doctor who, the ghost monument, recap

Doctor Who Season 11, Episode 2: “The Ghost Monument”

The Doctor always (well, almost always) tries to do the right thing. She has a good heart (actually, she has two of them), and she genuinely cares about people and other various life forms she comes in contact with. But can she really be trusted? 

That’s the question Ryan, Yaz, and Graham have to ask themselves as they find themselves on Desolation, the final planet in the universe, after the Doctor inadvertently brings them with her on her search for the missing TARDIS. It’s a planet with no signs of life outside of the flesh-eating microbes in the water, a few robot snipers, and some killer bedsheets that come out at night to choke the life out of you. It’s also the site of the last leg of the Rally of the 12 Galaxies, a winner-takes-all endurance race with two remaining contestants, neither of whom seems overly interested in helping the “moomanbeans” (human beings) they’ve scooped out of space since they’re not worth any bonus points.

Ultimately, everyone travels together since the TARDIS ends up being the “ghost monument” that marks the finish line of the race, so everyone’s trying to get to the same place. Which turns out to be a good thing for the race contestants since there’s no way they would have finished without the Doctor’s help. But they also have to decide whether the Doctor is trustworthy, and they approach the situation from entirely different perspectives.

Epzo is one of those people who just doesn’t trust anyone. His mother, in a twisted act of “tough love,” taught him early on that no one can be trusted. Ever. So he tries to go it alone as long as he can, and it takes a near-death experience courtesy of one of the killer bedsheets to convince him that maybe he needed help.

Angstrom is also initially defensive. It turns out that the Stenza (whom we met last week in the form of Tim Shaw) have decimated her home planet much like they’ve done to Desolation. She’s entered the Rally as a last-ditch effort to save her family, and it’s hard for her to let anyone else in. But she does, and she ends up sharing the prize with Epzo in a rare showing of sportsmanship between the two rivals.

Ultimately, however, Epzo and Angstrom trust the Doctor for the same reason the three humans do—they really don’t have any other choice. They’re stuck on an alien planet with no resources and no means of travel, and so when the Doctor promises to get them home, they have to take her at her word. They’ve seen her in action, and they’ve gotten to know her a little, and so their faith in the Time Lord is not completely blind. But the Doctor takes such big risks that she sometimes seems to forget that, while she’s been traveling all over the known (and probably some of the unknown) universe for hundreds of years, all of this is brand new to her companions. And while almost all of them end up loving the TARDIS experience, it takes time to build sufficient trust. This trip has a happy ending, and so it definitely helps. 

Trust is also something Ryan and Graham continue to work on as both of them grieve the loss of Grace. Ryan isn’t quite ready to let Graham be Granddad, but their accidental travels may turn out to be just what they both need to build a relationship. They work very well together this week in getting the transport ship working, so they seem to be moving in the right direction.

Random thoughts:

  • The Doctor once again proves that “brains beat bullets” as she succeeds in taking out the sniper bots with a simple electromagnetic pulse where Ryan’s Call of Duty approach fails. 
  • On that note, I would LOVE to learn Venusian aikido from the Grand Master Pacifist.
  • The killer bedsheets (I think they’re actually called Remnants, but “killer bedsheets” just has a nicer ring to it) mention something about a “timeless child” and hint that it may refer to a memory that the Doctor isn’t aware of—a time when she was “an outcast, abandoned and alone.” We’ll keep an eye on that one.
  • “Can people and things stop putting stuff inside me without my permission?” If all of us lived by that one little rule, the world would be a much nicer place.
  • “This…is proper…awesome.”
  • “Start believing.”