TARDIS 11-02: Ghost Monument
Hello again all! Well, I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief knowing our heroes are safely aboard the TARDIS and not drifting in space without protection where we left them last time. But let’s back up to the very beginning of the episode.
As if the BBC itself heard my ranting and raving about the opening credit sequence last week, they decided to put it right up front and blow my tiny little mind with it. Though I’m usually a fan of the cold-open-followed-by-credits structure we’ve seen in the past, I can acknowledge that the cliffhanger ending from last week was better served by getting the credits out of the way first and then getting right into the story. Though I did cheat and go to YouTube to get spoiled on the theme tune, it’s no less impressive upon hearing it over the opening sequence. As a Classic Whovian, I can definitely recognize the strains of the original theme that were used in this version.
Visually, the credits also feel like a throwback to the classic days of the 1st 3 doctors. In those days, the credits sequence merely showed the show logo and some swirling, abstract shapes. Though in subsequent seasons a still photo of the Doctor’s face and some additional info about the episode was displayed, it wasn’t until Season 12 and the 4th Doctor that we got a credits sequence similar to what New Whovians are used to, including an image of the TARDIS and the visuals suggesting traveling through a tunnel. 13’s credit sequence is a very competent blend of the visual simplicity of the early credits sequences with the pertinent info of more modern sequences and puts a unique spin on the “time tunnel” effect that’s been a staple of the show; the swirling visuals suggest it without making it abstract and hitting the nail on the head. Paired with the intense bassiness of the new theme tune, it makes for a wonderful intro to our new friend, the (13th) Doctor.
Speaking of our new hero, I’m starting to nail down what’s bugging me about her. Don’t get me wrong, I still very much love her and her portrayal, but there’s just one niggling thing that sticks in my brain. This Doctor is far more compassionate and friendly than we’ve seen in a while. The humans she travels with are friends, not companions. She makes a point of making encouraging comments and paying compliments and she has been very apologetic towards them for putting them in the unasked-for danger they’re in. She’s generally just more outwardly loving of humans. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing, she’s behaving just as the Doctor should. It might be bothering me just because it’s in stark contrast to how superior to humans past Doctors, particularly 12, have been. It’s never been quite to the level of condescension, but there’s always been an edge of superiority to the Doctor (also rightly, as they are a “scary handsome genius from space” as 12 was fond of reminding us). But when you combine this sensitivity, which has a historically feminine connotation, with the first female casting of the role, it just kind of bugs me a bit. If the Doctor is the Doctor, regardless of gender, then shouldn’t the first female Doctor (on tv) have traits that are unique to the Doctor and not strictly womanly traits? I’m not trying to say men can’t be sensitive or that the Doctor hasn’t ever been sensitive. It’s just this tiny thing in the back of my mind. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Anyway, onto the episode itself.
The story was good, if unremarkable. It was a fun adventure, not super memorable, but not objectionable. The characters of Angstrom and Epzo were great examples of classic one-off Whoniverse characters. The baddies, in the form of the gas creatures, were especially creepy. One of the most interesting elements was the story’s tie to the Stenza, the race of the baddie from the previous episode. This is a fantastic example of how to tie episodes together without getting one’s head too far up one’s own ass (ahem…MOFFAT). It continued the trend from the premiere of having been fun in a way the show hasn’t been in a while, because it’s back to a carefree doctor having adventures, and not always having to worry about THE FATE OF THE KNOWN UNIVERSE every week. They’ve gone smaller, which is the only place you can go when you’ve gotten too big.
The companions (I’m having a hard time referring to them as friends, because I’ve been calling them companions for roughly 30 years) continue to grow on me. I’m particularly fond of Yaz, she seems to be the best at adapting. Not that she doesn’t freak out when something unfamiliar and dangerous occurs, but she always seems to be the first to react with calm and understanding. I’m proper worried about Graham with the amount of running about that’s required in this role, especially considering his health struggles. Casting young fit companions isn’t for ratings, it’s practical (…ok it’s not ONLY for ratings). Brad Walsh is a delight, but I maintain that I’m not sure he’ll be a long-lasting companion. Though there is something to be said for having someone aboard the TARDIS who’s old enough to recognize the exterior. Ryan is doing his best and that’s ok. It’s a good look for a companion and not one we’ve seen before. Taken as a whole, this team is already starting to gel, which is pleasantly much quicker than some other TV teams we’ve seen. (I’m looking at you, 1st half season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
One thing I hadn’t commented on last week is that the overall visual style of the new show is cool. It’s distinctive, very cinematic, and not like Who we’ve seen before. Of course, with a new production team, things are bound to go in a new direction, but I highly approve of the direction they’ve chosen. And man, the new TARDIS interior is BANGIN’. I love that the vestibule is now the size of the entire police box and not just the doors. I didn’t know how much I’d appreciate that until I saw it. The console room interior is so unique! Like most of the rest of the show, it’s got elements of the classic and the versions that have come before, some organic (the crystal rotor tower!) and some mechanical (the hourglass!) components, but it is very uniquely its own. I’m also super pleased with the honor Jodie’s Doctor showed to the TARDIS as a living creature and friend, regarding her new look.
With the TARDIS having rejoined the team, a possibility that seemed to worry the characters way more than it worried me (seriously the organizer of the race said that the “ghost monument” was in and out of phase so I didn’t see why they were so upset that it wasn’t there when they arrived, maybe they were afraid they’d missed it but that’s not how it was written), our heroes are off to the past and I’m intrigued to see how this new team copes with a highly recognizable event from Earth’s (America’s) history. See you next week!