BIT OF ADRENALINE, DASH OF OUTRAGE – Our Thoughts on “The Ghost Monument”

Janine Rivers (@janinemrivers on Twitter) is a writer, script editor, and musician.  She spends her days working in a library, and was the head-writer and editor behind her passion project, The Twelfth Doctor Adventures.  Her favourite Doctor is Peter Capaldi.

Kevin Burnard (@scriptscribbles on Twitter) is a writer, blogger, and vlogger.  He can be found making videos and gifs on Tumblr and Youtube (@scriptscribbles) analyzing Doctor Who and other pop culture media, or just spamming gym selfies to Instagram.  He co-wrote a feature-length episode of The Twelfth Doctor Adventures and formerly helped run this site.  His favourite Doctors are the scary ones.

Andrew (ScarvesandCelery from this blog and tumblr) works in education, and occasionally writes essays on Doctor Who.  He contributed a script to The Twelfth Doctor Adventures and also runs the DoWntime tumblr.  His favourite Doctor is Peter Capaldi.

Header picture by Esterath (@finlay_hs)

Janine: Picking up with the symbolically-loaded image of an unblinking eye staring out at the fathomless depths of space (LOST, anyone?), “The Ghost Monumentquickly rescues the Doctor and her new “friends” from suffocation in space, as they arrive on their first alien world — Desolation.

The episode follows a long tradition of ‘first trip’ stories in the new series; and for my money, it’s a tradition which has reliably churned out classics.  Confining the list to alien planets or future civilisations, “The End of the Worldblew me away back in 2005, and Gridlock” remains one of my favourite Doctor Who stories of all time; “Planet of the Oodis probably the best slavery polemic in the history of sci-fi television, and “The Beast Belowhas (controversially, perhaps) all the wit and charm of “The Eleventh Hourbefore it, whilst The Rings of Akhaten is probably the only story between “The Bells of Saint Johnand “The Crimson Horrorthat I enjoy.  Most recently, the three of us actually constructed a fairly passionate defence of “Smileback on the old DoWntime column

So how does “The Ghost Monumentfare in comparison?  Personally, I think it’s the weakest of the bunch — but when the bunch as a whole belongs in the top tier of Doctor Who stories, that’s not necessarily a terrible thing.  I thought the episode was perfectly good, with a few questionable moments balanced out by some exceptional creative choices on Chibnall’s part.

Andrew: Broadly the same thoughts on my end. First off, the positive: the season continues to be very exciting and new. While there’s a clear Hartnell era vibe to this story – the plot (a rally in space) is genuinely something we haven’t seen in New Who before. Heck, while we did get the premise of “a race in space” for “Enlightenmentin Classic Who, this episode is so tonally and thematically different that the comparison that this really does feel like a new premise for Who (particularly due to the way it’s mashed up with the other Who staples of “Barren Planet” Hartnell stories and “First Alien Planet” New Who stories. And from a production perspective, the planet looks great, stark and unforgiving, but with a brighter colour scheme to provide some valuable contrast to “The Woman Who Fell to Earth. The way we’re plunged into action straight away is great – the first few minutes where the two spaceships land on Desolation are genuinely adrenaline-pumping. However, this is the major flaw of the episode: you don’t really get the sense this *is* a race between Angstrom and Epzo, there’s no urgency in their competition, they just go on a stroll and bicker a little. And while the planet looks harsh and unforgiving, there’s not enough of the characters truly *experiencing* its threat – as I’ve seen quite a few people point out, a lot of attention is drawn to the danger of the water, only for that to never pay off in any way. So when looking at the “first trip” part of the story, there’s stuff I appreciated about this aspect of the episode , and stuff I thought summed up my major complaints about the episode.

Kevin: I loved the opening segments best. With Graham and Ryan separated from the Doctor and Yaz, there’s a lot of drama in just how terrifying getting launched into space is, all shot in some magnificent long takes. I love how the camera always considered Yaz’s alienation, as well. And I adored the early scene of Graham and Ryan taking in everything that happened to them, including how amazing it is to be on another world in the first place. Unfortunately, I don’t think the episode takes advantage of those ingredients as it progresses. The plot lacks connection to the emotional reality of the leads, either literally or in theme, and their actions don’t contribute much to the story to express who they are and what they bring to the pretty standard narrative. As a result, for me, this was a disappointment on the first trip terms.

