The Thirteenth Doctor proved her mettle in “The Ghost Monument.” In typical form, The Doctor uncovered the cause of a poisoned world’s demise, learned more about The Stenza — the aliens who beleaguered The Doctor in “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” — found her TARDIS, and managed to keep her new friends alive throughout it all. “The Ghost Monument” offered viewers a return to classic DOCTOR WHO themes accompanied by new faces and names. Surprisingly, for all the talk that this new interpretation of The Doctor would turn the series on its head, the first two episodes have proven quite faithful to the long-running show’s established themes. Viewers even got a rare glimpse of The Doctor’s preferred martial art, Venusian Aikido — sometimes called Venusian Karate — first displayed during The Third Doctor’s tenure in 1970’s “Inferno.”
DOCTOR WHO: Reviewing “The Ghost Monument” – A Bad Teleportation
Last week’s cliffhanger was quickly dealt with. Two ships rescue the unexpectedly orbiting quartet, and, though they’re temporarily separated, The Doctor reunites with her motley crew again once they reach the planet The Doctor had been trying to teleport to in the first place. Having traveled there to find her TARDIS, The Doctor gathers all the information she can to figure out her next steps.
It turns out that the teleportation didn’t go as bad as initially thought. The Doctor sent herself and her companions to the right spot, but the planet she was aiming for wasn’t where it should’ve been. She discovers that the planet they’re on, called “Desolation,” acts as the final leg in an intergalactic version of THE AMAZING RACE. She also learns that the final destination in this contest, in which only two contestants remain, is a unique site called the “ghost monument,” which turns out to be The Doctor’s missing TARDIS.
DOCTOR WHO: Reviewing “The Ghost Monument” – A Sight for Sore Eyes
The Doctor tells her companions that the race’s final destination is actually her ship, and the four new friends join the two racers in their journey across the plains of Desolation. The Doctor, typically poking her nose into just about everything she can, learns that the Stenza are responsible for the desolation of this planet. Desolation used to be home to some of the finest scientific minds in the galaxy. The Stenza imprisoned these scientists and charged them with creating increasingly powerful weapons for them, until these same weapons wiped the world’s population out.
Although robotic snipers played a part in this episode, the main cause for alarm was the presence of beings called “Remnants,” who were basically sentient sheets. The Remnants were originally meant as a kind of field medic to deal with the dead and wounded. After years of being imprisoned on Desolation, though, these sentient shrouds became violent, killing whomever they found. In addition to being sentient, the Remnants are also telepathic, and use their victims’ own fears and secrets against them.
DOCTOR WHO: Reviewing “The Ghost Monument” – Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em
Making their way to the finish line, the six unlikely traveling companions are eventually overtaken by a group of angry Remnants. They taunt the travelers, making specific reference to “the timeless child,” whom the Remnants insinuate that The Doctor has forgotten. The Doctor is visibly shaken by this reference, but all that we fans can do is speculate and wait to find out who this telepathic sheet was talking about.
Distracted as she is, The Doctor manages to get Graham to incinerate the group of fear-mongering sheets with a self-lighting cigar.
DOCTOR WHO: Reviewing “The Ghost Monument” – TARDIS Reno
The Remnants dealt with, the group make their way to the site of the Ghost Monument. The two contestants agree to share their prize, but, with the race over, the Doctor and her friends are abandoned on Desolation. The Doctor despairs, telling her companions that they’ll all be dead before long. None of the humans believe it, though, standing firm in the face of nearly certain death. The Doctor takes some solace in this, but her reverie is interrupted by a familiar grating sound.
The TARDIS materializes about 100 meters away, and gladly receives The Doctor, even though she forgot her key. The Doctor grandly describes the TARDIS as her space and time ship, and takes her new TARDIS on its maiden voyage. Every new version of the TARDIS has something new to offer, though: much to The Doctor’s elation, this one makes custard creams for the hungry time traveler on the go.
DOCTOR WHO: Reviewing “The Ghost Monument” – Final Thoughts
The second episode in a new series is always a kind of proving ground for the new actors and the new writers. Although the actors are working hard, and well, to sell the new format, the writing hasn’t been quite up to par. The telepathic sheets and the tooth-faced aliens are interesting ideas, but execution has been a bit confusing.
The decision to include the Stenza as the cause of Desolation’s destruction helps set the Stenza up as a group of serious baddies, as did the female racer’s admission that her home planet was being cleansed by the Stenza, but it made for a confusing plot. I understand that Chris Chibnall and the other producers are working hard to set up their new ideas, but, even so, the Stenza don’t need to be responsible for every single intergalactic wrongdoing.
So far, I’m a bit concerned that the creative team are going to distance themselves from the established characters and aliens, preferring instead to re-invent the wheel. The Stenza are fine, but I want to see a Dalek or two before too many episodes have aired.