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Doctor Who

The Ghost Monument

Review by Paul Bowler

Following its ratings smashing premier episode, The Woman Who Fell To Earth, Series 11 of Doctor Who continues with The Ghost Monument, written by Chris Chibnall, and directed by Mark Tonderai (Gotham, Black Lightening, The Five). After being left reeling from their first adventure, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), along with her new companions Graham (Bradley Walsh), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole) must now find a way to survive on a hostile alien world as they strive to solve the uncanny mystery of the planet Desolation…

Partly filmed in South Africa, the second episode of series 11 certainly gives an added sense of awe and spectacle to the Doctor’s companion’s first trip to another plant. The BAFTA winning DNEG team responsible for this new season visual effects also continue to work their magic, and The Ghost Monument is an absolutely stunning looking episode as a result.

Jodie Whittaker continues to excel in her role as the new 13th Doctor, brimming with fun and sound advice, her incarnations traits quickly make you warm to her endearing characterization of the Time Lord. After being marooned in space at the end of the new series premier, the Doctor and her companions are soon scooped from the void by two pilots Angstorm (Susan Lynch) and Epzo (Shaun Dooley) in their old rickety spaceships taking part in an intergalactic race, but after crash-landing on the barren planet with three suns the stranded group encounter the holographic potentate Llin (Art Malik) and the Doctor is shocked to discover that the objective of the race – reaching the mythical Ghost Monument – is actually the TARDIS which has somehow become trapped out of phase on this worlds surface because of the damage it suffered.

Their quest to reach the Ghost Monument involves crossing a sea contaminated by deadly microbes, exploring some ancient ruins while stalked by sniper robots, facing the frightening cloth-like Remnants, and the eventual discover that this entire planet was used by the Stenza to create weapons of mass destruction.

There is a snappy pace to Chris Chibnal’s scrip for The Ghost Monument that really steps things up a gear for the Doctor and her companions. Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole are all excellent in their roles as Graham, Yaz and Ryan respectively, and its great to see their characters gradually adapting to the Doctor’s madcap world over the course of this adventure with only her promise to keep them alive and get them home to really bind them together – relying on their wits and getting to know each other better as a result along the way.

The subtleties in Jodie Whittaker’s performance as the quirkily fun, clever and practical new incarnation Time Lord also really begins to shine though as both she and her companions start to forge strong bonds, with subsequent events illustrating just how great they are as a team when they get caught up in the episodes powerful allegorical themes of disaster, mass-murder, and ethnic cleansing. The Ghost Monument also gives us slightly more insight to the Stenza from the first episode, especially how they used this planet to make weapons, the sniper bots provide some exciting action, and the snaking cloth-like Remnants (chillingly voiced by Ian Gelder) which emerge at night are also quite unsettling as they use their victims fears against them.

The Ghost Monument marks the debut of series 11’s fantastic new title sequence as well! Featuring a stylish amalgamation of classic and new elements the gorgeously swirly new titles complements the fresh, vibrant tone of the new series perfectly, and together with terrific new opening theme by the series new composer Segun Akinola this episode feels extra special as a result.

But that not all. After reaching the Ghost Monument, Angstorm and Epzo claim joint victory, and teleport off the planet, apparently leaving the Doctor and her companions stranded. It is here, in a particularly emotional scene for Jodie Whittaker, that the Doctor coaxes the TARDIS to materialise properly at last and we get our first look inside! While the exterior is a lovely throwback to the early Tom Baker years; I feel the interior may divide opinion somewhat, but I personally thought the new TARDIS interior was spectacular! It looks a bit like a crystalline, steam punk, version of the 9th and 10th Doctor’s TARDIS interiors, the console is covered in chunky levers, there‘s a little model TARDIS, one section of the console even dispenses custard cream biscuits, and seeing the Doctor and her companions finally enter the elusive time machine for the first time is a defining moment that really makes the 13th Doctor’s new era feel complete at last.

The Ghost Monument is a continuation of the set-up for the new series, new Doctor and new characters that began with The Woman Who Fell To Earth. Sure, the plot is a bit frenzied at times, but my only real grip was how much the story went so OTT with the sonic screwdriver – yes it’s that old pitfall of the sonic fixing / saving every situation that New Who so often falls into. However, with the episodes dash of Venusian Akido and its tantalizing reference to the “Timeless Child” I’m willing to let them off the overuse of the sonic a bit.

Along with Chris Chibnal’s strong script and Mark Tonderai’s superb direction, The Ghost Monument delivers blockbusting spectacle and action in equal measure. Jodie Whittaker and the new ensemble cast are settling into their roles nicely, all the familiar elements are now in place, and with their inaugural trip first voyage to another planet under their belt its now time for the Doctor and her companions adventurers in time and space to begin in earnest!

Images and Video Belongs BBC

Watch the trailer for the third episode of series 11, Rosa.

Here’s the new Doctor Who title sequence and new theme!

Check out the New TARDIS | Doctor Who: Series 11!

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