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The Series 11 Vibe: Hartnell, TorchwoodThe Sarah Jane Adventures, or Netflix Originals?  No one seems quite sure, but if you have an opinion on the matter, let us know using the hashtag #DashofOutrage.

The race is a really fun concept, but it never really threatens to drive much character drama among the leads, something which, citing the Hartnell era, similar teams have been full of. I could have used a bit more “Edge of Destruction fallout here

The commitment to making a welcoming, positive, and diverse team, who the Doctor performs emotional labor for and constantly supports, means things feel quite safe for what’s gone on. It’s a very very optimistic and cozy story, but I wish it had more bite (not to blame the diversity, but rather to say you can have diversity and drama).

Janine: If I have one criticism, it’s that I really wished we saw more of Desolation’s civilisation.  Chibnall seems to conflate an extinct population with an extinct culture, but that’s just objectively false in the archaeological sense.  Life can disappear, but civilisation, in fundamental ways, can’t.  We learn that it’s had a rich culture, but that it was turned into a weapons research factory (a fairly guessable twist, if you can even call it a twist); and that the TARDIS has been observed throughout its long history.  But what history? I’m really interested in how more basic civilisations than Gallifrey (ours included) might respond to a phasing TARDIS as a literal monument, because it’s very reminiscent of our own attempts to map explanations onto artefacts we can’t explain with analogies from our culture.  At the very least, it would have been nice if the episode had included a gag about the TARDIS being used for “ritual purposes”.

Andrew: I’m increasingly of the opinion that the episode would have worked better if the leads had been either separated for longer (if you’d wanted a safe story) or if they’d been a bit more mistrustful of each other at first before growing to trust each other by the end of the story – either could have given the character work more of a sense of dynamism and progression

Kevin: Desolation feels more like an aesthetic than a world, really. You get a bunch of fun stock sci fi elements and a vague orientalist aesthetic, but the linking material is fairly loose, and the connections of the TARDIS to this civilization feel looser than I’d like for sure. I’m not even sure why it periodically appeared, let alone what that did to this world

Janine: Which is a shame, because the idea of the TARDIS as something whose disappearance and reappearance makes a material impact upon a planet’s history is so, so rich — and sort of emblematic, in a way, of the Doctor’s influence on Earth.  And I like the more straightforward idea of a chase towards the TARDIS, too, setting it up as the object of an almost mythic quest. But I’m not sure either of those great concepts are milked for all their worth.

Andrew: There are a few ways the worldbuilding is interesting in its basic framework, but off in the specifics – we don’t know why this is the final Rally, or really get a feel for what the race was like before Angstrom and Epzo arrived on the planet, due to the things they apparently used in the earlier stages being discarded for the final stage on Desolation. And that lack of specificity extends to the portrayal of Desolation as well, I feel.

Kevin: I think the lack of specificity you highlight also extends to the Rally. We know so many died, but we don’t see any of them, and what we do see doesn’t seem all that high-stakes. They’re safe most of the episode and largely work together. For a death race, it lacks both death and race.

Janine: I almost think the Rally could have made a good story arc itself — with the stakes building across the series, so the first trip can be slower and calmer.

Kevin:I certainly can’t fault the concepts here. They’re really fun. But yeah, they are definitely underutilised. I feel like the story either need more characters for a bigger scope to the race, or better yet, less to focus on the companions. And those groups of characters and options for focus just tug at each other in a way that feels unfortunately mutually exclusive. The juxtaposition didn’t hit

In addition, telegraphing the TARDIS lessened the stakes of the race for me. Nobody would get left behind when there’s a ship we know can take them anywhere.

Janine: For all that another (implied) dead lesbian feels unnecessary, the little exchange between Graham and Angstrom sings — because it’s one moment where the two options for focus don’t tug at each other.

Kevin: I definitely agree. And for all my skepticism, I think recycling the trauma of the Stenza was actually an inspired move to develop a first trip with emotional specificity to the characters. Their experiences and traumas get replicated on the macro scale of a world, which is very tidy and meaningful.

