TL;DR – Today we get a look at how the team will work together, what drives The Doctor, and also a little snippet as to what the overarching story of the season will be.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
There is a lot you have to do in the first episode of a season, especially when you are setting it up as a soft-reboot. You have to introduce the characters and the world, and set the tone for what is to come. However, that is something that can take a whole episode, so you don’t have time for much else. Indeed at the end of last week’s The Woman Who Fell to Earth (see review) we had done all that, but it was a little short with the adventure, the wonder, well one way to add that is to end on a cliff-hanger with our whole team floating in space with no way out. It is one of those instants that you can’t help get captured in the moment even if only for a moment before the logical part of your brain snaps back in to remind you that there is no way they are killing everyone off in episode one. Today we look at the follow up the opener of the season, The Ghost Monument, where we get that sense of wonder and dread as we explore a planet that was once alive and now dead.
So to set the scene, as I mention we ended last week with all our four leads floating in space when they were expecting to be on a planet, and well three of them were not expecting to be there at all. However, as we start this episode a ship comes into view out of a hyperspace bubble, and we realise hope is not lost … maybe. As explosions rock out we are introduced to Angstrom (Susan Lynch) and Epzo (Shaun Dooley) two racers, the last two racers, in a galaxy-wide endurance race. They are fighting for a better life and out of 4,000 people they are the only ones left, and they just picked up four bonuses because The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Graham (Bradley Walsh), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Yas (Mandip Gill) are part of the race right … oops nope. Well never mind because the mysterious Ilin (Art Malik) has given them the last instructions to race to the Ghost Monument, the first one there wins the prize, but what is the Ghost Monument, well you see it is something old and something new, something borrowed, and something blue.
In today’s episode, we get to see more of the bonds that will bind our group together, that is of course as long as Graham can give up on the dream of Ryan calling him Gramps. So for The Doctor, immediately she is not drawn to the race or the prize, or even finding her beloved TARDIS because immediately she is more concerned by the fact that this was a living, breathing, planet with people and teaming with life. Now it is a desolate wasteland filled with traps and flesh-eating bacteria. It is that drive that will go to the core of who she is as a Doctor, and it was great to see as it also extends to everyone around her. As well as this, we also got a hint that these won’t be completely self-contained episodes with a small reference to what might be the over-arching drive for the season.
It was also an episode that gave everyone their moment to shine, or in some cases fail. You have Ryan that is still grieving the loss of his grandmother who was really more like a mother to him. So, of course, the first thing he did when given a ray gun is go blow up some robots, it fits his character, as did what happened when it all went pear-shaped. Also, I have to say that Graham has some of the best lines of the show, all of the three friends are very much in fish-out-of-water mode, but he takes the cake. It is also good to see him try and build the relationship with Ryan even if it is not always reciprocated. Though I would like to see them give Yas a bit more to do in the future.
I have really been impressed with the drive to take Doctor Who to a different level this season, and one of the ways we have seen that is through the locations. Last week we were on top of the moors overlooking Sheffield, this week we were on an alien planet covered in desert. Now when you want to fake a desert you can often film in sand dunes by the beach and fill it out the background with matte paintings, and indeed that is what I thought they did here. However, as the episode went on and more and more of the terrain was revealed I realised that no they were actually filming on location, and in the credits, we can see they went to South Africa for the location work. Add to this, today we get the updated credit sequence at the start of the show, and it is absolutely beautiful. Also, that set design revealed at the end was truly fantastic, and I can’t wait to explore that more. Well just look, they are really excelling here.
In the end, do we recommend The Ghost Monument? Yes, yes we do. Doctor Who made a big statement with their first episode, and look to be continuing all that good work here. For me personally, this has been the strongest start to a Doctor Who season since maybe David Tennent, so I have very interested to see where it goes from here.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers contain heavy spoilers)
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Doctor Who
Directed by – Mark Tonderai
Written by – Chris Chibnall
Showrunner – Chris Chibnall
Starring – Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole & Mandip Gill with Susan Lynch, Shaun Dooley, Art Malik, & Ian Gelder