Doctor Who S11, E2: “The Ghost Monument” – Review

By Contributing Writer, Manh T.

“The Ghost Monument” picks straight up from last week’s cliffhanger, and follows the Doctor, her three companions, and two alien humanoids by the name of “Epzo” and “Angstrom”, on a mysterious planet called Desolation. The plot revolves around a massive galactic space race/quest that began with over four-thousand participants but is now down to two finalists, Epzo and Angstrom, who are competing for “3.2 trillion Krin”. The Doctor speaks for us all when she hilariously notes that she’s “a bit behind” on the currency and exchange rates. Of course with the planet eeriliy being called “Desolation”, we’re led to believe that there is something more going on than just a simple galactic space competition, and director Mark Tonderai helps by subtle-y peppering key imagery into the episode.

This episode felt very much like a classic Doctor Who episode, we’re introduced to our set of characters, the general surface plot, and the underlying mystery that the Doctor must eventually solve. However thanks to Chris Chibnall’s writing the episode manages to stand out, and is even better than last week’s pilot episode in my opinon. Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor is infectiously great, she takes all the amazing aspects of the previous incarnations and builds upon it with her unique and quirky personality. Her companions are also starting to grow on me, with the focus being on Graham and Ryan after the death of Grace. We haven’t seen Yasmin do much, however we’re early into this new season and I fully expect them to give her character abit more depth as we progress.

New show-runner/writer Chris Chibnall has stated that this new season will fetaure no previously known aliens, and that we’d be getting new alien species every episode! I very much love this, because although the Daleks, Cybermen etc. are all iconic Doctor Who antagonists, I’m quite tired of seeing them. The “Remnants” are introduced in this episode, and their threatening presence is very reminiscent of the Vashta Nerada from “The Library”. There are certain reveals that point towards the Stenza (the aliens from the pilot) playing a much larger role within this season, and I can’t wait to see them again (despite how terrifying their appearance is!). With Chibnall choosing not to feature any previously known aliens this season, he’s also decided that we won’t be getting any two-parters which I was initially hesitant about considering how many amazing two-parters we’ve gotten in the previous seasons. However if they maintain the quality we’ve gotten with these two episodes then I’m very much on board with any of Chibnall’s plans!

With this second episode we finally get to see the show’s new psychedelic and trippy intro, and I’m a big fan of it. The theme song also gets a subtle reworking to it, which I think sounds reminiscent of the older theme songs but also offers something new to the ears. Another element that was absent from the pilot that also makes an appearance in this episode is the TARDIS! Chibnall sneakily integrates the TARDIS right into the plot of this episode, and when the Doctor finally reunites with it we get some glorious and surprisingly emotional scenes which I absolutely loved. Among the changes made to the intro, the theme song, and the sonic screwdriver, the TARDIS also gets a redesign which isn’t my favourite TARDIS design however I’m sure it’ll grow on me just as Whittaker’s Doctor has.

Overall, this episode was solid and even though the plot itself was very generic compared to other great storylines we’ve gotten from the show, you can’t help but push those critiques to the side, as Whittaker’s performance as the Doctor is pure electric.