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Sunday, 14 October 2018

REVIEW: Doctor Who - The Ghost Monument

After the devastating impact of the opening episode, The Ghost Monument begins with the resolution to last week’s epic cliffhanger which left The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Graham (Bradley Walsh), Yasmin (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole) floating in space, apparently on the brink of death. Chris Chibnall’s artful resolution to this cliff-hanger allows him to show off his ability to do two things at once – begin a new story whilst resolving the conclusion of the previous one.  Whilst it could be argued that the resolution to the first episode is somewhat similar to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, Chibnall still manages to make it engaging and different enough for it not to irk fans of science fiction too much.


His ability to ensure that the plot of this episode neatly ties into the previous story allows a sense of perfect flow from the first to the second episode. Rather than introducing the TARDIS at the end of the first episode and allowing The Doctor’s new friends to become aware that they can travel anywhere in the universe with The Doctor, Chibnall allows them to fully comprehend the amazingness of The Doctor even without the TARDIS. Similarly, Chibnall’s writing in this story helps remind us that The Doctor is just as amazing without her travelling machine as she is with it.

The plot of the episode can essentially be summed up as a science fiction version of Rat Race. The twist that the Ghost Monument is the TARDIS itself is neat but the actual journey towards The Doctor and her gang finding the TARDIS is a bit lightweight. This a problem that also cropped up in the previous story; however, like in The Woman Who Fell To Earth this episode is made really enjoyable by the characters that Chibnall populates his story with. Chibnall really gets character in the same way Russell T Davies did but it is a shame that he has yet to match his excellent characterisation with plots that are as strong.


Jodie Whittaker’s performance as The Doctor has much more of an engaging and dramatic tone to it than in the previous episode. This isn’t to diminish Whittaker’s performance in The Woman Who Fell To Earth – The Ghost Monument simply allows her to show off her dramatic, action orientated Doctor more. From the opening minutes of the story in which she saves herself and Yasmin by crash landing Epzo’s ship to the final moments of the story, Whittaker proves that her Doctor is as swashbuckling as her predecessors.

Bradley Walsh gives a terrific performance as Graham. Walsh really shows off his full comedic potential as comic relief – again, though this may suggest his character is overly similar to Bernard Cribbins’ Wilf this isn’t the case. Walsh gives Graham his own unique personality and by allowing him to have a paternalistic relationship with Ryan this means that he isn’t simply a provider of jokes – though when he does they are particularly funny.

Art Malik’s portrayal of Ilin is masterful. He brings a grandeur to the part that only Malik could properly achieve. Though he doesn’t appear in the episode that much he makes the character feel both pompous and imposing at the same time, a mean fete. It is a shame that he isn’t given as much screen time as he otherwise could have utilised, but he still brings a great deal of authority to his part.

The shows news title sequence is elegantly done and perfectly matches with Segun Akinola’s excellent new theme. Like the theme, it utilises the past of the programme and injects new life and energy into it to create something truly exciting and new. Akinola’s score throughout the episode is equally impressive and he continues to bring an original and dynamic voice to the score of the programme.

The redesign of the TARDIS console room is perhaps not as successful as the reinvention of the theme and intro – it is certainly an interesting and creative design, but it is also very clunky and malformed. Rather than feeling elegant or truly alien it feels more like a design that a kid has made with Play Do without imaging how they would design the TARDIS. The exterior of the TARDIS, contrastingly, is a refreshing but subtle call back to how the time machine looked during the 1970s but not so much that it feels too overtly nostalgic.


The locations used in the story are wonderfully utilised. By stripping away too many sets and placing The Doctor and co in an environment that is trying to kill them this gives the story a more realistic feeling of threat to it. Like The Sontaran Experiment, The Ghost Monument makes its use of locations one of the best things about it and ensures that you do really believe that The Doctor and her friends are fighting for their lives.

Whilst The Ghost Monument may not go down as the most impressive or inspiring episode of Doctor Who, it still has a great deal of heart and is very enjoyable. Though the show continues to not produce significantly scary “monsters of the week” or overtly original plots it is still immensely charming and charismatic enough to make its audience forgive it for those flaws. Doctor Who really is back and the rest of this series and the show's future as a whole looks incredibly bright.

Contributed by Will Barber-Taylor

Doctor Who continues on Sundays on BBC One.

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