Each week the Blogtor Who team give their thoughts on the latest episode of Doctor Who. Here’s what we thought of series 11 episode 2, The Ghost Monument.
Needless to say, this article contains massive spoilers, so only read on if you’ve already watched The Ghost Monument.
The Ghost Monument has put the Doctor myth back together. We have new opening credits and the TARDIS back for this episode. And both were worth the wait. Just like the theme tune from Segun Akinola, the new opening credits harken back to the past. Very Pertwee-esque. Once again the new director, Mark Tonderai, made a beautiful episode with stunning wide-angle camera shots. And as for the Doctor, Jodie Whittaker shone in the role once again. The battle with Epzo on the “old-school” spaceship and her meeting failure at the end of the episode were highlights. Epzo and Angstrom’s character and stories were a welcome addition to the story. Graham is quickly becoming my favourite companion. The interaction between the two was emotional and touching. Unfortunately, Yaz had little to do again. The story was fun and enjoyable but was focused on building the characters and dare we say a story arc that the showrunner said didn’t exist. Back to rule one – the showrunner lies. And finally the TARDIS. It was more a teaser than a reveal. I didn’t see enough the old girl but I loved the arches. And the biscuit machine!! Everyone needs a biscuit machine. Onward to Episode 3 about Rosa Parks.
Series 11 continues its confident start with a solid (if straightforward) extra-terrestrial adventure which is arguably Chris Chibnall’s strongest Doctor Who episode to date. The planet Desolation makes for a cinematic, foreboding setting, while the limited cast allows the characters a chance to breathe. Yaz still feels a little underdeveloped, but Graham and Ryan continue to shine. The latter’s “Call of Duty” moment is a particular highlight – spontaneous, side-splitting, and spectacularly shot. Meanwhile, no longer restrained by post-regenerative trauma, Jodie Whittaker fully cements herself as the Doctor, showcasing anger and loss as well as wisecracks and smarts. It’s refreshing to see the character fail – hopefully, it’s explored even further in Thirteen’s tenure. But, by the end of this riveting race for survival, the dust has settled. Our new Doctor, new team, and new TARDIS are all in place. Anything is possible! I can’t wait to see what’s next in store…
Ever since The End of the World the ‘companions’ first alien world’ story has been a big deal. And The Ghost Monument may be the best ever as Chibnall flips another familiar narrative on its head. Refreshingly, with only brief stabs of wonder at the universe, ‘the Fam’ are far more concerned with getting home alive. There are huge tension and drama here even with lower stakes. Bradley Walsh stands out, nicely underplaying Graham’s frustration, protectiveness and growing loyalty to ‘the Doc.’ His relationship with Tosin Cole’s Ryan is a highlight too and it’s clear the older man holds a genuine love for his step-grandson. Meanwhile, Whittaker’s Doctor is still defined by her living absolutely in the moment. When Ryan disobeys her and decides to go all ‘Call of Duty’, her predecessors might have fumed about it for episodes but she verbally smacks him down and moves on. There are few plot twists, but the revelation that the Stenza are a much bigger threat than first realized is a huge one with exciting implications for the whole season. Overall, this is another episode that feels incredibly fresh while still capturing the undeniable essence of Doctor Who. Even better than last week.
The Ghost Monument could so easily have been a throwaway filler episode, added in to drag out that last little stretch of time before we finally get to see the new TARDIS interior. Thankfully, it was anything but! Chibnall brought us another fast-paced adventure, this time across a deadly alien world. He once again demonstrated his skill at creating immediately compelling and memorable characters in Angstrom and Epzo. I was very happy to see Ryan and Graham continue to work through their uneasy relationship amidst all the action, as well as Ryan’s dyspraxia continuing to be an integral part of his character. However, this focus on Ryan and Graham sadly left Yasmin somewhat sidelined. As well as this, it was wonderful to finally see the Thirteenth Doctor fully settled into her new self. She’s headstrong, incredibly clever, often quite sarcastic, and above all the same old Doctor at heart. Of course, I can’t go without mentioning that new TARDIS interior. This TARDIS is far more alien and organic than its predecessor and feels more like an infinite, mysterious space than a single room. I did really appreciate the hints of previous TARDISes which came through in the egg-timer and custard cream dispenser. Whatever your thoughts are on the new TARDIS, it’s hard to deny that The Ghost Monument is a thoroughly enjoyable and meaningful episode, which carries through it the previous episode’s strong message about the importance of family and togetherness.
GMGH – A View from Our Youngest Writer
I liked The Ghost Monument. There new title sequence was interesting but I prefer the old one with the TARDIS, cause they were more awesome. The Doctor was better than last time. The Doctor is always in charge and she made the arrogant characters like Epzo and Ilin agree with her – sort of. I liked Epzo and Angstrom and I wanted to find out more about them and their home planets. The robots were like any other alien but the Remnants were a lot cooler since they got all chatty before they killed you. The new design of the TARDIS was Steampunk and I liked. Didn’t get see enough of the new TARDIS.
