Doctor Who Review – “The Ghost Monument”

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The momentum from Jodie and her Thirteenth Doctor continues this week – in an episode that is pivotal for each new Doctor and for every new companion. The Doctor and her new friends find themselves thrust into the end of a deadly game, trapped on a hostile planet, and with no TARDIS in sight. “The Ghost Monument” was another opportunity for this entirely new creative team to show us a glimpse into their world. With each new regeneration there are critical episodes for the Doctor and new companions, episodes that turn into defining moments for them as characters. Traveling to your first alien planet is a big deal for new companions and in “The Ghost Monument” Yaz, Ryan, and Graham were an absolute delight to watch.

Mandip Gill as Yaz, Tosin Cole as Ryan and Bradley Walsh as Graham. Photograph: Coco Van Opens/BBC

After her slight mishap with the transponder, all 4 of these newfound friends end up in space, floating in a void where a planet should have been. Not the most pleasant way to travel to your first unknown land and definitely not the safest. Luckily for them, competitors in a grand space race – Andstrom and Epzo, confuse them for bonuses and scoop them from their inevitable deaths. The Last Rally of the Five Galaxies is a large scale competition through space with untold riches as the prize. Though this competition isn’t of human creation, I can 100% see us in the future doing the same thing, but putting it on television in some sort of twisted reality program. Upon meeting with the holographic games master, the competitors are given instructions on how to get to The Ghost Monument, which is not only the finish line but it’s also the TARDIS. The only problem, this planet is wrong and cruel – with everything wanting to destroy you. The team of 6 take off across this deadly planet in search of The Ghost Monument – the only way out for Thirteen and her friends.

I’m really good in a tight spot. At least I Have been historically, I’m sure I still am. – Thirteen

Jodie’s Doctor also finally started to feel like The Doctor this week. Though I loved her in “The Woman Who Fell To Earth” there are always regeneration bugs to get out of the way. Each Doctor has an episode or two where they are getting out the regeneration jitters and really settling into the role, and Jodie nailed it this week. She might still be working out who she is but we saw so much of her past come out. With a tee shirt worthy, “Brains Beat Bullets” comment when Ryan tries to solve their problem with guns to her thinking outside of the box for a quick solution – Jodie is proving that she has the chops for this and that she will be a brilliant Doctor. She has been nothing but a delight to watch and even reminds me a bit of Eccleston’s 9th Doctor in how quickly she can turn ruthless if necessary.

Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor and Art Malik as Ilin. Photograph: Coco Van Opens/BBC

Visually, this episode is absolutely stunning. It felt like I was watching a feature film on a big screen when in reality I was at home, hiding behind my couch – the only proper way to watch an episode of Doctor Who. I think that this is one of the best cinematic episodes of the show in recent years and I hope that the budget planning allows for more on site shooting than just this one episode. Speaking of things being visually pleasing, the TARDIS has redecorated again, and damn does she look good. I’m always nervous for what the TARDIS interior will look like upon regeneration, we are stuck with this for at least a whole season so it’s important to get it right. Though Chibnall is stubbornly resisting the classic “it’s bigger on the inside” line – the companions amused glances towards the TARDIS combined with a look of awe from Thirteen as she enters was perfect.

Looking Ahead and Random Musings

  • Something that I completely love about our new companions is that none of them wanted to pick up and run away. Historically, our companions have met the Doctor on Earth helped on an adventure and then asked to continue traveling together. Yaz, Ryan, and Graham have literally been brought along by accident. None of them asked to join The Doctor here, none have a background they’re trying to run from – even upon entering the TARDIS the plan is to take them immediately home. I think that this will be a very dynamic group for Thirteen and it’ll be interesting to see how they continue to form into a group of traveling friends and what adventure makes the companions want to stay.
  • Will we continue to see more of the Stenza? With some quite notable villains missing from this season, the Stenza have now been mentioned twice in two weeks – will we see some kind of over arching storyline with them as the big bad?
  • The TARDIS has a mini TARDIS! I am in love with it and want to purchase one immediately.
  • Biscuit dispensers, not something that I would have thought the TARDIS needed, but now that it has one I question how we ever survived without it.
  • Guest stars, Series 11 has a long list of fantastic guest stars and if The Ghost Monument is anything to go by we are in for a treat with guest characters that really shine in their roles and support the story beautifully.

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Michelle Harvey