Lost In Space?
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer and Brit in Los Angeles, Robert Cave, takes a look at the second episode of the new Doctor Who season…
Doctor Who Season 11 Episode 2
The Ghost Monument
Director: Mark Tonderai
Writer: Chris Chibnall
Stars: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole
This week gets us into the new series proper rather abruptly with the new title sequence. The latest iteration of Ron Grainer’s classic theme is very much all about the bass, while visuals are a computer-generated kaleidoscope of lava lamp action. The result is vaguely reminiscent of the opening of the 1960s film Dalek invasion of Earth 2150 AD but much more modern and exciting.
The action picks up directly where the previous week left off, with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor adrift in space with her trio of new friends. Fortunately for all involved, no one stays there very long — the quartet are quickly, and spectacularly scooped up by a pair of spaceships involved in a highly competitive, and fairly lethal, pan-galactic rally that offers both unimaginable riches and, more importantly, a chance for their pilots to take their families out of the grinding poverty they suffer. It might not be the most completely original of plots, but it serves well enough to propel our principle cast across their first alien planet in pursuit of the Doctor’s iconic time/space vehicle the TARDIS.
But what a beautiful planet it is! Far from desolate, as it is described in the episode, this world is gorgeous, really making the most of the South African filming locations used throughout. Indeed, the most significant motif of the new series so far might be the greater emphasis on beautiful widescreen establishing shots, such as those of the rugged South Yorkshire countryside in last week’s episode and of the sand and sea here. Its almost as if the show runner and his directors are going out of their way to sell the veracity and physicality of the Doctor’s world in a scale that has simply been beyond the scope of the show up to this point. All the show runners since the series’ revival in 2005 have all sought to overcome the the classic era’s reputation for sets and special effects that sometimes looked a bit cheap and flimsy, but it feels like the visuals bar has been further raised here.
The guest stars Shaun Dooley, Susan Lynch and Art Malik are all fun in their roles, but their characters weren’t particularly well-developed and when they disappeared into thin air towards the end of the episode, I wasn’t left feeling that we had particularly lost anything. The most interesting character moments all came from the series regulars, with the most anticipated moment being their introduction to the TARDIS and its whole bigger on the inside-ness. Such scenes might seem almost a cliche for older fans, but what they need to remember is that any episode could be a viewers first introduction of the show and that its makers cannot afford to assume their audience are as steeped in Who lore as the average audience of the modern series.
At first glance, the new TARDIS set certainly appears bigger than those seen previously, with the possible exception of that of the 1996 TV movie. The doors to the world outside the console room are attached to two of the police box’s side walls, with the TARDIS’s extra dimensions apparently bursting out of its back. Is this a visual gag about breaking the televisual fourth wall?
OK, so I wasn’t sold on some of the controllers, particularly the egg-timer and the weirdly self-referential translucent TARDIS exterior, or the custard cream dispenser, but I’m sure there are plenty of other buttons and switches that we’ll see more of on future adventures, the next of which will take the TARDIS crew to Montgomery, Alabama and a meeting with Rosa Parks. I can’t wait.