Once again this series of Doctor Who, Blogtor Who will look at all the nods and references to adventures which have gone before. So even if you are not already a Mastermind expert on all things in the Whoniverse you can appreciate the little detail as well. Perhaps you are a very knowledgeable Whovian already but did you spot them all?
Every Title Sequence Ever!
Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But it’s certainly true that the astonishingly vibrant and impressive title sequence introduced in The Ghost Monument evokes many of its predecessors from down the years. In particular it shares elements with the 1960s sequences. Like those it’s like looking into a horror dimension beyond our understanding where the rules of physics did not apply. Towards the end, it resolves into a starfield not a million miles from the one seen in 1980s Doctor Who but this too feels alien and wrong. The stars themselves are fractured into threatening, glass like shards as we race past them. It’s most otherworldly take on travelling down the vortex since the days of Tom Baker. By former YouTube fan artist turned pro John Smith it plugs directly into the history of Doctor Who to create something brilliantly new.
It’s a perfect counterpoint to the Segun Akinola’s new take on the music. Blast from the Past talked last week about the stripped back, classic nature of the composition. But placed in concert with the visuals it underlines this is the Doctor Who theme not as heroic anthem. Rather it’s a representation as the dark terrors at the corner of the universe the Doctor protects us from. Just like the old days.
The Doctor Meets Her TARDIS for the First Time (Again)
The Doctor’s latest friends having their ‘It’s bigger on the inside!” moment happens in practically every season of Doctor Who. Far rarer are moments like we get in The Ghost Monument. Scenes where the Doctor themselves is surprised and delighted by their ship’s new interior. In fact, it’s only been done in quite this way before. When the Tenth Doctor does major damage to the TARDIS by regenerating inside it, his ship locks the new Eleventh Doctor out for a while so it can put things back together. The result is Matt Smith peeping in the doors, looking around in wonder and declaring the TARDIS “you sexy thing.”
Things play out this year in similar fashion – though eponymous Ghost Monument makes the Doctor work a little harder for her forgiveness this time (after all, to do it once was bad enough…) But she’s no less dumbstruck with joy and awe upon seeing the result of the TARDIS having ‘done herself up.’
Back in 1972, the Second and Third Doctors had a somewhat combative relationship in The Three Doctors. Perfectly understandable when one has basically taken advantage of the move to college to reinvent themselves as deeply hip and cool fan of things ‘you’ve probably never heard of’, and the other is their own time travelling twelve year old self arriving on campus in a My Little Pony t-shirt that hasn’t been washed in three weeks. One bit of needling has left a permanent mark on Doctor Who history. When the Second Doctor looks around at his successor’s console room with an expression of delight “Oh! You’ve redecorated!” it’s only for his face to drop (along with his elbow on the Third Doctor’s pride) as he sniffs “I don’t like it.”
It’s a comedy beat that’s been revisited many times since. When Troughton returned a decade later for The Five Doctors, he repeated the gag, only with UNIT HQ as his target. Matt Smith channels the same shift from delight to disgust when revisiting Craig in Closing Time. Though, in typical Eleventh Doctor style, he’s oblivious to the fact it’s actually a completely different house. The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special The Day of the Doctor, kept up the tradition by recycling the same gag from the 10th and 20th. This time it was David Tennant’s turn to cast shade on his successor’s design choices.
But the moment’s nicely subverted in The Ghost Monument. “Oh! You’ve redecorated,” gasps the Thirteenth Doctor as she steps into the gold and burnished metal of the new console room. And then her face splits into a huge grin, “I really like it!”
Crashing with Style
The Fourth Doctor once tried to use a pilot’s license for the Mars-Venus rocket run as photo ID. However the Doctor historically does very little flying in the traditional sense. They’re not one given to throwing themselves down battle station trenches to fire torpedoes at convenient exhaust ports. But the Doctor taking the controls of the Cerebos to land it in as few pieces as possible on the surface of Desolation isn’t completely without precedent. In Peter Davison’s swansong as the Doctor, he hijacks the spaceship of a bunch of gun-running mercenaries. He immediately proceeds to deliberately crashes it into the desert planet of Androzani Minor. All to get back to his new best friend whom he’s only just met and accidentally marooned on a hostile, desolate planet due to his own miscalculations.
Further back in Doctor Who history, the First Doctor takes command of an old school science fiction space rocket in The Sensorites. This time, though, he’s trying to avoid crashing into the Sense Sphere. And he actually succeeds in pulling the ship out of its deadly dive. He’s positively thrilled though – pointing out he doesn’t get to do much of that type of flying.
Over the centuries the Doctor has shown an inconsistent level of martial arts skill. If you were a villainous henchman in the 1970s and suddenly the Doctor looked more like stuntman Terry Walsh in a wig than Jon Pertwee then you were for it, basically. Later Doctors would either settle for a good old fashioned punch to the jaw, or eschew violence altogether. But they’d still show off their martial arts skills from time to time. And Venusian Akido is by far the Doctor’s favourite form of fisticuffs, introduced in Pertwee’s time and semi-regularly referenced since. Most recently, we saw the Twelfth Doctor use it to execute a devastating smack down on Bill Pott’s blueish killer.
In The Ghost Monument, the Doctor reveals the appeal of Venusian Akido is that it can be spectacularly powerful but is also “fundamentally harmless.” She also reveals she learned it from some “Venusian nuns.” We’re still left to ponder whether it was the First or Second Doctors that lived in an alien nunnery for a while, learning about nerve strikes, though.
The Ghost Monument isn’t the first time Doctor Who has featured an epic race among the stars, with competitors willing to do anything to get over the finish line first. However, the spaceship race in Enlightenment couldn’t be more different. It’s more the Tall Ships’ Race than the Dakar Rally of The Ghost Monument. The motives of the competitors are a sharp contrast too – while Epzo and Angstrom are on society’s bottom rung and looking to pull themselves out of bad situations, the Eternals racing for Enlightenment are simply looking for relief from the crushing boredom of their immortality. (Though, come to think of it, Ilen exhibits the same sort of decadent boredom. Hmmm)
The Doctor Who adventure continues…
Doctor Who continues on BBC One at 6.55pm this Sunday with Rosa by Malorie Blackman. Series 11 stars Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), and Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair). Rosa guest stars Vinette Robinson as Rosa Parks and Josh Bowman as Krasko.
“If she can live here her whole life, a couple of hours ain’t gonna kill me. They ain’t gonna kill me, right?” Montgomery, Alabama. 1955. The Doctor and her friends find themselves in the Deep South of America. As they encounter a seamstress by the name of Rosa Parks, they begin to wonder: is someone attempting to change history?