the rest of Team TARDIS, well sadly both Ryan and Yas are still just background characters with Yas yet again ending up with the Doctor whilst Ryan is really just there to finish what began last episode by acknowledging his feelings for Graham as his Grandad and playing the default action hero. This does for me at least give me the sense that Graham will most likely be leaving the team during the New Year’s special simply because I feel his journey is now complete as far as his character goes. The size of Team TARDIS limits the way in which companion stories can be told and too many times this series has one or more of Team TARDIS been benched to focus on the other. Yas did so little this episode and Ryan merely became Graham’s sidekick, it is a waste of screen time and story telling so if we were to lose Graham, as great as Bradley Walsh is, I would have no complaints.
For the story itself, well I actually liked it and by bringing back Tim Shaw as the big threat it managed to tick quite a few boxes for me. Discovering that it was actually him that was the mysterious person who appeared which stopped the two aliens, the Ux from doing what they were doing. Forcing them to keep him alive and to build him a weapon in order to exact his revenge on the Doctor’s precious planet Earth, Tim Shaw actually became a much darker and genuine threat for the Doctor and friends then I had expected. It was done well and even the lovely little nods to previous times the Doctor has saved the Earth with the TARDIS were quite fun for the audience. It was all wrapped up very nicely and the Doctor and her ‘fam’ stepped back into the TARDIS and set off for new adventures.
Perhaps that is the overall problem with Series 11 for me. You have a superb new Doctor in Jodie who has not put a single foot wrong in any of the episodes so far, but each episode really is just a stand alone adventure and whilst we have had two episodes now in 9 and 10 both connect to the first episode, other then that, the 13th Doctor really is just happy travelling around with Team TARDIS and not really going any bigger then short stories. It was a strong end to Series 11 but when I look back at this series, I will see some brilliant moments for Jodie’s Doctor but some rather average testing the waters stuff from Chris Chibnall.
Now the news has also just broken at the time of completing this review that Series 12 will not air until early 2020, so essentially that means no Doctor who for 12 months between the New Years Day special and either a Christmas Special or another New Years Day one, if that until the next series will be broadcasted. That has actually sucked out all the fun I had with this series, leaving me just a little bit annoyed and concerned going forward for the show which will mean Jodie’s Doctor will be stretched over 3 years for just two series. This last happened with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor and well, that was a worrying time too.
But that is a wrap for the new Doctor’s first series and honestly, I do not know where this leaves the show with the news of it not returning until 2020 and the rumours of both Chibnall and Jodie possibly leaving after the second series which now sound increasingly more possibly with the year break for the show. I like Jodie’s Doctor and she is a superb refreshing new quality to the show but there are things I feel need to be changed for the next series such as the size of Team TARDIS and Chibnall’s reluctance to use old Doctor Who monsters in favour of creating new ones which there have been very few memorable ones.
For me Series 11 is very much a work in progress for new showrunner Chris Chibnall but for Jodie Whittaker, she has definitely made the TARDIS her home.