Doctor Who Season 11 – Ep. 2 “The Ghost Monument”

We go straight from the intro to a pretty classic episode of Doctor Who, complete with spaceships, running, beeping alarms, and, of course, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) trying to get everyone out alive.

SUMMARY

E2 - 1Space
Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. – A Doctor Who Writer.

Picking up immediately where the previous episode left off, with Graham (Bradley Walsh) and Ryan (Tosin Cole) floating in space. They’re rescued by Angstrom (Susan Lynch), a pilot who is in the middle of an intergalactic race. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Yas (Mandip Gill) have been picked up by another racer named Epzo (Shaun Dooley). While Angstrom is doing just fine and lands safely on planet Desolation, Epzo’s ship is out of gas and taking hits, resulting in the Doctor having to help him make a crash that they can walk away from.  Epzo and Angstrom trade barbs as competitors, before the group reunites and heads to meet with the race’s organizer Ilin (Art Malik).

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Ilin is very fancy. 

Ilin says that they’re supposed to finish the race by reaching the “Ghost Monument,” an object that apparently phases into reality every 1000 days. The Doctor quickly realizes that the Ghost Monument is the TARDIS, so the race is on to get to the TARDIS before it phases out again. The four catch up to the two racers and are forced to share a boat ride with them across the flesh-eating oceans of Desolation. It turns out, naturally, that Epzo and Angstrom both have dark backstories that forced them into this race.

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Backstories of Genocide and Parental Abuse. How cheery!

After crossing the ocean the group reaches a deserted city guarded by robots. Ryan tries to take them out by running out and shooting them, only to hilariously be forced to flee when the guns don’t do anything to the robots. As he screams in fear, the Doctor uses an EMP to disable the enemy. They rejoin Epzo and Angstrom and find an underground base. It’s revealed that the Stenza (the race of the Predator knock-off from the last episode) used this planet to research weapons, including the Remnants, which are psychic creepy-voiced (Ian Gelder) clothing-looking entities which clear up the wounded from battlefields while also squeezing people to death and causing terror to enemies. The Remnants hint at something in the Doctor’s background that even she doesn’t know before the team defeats them.

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The next morning, they make it to the victory tent, where both Epzo and Angstrom claim victory together. Ilin allows this, but, apparently angry at the Doctor, only teleports Epzo and Angstrom off planet, leaving the Doctor and companions stranded. Fortunately, the TARDIS briefly phases in. The Doctor is able to stabilize it back into normal reality and the pair are finally, joyfully reunited. The Doctor finds that the TARDIS has reconfigured not only the outside (slightly changing the appearance of the police box) but also the inside, taking on a more crystalline appearance. The new companions properly pay respect to the ship’s awesomeness and the Doctor takes off, intent on taking them all home.

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We’ll see how it goes.

END SUMMARY

Well, this is a solid continuation of the last episode. Honestly, it was much better than the premier, but it didn’t have the burden of introducing 3 new companions and the Doctor, so that’s forgivable. This is fairly dark, due to the levels of murder and genocide that is recounted both by Angstrom and also the Doctor when she discovers the history of the planet, but it still has enough fun and creativity in there to make it feel like a regular Doctor Who episode.

There’s an old screenwriting statement that the best friend to a writer is a ticking clock. Having time constraints on the story automatically gives the characters and the plot a sense of urgency that instantly elevates the tension without distracting from the story. Despite the fact that the main character has a time machine, Doctor Who frequently embraces this, putting a time-clock on the end of the world or something similar. This episode is a great example, because at first the Doctor has no reason to try and participate in the Death Race until it’s revealed that the final location is the TARDIS.

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The Ghost Monument indeed.

Now, it would have been easy to make this into a true race, with the Doctor and companions trying to outpace Epzo and Angstrom, but they chose not to for a very good reason. One of the themes of the show in general, and seems to be repeated by this particular incarnation, is that people should work together. The Doctor herself even says it outright: “We’re stronger together.” It’s a solid message that really works within this episode.

A few notes about how Jodie Whittaker is portraying the Doctor. First, she is one of the more polite incarnations to her companions, even thanking them for not bothering her too much about the fact that she accidentally got them stuck on an alien planet. Second, she uses more direct methods at times than many of her previous incarnations, including using Venusian Aikido during this episode to easily incapacitate Epzo, something the Third Doctor (Pertwee) was fond of. Third, she does the dramatic almost Harry-Potter-spellcasting-esque draw and point with the Sonic Screwdriver, and I love it.

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Plotholus conveniens fixus!

I haven’t quite determined how to feel about the rest of the cast. Yas doesn’t really seem to have found her niche yet. Ryan’s dislike of Graham continues, and I hope they eventually really get into why he doesn’t like him. Ryan’s dyspraxia is still an issue, although when running he also suffers from “Prometheus School of Running Away” disease.

The other big note is that we’ve now had two big episodes in a row featuring the Stenza. I have to think they’re going to be the big bad guys of this arc. I’m not a huge fan of the embedded tooth appearance, but the haunted clothes of death from this episode was excellent. So, we’ll see what happens.

