The second episode of each new Doctor is always a bit of a struggle, and never normally their strongest; when you look at the likes of The End of The World, New Earth, The Beast Below, and Into The Dalek, none of them has really taken the shine as one of the best episodes of that Doctor’s era in many people’s opinions. You’ve had the enthralling and exciting highs of being introduced to a new Doctor, and the following episode, in my opinion, tends to be a bit of a lull, before kicking back into gear for the rest of the series. Will The Ghost Monument be able to buck that trend, or should it be like a ghost, and haunt us forevermore?
Still reeling from their first encounter, can the Doctor and her new friends stay alive long enough in a hostile alien environment to solve the mystery of Desolation? And just who are Angstrom and Epzo?
Let’s start from the very beginning, shall we? The new title sequence. It’s dark and purpley and mad and mysterious and foreboding and snappy and clean and crisp and amazing. I saw on Twitter someone saying that it’s like the original theme took acid, and I feel like it’s a great way to describe it; well worth the weeks wait to see it in all it’s glory.
Something is abundantly clear from the opening moments of this episode; and that is that this series is all about scale and scope. Picking up exactly from where The Woman Who Fell To Earth left off, with the Doctor, Ryan, Yaz and Graham all suspended in space. Luckily for them (and us, it would have been a very quick series if the Doctor and all her companions actually properly died less than a minute into the second episode) they were picked up by two ships. One saving Graham and Ryan, and the other saving the Doctor and Yaz.
Ryan’s reaction to being in space is absolutely brilliant, and Tosin Cole plays it absolutely brilliantly; he’s trying his best to keep cool whilst being totally freaked out. I’ll be honest, if I didn’t pass out from shock, that’s probably how I’d react.
A little detail I really loved was the fact that when Yaz came round on Epzo’s ship, the Doctor was already midway through doing some proper Doctoring. They’re stuck on a wreck of a ship that’s not in its best health, hurtling towards a planet called Desolation, and the Doctor is already trying to talk Epzo into doing something drastic to save all their lives. This is exactly what the Doctor should be, and it comes in handy again later on; a Time Lord who uses persuasion to overcome objectives, instead of force.
Going from the cramped, dank ships of Angstrom and Epzo, to the absolutely gorgeous scenery of Desolation; it’s nice to see the budget of cutting the series down to only 10 episodes means that the crew can film in more exotic and visually stunning locations. The mix of the locations with the new cameras give this episode an utterly beautiful, cinematic landscape.
The relationship between Angstrom and Epzo is a really interesting one; and I think it’s a shame that we didn’t get to know more about their history. Whilst Epzo as a whole was portrayed as a bit of a recluse and a bit of a smug git, it seems he has a slight soft spot for his competition, Angstrom. It would have been great to hear about their misadventures in the race before the Doctor and the gang, and I’m sure it’s something that Big Finish will be able to delve into one day.
The scene between Graham and Ryan on the boat is a really nice moment, with them talking about Grace’s death and how it effects them. It’s clear that Graham cares about Ryan, but is seemingly going about it in the wrong way. I can’t help but feel like the relationship between Graham and Ryan is the one to watch for the series.
We also get to learn a little bit about Yaz’s family, which is great, as up to know, she’s kind of felt like the backseat companion. She’s been there, but has yet to have a moment in the spotlight; I have a feeling that that will change in next weeks episode, Rosa, and the just announced episode Demons of The Punjab.
Once the gang move underground, the episode becomes a much more traditional “base under siege” episode, without it particularly being a base. We also learn that whatever happened on Desolation was thanks to the Stenza, and it seems like they may well be the big bad of the series. Look at Chibnall saying there’s no overarching plot and lying. He’s doing a Moffat, but more successfully.
Back on ground, the floaty cloth creatures are trying to intimidate the Doctor, and starts talking of the Timeless Child, who’s been forgotten; it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s another treat to come later on this series.
The conclusion to Amstrong and Epzo’s story, of them deciding to finish the race is a nice one; but it seems a bit forced and childish if I’m being honest. I would have maybe believed it if Epzo started changing his attitude earlier on in the story, but the Doctor basically forcing him to share his victory with Amstrong felt out of place in my opinion.
The scene that really stole the show in this episode has to be the Doctor being reacquainted with her new TARDIS, and hearing Jodie’s Doctor talk to her box as if it was her best friend and confidant was truly special. The interior feels a bit dark if I’m being honest; but other than that, I love the analogue nature of the new console. All switches, knobs and dials, instead of touch panels and digital maguffins. It’s great to see the Doctor finally be home, in her beautiful blue box.
Overall, The Ghost Monument was a bit of a mixed bag really; there were a few scenes that really stood out, and visually it was superb; however the pacing felt a bit rushed in places, and the robots, as well as the killer cloths felt a bit superfluous most of the time. It’s not the best episode of Doctor Who ever, but, as a second episode, it’s not too bad.