Doctor Who: Series 11 pre-finale triage

During the Moffat era, I posted my season rankings pre-finale, because finales are so often either uncommonly great or massive train wrecks. This time I decided just to triage the series, since it divided so evenly, and since I found it difficult to order my three favorite stories. So they’re listed in three categories (the first of which is the best, the last is the worst) and ordered chronologically within those categories. I know what the ranking would have been, but this method makes it so much easier to sleep at night.

How was the series overall? After a run of mostly-just-ok Chibnall stories, broken only by “Rosa,” things picked up and I’ve quite enjoyed the second half. It’s more low-key than the previous two eras in a lot of ways, but also more sure of itself, not trying so hard, content to be good stories in a variety of genres about people we like. I genuinely have no idea what to expect from series 12 and I’m eagerly looking forward to it.

“Aw, brilliant!”

If one story provided a reason for this season to exist, “Rosa” would be it. As ambitious and risky an idea as the new series has ever attempted, and, against all odds, it’s excellent.

The colorful, funny, complex satire this season was waiting for. Every character has something to do, and it’s all entertaining. There’s at least one troubling moment to back up whatever position you take on the target of the satire.

It Takes You Away
Full of striking imagery and ideas that don’t all work perfectly, but better this surfeit of imagination than a dearth of it.

“A work in progress. It’ll be fine”

The Woman Who Fell to Earth
A fine premiere with a lot to do. Maybe a little gloomy, is all, and it’s a shame it went and killed off one of its best characters. But just about everything Whittaker does in it is magic.

Demons of the Punjab
This close to great, but the scale (social, political, emotional) is just beyond the grasp of the small cast and middle-of-nowhere setting., and the whole thing just feels a little too on-the-nose and stagey. Terrific alien costumes, though, and just to see these settings and themes on the show is a real pleasure.

The Witchfinders
Gorgeously shot, proper scary, wonderfully acted. What more do you want? An utterly delicious guest appearance by Alan Cumming?

“I see things need fixing”

The Ghost Monument
A story based on an arbitrary contest on a planet artificially populated by weapons research experiments makes this one of the hardest episodes to care about, but I quite liked the linen monsters, and “the ghost monument” is one of the best story titles and nicknames for the TARDIS we’ve ever had.

Arachnids of the UK
Anything with giant spiders can’t be a complete dud, and this story definitely has its moments, but it’s hamstrung by its best intentions and let down by one truly awful character/performance.

The Tsuranga Conundrum
Not actively unpleasant, just dull, with too many characters and not enough story to go round.