Andrew: Really, the character arcs are tied to the two main themes of the episode, so I’ll use this as my window into how I interpreted the characters this week. The first major theme was a continuation of the theme of families Scribbles noted from “The Woman Who Fell to Earthin his video review of that episode – Yaz realising how much she’d miss the family that drive her mad, Angstrom competing in a deadly tournament to save what is left of her family, and Epzo recounting his mother’s chilling emotional and physical abuse that’s clearly informed his messed up worldview.

Kevin: I found the character of Epzo to be a delightful, if shallow, political allegory of conservatism, only emphasized by his being a man offset against Angstrom’s sapphic presence. His ideology is fundamentally conservative and stemming from personal trauma fueling a desire to protect himself at the expense of others, and he fetishises wealthy luxury like the cigar or his piece of crap ship. His arc of learning to work with others is a bit obvious, but it feels like the kind of basic message Who should have, particularly in the present day and with a mission for diversity. It should take on those conservative attitudes and suggest a more successful, collaborative answer. Plus, the basic concept of “Chekov’s cigar” makes me giggle.

Janine: It’s a nice touch that Epzo respects his mother, too — he’s clearly been abused by an absolutely awful woman (heavy stuff, though you have to chuckle at Walsh’s delivery of “Yeah, she sounds terrific“), but he’s internalised that abuse.  He’s built a personality and worldview around a toxic role model. With Yaz and Thirteen, Graham/Ryan and Grace, and Epzo and his mother, female role models seem to be a prevalent theme this series.

Kevin: “Come to Daddy, er Mommy” indeed. Guess the best gag has symbolic resonance

Andrew: Honestly, file that under “lines I’d have expected from RTD or Moffat, but never Chibnall”.

Kevin: I died. It’s an excellent one-liner.

Kevin: Angstrom felt cool to me, but a bit blandly likeable. Glad to see LGBT rep, but I’d like more, hopefully not involving one line about fridging. As the pov designed to be more likeable in the basic allegorical framework of the episode, she has a bit less substance to examine

Andrew: On another note, I also liked Graham remembering what Grace would say if she were there – it’s a neat callback to the Doctor saying that’s how she remembers the family she’s lost in “The Woman Who Fell to Earth. My housemate and I noted that Graham, while still retaining his “cautious” personality, was a bit more willing to join in the adventure, and perhaps this explains why – like the Doctor said she does with her family, he’s trying to keep Grace alive by embracing being on an alien world as much as she would. Another thing I liked about Graham and Ryan remembering Grace was the reversal of expectations in the way they handle their grief – the more traditionally minded Graham wants to talk about his feelings to Ryan, and for Ryan to open up to him, whereas Ryan wants to internalise his grief and bottle up his feelings.

Janine: I fully maintain my stance from last week — I’m Team Graham all the way, and liking how his way of mourning, remembering, and moving on from Grace is to actually embrace her rather than forget (or avenge) her.  Going along with the adventure even though it’s not his thing, staying positive, looking after Ryan — in many ways, Grace is to Graham what Whittaker will be to thousands of male friends: a strong female role model who will, hopefully, make them stronger human beings.

Kevin: I was really mostly fascinated by the male characters this week, which isn’t something I expected. I really, really loved, as you mention, Graham responding to Grace by taking joy in being on another world. I’ve already seen critics like El Sandifer peg him as the skeptic character type, but he’s already developed in the exact opposite direction as a result of that fridging, which is not a direction I expected. It’s made him warmer and more adventurous rather than angstier, and I’m really getting a lot out of that attitude, and how it fuels a more optimistic outlook we’re seeing, like when he encourages the Doctor at the end. His trying to create a stronger bond Ryan and to look out for each other in this weird new world was really, really sweet. And he looked fab in those sunglasses.

Andrew: And I like the exploration of individualism vs collectivism – On the surface, it’s very simple stuff – Angstrom and Epzo learn to stop competing and work together. But this is given some nuance through the way the Doctor is characterised in the episode – throughout the episode, the Doctor takes on the responsibility of saving the rest of the friends – “I will get you home”, and “I’ve failed you”, she says at the end of the episode. But when she sees that the TARDIS has phased out on their arrival, she believes she’s failed her friends, only for them to convince her that they’ll be okay if they continue to work together. And it’s when the Doctor accepts this, truly accepts being part of a community instead of embracing her own form of individualism (distinct from the individualism Angstrom and Epzo show, but still individualism) that she gets her TARDIS back.

