Series Eleven, Episode Two
We begin with our first sight of the brand new title sequence, which is a pretty purple underwater-like effect, and the start of this episode is picking up where we left the Doctor and her new friends, floating in the middle of deep space!
Ryan is woken up by Graham, and they are on a space ship. “We are alive, right?” asks Ryan. “As far as I can tell, yeah.” replies Graham. They are on the ship with one occupant, a woman named Angstrom (Susan Lynch).
Meanwhile, the Doctor and Yasmin have been rescued by a different space ship, where the sole occupant is a man named Epzo (Shaun Dooley). Both ships are heading for “the Final Planet”, which is given the name Desolation. The Doctor notes how ominous that name is. It reminded me of that Futurama episode where Professor Farnsworth sends the crew to the Zone of Doom or the Zone of Death, and shrugs it off that all the Zones have names like that in The Galaxy of Terror.
Anyway, Epzo’s ship, the Cerebus, is falling apart, so the Doctor suggests jettisoning the back-end. Epzo doesn’t want to, saying they have written songs about the ship, but the Doctor counters that if they don’t “they’ll be writing operas about our pointless deaths!”
Angstrom’s ship has already landed on Desolation. It is a Tatooine-like desert planet with three suns. Also in the sky now is the Cerebus, about to crash land. Ryan, Graham and Angstrom all run away so they don’t get hurt by the impact of the ship landing. The Cerebus crashes, but the Doctor, Yasmin and Epzo all survive, so the Doctor and her friends are reunited. As are Angstrom and Epzo, who have met before.
The Doctor says to her friends that she must have made a miscalculation somewhere, but welcomes them to “what I presume is your first alien planet”.
They all make their way to a white tent. There is a hologram in there, Ilin (Art Malik). The Doctor wonders if he’s a projection or an interface, as if he is an interface “those are excellent nose hairs!”. Ilin is indeed a projection, from lightyears away. It is all some competition. Angstorm and Epzo are the only survivors from 4000 who entered the race. Desolation is the last planet in the race, and the prize is to be transported to a habitable planet, while the loser will be abandoned on Desolation.
The game has rules. The opponents must not injure, sabotage or kill each other, and they are warned not to even touch the water, let alone drink it, and not to travel at night. They are also told about the titular Ghost Monument – which turns out to be The TARDIS!
The team find a boat on the water, but it looks like the engine needs starting. Ryan and Graham work out between them that it isn’t powered by an engine at all, but a solar-powered battery. It makes sense on a planet with three suns I suppose.
They get the boat working, and arrive at an abandoned city. The Doctor has found that the killer water is the way it is due to flesh-eating microbes. The atmosphere is also lightly poisonous. She detects no other lifeforms on the planet. When they get further into the city they are surrounded by killer robots – Sniperbots to be exact. Not technically lifeforms, but they are dangerous, they use everything as target practice.
Ryan thinks because he’s played Call Of Duty often enough he can go out and shoot the Sniperbots. He does get a few, but he is very quickly outnumbered, so makes a swift retreat!
The Doctor believes in brain over brawn, so she comes up with a more technology focused solution – she uses an electromagnetic pulse to fry the Sniperbots systems, but that will only be temporary, the Sniperbots will soon reboot. They all go down a hatch which leads to a long abandoned science lab.
The scientists have left a message, saying they were abducted by the Stenza and forced to create new methods of killing. That is why Desolation is a deadly planet.
At nightfall, the Remnants, some life forms which look like cloths and move like eels, attack Epzo, who has been wounded from an earlier attack by the Sniperbots. Angstrom manages to save him from them, and everyone climbs out of the hatch, though at the surface there is some deadly gas high up, so they have to keep to the ground. The Remnants circle them, and have a hissing way of talking, trying to prey on their fears. Using Epzo’s self-lighting cigar, the Doctor is able to kill the Remnants by setting fire to the light, garlic smelling flammable gas higher up.
The next day they finally get to the end of the race. The Doctor suggests that Angstrom and Epzo should be joint winners. Ilin, reluctantly, agrees, and transports them off Desolation, but leaves the Doctor and her friends behind.
The Doctor feels guilty and that she’s let her friends down, but they don’t want to give up hope. The TARDIS then materialises, and they all go in.
The TARDIS has redecorated itself in the Doctor’s absence. All of the yellow hexagons remind me a bit of the gameshow Blockbusters. Which is being revived apparently!
It makes sense for the TARDIS to be looking both forward and backward at the same time I suppose. I liked the TARDIS giving the Doctor a custard cream!
The Doctor’s “let’s get a shift on” quote from this episode was used prominently in the trailers for this series.
This is the sort of story that would normally be set in the far future, but the implication is that it is the present day somewhere far, far away in the universe. The aliens resemble humans, but they aren’t humans, and have in fact never even heard of Earth. It’s an interesting idea, given the vastness of the universe who knows if there are other civilisations on planets far beyond our knowledge, let alone our reach.
Angstrom and Epzo’s conversations note that many planets in their area are dying, and the attitude of the populations has become everybody for themselves and trust no-one. Epzo mentions that his mother, rather cruelly, went out of her way to teach him that. The Stenza look like they are going to be the main series villain. Angstrom says they killed her wife after Graham says the Stenza were responsible for Grace’s death.
There is an explanation for why they ended up in deep space at first. Desolation had fallen out or orbit, so the Doctor and the others were transported to where the planet should have been.
They handwave the alien translation issue by saying the medical implants from the previous episode translate as well. A bit convenient, but whatever.
Yasmin felt a little underused in this episode compared to Ryan and Graham, but she has a larger role in later episodes.
‘The Ghost Monument’ was quite strong as second episodes go, and Jodie Whittaker again is brilliant as the Doctor.