Doctor Who - Episode 11.02 - The Ghost Monument - Review
The first episode ended on a fantastic cliffhanger, and didn't give us everything the "first" episode of a new Doctor usually gives us. "The Ghost Monument" again written by showrunner Chris Chibnall, gave us a worthy follow up to the premiere.
Some of the most memorable episodes of Doctor Who are the big sweeping epics, where The Doctor has to save the entire universe. But, the other more intimate stories can be just as fun. Think "Time Heist" from season 8, or "The End of The World" from season 1. "The Ghost Monument" wasn't about a threat to the world. It was about a race, like our reality show The Amazing Race. The Doctor and her friends just got in the middle of it. Episode variety like that is what makes this show great. Not every story has to be "the fate of the universe is on the brink, unless the Doctor pulls this lever!"
The story itself was fun. The Doctor is looking for her TARDIS, which is something completely different to the people of the race. The journey to get to "The Ghost Monument" - which is the TARDIS - was perfect for more character development.
The episode was another exposition heavy one. Most Doctor Who episodes are, but there is a lot of other people explaining things to the Doctor, where here, Jodie Whittaker had to do most of the work. In a visual medium, it is always better when we are shown things, instead of being told things, but I didn't mind it that much. Throw on any episode of Doctor Who since 2005, and there will be several instances of the Doctor talking fast and explaining things to people.
We finally got the opening theme! In any other show, I would be indifferent at best, annoyed at worst, at the opening theme. But Doctor Who's is the best one on TV, and I actually miss it when it is not there. The new opening is gorgeous in both sight and sound. New series composer Segun Akinola would have impressed with just that. But his entire score so far has been nothing short of perfect. The music is slightly more subtle than Murray Gold's grand scores. (Do not misunderstand me, I love Murray Gold's music!) The ethereal sense of Akinola's music really helps shape the new look of the show.
Speaking of the new look, the show has never looked better. Each episode has looked like a movie. Doctor Who has a low budget (relatively speaking), but you wouldn't know that by the way it is filmed. It looks like something that would air on HBO!
We got the continued development of Graham and Ryan's relationship. Still not much on Yaz, but that will change eventually. Chibnall hasn't found the way to perfectly balance the entire cast yet, but he's getting there. Once he does, things will get even better.
The story is still second fiddle to the characters, which is fine as we are still getting to know them. But I can't wait for one of the strongly plotted stories, one of the ones that will be deemed an "instant classic". A balance between the two would be ideal, so hopefully once the characters get a bit more comfortable, story becomes the focus.
With that being said, there is a better picture forming of the overall season arc. The Stenza seem to be a looming threat. Then there is the off handed mention of the planet moving from its alignment (I bet that is not the last we hear of that), but the most intriguing part for me was the mention of the "Timeless Child" in the Doctor's head.
That will definitely come up again, and the theories are already in overdrive. My first thought, (because I am NuWho oriented) was Jenny, from "The Doctor's Daughter". But I highly doubt that Chibnall would use something from Steven Moffat or Russell T Davies so early in his run. After a bit of Classic Who research, I came across Morbius, which could work too, but it is most likely something brand new.
The only thing I don't want it to be is something to the effect of the Doctor not being a "true Time Lord", or any of that "part human" nonsense again. Moffat did his best to undo that thread, and hopefully it stays unstitched.
We've never really had an episode built around the TARDIS reveal before. It is always a great moment, but the moment ends, and the story continues. For the entire story to be building to it, especially after we went the entire first episode without it, was actually kind of cool. It made the payoff that much better. I love the new exterior (though I do miss the St. John's badge), and the interior will grow on me in time. I don't hate it, but I just need to get used to it. I like the more practical approach - levers, knobs, and buttons - it seems truly alien. But the best part is the cookie dispenser. That needs to be in every version of the TARDIS from now until the end of time.
We are already 1/5th through the season, and it is immensely enjoyable. Next week we meet a very important historical figure, and get to see someone who has never written for the show before take a crack at the new TARDIS team. All of the set-up a new Doctor requires is now out of the way. Things should really take off now.
Doctor Who airs Sundays on BBC One and BBC America