Doctor Who: Series 11 (or 36 depending on how you count): Episode 2: The Ghost Monument by Chris Chibnall.

‘Come to Daddy…I mean, come to Mummy.’


Loved the new opening credits. Shorter but still to the point.

You’re going to have to be very careful because there are so many spoilers here, so rather than did dig right into them. I’ll pass some general comments first so you can use them to ponder before going further.

The way all four of them were plucked from space reminded me of ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’. One of the starships reminded me for the brief instant we saw it of the Sulaco from ‘Aliens’. The piloting of one of the starships down to Earth had shades of ‘Red Dwarf’ and I realised that writer Chris Chibnall wasn’t just hitting on every SF trope but a potpourri of films as well. Not necessarily direct homages but you’d be hard put not to recognise something that feels like it came from ‘Screamers’ and ‘Pitch Black’ as well. Not too much but enough to turn your geek sense on, though. There’s even a Pertwee reference to Venusian Alkido and the nuns who taught it which is an extra twist.

OK, so what can I cautiously talk about? What we have are the final two contestants, Epso (actor Shaun Dooley) and Angstrom (actress Susan Lynch) in the last ‘Rally Of The 12 Galaxies’. They are now in a binary star system on a planet called Desolation where everything about it reeks of death. You can barely breathe, you mustn’t drink or bathe in the water unless you plan on being eaten by the microbes there. Oh and killer robots are waiting to kill anything alive, not to mention some form of living skin if you pause to sleep. Things only get worse when the suns go down but the two moons don’t reflect enough light. If it wasn’t for the sand, you would think you were on a version of Harry Harrison’s ‘Deathworld’. At least ‘Dune’ had life on Arakkis.

A lot of the available ‘smoking guns’ although don’t use that second word in front of the Doctor are revealed before they have a use and neatly downplayed until you need to hear about them. Even how the Doctor’s friends can understand alien languages without the connection to the TARDIS, although this is a different variant on Babel-fish is neatly covered.

Throughout it all, the Doctor solves the main problems and her ‘friends’ contribute. Not necessarily always the right way but this is their first time off planet and the Doctor did say not touch anything. One problem is that the two actual contestants would have actually failed when they reached the river or even tried to drink the water without the Doctor’s intervention. Bearing in mind how many trails Epso and Angstrom had to go through to get this far, you would think they might have had been a bit more pro-active and less whiney.

Any more plot will take some enjoyment out of it and, yes, it is worth watching and dividing the large group up allows everyone some screen-time.

One poser: Why is it when a spaceship is crashing down towards you that you would want to stay in its glide-path and not run up the inclines so you’re not in its direct path. Not quite in the same class as ‘Prometheus’ but more ‘Aliens’ dropship territory.

Oh, should I say they finally get to the TARDIS, which might be there or might not be. An odd detail, the Doctor forgot herself that the TARDIS hadn’t stabilised yet. Even so, you would still have to wonder how the contestants knew of it by a different name when it’s not always there. The best line had the Doctor saying ‘Come to Daddy…I mean, come to Mummy.’ That’s going to be the by-line that will come up from time to time.

With the number of SF film references, I have a feeling that Chris Chibnall put in to see if you were paying attention. I have a suspicion he did that deliberately. Instead of just doing it, what he is really saying, yes, I know what it looks like so I’m acknowledging and not ignoring it. There can’t be much new in Science Fiction anymore that we haven’t seen before but he does know his SF films. Of course, he could also be clearing the decks of things we are familiar with.

This story does have legs and all the cast play a function. About the only person I haven’t mentioned is Ilin (actor Art Malik) but as he’s a hologram, I’m not really sure he counts as anything more than the Wizard from Oz. Now, can the Doctor get her ‘friends’ home. Looking at the preview to next week, I think we can say that’s a no.

© GF Willmetts

14 October 2018

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