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Yaz — hopefully the shining star of the next couple of weeks…

Again, there was not much for Yaz this week, but I did note that they do seem to be committing to Mandip Gill’s claim that she’s the character who trusts the Doctor the most wholeheartedly – see how quickly she follows the Doctor’s instructions when the Doctor tells her what to do to help land Epzo’s ship, or her being the first to believe the Doctor will get them off the planet. Nonetheless, she’s due a focus episode (and it does look like she’ll get more focus next week).

On the representation front – yay for LGBT rep with Angstrom, although it’s a shame that this is revealed through her dead offscreen wife. Also yay for continued good handling of Ryan’s dyspraxia (although I hope they can find other ways to address it than “Ryan has trouble climbing a ladder”, as nice as Yaz and the Doctor’s continued support was). There were nice additions to this with Ryan – his NVQ being used as a way for him to climb the ladder was a nice way of tying two parts of his backstory together, while also providing some buildup to the “Chekov’s cigar” payoff.

That leaves Ilin – really, he felt a little too thinly written for my liking – the way he accepts Angstrom and Epzo’s threats to allow them to be joint winners with no clear motivation to do so is perhaps the best example of this. And on the representation topic, the sheer number of orientalist tropes surrounding his character (I feel a bit too white to say that much about this, but I suspect Edward Said would have had a lot to say about the music sting when Ilin is first revealed, alongside his costume design and the tent the TARDIS crew meet him in).

Kevin: The Doctor herself was quite enjoyable in this outing, though with some awkward moments for me. Her encouragement to Ryan, as you mentioned above, was a beautiful little beat. And I love how much effort she put into making her friends feel safe. Her having Ryan work out the plot resolution ahead of time for his own benefit was a particularly great way of doing exposition that I don’t think we’ve really seen in the show before. It felt extremely fresh, and I look forward to future uses of the team in original ways like that. Unfortunately, two beats didn’t land as well for me: the lesson about guns, and her defeatism when the TARDIS isn’t present.

In the former case, I loved the Call of Duty gag and the way she had Ryan learn it for himself, but I didn’t like how convenient her alternative solution was. Brains fix problems feels a lot less meaningful when the brainy solution is some other gizmo lying on the ground.

In the latter, it just felt a bit contrived for me to see her despairing over information the episode had already provided, that the TARDIS isn’t always visible, and the resolution in which it just happens to appear again feels a bit too convenient

Janine: I found the gun beat deeply uncomfortable, though for two very different reasons to yours.  First, I think it’s an odd beat for a dyspraxic character to run outside and hit his targets with pinpoint accuracy (even if he does run back in screaming); it’s the sort of superficially “heroic” moment Ryan isn’t capable of, and usually gets insecure about (maybe his dyspraxia is just very selective, but that would be disappointing too).

Second, it made me very cold towards Ryan for a portion of the episode.  Like you, I was fond of the Doctor letting Ryan make a mistake and learn from it; but it’s just not framed that way — the Doctor gives Ryan a warning, but he smugly talks over her and undermines her so that he can go and play with his toy gun.  Maybe that would have been a worthwhile beat under Capaldi (where the dynamics would have been a young black man challenging the orders of an older white man); but with Whittaker, it has the all-too-familiar sense of a cocky young gamer belittling a woman in a position of authority.  It stung, and it shouldn’t have. I like that Chibnall is injecting the Doctor’s new “friends” with flaws, but the flaws are too sharp and sporadic. I’m reminded of Graham’s comment last episode about Ryan using dyspraxia as an excuse for everything, which distanced me from the character of Graham in much the same way.

Scribbles: I really, really hope that Graham microaggression gets addressed

Andrew: Interesting take with Ryan – to be fair, I think the bit would have been much worse with Capaldi – it would have been a young black man challenging the authority of a white male authority figure, only to be made to look an idiot and proved wrong by said white male authority figure.

Janine: I think perhaps it’s the gaming reference that really made that part hurt.  Male characters pushing boundaries, learning to respect the Doctor’s experience and authority?  Sure, I’m into that. But the gaming reference makes it all feel a bit too *real*, in light of the frankly disgusting treatment of women by a ton of gamers.  I’m happy to see flaws in Ryan, but I don’t want to see him channelling Gamergate.

