Doctor Who recap: The best moments from the Season 11 finale

Photo credit: Doctor Who/Ben Blackall/BBC -- Acquired via AMC Press Site)
Photo credit: Doctor Who/Ben Blackall/BBC -- Acquired via AMC Press Site) /

Doctor Who Season 11 closed out with an emotional, thrilling and overstuffed finale that forced the new Doctor to confront her greatest mistake.

As with all seasons of the series since its return in 2005, Doctor Who Season 11 was uneven. But like almost every other season of the show, the good outweighed the bad. And its finale was such solid outing than it raised my estimation of the season as a whole. By the end of “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos,” the series felt like its old self again in the best possible sense. And new showrunner Chris Chibnall proved that he had the chops to lead to revived program into its third decade.

“Ranskoor Av Kolos” brought The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions to a mysterious planet emitting several different distressing signals. It emerged that a pair telekinetic aliens Andino (Phyllis Logan) and Delph (Percelle Ascott) had been disabling various spaceships that attempted to attack a floating base with terrible purpose.

Upon investigating the crisis, the TARDIS Team discovered that the scenario had been engineered by season premiere antagonist Tim Shaw (Samuel Oatley). And his plot involved a lot more than just getting revenge on the Doctor.

5. “Your words are certain, but your eyes are full of doubt”

After meeting with telekinetic aliens, the Doctor found that Tim Shaw had been manipulating them with the power of faith. After being the defeated by the Doctor in the premiere, Tim Shaw was teleported to Ranskoor thousands of years in the past and he pretended to be Andino and Delph’s god.

However, his murderous agenda and imprisonment of Delph caused Andino to experience a crisis of faith. The Doctor exacerbated this crisis by pointing out the absurdity of Shaw wanting revenge.

Doctor Who, BBC America
Photo credit: Doctor Who/Ben Blackall/BBC — Acquired via AMC Press Site) /

Though it took a while, the Doctor’s words eventually broke through. This was due in large part to the Doctor approach. Instead of belittling Andino’s faith and intelligent, she gently pushed the pilgrim to reassess her faith. Helping people work out solutions for themselves instead of merely providing them has been one of the Thirteenth Doctor’s most compelling traits. And this episode provided one of the best examples of it.

4. “We’re family. And I love you”

Upon learning that his wife’s killer was still up and plotting, Graham (Bradley Walsh) told the Doctor he would kill him. She explained that killing Shaw would damn him, but Graham was undeterred. When Ryan (Tosin Cole) figured out his plans, he also tried to talk Graham down. However, his reasoning was that his grandfather wouldn’t survive and encounter with the alien warlord. He even went as far as to say that he loved his grandfather for the first time.

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As opposed to previous seasons of Doctor Who, Season 11 really didn’t feature a season-long arc. However, this season did feature one recurring subplot; Ryan and Graham moving past their mutual antipathy to connect as a family.

In one of this episode’s best moments, the pair finally did so in traditional Doctor Who fashion; moments away from death and a billion miles from home. In a season that sometimes struggled with characterization, Ryan’s deserves credit for being perfectly executed.

3. “They stole five planets”

One of the most significant ways season 11 departed from previous eras of Doctor Who was its focus on telling small-scale stories. Over the course of 10 episodes, the Doctor frequently dealt with monstrous antagonists and life-threatening situations, but few rose to the level of being intergalactic threats. However, that was not the case for the returning Tim Shaw. His plot to steal, miniaturize and imprison five worlds that had opposed to species was something only the Doctor was equipped to deal with.

It’s also worth noting that in a way, Shaw’s upgrade to cosmic menace was facilitated by the Doctor period. It was her decision to transport him back to what she thought was his home world instead of killing or imprisoning him. As Graham rightly pointed out, her lack of decisive action cost a lot of good people their lives. The thematic irony was one of the season strongest bits of storytelling and is something that would be very welcome in season 12.

Doctor Who, BBC America
Photo credit: Doctor Who/Ben Blackall/BBC — Acquired via AMC Press Site) /

 2. “Sort of like a supergroup. Best elements of everyone”

To resolve the crisis, the Doctor came up with a complicated, insane plot that also ran the risk of shredding the fabric of reality. Although that sort of thing is extremely challenging and unusual for the Avengers, For the Doctor, it’s Sunday. However, the results of the plan were conventional but the series’ standards, the mechanics of it were not.

Instead of providing the solution to the problem, the Doctor facilitated it. She combined Tim Shaw’s technology, the alien’s psychic powers and the TARDIS transportation capability to warp all the planets back to where they belong safely. While the Thirteenth Doctor’s tendency to have others work with instead of for her has irked some viewers, I really like it. Collaboration is how surgeries teams, first responders and disaster relief organization resolve devastating, complex problems so it makes sense that the Doctor would also employ that technique.

 1. “No, I’m the better man”

Given how determined he was, I wasn’t sure how things are going to resolve with grand in this episode. After all, Doctor Who tends to leave the big game-changing moments for its finales. Turning Graham into a killer certainly would’ve qualified as a big moment. And the Doctor has made a point of leaving other companions behind when they’ve violated the rules. Happily, though, Graham found that he wasn’t able to kill his wife’s unrepentant murderer even when he had the chance.

dark. Next. Has Doctor Who fallen in quality in Season 11?

Instead, he and Ryan walked the creature into a stasis chamber and honored Grace’s request that both strive to be better men. Though not as thrilling as watching the Doctor and friends rescue an entire solar system, that moment was definitely the episode’s emotional apex. It both cemented Graham and Ryan’s bond and their embrace of the Doctor’s (largely) non-violent ethos. As such, it was a real bummer that, as with the most of the episode, Yaz (Mandip Gill) had no part in it.

Did you like this season finale? Leave your answer in the comments below.

Doctor Who will return with a new episode on New Year Day’s on BBC America at 8 pm ET.