Jodie Whittaker’s second episode as the Thirteenth Doctor, The Ghost Monument, proves that now is an exciting time to be a Doctor Who fan. In many ways this episode put back all the leftover pieces that were not included in the debut episode, not least being the new title sequence. As the first thing you see in this episode, the fantastic fluidic effects coupled with the haunting new theme that harks back to the show’s earliest days makes the new series’ opening titles look unique and fresh. With some great characters, an interesting and fast-paced story, some great character moments and a special surprise at the end, the new title sequence isn’t the only exciting thing about Series 11’s second episode.
The most eye-catching thing about this episode is the setting – an inhospitable world filled with deserts, toxic lakes and crumbling ruins, the kind of setting that Doctor Who was made for. Fans might draw some similarities between this planet and Skaro, the first alien planet that was visited in Classic Who way back in 1963, and that may have been intentional – this series represents a whole new journey for the Doctor and so it is fitting that The Ghost Monument presents a return to form for Doctor Who – the characters are stranded on an alien planet, with no TARDIS and no idea how to get home, and the mystery kicks off from there. The plot of this episode is based around the heroes trying to reach the eponymous ‘Ghost Monument’, and although the premise itself seems simplistic, the episode is carried by interesting new characters and the building of the team dynamic between the Doctor and her three companions.
The Doctor herself is once again fantastic, and Jodie Whittaker gets to firmly establish her role as both the leader and backbone of the team, as she quickly asserts her authority over the new characters that the team encounter. The new Doctor also reiterates the view of many of her previous incarnations in her dislike of guns and violence, and shows her softer side when providing emotional support for Ryan. Speaking of Ryan, a few interesting scenes with him show that part of his character development may revolve around growing to trust the Doctor and Graham as surrogate parental figures, as he and Graham find more common ground between them and the Doctor demonstrates her ability to help Ryan in situations where his dyspraxia limits his confidence to act – like when climbing a ladder in a tense situation. Early signs of good character development early on are a great sign, and hopefully Yaz will get similar moments in later episodes.
In what is quite a character-focused episode, it is good that guest stars Shaun Dooley, Susan Lynch and Art Malik do such a great job in their respective roles. Dooley and Lynch in particular play a pair of highly driven intergalactic relay racers who are also trying to reach the ‘Ghost Monument’, and their stories and how they learn to work together with the Doctor is one of the episode’s most compelling aspects. The episode also features some well-designed monsters – from robot sentinels to spooky living fabrics that throttle people in their sleep – and although they are not as visually impressive as Tim Shaw was in the previous episode, the monsters in this story play more of a minor role as the primary focus is the journey.
And finally, arguably the episode’s most exciting moment comes with the return of the TARDIS. After dumping the newly regenerated Doctor in the skies above Sheffield before inexplicably vanishing, the TARDIS has been absent from Series 11 so far – until now. Following the Twelfth Doctor’s explosive regeneration, the interior of the TARDIS was almost completed destroyed, and as such we now have a completely remodelled interior and exterior of the TARDIS for the first time since 2013. Whilst fans will have to made up their own minds over where this TARDIS interior ranks relative to its predecessors, needless to say it stays true to the basics of the design and is definitely more suited to the character of the Thirteenth Doctor than Capaldi’s TARDIS would have been, as good as it was. Overall, The Ghost Monument is another successful outing for the new Doctor and, with over seven million people tuning in to watch, it proves that Doctor Who is back and is as popular as ever.
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