Kevin: That’s a very poignant point that would never have occurred to me

Andrew: Yeah, I hadn’t made the connection to the gaming reference, but now you bring it up, the connection to Gamergate (which in fairness, would probably barely be on Chibnall’s radar) is one I can totally understand you making

 


Janine: But I think it’s important that we don’t just consider “The Ghost Monumentin isolation: something particularly noteworthy about this year’s second episode is that it really takes some of the weight off the opener.  The big reveals are spread across both episodes, with the new Doctor, companions, costume, and theme music in the first; and the new TARDIS, title sequence, and story arc (perhaps?) reserved for the second.  But let’s start where the episode did: the new title sequence.

Reproduced with the same method of a TV camera facing its own monitor as the original title sequence, acting as the cold open itself, and accompanied by a theme using some of Delia Derbyshire’s original recordings, Whittaker’s title sequence feels like a true callback to the very first era of the show..

Kevin: There’s been a wellspring of praise for the new titles, and credit where it’s due, they are beautiful. I tend to prefer the titles to move away from just the vortex and into stranger imagery, but if you are going to do just the vortex, this is the way to do it. Combining that with a throwback theme is, again, not my personal preference, but it’s a hell of an aesthetic statement. This is a Doctor Who dedicated to simplicity, really. It’s devoted to accessibility and ground-level aesthetics. And you know what? These titles are the perfect way to say it. I love highlighting the (female) producer and crediting the director, as well, that feels overdue

Andrew: I love the title sequence, it just looks and sounds great – I’m really loving the “updated Hartnell era” vibe of the visuals and the music. A little bit of Pertwee era in the effects, too. Otherwise I haven’t got too much to say, this is not where my critical faculties are strong – I hear “ooo-wee-ooo” and get emotional

Janine: I actually think this is my favourite title sequence so far — and 2008 takes a lot of beating.  (It’s simple, but *so* good for 2005, and makes a very neat use of the blue/red colour palette of that series.)  Many of the show’s title sequences have been conceptually interesting, like Capaldi’s, but not so well-realised. This is just so well put together.

Kevin: Sums me up, there. I can forgive execution for a concept I love

Janine: Now, a slightly flawed execution of a great concept… that’s more my feelings on the new TARDIS summed up, I think.  Ultimately, “floating crystals” and “TARDIS crown shyness” look better on paper than they do in execution. But I don’t mind — it’s organic, intimate, ambient, and really great fun (especially the biscuit dispenser!  I was always running out of midnight snacks before I moved; that would have been great in my old flat, along with a whiskey tap). I wasn’t expecting anything to rival Capaldi’s TARDIS, and given the recent passing of Michael Pickwoad, I’m not sure I’d have wanted it to.

Andrew: Yeah, I’m not 100% sold on the new TARDIS yet, but I’m sure I’ll grow to love it with time – there are lots of little touches I love – there’s a lovely mix of the Eccleston/ Tennant “Organic” console room with some of the Smith-style oddities around the console itself (most notably the biscuit dispenser, although that also recalls the Hartnell era’s food dispenser, of all things). And any qualms I have were eased by Jodie’s wonderful performance at the TARDIS’s reappearance – de-emphasising the companion’s surprise at the TARDIS being bigger on the inside in favour of the Doctor being surprised at the new TARDIS interior was a great way of finding a new spin on a Doctor Who staple.

Kevin: The biscuit dispenser is adorable. And I really love fitting an entire police box entry space.  The rest of it depends how it’s shot for me. From a character height level, I think it looks great, but the one shot from a higher angle outside the crystal pillars just looked awkward to me. I hope they work on shooting it at its best.  My favorite touch is the hourglass on the console. It’s really cute.

Janine: The entrance is wonderfully imposing, too — picture a scene like Ten and Donna entering the TARDIS at the end of Turn Left, and it’s easy to see the dramatic potential for future season finales.

Kevin: It’ll be really interesting to see how they shoot less imposing, more domestic team scenes. It doesn’t really seem lit for that.

Janine: Speaking of domestic suitability, where are the interior doorways?  I hope there are some of those — I always enjoy the parts which point towards the whimsical depths of the ship.  I liked the Davies era console room, but it felt a bit too isolated.

