After last week’s wonderful start to the new Jodie Whittaker-led series of Doctor Who, ‘The Ghost Monument’ had quite a job on its hands. And historically for Doctor Who, the second episode in the season hasn’t always been the best (‘The End of The World’, ‘The Shakespeare Code’, ‘The Fires of Pompeii’, ‘The Beast Below’) with only a couple of exceptions (‘Into The Dalek’ and ‘Tooth and Claw’). So with a new doctor, new companions, and a whole host of new people behind the scenes, it’s even more of a shock that ‘The Ghost Monument’ is actually pretty great.
Despite last week’s brilliant start, there were a couple of off-line readings and strange moments that stuck out. Thankfully the cast really come into their own this week, feeling much more comfortable in their character’s skin. I’m mainly thinking of Tosin Cole as Ryan, who I wasn’t completely sold on last week. This week is much better for him, even giving him a genuinely funny moment. Mandip Gill as Yasmin was fantastic again, even if she wasn’t given too much to do, while Bradley Walsh’s Graham continues to be the absolute best character. He speaks for the audience but without being annoying and his relationship with Ryan is heartwarming. The most surprising thing, however, was just how great Jodie Whittaker continues to be as the Doctor. The first episode wasn’t a fluke; she genuinely is that fantastic and feels like she’s been playing the role for years. The supporting cast is great as well, with Susan Lynch, Shaun Dooley, and Art Malik all popping up. Malik only briefly appears but makes a lasting impression as space-race organiser Ilin. Hopefully, all three of them will reappear at some point after their abrupt ending.
The writing was top notch again this week, reassuring me that showrunner Chris Chibnall (who’s had a mixed history writing for nu-Who) is the right man for the top job. Again, we’re only two episodes in, but the signs so far are positive. The writing still has the same fast-paced, hit an miss charm of previous seasons but a lot more seems to hit these days. The direction of the show really seems to have stepped up too. Mark Tonderai (who directs next week’s episode too) gives the show a new big budget glossy look and the South African filming locations make a nice change from a quarry in Wales. Even the special effects seem to have been given an overhaul, although the show is still creaky enough to retain its singular charm. And there needs to be a special mention for the shows new composer Segun Akinola who reinvents the shows opening theme and every piece of music therein. Goodbye Murray Gold, who may not be as missed as some fans first thought now they’ve heard Akinola’s work.
Another week, another fantastic episode of Doctor Who. Anyone who has read my reviews of the Capaldi episodes knows I am easily pleased when it comes to Doctor Who but I do genuinely think we’re at a turning point for the show. I’ve not been this excited for the show in quite a while and the reason for that lies pretty much squarely at the feet of Jodie Whittaker. The new behind the scenes stuff is amazing but it’s Whittaker who makes it all come together. Roll on next Sunday.