Sunday 14 October 2018

The Ghost Monument - A Review

This week's episode was about a journey - and that's what the new series is on. It is heading somewhere, but is not there yet. Things are starting to fall into place after the relatively low key opener. We've now heard and seen the new theme tune arrangement and title sequence, and the TARDIS has been retrieved. The four travellers had the opportunity to bond a little on their journey, but we still don't really know them.
I have a sneaking suspicion that come Episode 10, the show-runner might be regarded as the weakest of the writers - something you could never say of his two predecessors.
Before I talk about the plot, a word about the items above. First of all, I very much like the new title sequence. It has definite hints of the howlround of the Hartnell era. The music I have yet to warm to. Maybe it's just my TV set, but it sounded a little murky, as though two different arrangements were competing with each other. New arrangements of the theme always do little for me initially, but some versions have come to grow on me over time.
The new TARDIS console room we haven't seen properly yet. I am assuming it isn't always going to be as dark as this. I have read somewhere that the crystal buttresses light up, so we may have to wait until next week to see it in flight to get the full effect. Nice to see the old "You've redecorated" joke pulled out again - though this time it is the Doctor talking to the TARDIS itself, and she does like it. I definitely don't like the little spinning plastic police box model, though you can never argue with a custard creams dispenser.
I think it was a mistake to let on so early that the ship was the titular "Ghost Monument" - I would have preferred to have worked that out for myself.

As for the companions, well Yaz has still to be given anything to do for the second week running. Hopefully she will get to take the lead in one of the next couple of episodes. I was impressed with Graham last week, but here he was just annoyed and moaning about everything. Ryan got one stand out moment when he charged off with a gun - leading to a preachy bit from the Doctor. There's a lot in the news about young men dying violent deaths in London, so this was Chibnall trying to be topical.
The Doctor being preachy is a problem at the moment. We still haven't really seen just what the character of the new Doctor is. She either cracks one-liners, similar to Tennant or Smith, or gives little motivational soundbites. To me, these do not equal fully rounded character.
As for the storyline, well it was pretty straightforward. The Doctor and companions were picked up from deep space by a pair of spaceship pilots who are on the final leg of a race. It was really obvious from the outset that both of the pilots - Angstrom and Epzo - would get joint first place in the contest. To get to the prize, everyone had to traverse a hostile alien environment. Now, it looked wonderful - being shot around South Africa. But the threats were very weak. The water is full of flesh eating bacteria, but this is something we are told about rather than shown, and hey, there is a boat to take them across the sea anyway. The vessel doesn't even run out of fuel or start to sink, so zero jeopardy.
We then get to the most rubbishy robots in the series' history. They are supposedly Sniper-Bots, but they are incapable to hitting anything. Fortunately they don't overstay their welcome.
The mystery of the planet could have been made more of. Why was it not where it was supposed to be? The idea of an entire planet being turned into one huge weapons laboratory should have been a story in itself. We then get a second monster, and I'm afraid it didn't work for me at all. Bits of animated cloth. Chibnall has had his whole life to devise great new aliens and monsters, so we have to be disappointed. Besides, MR James did spooky animated cloth far more effectively 114 years ago.
So, everyone gets to where they were going with not quite enough incident. Shaun Dooley and Susan Lynch were worthwhile guest starts, but Art Malik was woefully underused, just bookending proceedings on the planet and his character, Ilin, giving in too easily at the end. His story, and that of the race, might have made for a story in its own right as well.
We were told that there wasn't going to be any story arc this year, and yet the rag monsters seemed to strike a worry in the Doctor with the mention of a "timeless child" and an outcast. It also turns out that the people responsible for turning Desolation into a desolation, and who had attacked Angstrom's world, were the Stenza - Doctor Who's answer to Star Trek: Voyager's Hirogen whom we met last week.
From what we can gather, next week sees a visit into the past, as someone is trying to change history - the bloke who looks like he's stepped off the set of Grease meddling with Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement. As Jodie Whittaker mentioned in interviews trouble with technobabble, including "Vortex Manipulator", then this guy might be a Time Agent. It's by one of the new writers, so we will see if they can come up with something a little more challenging than what Chibnall has so far delivered. That jury I mentioned last week? Still out.


  1. i'll be very pleased if this outcast, timeless child ends up being the rani

    i mean there were some rumours already in that matter and the rag thing description fits very much the renegate time lord

    and what if she is now in a way associated with the stenza? their MO of scientific weaponry sounds very rani-ish to me

    wishful thinking, yeah but the these new game bosses by chibnail didnt left me impressed.

  2. A female villain for the female Doctor might be interesting. They can't use Missy anymore - at least not for a while. The other option might be for it to be a relation of the Doctor's. Not necessarily Susan, but perhaps one of her children, so not fully Time Lord... When Chibnall said there would not be a story arc, he might have just taken a leaf out of Russell T Davies' book and lied.