So, series 11 is well under way now, and with the finding of the TARDIS, it’s all go for another set of adventures in space and time. There’s plenty to talk about and overall I didn’t like The Ghost Monument as much as the The Woman Who Fell to Earth, but still plenty to enjoy and talk about
I’ve watched it twice, had a long ponder, so here goes (spoilers a-plenty) …
Discovering The Ghost Monument – the first half
On first watch I was bothered by the overall pacing; a second watch allowed me to put that into focus and looking again at certain scenes made we realise they were more subtle than I had first observed. I’ll take the episode as it came.
The Opening Credits
Very fluid and three-dimensional, I don’t mind them but I don’t feel the urge to rave about them. Part of this is the new theme, again I don’t mind it but it hasn’t grabbed me yet. It’s less instant and strident than we’ve had before. It’s all a new style and that’s fine.
The faux peril of floating in space
According to Douglas Adams in The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy:
…if you hold a lungful of air, you can survive in the total vacuum of space for about 30 seconds. But with space being really big and all, the chances of being picked up within that time are 22,079,460,347 to one against
The Ghost Monument started with two rescues of two sets of two people in a short space of time, yet neither pilot saw the other’s ship nor (in the case of whoever was first) the other two stranded people. I know the planet was in the wrong place (not explained afaik), but even so having the ships there as well? I’m not sold. We have no evidence the transmat beam from episode 1 could cross time (apart from being faster than light, presumably), so I didn’t go for this.
On first watch I felt this whole piece took a lot of time, but on second watch it was a good way to get some exposition in and introduce Angstrom (Susan Lynch) and Epzo (Shaun Dooley). It also started to show how far out of their depth Graham, Ryan and Yaz are.
Moving on, I can’t see an alien sand-planet without thinking Tatooine (not Arrakis) and the extra suns didn’t stop that, I then started to think of Epzo as a very unreconstructed Hans Solo, but in the end he did compromise, even if he didn’t trust anyone.
Here’s a TV trope I can live without: people running away from an oncoming vehicle who don’t move sideways. I know It’s a big ship and a groove in the desert world of Desolation, but from above they could quote clearly have moved sideways and avoided the more dramatic crash sequence. I suppose the first part needed some excitement.
The friends / companions
The companions (friends) are barely dealing with events, and I think this is correct unlike previous blasé figures who pop into the TARDIS and tally ho! off they go exploring the universe without a qualm. The Ryan and Graham relationship is fragile, Graham really makes a big difference to the feel of the story and Yaz intrigues me. I’m sure she will be more centre stage in next weeks Rosa, and on the first watch I thought she did very little.
On a second watch I saw a real knack of getting people to talk, and great listening skills, adding something subtle to the TARDIS crew. A big argument for watching twice, and a lesson learned about jumping to conclusions. There’s a tiny hint of caring for Ryan, but not suggestion of romance.
Graham, meanwhile, is grieving but shows his maturity and emotional intelligence. He’s not afraid to state his opinion, criticise and even complain about the language translation (well done Chris Chibnall for not ignoring). The implant is a bit of a cop-out but, fair play, Graham acts as the voice of the critical viewer when he complains about not giving permission.
A great actor and so barely used. Maybe he appears in a later story.
Almost exactly one-third through, the Doctor apologises to the humans for getting them involved and promises to get them home. It’s a promise that we will revisits nearer the end.
The half-way mark
it’s almost like TV shows are written to beats and follow a set structure [!!}, but almost exactly half way through there’s a fade to black. Everyone is on the boat sailing, we’ve had revelations from Epso, sharp dialogue from Graham and everyone is asleep except the Doctor. It makes you wonder if the show would still work with 25 minute episodes. I think it’s also the source of my frustration with this story: the first half is thoughtful, considered, develops some character and takes it’s time bringing the companions up to speed. Cue the second-half.
Discovering the Ghost Monument – the second half
Suddenly lots of action, running through tunnels, chased by killer robots and too much sonic screwdriver and chunks of exposition. However, the Stenza are back in play! Is this a series arc I see before me? Even if the running around was forgettable, the setting did look rather good. Here’s where I miss the behind the scenes programme.
The robots in particular annoyed me, as well as Ryan’s Call of Duty bit. It all seemed very painting by numbers and the robots were rubbish; even the Raston Warrior might beat them. I’m not a soldier, and I’ve had no training, but even I’ve tried paintball a few times and various laser games. I could have killed the heroes several times over had I been a sniperbot. It gave the Doctor an excuse for a trite lecture about using guns, then an as if by magic EMP button was found on the floor.
The other threat was the intelligent strips of material, and these were more sinister, even if they talked too much. The acetylene field was laboured and we’d had too much attention paid to Epso’s cigar. I also felt the burning gas would have been more convincing inside a room. If it’s outside and floats it disperses. And nobody got scorched. Enough moaning, in the middle a sudden dose of Time Lord Lore! What did they see in the Doctor’s mind? What’s this Timeless Chilld? Time to resurrect the Susan theory? Unexpected to say the least.
A let’s all be nice, and share the prize ending, but at least they then left the heroes behind. Here we got a new side to this Doctor, a mix of compassion and disappointment mixed with frustration. There’s a genuine sense of self-belief faltering, and for the first time I saw Jodie Whittaker at her peak, as she was in Broadchurch. Here I could see the strength of Beth Latimer to take the worst life has to throw at you, be moved by it then find a new way to move on. It may just have been a trick of the light, but I wonder if here is the template for this new Doctor?
Then having been rallied by her new friends enter… the TARDIS!
I liked the touching scene where she took possession, felt the new companions reaction was realistic, and like the new hexagonal roundel fractal wall design. I’m less compelled by the crystal effect, lack of moving column and hourglasses, but it makes a lot more sense than previous versions. And it dispenses custard creams!
So, over 1,200 words for something I felt might have been sharper!
What did you think? Let me know in the comments!