After last week’s complete lack of title sequence they made up for it this week by launching straight into one…..and boy is it beautiful! Both the tune itself and the visuals evoke the original 1963 version but with a modern twist. I only lament its shortness. From there the action is almost non-stop, with the team and the thoroughly engaging guest stars encountering one lethal obstacle after the other. The pace and set up of the competition they find themselves in the middle of makes for an engaging episode with plenty of problems to solve. There are some nice character moments, especially between Ryan and Graham as they skirt around discussing what happened to Grace, but once again Yaz gets the short straw with just a quick telling-not-showing mention of her family and not much else. Hopefully, she’ll get some focus in the next few weeks otherwise she risks being the weak point of this team. I’m intrigued by the revelation that those responsible for the planets deadliness are the Stenza again, has Chibnall’s “no story arcs” stance been lying this whole time? I, for one, hope so.
In a non-linear view, I’ll start with the beginning and the end of the episode. The opening credits are worth the wait and bring to mind the titles sequences I remember from when I was a young Doctor Who fan in the 70s. Also worth the wait was the (partial) reveal of the TARDIS. Like last week’s making-the-sonic scene, the Doctor meeting her redesigned TARDIS is a thing of glory. Jodie Whittaker continues to make us feel as though she’s played the Doctor for far longer than she has and I completely enjoyed her observations and questioning of what was going on in this episode. Of particular interest in this episode is Graham and Ryan’s relationship in the absence of Grace and both stand out in an alright episode with exceptional guest stars. Shaun Dooley and Susan Lynch are great, even if the story could have done better by them. I’m not exaggerating when I say I felt a bit robbed by the end of their story. Also lacking was any real story for guest star Art Malik and for Mandip Gill who is woefully underused. And so it seems that Tim Shaw’s horrible space bunch, the Stenza, have a bigger role to play than that of ‘villain of the week’ for a single episode. Let’s see what that could be. Comedy highlights for me were Venusian aikido, “moomin beins”, Graham in Audrey Hepburn’s sunglasses and that amazing squeal from Ryan.
As with last week’s series opener, The Ghost Monument is a not particularly demanding story elevated by the high quality of its characterisation. Angstrom and Epzo, in particular, are both incredibly well-rounded and compelling, making up for the comparative underuse of Art Malik’s Ilin. The ‘space race’ itself may feel somewhat lacking in urgency, but nevertheless, the stakes are high as the true nature of the Ghost Monument is revealed. Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor’s infectious curiosity and resolve to use ‘brain over bullets’ rings out clear and true, and her eventual reunion with her TARDIS is genuinely touching. The underlying tension between Ryan and Graham adds a layer of interest to their relationship; hopefully, Yaz’s own moment in the spotlight isn’t too far off. The plot itself is simple yet sufficiently engaging, with some very intriguing seeds sown for the rest of the series. Moving forward, it would be ideal to see future episodes inject a tad more complexity into their storytelling without losing the richness of characterisation which has so quickly become an asset of this era. It’s early days yet, though, and The Ghost Monument is still a thoroughly enjoyable adventure in its own right.
Last week, I was caught out by the fact that ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’ felt very much like a Doctor Who adventure, something I admit that I was not expecting. This week, I was presented with a Doctor Who episode very much in the mould of others that have gone before. Unfortunately, ‘The Ghost Monument’ proved to be ‘The Beast Below’ following ‘The Eleventh Hour’. Whilst there is no one thing that stands out as particularly poor in ‘The Ghost Monument’, there is very little to elevate it above average Doctor Who either.
Yet again the show weighs itself down by trying to artificially create peril on a planet. We’ve had the inside of a Dalek being described as “the most dangerous place in all the universe”. This planet, called Desolation, is equally described as being dangerous because of microscopic organisms in the water. Simple solution. The characters avoid touching the water. Also adding danger are robot guards who, although maintaining the recent fascination with hoods, are completely ineffectual. Like the Stormtroopers of Star Wars their inability to shoot a target that is mere feet away verges on the comical. The character scenes are the strength of the episode but the remainder is average at best.
I believe that much of viewer’s reactions to this episode will be based upon how they respond to the conclusion. If they approve of the newly designed TARDIS interior then the previous 40 minutes will have been a worthwhile venture. If like I did, they are not so keen on the redesign then the remainder of the episode will have been fairly futile. Watching on I was waiting for a pullback to a wide shot which simply never came. Instead, mid-close ups were used with only a single, fleeting wider view. This is perhaps indicative of a new set that seems to lack height and scale with limited space to manoeuvre cameras around. The large crystal pillars dominate far too much, making the whole environment lacking in grandeur. Disappointing all round.
This episode begins brilliantly, thrust straight into the action, with stunning camera work whether showcasing the wide open vistas or the constant movement within the confined spaceships, and within ten minutes we have an exciting crash which half of our new TARDIS team have to scrabble away from. The story does ebb away over the run time, but it seems less of a worry with such a great host of characters to follow. It’s a joy to be in their presence. Yet, do the story hints for the arc of the series entice as much as the character chemistry? Probably not, but hopefully they will be built upon now we seem set up and ready for adventure.
You can watch The Ghost Monument on BBC iPlayer now.
The next episode of Doctor Who – Rosa – on BBC at 18:55pm on Sunday 1st October.