FREELANCE WRITER. JOURNALIST, AND SCRIPT READER – FAN OF SCI-FI AND CHOCOLATE DIGESTIVES – YSTV'S BEST DRESSED MEMBER 2013

Tuesday, 16 October 2018


If the first episode of any TV series has to hook viewers in, the second has to keep them, to reassure us of the quality and tone we’re in for a whole series of. Which means, going by The Ghost Monument, we’re in for a whole series of sci-fi that’s impressive on the surface but ultimately a bit shit (and isn’t that the opposite of what Doctor Who’s meant to be, I hear you snark).

Ghost Monument does have a lot going for it, not least a cracking premise; sometimes you watch an episode of Who and realise you’ve seen fifty variations on the same plot before, but ‘rally across space’ feels fresh, especially when combined with the cool setting of a planet littered with abandoned weapon designs. It’s also a perfect fit for the show's refreshed, cinematic look, with the South African landscapes and some energetic camerawork (director Mark Tonderai is a camera operator himself, as evidenced by the fluid tracking shots around the crashing spaceships, so good they're practically showing off), really adding a visual panache befitting of the standards Netflix, HBO and co. have led us to hold for a 'quality' TV show in 2018.

If only that was enough to make up for the numerous things about this episode that don’t work. Worryingly, it mostly comes down to the script from new showrunner Chris Chibnall. At least when Steven Moffat was crap, it was in ways you could get angry about. Crap Chibnall is just disappointing. For starters, that setting becomes less cool when you realise that all the weapons are either, like the episode itself, good ideas executed badly, or just complete crap. The flesh-eating water – goes nowhere, a set-up without a pay-off. The robots – men in suits, after we had a man in suit villain last week; described as snipers but worse shots than stormtroopers; oddly static and defeated by an inexplicably convenient EMP. The bits of rag – original at least, but the climax falls flat because they just fly around not attacking anyone.

And then there’s clunkers like the heavy signposting of the cigar, the even heavier arc drop of whatever this ‘Timeless Child’ bollocks is, and the lack of point to the rally – surely a sport needs more than one spectator? It’s thin, first draft writing.


Jodie Whittaker does continue to be fun to watch as she grows her incarnation of the Doctor. I’ve realised since writing last week’s review that she seems to be stronger in the more compassionate, lower key moments, such as the conversation after the funeral, and in the matey, slightly daft humour (again evident in this episode – “It is all that!”) but not quite as confident when it comes to dramatic monologuing at aliens. The true art of playing Doctor Who is being able to defeat some bits of cloth by chucking a fag at them, and somehow making it as exciting as the Death Star trench run; Peter Capaldi or Matt Smith might have been able to pull this off, but I’m not convinced Whittaker’s there yet. Perhaps the writing will develop to match her strengths as her time in the role goes on.

Ryan and Graham get some nice development (though again this is tarred by odd writing – the thing about him struggling with ladders might work if we actually saw him on either of the ladders rather than just talking about them). Yaz still hasn’t done much.

Looking back on this review, it reads as if I really disliked The Ghost Monument. But I didn’t. I enjoyed it. There’s nothing majorly wrong with this episode, it’s a finely entertaining piece of TV, but there are lots of little things wrong with it, which is frustrating, as it could be so much better. Here’s to eight more weeks of "at least it's not Twice Upon A Time".

(I am optimistic for next week’s though, as Malorie Blackman could be a superb guest writer.)


Oh, and the new TARDIS set. Hmm. Going back to a layout similar to Eccleston and Tennant’s feels like a regression from the more three-dimensional sets Smith and Capaldi had to play with, the colours are a bit much and the big coral rock things are ugly. I like the custard cream dispenser, though.


DOCTOR WHO SERIES 11 RANKING
  1. The Woman Who Fell to Earth
  2. The Ghost Monument

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