Last week’s Doctor Who episode, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth,” ended on a big cliffhanger. The episode saw the Doctor and her new companions floating in deep space in what is essentially a two-part episode. That story line is continued in this week’s episode, “The Ghost Monument.”
After last week’s events, The Doctor and her companions are rescued by two spaceships competing in a race to a planet that is out of orbit. On this lifeless planet The Doctor, her companions and the two pilots (Susan Lynch and Shaun Dooley) are tasked to complete the final leg of the race and find the titular Ghost Monument.
Clearly, the Doctor Who production team had a lot of money to spend for this episode. “The Ghost Monument” was mostly filmed on location in South Africa, and the CGI and special effects were really impressive for a show which has a weak reputation on that front. The spaceships were almost cinematic in quality, and the cinematography was of the highest order. The only weak part was one of the spaceships enters the planet’s atmosphere.
“The Ghost Monument” is a quest narrative where the Doctor and the companions have to go from A-to-B. This is unique in modern-Doctor Who where it is usually the Doctor comes to a location where trouble is happening, and he has to investigate what’s happening. The Doctor and the companions need to survive a hostile planet as they race to the monument.
The episode also had a Lovecraftian quality. The planet has the ruins of a civilization – there are buildings and boats but no signs of life. There are guard robots, and the water is filled with flesh-eating bacteria. It was wonderful for Doctor Who fans that like this type of fiction. When The Doctor finds records about what happened to the civilization, it reveals that “The Ghost Monument’s” ties to “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” were deeper than first thought. This scene was reminiscent to the scene in Lord of the Rings where Gandalf read the Dwarfs’ records in Moria.
The quest narrative allows for some character growth – although it’s the one-off characters, Angstrom and Epzo getting most of the attention. Angstrom was the richer character because she came from an impoverished planet and winning the race would be her ticket out, and she would be able to see her family again. Epzo was an arrogant rogue who does not play well with others.
That said, the Doctor Who mainstays do have a chance to shine as well. Whittaker impresses when she has a verbal sparring match with Epzo on his ship. This led to some of the episode’s wittiest moments. There was also some desperation in Whittaker’s Doctor towards the end of the episode, and there was a nice little touch when she says “Come to Daddy” because even she is unsure what prefixes she should use.
Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) show that despite not having advance educational backgrounds they are still logical when they are given a task by the Doctor. Yaz (Mandip Gill) got to reveal a bit about herself when speaking with Angstrom. Ryan had a fun moment when facing the robots, showing off his FPS skills.
Chris Chibnall is going for a back-to-basics approach – telling straightforward stories, and it acts as a good entry point for new audiences. There are no signs of an overarching storyline yet. Chibnall also has some fun twisting some tropes in the show like Graham asking how they can understand alien languages and they needed to be a different expectation since the companions haven’t entered the Tardis yet.
Chibnall’s Doctor Who reboot continues on a strong footing. “The Ghost Monument” is atmospheric and different enough to make it stand out because of its type of narrative and world building.