5:00 pm EDT, October 15, 2018

‘Doctor Who’ 11×02 review: Frenzied fun, featuring the reunion of a traveler and her TARDIS

Doctor Who season 11’s The Ghost Monument is a visually stunning episode that gave fans loads of fun and all the feels with a glorious reunion between a traveler and her TARDIS.

We pick back up with last week’s cliffhanger of The Doctor, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz floating in space after Thirteen tried to bid them farewell to find her TARDIS. Per Digital Spy, Showrunner Chris Chibnall said that this season would not have any two-parters, but this was definitely the conclusion to the premiere episode.

There was the continuation of the mysterious Stenza who are apparently causing chaos across space and time by forcing scientist to create destructive weapons. Do I sense a season-long arc coming? Maybe.

The quartet find themselves in the midst of a space race with two final contestants trying to reach the Ghost Monument. While Ryan briefly ponders the qualifications needed to get in the game, The Doctor doesn’t become quite as invested until she discovers that the Ghost Monument is none other than the TARDIS.

It’s a packed adventure that amps up the action and keeps a steady tempo as The Doctor took an extended crew across this seemingly desolate yet dangerous planet to uncover what took place on its grounds. The story could have benefited from dialing back some of the dialogue and inserting more expository scenes, but it was interesting to see how this first alien planet story went down with so many players involved in the action.

Here’s a breakdown of each character and how they played into this week’s narrative.

The Doctor

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This episode gave Jodie Whittaker a chance to run through the gamut of emotions. She was wonderfully authoritative when she gave competitor Epzo several well-earned verbal lashings about his less than stellar personality.

Her interactions with him even included a Venusian aikido move that temporarily paralyzed him from the neck down after her pulled a gun on Angstrom. This scene was a brilliant callback to the same self-defense technique used by the Third Doctor to defend himself and others.

Thirteen also gave us moments of levity, especially when she commented on the excellence of a hologram’s nose hairs and a produced a pair of saucy cat-eyed shades that she picked up from either Pythagoras or Audrey Hepburn. And, she allowed Ryan to have his short-lived Call of Duty moment against sniper robots before confirming that brains beat bullets.

He’s gotta learn the rules of being a companion/friend sometime, right?

She’s an absolute delight whose quick on her feet, straightforward, and confident with a dizzying amount of energy and optimism. But, there were also a moment of mystery when she faced the Remnants, a.k.a. those eerie sheets that know something about her past.

“We see deeper though, further back. The timeless child…We see what’s hidden from yourself. The Outcast, abandoned, and unknown” Are they simply describing The Doctor, or is this a subtle setup for a major revelation about The Doctor’s past? We will surely find out as the season continues.

Thirteen’s engaging charm and wit have an undercurrent of uncertainty as she adjusts to this new incarnation. This is shown when she reaches the end game and is forlorn about letting the crew down and not locating her TARDIS.

It’s rare to see The Doctor completely dejected and her loss of hope, wonder, and determination plays across her face in a powerful way. But, the real tears flowed when she heard the glorious sound of her TARDIS and fixed her sonic screwdriver to help it fully materialize.

The way The Doctor gleefully ran to the TARDIS and embraced it like a long-lost loved one made my heart leap for joy. And, it was touching to see her marvel at this machine’s latest updates, even though she has seen it change many times before.

For the first time, she got to share in the wonder of seeing a new TARDIS console room with her companions. That scene was a nice twist on the typical TARDIS reveal and this Doctor is virtually flawless.

Yaz

Yaz is severely underused in this episode, which is a shame because Mandip Gill is excellent. There was the brief mention of her family as the pilot Angstrom recounted how most of hers was either in hiding or on the run from the Stenza.

Outside of this tidbit, she jumps in with a bit of commentary but doesn’t have as much to do as her fellow companions or even the two guest stars. It’s a bit concerning, especially since she is the only female (and the show’s first South Asian) companion, but we are only on episode 2 so it is still early in the game.

I think Yaz could get more time to shine if she’s ever left to her own devices during an adventure. It would give the audience a chance to get to know her and discover what she would do in tight situations without guidance.

