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Recap / Doctor Who S37E2 "The Ghost Monument"

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Welcome to what I presume is your first alien planet. Don't touch anything.
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The one with Death Water. Also the one in which the Doctor actually likes the way the TARDIS has been redecorated.

This episode aired on October 14, 2018. Written by Chris Chibnall.


After we cue the new intro, we're back with the Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz hanging in space, when a ship appears. Ryan comes to with Graham checking to see if he's all right, and discovers the two of them are on a spaceship piloted by a woman who's heading for the "last planet". Ryan asks where the Doctor and Yaz are, and the woman, Angstrom, explains that she only saw the two of them there. Graham and Ryan wonder if their friends are dead.

On a different spaceship, Yaz wakes up in a pod to the sound of a muffled argument. Going through a set of doors, she finds the Doctor arguing with a man, the ship's pilot, about the location of a planet he's heading to. Yaz is also worried about where Ryan and Graham could be, but the ship is low on fuel because the pilot, Epzo, stopped to pull the Doctor and Yaz on board. The planet he's heading for, as he explains when the Doctor asks, appears to have been knocked out of orbit, and its only name is a symbol translating as "Desolation".

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Angstrom's ship lands on Desolation safely, and Ryan and Graham are rather awed. Ryan wonders if the Doctor and Yaz are already there, and the two decide to follow Angstrom when she heads off. Meanwhile on Epzo's ship, the Doctor persuades him to jettison the back half so they can reach the planet. She then insists on taking the controls so they can crashland. On the planet, Angstrom, Graham and Ryan are walking through a canyon when they see Epzo's ship approaching at speed, and have to run for their lives as the crashing ship heads toward them down its length, the sides too steep to get out of its way. After the crash, Graham and Ryan are incredibly relieved that the Doctor and Yaz are alive, and the Doctor apologizes profusely to them for her teleporter going wrong, promising to get them home.

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The Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz follow Angstrom and Epzo to a tent set up in the desert. Inside is a man who the Doctor quickly deduces to be a hologram instead of physically present, named Ilin. Angstrom and Epzo are the last two contestants out of over four thousand in a race called the Galactic Relay, the last such running of the race. Ilin, while attempting to ignore the Doctor and her friends because they're not contestants, explains that the final stretch of the race involves travelling to a location called the "Ghost Monument", so called by the planet's original settlers because it only appears once every thousand years, and directs them to their location finders. He says the stage must be completed within one solar rotation, and gives them two warnings: don't travel at night, and don't drink (or even touch) the planet's water. As the two contestants set out, the Doctor, on a hunch, demands that Ilin show her what the Monument looks like. He finally brings up a hologram of it.

Graham, Ryan and Yaz are all puzzled as to how an old police box could wind up on a far-off alien planet, but the Doctor is thrilled and thanks him profusely. After Ilin and the tent disappear, she explains to the trio that the box is her TARDIS, and if they get to it she can get them home. They set off after Angstrom and Epzo. While walking, the three humans discuss whether or not they can trust the Doctor, but eventually agree to, especially since they can't see any other way to get home. They catch up with Angstrom and Epzo at a dock, where the promised boat for traversing the dangerous waters is waiting. Epzo has pulled out a gun, but the Doctor points out he won't use it on Angstrom because hurting another contestant is grounds for automatic disqualification. Told the boat isn't working, she points out that it can probably be fixed. After scanning the water, the Doctor tells Yaz that the water is unsafe due to a huge amount of flesh-eating microbes.

Graham, after looking at the engine, can't make heads or tail of it. He tries to talk to Ryan about Grace's death, but Ryan isn't interested. Although Ryan doesn't want to talk, Graham suggests that maybe he should talk about it. The two eventually figure out that the "engine" is actually a battery, and the boat is solar-powered, useful on a planet with three suns. Yaz is outside, talking with Angstrom, and she reveals that her homeworld is being ravaged, but then clams up. The Doctor turns up and tells them the boat's ready, so it's time to cast off.