Kevin: I really hope we get a look at other rooms. The past “crowded TARDIS” eras tended to explore the ship the most, really.

Janine: As for the story arc, I really have mixed feelings.  The Stenza really could go either way: we could be looking at the Shadow Kin 2.0., or, hopefully, a rug-pull moment of another foe pulling the strings.  In a strange way, I’d be childishly satisfied by an “it was all the Daleks!” reveal this time around. So I’m keeping an open mind there, but I won’t lie — I have concerns.  Less concerning is the “Timeless Child” comment. That certainly *felt* like the start of a story arc, and I’m already completely convinced that it’s a reference to Susan.

Kevin: The Timeless Child line feels so pointedly Susan I’m refusing to get my hopes up, but would be very within Chibnall’s emotional wheelhouse of broken families. As for the Stenza, yeah, I don’t care about them much at all, but I doubt they will/hope they won’t be the main focus.

Andrew: Regarding plot arcs, I’m not particularly excited by the possibility of the Stenza being the Big Bad – Tim Shaw worked as a series opener villain, but doesn’t seem like the best recurring antagonist. But I’m not despairing either – The season does still seem committed to being mostly standalones and arc light, so I don’t think it will be hurt by a weaker “big bad”, plus I can see the Stenza being a fake-out Big Bad for something more interesting – the “child of time” stuff sounded much more intriguing, and potentially more significant, though I’m not in the business of speculating as to what it could mean (I’ll only be incredibly wrong)

Janine: I’m really thinking Susan.  Particularly given Yasmin explicitly asking about the Doctor’s family in the opener.  And Carol Ann Ford pretending she hadn’t even considered coming back opposite Whittaker.  As if! I do, after all, like to consider myself an expert in how a “bringing back Susan” arc might be played.  Not that I’ve ever given the subject any thought myself.

Kevin: I think if there’s any continuity arc I’d trust Chibnall with, though, it’s that one.

Janine: Oh, absolutely.

Andrew: Mmm, it’s a good point about that being well within his emotional wheelhouse. I’d be intrigued to see him do it, though I’m worried they’d do “bringing back Susan” in too safe a way on the main show, and not satisfyingly address the emotional ramifications of Susan having to wait so long for her grandparent to come back (unless they decided in an even more bizarre twist to bring back Susan and refer to Season 4 of the Eighth Doctor’s Big Finish audios)

Kevin: That would certainly drastically change my perceptions of Chibnall

Janine: Making those things canon might just be enough to make me switch off a Doctor Who episode before it ends.

Andrew: Like, making Susan work for a general audience would involve ignoring “To the Death(and I’d be glad for the show to do that)

Kevin: I’m not convinced Chibnall knows To the Death exists

Janine: Still, this should be an interesting arc.  If it is one. (DoWntime: We Love Arcs.)

Andrew: He barely seems to know Lungbarrow exists – he’s managed to avoid the worst of the EU, all told.

Janine: It’s a position which makes Chibnall interesting, in many ways.  Unlike Davies and Moffat, he was fairly quiet during the Wilderness Years, establishing his own career but neglecting Doctor Who (with good reason).  Since 2005, the show has been driven by writers defined by that period (for better or for worse).  We’re truly entering a new era.

Kevin: And one defined more in relation to other TV than in relation to the recent history of Doctor Who. Which is fascinating

Andrew: And which is emphasized by Chibnall repeatedly stating he wants Doctor Who to be “at the forefront of television” in promotional interviews – it’s a thing all showrunners will say, but that he seems particularly insistent on.

Janine: So — final thoughts?

Andrew: Overall, weak worldbuilding lets down a strong premise, but I enjoyed what I was able to get out of the themes and the characters. The freshness of the era is still terribly exciting to me, and I’m loving the friends and especially Jodie even more than I did last week.

Kevin: This is a rough episode. For me, rougher than last week’s. What we have is a show and an era still finding its feet, and that gets expressed through a pretty disjointed second episode. But there’s little touches to keep me excited, from the new ways exposition is delivered to the continuation of a determined political ethos. It’s not perfect. Far from it. My initial response to this episode was very mixed. But I feel safe in the current direction of Doctor Who all the same. It’s okay to take a bit of time to really hit one’s stride, and the ingredients shaping up could become remarkable with time. Graham and Ryan hold a wealth of potential, and I look forward to Yaz joining them. For now, I can make do with a weak episode.

