DW Reviewed | 11.2 The Ghost Monument

~Spoilers ahead! ~

11.2 The Ghost Monument – Chris Chibnall

Story

Opening with the Doctor and her companions floating in space, it’s not the TARDIS that rescues them but two spaceships, splitting the group up. While Graham and Ryan’s rescuer, manages to land on a nearby planet, known as Desolation, Yaz wakes up in a medical pod to find the Doctor helping to crash land the second ship.

Gorgeous plane shot
I can’t get over how good the show actually looks.

The episode focuses around the last ever rally of the twelve galaxies where the pilots Angstrom and Epzo are the two remaining contenders. Picking up our heroes as a bonus, the pair approach a tent, the lone sign of life in this planet. Ilin, the holographic gamesmaster tells them where the finish line is: the Ghost Monument. We find out that the Ghost Monument is actually the TARDIS, incentivising the Doctor to become part of the race.

The six characters make their way across the deserted wasteland planet to get to the finish. They find themselves working more as a team with the Doctor being the only one concerned about what happened to this planet. This question is eventually answered through some alien writing on the floor – the Stenza forced its residents to use weapons of mass destruction, leaving it desolated.

After facing sniper droids, Remnants and acetylene gas, the rag tag team make it to the finish line. By some miracle, the gamesmaster allows the two competing pilots to both take the prize instead of abandoning them on the planet and disqualifying them. The Doctor and the humans are left and the TARDIS is nowhere to be found, until, as expected, it begins to phase into existence and the Doctor stabilises it. Finally they can go home.

11.2 My Beautiful Ghost Monument
Oh my beautiful ghost monument

Fun parts

  • New Credits: I like them – they feel very alien, reminiscent of classic who.
  • I *adored* the little back and forth about how much the prize money was worth: 3.2 million krin.

    Doctor: How much is a krin?
    Angstrom: 200 kavlons.
    Epzo: It’s 90 forvalars.
    Doctor: (confused) No.
    Angstrom: 4000 trynties.
    Epzo: Well in old money.

  • The new TARDIS has a Custard Cream dispenser – that’s the kind of quirkiness I like in a TARDIS

    11.2 Custard cream dispenser
    Now with a Custard Cream dispenser.

Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff

  • The Doctor says that the planet has moved out of orbit. Is this potentially part of a big story arc akin to the missing planets mentioned across S4?
  • The Remnants’ message/threat – Is this about the Doctor? Or is this about her family? Something to do with Susan (her granddaughter, from the original series) or the other members of her family?
    ‘We see deeper though, further back – The Timeless Child. […] We see what’s hidden, even from yourself, the outcast abandoned and unknown.’

Monster of the Week

The planet itself: a deserted wasteland with flesh-eating water microbes. Scary, but the microbes would be scarier if demonstrated in some manner a la the Vashta Nerada.

Sniper droids: a bit generic, poor aim so not too scary.

The return of the Stenza: a bit more of a forbidding villain if they can leave an entire planet desolated like this but I won’t believe it till I see it.

The Remnants: cloth based creatures, although easily defeated, a creepy addition to the universe. I liked them a lot and I think they were probably the scariest thing in this episode. A little on the side of magical SF, but I’ll allow it.

11.2 Attack of the Remnants
The Remnants in action

Closing Thoughts

The opening was exciting and fast paced, dropping us straight into the action and I loved the premise. Of course the TARDIS was the Ghost Monument but it gave the characters a reason to progress and didn’t drag out the promise of seeing a new TARDIS beyond two episodes. The opening almost convinced me that I could be on board with the new tone. The cinematography continues to be gorgeous and high quality. Being out in a desert wasteland meant that this episode was bright and I especially liked the initial sweeping shots within the spaceship that followed the Doctor around.

Then the middle happened – for an episode surrounding an intergalactic race, there wasn’t much racing nor as much urgency as I would have liked. The stakes felt a little low; no companion came across as particularly terrified at being lost in the middle of nowhere on an alien death planet with no way out. Plus every problem resolved itself within a matter of minutes; the Doctor/companions are separated and then immediately reunited; the mysterious Ghost Monument is mysterious for about 5 minutes; the cloth monsters are easily burned.

There is a lot more telling than showing and I think better writing doesn’t need that. The obvious example is that the Doctor’s question of what happened on this planet is not figured out with clues dropped. She literally just reads a (long) note. Similarly, the conclusion was a little lack-lustre too – why was it so easy to threaten the gamesmaster?  Sure if they had discovered the TARDIS first and had an exit strategy, that would make sense but they didn’t.

11.2 Reading the Message
Ah, yes – this looks like exposition here.

A few final notes. The anti-gun argument felt a bit misplaced. Yes, the Doctor has a history of not liking guns but it felt shoehorned in for a situation facing droids. I feel like the show is suffering from having so many companions – Yaz basically hangs around like a spare part in this episode. Finally, I don’t think anything will ever top the steampunk glory that was 11’s TARDIS but this new version definitely feels alien with some throwback to the organic look of 9/10’s TARDIS (but why does it have to be dark????).

11.2 Tardis Interior
The crystal claws are gonna get ya

Overall I just think the writing needs to match the production quality a little bit more. It doesn’t need to be crazy convoluted or clever – I just think it needs more of a tightly written script.  Next week’s episode features Rosa Parks and I would say that historical episodes of DW have always been a bit stronger, so I’m looking forward to that.

2 thoughts on “DW Reviewed | 11.2 The Ghost Monument

  1. I’ve heard the new tardis and theme tune are great! Pity about the shoehorned in message and the story not having such a great conclusion :/ I just can’t bring myself to watch the series again tbh for things like that- it’s why I fell out of love years ago and it sounds like more of the same :/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s got positive reviews across the board but personally it hasn’t felt like Doctor Who to me for a long while and I understand not wanting to watch it again. I rewatched all of it recently and fell back in love with it so I’m ploughing on!

      Like

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