During the voyage, everyone gets to talking. Epzo is revealed to believe that it's foolish to rely on anyone else, and the Doctor tells him she's going to do her best to change his mind. Angstrom reveals that she's participating in the race to try and save her family, as her homeworld is being "cleansed", so half her family is in hiding and the other half is on the run. She wants to try and use the prize money to bring everyone who's still alive back together again. Yaz says it makes her miss her family, including her dad who drives her bananas and her sister who wants her to move out so she can get her bedroom, despite seeing them only yesterday. Eventually, everyone gets sleepy, and the Doctor says for everyone to rest while she steers.

Ryan gets woken up by Graham when the boat lands. On the other side of the water, the group finds mysterious ruins, and Angstrom and Epzo each head off alone to find their way through the ruins. The Doctor and company head into the ruins as well, and discover that they're guarded by security robots. After Epzo activates them by shooting one, everyone is forced to run for it. When they take cover, Ryan attempts to fight back, despite the Doctor's advice to use brains instead, by grabbing the weapon of a deactivated robot, shootIng robots like in a video game. When the fallen robots start getting up again, Ryan is forced to retreat back to cover. The Doctor's EMP using the downed robot's power pack works better.

After they find Angstrom and Epzo again, the latter of whom is injured, the group finds their way to a hatch leading to some underground tunnels. Down there, they find an abandoned lab, and the Doctor uses its maps to deduce that the tunnels serve as a shortcut to the Ghost Monument. While everyone else is searching, Epzo takes a nap. Through a hole in the wall, the Doctor, Angstrom and Graham find a message written on the ground, as Ryan and Yaz discover via surveillance footage that the robots have found the hatch. The Doctor translates the message as written by a group of scientists who were kidnapped and forced to create weapons while their families were held hostage to ensure their compliance. And who were the scientists working for? The Stenza. Graham is reminded of "Tim Shaw", and tells Angstrom he's heard of them because his wife died as a result of them. Angstrom knows the feeling: "Mine too."

They hear a scream, and everyone is just in time to save Epzo from animate cloth, one of the weapons, trying to smother him. As the robots are approaching, everyone flees down the tunnel. The robots shut down the tunnels' life support, forcing everyone to exit by climbing a ladder out a hatch in a field which, according to the map, is full of acetylene gas. Ryan is nervous about climbing, and the Doctor gives him a pep talk and tells him to think of facts about acetylene while he's climbing. Outside, they are surrounded by the cloths, and the Doctor tells everyone to be still. The cloths, which can delve into people's worst fears, target the Doctor, making a reference to "the Timeless Child" and her being an outcast before she yells at them to get out of her head. Everyone drops to the ground, and Epzo's self-lighting cigar is used to ignite the gas, destroying the cloth Remnants.

When everyone finally makes it to the location of the Ghost Monument, Ilin's tent is waiting for them. Angstrom and Epzo begin arguing about who should win, and the Doctor suggests a third option. The two enter the tent together, claiming a tie, which Ilin is reluctant to accept. However, Epzo and Angstrom intimidate him into taking the deal, and he departs with the victors, leaving the Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz behind despite Angstrom's protests. With no sign of the TARDIS, the Doctor begins to be concerned that she'll never get her friends home, and apologizes... and then Yaz asks what that sound she just heard was. The TARDIS arrives, right on cue, flickering and fading in and out; the Doctor, having what can only be described as a moment, sonics it to get it out of the materialization loop that her last, very explosive regeneration, put the TARDIS in. Reaching her TARDIS, the Doctor notes that she's "done [herself] up a bit" and, as she lost her key during the time she was falling to her (fortunately-averted-by-a-train) death in the previous episode, she has to ask the TARDIS to let her in — the TARDIS, of course, does open for her wife, even without the key — and, to boot, she opens the doors inwards, despite her dislike of it! After the doors open, Graham, Ryan and Yaz express skepticism that the Doctor expects everyone to fit inside, to which she responds by asking them to take a look, before eagerly stepping in herself — she leaves them with a warning that the last time she was in the TARDIS, she left it in "a bit of a mess", which is a colossal understatement as the entire room exploded!

The Doctor takes note of the TARDIS' new look as the lights come on, and says she likes it. As the others follow her in, they are, naturally, astonished (although no one makes the traditional observation), and ask how this is possible. The Doctor says it's dimensional engineering, and Yaz scoffs at the idea that dimensions can be engineered. As she starts the TARDIS up, the TARDIS reveals she has a little bit of an ego - the new console proves to have a small version of herself on itnote , along with a biscuit dispenser, and the Doctor cheerfully eats the proffered custard cream biscuit. Outside, on Desolation, the Ghost Monument disappears for the last time.