She seems quite intelligent and presumably has some solid investigative skills as a police officer, so I hope the show puts those to use. Thankfully, there’s hope for Yaz in episode 4 according to SyFy, which takes them back to the UK to find her family during a spider crisis.

There’s also another upcoming episode where Yaz will look for her grandmother during the Partition of India in 1947, so this should give her a stronger arc toward the midpoint of the season. Hopefully, this will make up for Yaz being sidelined this time.

Ryan

Ryan continues to have the most development out of the three characters. The show explores more about his contentious relationship with Graham, who calls him out for not dealing with his emotions concerning Grace’s (unnecessary) death.

Time is always funky on this show, but it couldn’t have been more than a week or so since they both lost this wonderful woman. Grief does not look the same for two people and Ryan was extremely close to her and likely viewed her as a mother figure and the only source of stability in his life.

And, he has also been kinda busy dealing with all this space stuff concerning The Doctor so leave the boy alone Graham and let Ryan live.

The budding dynamic between The Doctor and Ryan is the most interesting TARDIS team connection so far. He was firmly introduced to her “guns are generally a no-no” motto yet he received such care and tenderness from The Doctor when he apprehensively prepared to climb a ladder out of the tunnels.

I think he may be the person to undergo the most radical change from being a companion as he faces major challenges and discovers his own strength. Ryan is certainly a layered characters who can be dangerously impulsive and stubborn, both of which are not foreign traits for a teenager.

But, this is balanced by his inquisitiveness, bravery, and sheer wonder at the TARDIS. He’s feels like the companion that most fans can easily relate to at this point, especially when he wants to touch buttons and ask tons of questions. As he said, this journey is indeed “proper awesome” and I’m glad we get to experience it through the eyes of this great character.

Graham

Graham is still playing into the “Negative Ned” role quite a bit at the beginning of this episode, but he starts to soften his edges toward the end. As I said, I don’t like how he is trying to make Ryan talk about Grace’s death and pushing the whole “granddad” thing.

Of course, it makes sense for Graham to desire to build this relationship because Ryan is the only “piece” of Grace that he has left. And, it’s disheartening that they are using a “What Would Grace Do?” motto to help Graham’s character development when he could have organically grown into a great companion like others before him. Oh well.

But he did provide a bit of comic relief by rocking those cat-eyed shades like a boss along with a few well-placed zingers like “you can’t out-think bullets” and “were you born that miserable or did you have to work at it?” And, I actually love that he calls Thirteen “Doc” and gave her a nice pep talk to cheer her up at the end.

Bradley Walsh is such an engaging actor and it remains to be seen what the show will do with Graham.

Angstrom & Epzo

Angstrom is the pilot with heart who is fighting for her family and Epzo is the brutish outcast who only cares about himself. These roles are generally cliché, but the actors do a great job of bringing them both to life in a fresh way.

I wish there was more of Angstrom and Yaz interacting and bonding over their families because the moments they were together were engaging and thoughtful. Angstrom exhibits a few solid companion traits and perhaps that is why she was given a nice chunk of this episode.

And, Epzo was a nice foil to our optimistic and empathetic Doctor even though he finally caved in and decided to make the race a tie at the end. It was nice to see them live through the plot, even though their abrupt ending was unsatisfying…until the revelation of The TARDIS.

The TARDIS

This beauty was a sight for sore eyes and she’s looking pretty snazzy. The Doctor flattered her with some compliments about exterior updates, and she let everyone in to marvel at her latest upgrade.

The new console room appears to be bigger than ever and starkly different from the past with glowing, orange crystals surrounding the control center. It’s a paired down design with lots of switches, dials, and a fantastic biscuit dispenser that we never knew we needed in the TARDIS.

The walls seem more like random partitions with hexagon gear shapes and it’s all quite eerie with a soothing ambiance. A lot of fans are digging this look and I can’t wait to see the crew move around in the room and watch Thirteen at the controls. The TARDIS is a fine vessel and now it’s time to take her for a few spins across space.

Next week is a trip back in time involving Rosa Parks and most fans are very curious about how the show will tread the civil unrest of that time period. Hopefully, Doctor Who will score another season 11 win under its belt.

Our Score

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