Janine: Despite taking a more critical tone than I expected, I actually I enjoyed it.  It’s flawed as hell, and not quite on the same level as the rest of the ‘first trip’ stories, but look at Chibnall’s track record — “Day Oneis significantly weaker than “Everything Changes, and the first episode of any given Broadchurch season is stronger than the second.  The initial struggle to build up momentum is a typical difficulty of his, but the momentum does, generally, build up — and he’s got a genuinely interesting solution to that problem here: withholding the TARDIS reveal until the second episode and making it the object of the journey is just a completely different brand of weird than what you might have expected from the previous showrunners.  And that sort of structural experimentation, where the very cornerstones of the show are shifted around with the casual confidence of an old hand, is what I’m hoping for with the story arc, if and when it develops.  For now, I’m excited: for these characters, for the arc, and first and foremost, for the hour of Rosa Parks.

Team Verdict: 6/10

 

Thanks, Kevin and Andrew, for returning to the column this week!  Reader, I look forward to our next meeting, and hope that I’ll be speaking highly of Malorie Blackman’s televised Who debut…


Fancy joining the gang to discuss the remaining episodes?  Places are quickly being filled, but there’s still room for more contributors.  Anybody is welcome to contribute, but I’m particularly interested in hearing from minority voices, or anyone with a fresh perspective on these stories.  If you think you might be interested, drop in and say hi at janinemaryrivers@gmail.com.  Don’t forget to tune in for Tibere’s feature on Saturday, and if you haven’t already, head this way to catch the most recent!

5 thoughts on “BIT OF ADRENALINE, DASH OF OUTRAGE – Our Thoughts on “The Ghost Monument”

  1. You know, it’s a good point about the race. Had the two groups been separated until the tent, it would have seemed more like a race.

    I really liked it, though. I really liked most of the Moffatt era, but things were due to a spring cleaning, and this series could be leading to something pretty special.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking conversation!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “And I like the exploration of individualism vs collectivism – On the surface, it’s very simple stuff – Angstrom and Epzo learn to stop competing and work together. . . . . But when she sees that the TARDIS has phased out on their arrival, she believes she’s failed her friends, only for them to convince her that they’ll be okay if they continue to work together. And it’s when the Doctor accepts this, truly accepts being part of a community instead of embracing her own form of individualism (distinct from the individualism Angstrom and Epzo show, but still individualism) that she gets her TARDIS back.”

    Seems to be a distinguishing feature of Series 10, compared to the Moffat years, where the Doctor generally spoke as an authority figure. And it is more effective because of Chibnall’s decision to have the companions involuntarily brought along with the Doctor.

    Overall, thought the episode had a strong H. P. Lovecraft tone, wandering through the ruins of a lost, ominous civilization. Given that Chibnall has apparently decided to distance the audience from the characters through the look, feel and sound of the program, success or failure with character development and interaction is key. Agree with the criticism of Ryan’s use of the gun, it came across as gratuitous, and didn’t encourage us to understand him or his relationship with the Doctor at all.

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  3. Good points about the lack of impact the TARDIS’ supposedly regular appearance on the planet has on the culture/civilisation. I don’t know if any of you have ever heard the First Doctor Short Trip Rise and Fall, but this shows the Doctor, Ian, and the TARDIS appearing on a planet out of phase with time (so they appear as still to the inhabitants) and the planets development being triggered by their understanding of building from the design of the TARDIS exterior and the traveller’s clothes showing them how to use materials. As well as this the TARDIS is venerated, with the suggestion that in the planets early culture sacrifices were made to it. Something similar to that could have been interesting to explore, even if just hinted at by some sort of statue recreation or a little toy of the TARDIS in the area they explored.

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  4. This episode feels almost over-edited to me: like so much stuff had to get cut for time (world-building, dramatic tension, something about the water) that the ep could have been great if it was 1/3 longer. I liked it a lot but wanted more.

    I never even thought of Susan! I had the impression Chibnall wasn’t into show history in that way, that if Moffat didn’t do it it wasn’t going to be done. But it would be wonderful for the Doctor to see her granddaughter again, for Susan to get a proper goodbye, and for Carole Ann Ford to get another chance. I’d love it.

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