The Doctor And Desolation

“The Ghost Monument” is the second outing for Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who.  The Doctor and her three new friends were transported out to deep space at the end of their first adventure together. Things look pretty dire until they are rescued by the two surviving participants in some sort of intergalactic race that is supposed to end on a planet known as Desolation.  The Doctor and her new crew are split up among the two ships briefly until everyone is reunited on this planet.  The holographic image of the creator of this event informs the survivors they have one more task to complete which is to reach something called the Ghost Monument, which strangely resembles an old British police box.

The photography is pretty spectacular. The special effects seem to have improved a bit more, which is nice. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the elements fall short of being spectacular.  It doesn’t reach the level of being utter rubbish.  There are some things that work fairly well.

The dynamics between the three companions is interesting.  I was a little worried that the older man played by Bradley Walsh will come off as a bit of a weak link, but he actually contributes some ideas to the problems the TARDIS team face.  Ryan, played by Tosin Cole, is the grandson of Graham’s recently deceased wife from the previous episode. Ryan’s reticence over his connection to the only other person who knew and loved his grandmother is performed well. Walsh seems to spend most of his career hosting game shows, however he has a pretty interesting role in this series.

This is not the first time the Doctor has had three companions, but it tends to be a risky decision due to the difficulty in making sure everyone has their fair share of shining moments.  I like the character of Yasmin Khan, played by Mandip Gill, but she may be overshadowed by the far more interesting dynamic between Graham and Ryan.

I am having some trouble with this new Doctor. She is not completely unlikeable or wretched and the focus has not been too intense regarding this new regeneration changing the gender of a character that has been around for 55 years.  I know I wanted some familiar characteristics to come out as being recognizably the Doctor, however the writer seems to be trying too hard.  The glib arrogance done so well by previous Doctor does not seem all that natural when Whittaker delivers the lines.  I actually think the writing is more the problem than Whittaker herself.  Her Doctor has a bit more trouble with seizing authority convincingly in a crisis than some of the previous incarnations. I still have hope that I can get used to her, and that Whittaker is able to come up with something more unique for her Doctor other than it being the first time a woman has been cast in the role.

I am gratified that I am seeing some approaches being taken that I hoped would be done.  The Doctor does display the familiar ability to recognize and operate alien equipment and still has the unmistakable haphazard curiosity which has been at the root of the peril he…or now she…has faced for centuries.  It is still early days for the Thirteenth Doctor, so I am hopeful that Whittaker will find more solid footing in her performance whereas the show can survive.

Chris Chibnall is not my favorite idea for a showrunner yet.  He has a history of mediocre episodes in the show’s history since its 2005 return. I am glad that the story arc idea appears to be abandoned for the most part.

The second episode is the first time I have heard the new version of the theme, and I am not that impressed with it.  The new logo caused some stir among the other fans, however I don’t necessarily mind it.

I usually try to avoid major spoilers, but I cannot help but comment on the revelation of the new TARDIS console room.  That may take a bit of getting used to but no more than the previous redesigns.  The Doctor’s delight upon entering the new TARDIS was a bit charming and infectious.

I didn’t find the story to be great but it served a couple of important purposes well enough.  It got the Doctor back into the TARDIS and had some interesting developments among the companions.  I am getting concerned that this whole series will just be tolerable or mediocre this year.

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