DW: The Ghost Monument Review

DW The Ghost Monument

Doctor Who begins to settle into its new groove with The Ghost Monument, which was a fun trek across a dangerous alien planet, and while it won’t win any originality awards (which at this point are incredibly hard to “win” thanks to there being just so many Who stories anyway) it was a fun way to pass an hour. New TARDIS interior and new opening completes the “new era” package, and we even get the old “hint of a future plot point” thrown in! Let’s take a closer look…

Synopsis:

Stranded on an alien planet infamously called Desolation, can the Doctor find her way to the TARDIS as she promised her new friends? Will her newest company be of any help when they’re also racing against each other? And what exactly is “The Ghost Monument”?

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

DW The Ghost Monument 1

Three companions on a very alien world! … Wait, make that a “very Earth-like alien world!”

The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) – The Doctor feels lost without her TARDIS, and guilty for nearly getting her group of three friends killed… still, danger and excitement on an alien planet! Sounds like old times…

Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole) – Ryan found himself floating in space suddenly, then waking up on a spaceship heading to a new planet… and he thought losing his Nan was tough!

Yasmin Kahn (Mandip Gill) – Yasmin wanted more excitement at her job, well her job may not have become more exciting, but her life certainly has! From floating in space to crashing in a space ship, he life is certainly anything but dull now…

Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh) – Graham has lost his wife, but he’ll be damned if he loses his adoptive grandson Ryan… even if they find themselves floating adrift in deep space…

Angstrom (Susan Lynch) – Angstrom is desperate to win the big space race and get finacially secured so she can provide a future for her doomed family… just one more leg to go!

Epzo (Shaun Dooley) – Epzo has only ever cared about himself, a lesson his rather cruel mother taught him. He’s just one final leg away from winning the big multi-galaxy space race and gaining fame and fortune…

Plus more!

The Good:

DW The Ghost Monument 2

Hint: He’s not a very nice man.

I’m still enjoying the larger main cast, as relatively plain as they are. The Doctor is now very much the generic Doctor at the moment, mostly funny, talking to herself, being serious if cornered or faced with death. Ryan is the nice guy who is bit more timid about things, Graham is the older mentor figure for Ryan who jokingly points out how crazy things are, and Yas is the braver companion who is more willing to move forward towards potential danger. They all play off each other well, Ryan and Graham sort-of bickering family who deep down care for each other, Yas and Ryan as two close friends, with Yas always looking out for him. As I said, it works well, and somewhat covers for the fact that The Doctor isn’t exactly standing out at the moment.

The core plot of the story is a simple “we start here and we have to get here, but in between is a whole bunch of danger and adventure” one, but again, it works fine. Two people are at the last stop of a colossal space race that will grant the winner more money than they’ll ever need, but they have to reach “the Ghost Monument” in order to complete it. It turns out the Ghost Monument is the TARDIS, phasing in and out of existence, so The Doctor and co. have a reason to follow the two participants across the planet’s deadly surface.

Before all that we had The Doctor and Yas get taken on board one competitor’s ship, and Ryan and Graham get zapped on board the other. Some quick chatting with the new characters and one ship-crash later and they were all reunited. It was a fun start. Speaking of which, like the new opening!

The planet had a good backstory, the people had to create weapons for the same race of people our lead villain came from last episode: the Stenza. In the end those weapons brought about their own end, their water became corrosive, their robots too violent and their very selves seemingly became weird… floating bits of mind-reading cloth…? One bit of cloth mentioned “The Timeless Child” to The Doctor, which made her confused followed by angry, which I guess is our mini-arc phrase-y thing this season, which is odd given Mr. Chibnall said in many interviews that his Doctor Who would be stand alone episodes and “arc-less”, but hey-ho, if it’s just one or two mentions then a finale that’ll still be pretty much true.

The two competitors in the space race are fine little arcitypes. Angstrom is a bit of a tough woman who is trying to win for all the right reasons (to save her family from, you guessed it, the Stenza again…) while Epzo is just in it for himself, and is very proud of his selfish disposition, but by the end of all the trouble he had changed enough to accept co-winning the competition with Angstrom. I like the bigger, more open-plan TARDIS interior, though it all seemed a bit dully lit, which I assume will change?

So like I said, nothing blew me away, nothing made me roll my eyes because it was bad, it was just a good, basic story. Some killer robots, some one-off characters getting a bit of a story arc, some really nice camera work / setting (the deserty scenes in particular looked great) it was just a fun way to spend an hour.

The Bad:

DW The Ghost Monument 3

The Sonic Screwdriver is back in full force, being used constantly in nearly every scene…

As I mentioned previously, I am finding Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor a bit paint-by-numbers still. Her mannerisms, way of speech and the dialogue she’s been given feels like David Tennant’s Doctor, nothing currently feels like her making the role her own. Early days and all that, but most Doctors by this point were starting to break away from the pack, so to speak…

Even including that, after all rather a generic Doctor is better than a bad one, there wasn’t anything “bad” about it, just nothing amazing. It was run-of-the-mill, which all seasons/series of Who have from time to time…

The Continuity:

DW The Ghost Monument 4

She’s the nice one, so it’s okay that she wins trillions in a deadly race.

Beyond picking up directly from “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”, this isn’t directly linked to any other story.

The Doctor has, however, come across a space race before in the Fifth Doctor TV Story “Enlightenment”, though that was a race with bored immortals playing with mortal lives, so… a bit different! Also The Doctor uses Venusian Akido in this story, which is of course a callback to the Third Doctor, though not any specific episode…

Overall Thoughts:

The Ghost Monument is a fun hour, though I imagine in the grand scheme of things it’ll be a story you’ll forget, then in a decade or so it’ll come up and you’ll look into it and go “oh yeah! That one!” because it’s not good or bad enough to be memorable. Still, name a Doctor and they’ve all had episodes like that, so it’s a bit too soon to worry about the Thirteenth Doctor’s first season just yet…

3 Star Watch

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