After a series of highs, thoughtful social commentary, and moments that would have been face-palm-worthy in the hands of Chris Chibnall's predecessors, "The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos" reminded us what we enjoyed most about Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat — they knew their way around season-long arcs and finales.
While the season itself was strong, in the capable hands of the 13th Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her best friends Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), Graham O'Brien (Bradley Walsh), and Yaz Khan (Mandip Gill), it lacked a clear thread or direction. Perhaps it didn't need one and we've been spoiled, but after Bad Wolf, "YANA" and Harold Saxon, Missy and all the other weeks of buildup that led to one epic conclusion, "The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos" was more of a whimper than a bang, as finales go. And where these arcs may have varied in success and some didn't really pan out (Clara's entire arc leading up the "The Name of the Doctor," anyone?), Chibnall didn't even seem to try.
The plot is as follows: A two-person species called the Ux worship their Creator and will do as he decrees. That "Creator" turns out to be Tim Shaw, who is not actually their creator, he's merely manipulating their faith for them to do his bidding. That bidding involves creating a giant weapon out of five planets pulled from time and space to occupy the same place, hidden in lovely geometric sculptures that would look great in any minimalist living room, perhaps as bookends.
That weapon will blow up Earth because Tim Shaw is still pissed at the Doctor and is as petty as he is toothy. Meanwhile, Mark Addy is there as Paltraki, who doesn't remember who he is but knows his crew is missing. Graham tells the Doctor he's going to kill Tim Shaw and she's all "that's a no from me, dawg," but he insists he's going to do it (spoiler: he doesn't and we never actually consider he'll do it in the first place, but he does shoot Tim Shaw in the foot and then he and Ryan trap him in a chamber for the rest of his days). The Doctor and Yaz save the world through... you know, stuff. And everything is OK, The End.
That's not to say it was a failure. As I said, it's fine. But the return of Tim Shaw Toothface after an entire season, and with only brief minor references to the Stanza afterward, lacked the weight and stakes we've seen in other episodes this year. In fact, the strength of the season might have been this finale's downfall. After with the Civil Rights Movement and the Partition of India, and the searing emotion of last week's "It Takes You Away," it can be a bit hard to return to business-as-usual Who.
But as we look forward to the New Year's special, promising the DNA of the most dangerous creature in the universe, perhaps we needed a little understatement as we approach something major. Speculation is that maybe Chibnall wasn't being totally honest when he said no Daleks. We'll see.
The season may have ended with a bit of a shrug. But in total, it delivered some truly excellent, beautiful moments, and Jodie Whittaker has been an absolute delight. We gleefully await next season. Bangs, whimpers, and all.