RogerBW's Blog

Doctor Who 2/11.02: The Ghost Monument 19 October 2018

Last week's opening episode was distinctly better than I'd expected, though very far from perfect. Can Chibnall (writing again) keep up the quality in a "regular" series episode?

It is amusing, though unfortunate, that humanity hasn't learned anything about running since Prometheus (when the crashing spaceship is coming towards you in a straight line, it's a good idea to run sideways, not directly away from it).

What's trying to be a proper discussion about cooperation versus competition, and persistence versus despair, suffers rather from the format: this is a 50-minute story which also has to do the procedural stuff of resolving the cliffhanger, finding the TARDIS, setting up some series-arc plot points, and of course the obligatory running along corridors. At this length, serious content can't help but come over as a bit trite and simplistic. Would it be better to leave it out completely? I don't think so. Clearly plenty of other stuff has been cut (like, why did anyone bother to move the planet?), and there's certainly more to be told about the general state of the universe; it's pleasing to have something in the show other than how cool the Doctor is and how threatening everything else is.

I'm not terribly impressed with the Stenza as militaristic alien menace so far: they're not doing anything the Sontarans wouldn't. But on the bright side at least the production team isn't just recycling the Sontarans with the same old costumes and same old disrespect. Some of the worst stories in the show's run have clearly had their genesis in "let's bring back monster X, people like them" rather than "here is an interesting idea, let's have a monster as part of it".

The acting is pretty decent (especially since, filming in South Africa in January, one of the cast suffered heatstroke); we're not learning much about the characters but they are at least behaving consistently. I wonder whether this is the first time we've seen a through-shot from the outside, past the inside of the police-box door, all the way inside? (Previous episodes have shown a view out through the old hex-pattern door, but there was never clarity as to just how that connected to the outside door.)

If regular series episodes stay this good, I'll keep watching; the show isn't being hugely impressive but it's doing all right, and it's avoiding most of the easy options for quick appeal at the cost of consistency and storytelling. And it's not as though there were a lot of SF with a vaguely optimistic outlook these days.

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