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Yeah, not a fan.

Overall, I thought this episode was a solid hour of television. I give it an A-.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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Doctor Who Season 11 – Ep. 1 “The Woman Who Fell To Earth”

I love Doctor Who. I’ve loved it since I first saw it on PBS as a child, not realizing that the episodes I was watching were more than 20 years old at that point. When it came back, I was elated. I’ve enjoyed the majority of the episodes since the revival, putting two among the best episodes not only of the series, but of television in general. It’s truly a magical show for me and I was completely thrilled that someone requested that I review this season for the blog. I will try to have these up ASAP after airing, but life will get in the way sometimes, so Tuesday at the latest.

So, Allons-y! (if any of you are named Alonzo, then I am so f*cking happy right now)

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Where we last saw our hero….

SUMMARY (SPOILERS – In River Song’s voice)

Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), a young adult with developmental coordination disorder (your body doesn’t send the right nerve signals strongly enough), finds a set of strange glowing symbols floating in the air in the woods and, after touching them, a blue pod appears. Ryan calls the police and PC Yaz Khan (Mandip Gill), a former classmate, arrives to investigate. However, the pair get distracted by a call from a train containing Ryan’s grandmother Grace (Sharon D. Clarke) and her husband, Graham (Bradley Walsh). The train gets attacked by a creature made up of writhing tentacles and electricity which moves towards Grace, Graham, and another passenger named Karl (Johnny Dixon). They’re saved by a woman who falls through the roof of the train. Who is this mysterious woman. Yes, there’s supposed to be a period there because I love bad jokes and it’s the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker).

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Thirty minutes into not being Scottish.

The creature tags the passengers and the doctor with sparks before leaving. The Doctor reveals that these sparks have implanted DNA Bombs, a dangerous and mostly banned weapon. They try to track down the pod that Ryan found, only to find another alien creature has emerged from it. That alien disappears, apparently sensing the first one, after killing a man and taking his tooth. The Doctor rebuilds her sonic screwdriver and takes the group in pursuit of the tentacle monster, revealed to be a bio-data-gathering device called Gathering Coils. They are confronted by the second alien, revealed to be Tzim-Sha of the Stenza (Samuel Oatley) who is basically Predator if he collected teeth instead of skulls.

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… Arnold Schwarzenegger would kill him without trying. 

The Doctor’s group confront Tzim-Sha and the Coils at the site of his hunt. The Doctor manages to trick Tzim-Sha into taking back all of his own DNA bombs and saves the target, but Grace dies trying to stop the Coils. Ryan tries to learn how to ride a bike in tribute to her, but never succeeds due to his condition. After Grace’s funeral, the Doctor tells them she has to find the TARDIS which is supposed to be in space above Earth. She builds a teleporter to go to it, but accidentally teleports herself, Ryan, Graham, and Yaz into the vacuum of space where no TARDIS appears to be.

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And debuts her new outfit.

END SUMMARY

Well, let’s get it out of the way, the Doctor now has 27 X Chromosomes, whereas she previously had 17. Not my fault you didn’t take Time Lord anatomy if you don’t understand this joke, but you really should have at least taken Nth-Dimensional Sex Education so that you’d know about the Birds and the Branes.

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Yeah, but my name’s on the site, so… bite me.

Yes, the Doctor is now equipped with a vagina and, honestly, it didn’t impact the episode much. That was probably a solid move on the writer’s part not to go too heavy into pointing out the differences between her and previous incarnations. That made it seem less like Jodie Whittaker was playing a Female Doctor and was just playing The Doctor… WHICH SHE F*CKING NAILED. Seriously, this might be my favorite Doctor debut, right up there with “The Christmas Invasion” and “The Eleventh Hour.” Whittaker debuts by falling into the path of a monster and briefly incapacitating it, which is one of the most Doctor-y ways to be introduced.

The main thing is that Whittaker quickly embodied the Doctor, filled with all of the pain, curiosity, and excitement that usually define the character. I think one of the best moments is when she is forging a new sonic screwdriver and gazes at a spoon so enthusiastically, realizing that it’ll be one of the perfect components to the device, and you really feel almost drawn to her because of the sincerity she gives off.

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It’s the little things.

Her new companions are going to be more of a team than the usual one or two people who follow the Doctor at a time. I like most of their dynamics, although they seem to shift back and forth during the episode. Still, I think that they’ll serve a much different role than previous companions, if only because of the number.

As for the episode itself, it’s fine. The Coils are visually interesting. The jokes that the Doctor makes about Tzim-Sha’s name (mostly just calling him “Tim Shaw”) are pretty good. The main thing that shocked me was that they killed off a character that we were definitely starting to like… and one that was central to two of her companions’ stories. That’s kind of crazy for a show like this.

Overall, I liked this episode. I’d say that in Doctor Who terms, this was probably about a B+.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.