Don’t Touch Anything

Spoilers below… natch!

No sooner had we all tried to come to terms with the remarkable 8.2m viewers in the overnight ratings (and 10.9 in the 7-day, iPlayer-less ones) for TWWFTE, thoughts turned to the episode 2, The Ghost Monument, a.k.a. the difficult second album. Things kicked off in style with the debut of the new opening credits, which I really liked. Visually kaleidoscopic and a refreshingly traditional sound complete with a weird, yet supremely effective, slowy-down-distorty bit* near the start. (* Not an officially recognised musical term… yet). The other noteworthy part of the new title sequence is how quickly they finish. No sooner had the episode title flashed on-screen then we were right back to where we left TWWFTE with our Scooby Gang hanging in space, from where they were rescued (aka “scooped”) by the final two competitors in a Paris-Dakar rally-in-space. 

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The two guys, Ryan and Graeme found themselves with Angstrom, while Yaz and the Doctor ended up with Epzo. I would have liked these two teams to have stayed separated for a little longer, which may have given a little more time and space for these new friends of ours to develop their on-screen personalities. A little kudos though to Susan Lynch and Shaun Dooley here, who were both, entirely as expected, a little bit wonderful. Also noteworthy in these early stages of the episode were the cameras which, despite me being a little miffed that they haven’t gone full 4K UHD HDR with the format, still create magnificent, rich vistas as shown in the scene where Angstrom’s spaceship has landed. Great use of the location here too.

The six of them are soon thrown together in an unfolding mystery that for Angstrom and Epzo meant winning the race and for the other four meant getting back to the TARDIS. One of the big issues discussed prior to the series was the dynamic of having three companions again and specifically, would there be enough for each of them to do and avoid some of the pitfalls that arguably were present back in the day when Nyssa, Tegan and Adric were hopping round the universe together. I feel that it’s going to take a while to establish the connections here. With four people in the TARDIS, that’s six one-to-one relationships that can be explored. Compared to previous recent series with only one Doctor/Companion relationship at the heart of the show. This will take some time to embed but the early signs are good.

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There were times in the Ghost Monument when we essentially had six people, all on the same side with the same objectives trying to accomplish the same thing and I feared that some, like Yaz for example, were, at times, left hanging onto the coat-tails of the others. However, some nice touches, like the scene on the boat where Yaz talked about her family and Epzo told a horrific tale of how his mother taught him to be so fiercely independent, meant that any fears were soon waylaid. Character lies at the heart of Chibnall’s Doctor Who and impressive writing is letting us relate to each of the fab four as well as the guests.

Jodie’s Doctor also continues to develop her voice and, while the hundred-miles-an-hour pace and quick-wit that we’ve come to love in the post-2005 incarnation of the show remain (“Welcome to your first alien planet. Don’t touch anything”), I also sense a Davison-esque calmness and quietness at her core. I love the aside, when they are escaping the tunnels and Ryan’s dyspraxia causes him to hesitate at the foot of the ladder, and the Doctor quietly re-assures him “Can I just say, you’re amazing”. It was such a heartfelt comment that really made me warm to Thirteen.

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The main plot bounded along with Art Malik’s slightly underused character top and tailing the story to set the agenda at the start and then whisk away the winner(s) at the end. Also the reveal of actually what the Ghost Monument was felt a tad thrown away too early. When they arrived at the ruins, heavily previewed in some of the show’s pre-publicity, we got to the bulk of the story featuring Sniper-Bots, whose atrocious aim with a gun would put Stormtroopers to shame, the beautifully odd acetylene creatures, and a call-back to the Stanza who seem destined to appear at least once more down the line. While there was some needle between the racing pair throughout, I never got the impression that they hated each other or that there was any true animosity there, so when we eventually got to their denouement, I found the dead-heat finish entirely predictable. 

Of course, this wasn’t before our first (?) hint at a probably series arc/finale with the talking flying carpets (!) / acetylene creatures / whatever-we’re-calling-them ominously revealed, “We see deeper, further back. The timeless child. We see what’s hidden, even from yourself. Abandoned and unknown”. There was another thing earlier in the episode that got me thinking when Angstrom and Epzo hadn’t heard of human beings. I wonder whether this might get alluded to again as it seemed significant, or may be it was just a way to crowbar in the very funny “Moomin Beans” gag.

So, here are this week’s random thoughts in conclusion…

  • Ryan’s squeaky-voiced screaming after his Call of Duty attack backfired was a hoot.
  • This week’s Chekov’s Rifle a.k.a. Angstrom’s “Arthusian Cigar” was the most blatent Chekov’s Rifle I’ve seen in years.
  • It’s good to see the “present day / in the future / in the past” sequence for the opening trilogy is alive and kicking in 2018. Next week’s Rosa looks great already.
  • I’m going to give TGM a Demon’s Run score of 14 out of 20 (same as last week) for another consistent, solid adventure mystery.
  • This week’s favourite “Jodie Whittaker face” is this one, that was the same as mine moments later at the moment of the TARDIS interior reveal. I love the darker, earthier, organic look of this crystal desktop and the installation of a custard cream dispenser is something we all need in our lives.

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