Tropes:

  • 1-Dimensional Thinking: Graham, Ryan, and Angstrom's response to a spaceship crashing in their direction. Arguably justified in that they are stuck between sand dunes on both sides and might not be able to climb fast enough to escape that way.
  • Abandoned Laboratory: One of these is found underground and provides clues to the catastrophe that occurred on the planet.
  • Abusive Parents: Epzo's mother made him climb a tall tree when he was four years old, and then got him to jump, claiming she would catch him, only to step aside. Then she told him he'd learned he couldn't trust anyone. The Doctor, Yaz, Graham, and Ryan are justifiably horrified, although he seems to feel she was teaching him a valuable lesson in a harsh world.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Lampshaded, and Justified by the Doctor explaining that the med pods injected translators into the back of everyone's neck. She also notes that they wouldn't need them if the TARDIS was around.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Yaz's sister is trying to get her to move out of the house so she can have her room.
  • Arc Words: "The Timeless Child" looks to be one such phrase, judging from the Doctor's interest.
  • Arc Villain: The Stenza, it seems, are more than a one-off villain race. After their hunt in the previous episode, they are a Greater-Scope Villain here.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...:
    The Doctor: Do you two know what that is?
    [beat]
    Epzo: A tent.
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: Ryan runs out of hiding all gung-ho to shoot the robots. Then he runs back in when his shots are ineffective and he doesn't know how to reload.
  • Attack of the Killer Whatever: The Remnants, killer canvas-looking strips of fabric, which talk, can delve into people's worst fears, suffocate the unsuspecting and aren't affected by the sonic screwdriver.
  • Bigger on the Inside: This version of the TARDIS console room has the police box shell as a kind of "foyer", so people entering step in and pass through the entire inside of the police box shell before entering the rest of the TARDIS through where the back wall would be. In a way, this is an aversion of the exact trope, since the bigger part isn't actually inside the Police Box anymore, but is rather sticking out the back wall of it.
  • Binary Suns: Desolation actually has three suns.
  • Blatant Lies: After finding the TARDIS, the Doctor reaffirms her vow that she will get her friends home. Yaz points out that the Doctor herself seemed to doubt that a few minutes ago, which she immediately denies.
  • Booby Trap: In the ruins, Epzo obliviously triggers a laser tripwire that activates the SniperBots.
  • Bury Your Gays: Angstrom's wife was killed by the Stenza.
  • Butch Lesbian: Like Grace, Angstrom's wife was killed by the Stenza.
  • Call-Back:
  • Chekhov's Gun: Epzo's cigar, which ignites with a snap of the fingers, is used to ignite the acetylene in the air and destroy the killer cloth attacking them.
  • Commonality Connection: When Graham mentions that his wife died because of the Stenza, Angstrom says "Mine too."
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Graham, upon being told that the med pods he, Ryan and Yaz were in injected them with translators, is irritated, because he remembers the DNA bombs from last episode. As a bonus, the translator also glows purple, just like the bombs glowed turquoise.
    • Ryan doesn't like climbing ladders, especially in a rush, as he nearly fell while climbing up the crane last episode.
    • The Doctor mentions having lived "a dozen lifetimes".
    • The new TARDIS interior has the police box shell as a kind of foyer, reminiscent of Clara and Ashildr's diner-TARDIS.
    • Upon entering the TARDIS, Ryan's first request is to start pressing buttons. The Doctor isn't having any of that.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Despite being severely damaged and forced to make a crash landing on an unfamiliar planet which isn't even in the right place, Epzo's spaceship manages to come down within walking distance of Angstrom's.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Angstrom's homeworld is being "cleansed".
  • Deadly Game: The Galactic Relay is a race spanning 94 worlds that can have only one winner/survivor. Angstrom and Epzo are the last of a much more crowded field of 4000 competitors.
  • Death World: The planet in this episode is mostly a desert, the atmosphere is described as toxic, and the water is dangerous to touch as it contains bacteria that can eat flesh. It's also dangerous to stay outside at night because of semi-sentient cloth monsters. Interestingly, it wasn't always like this; in fact, it used to be populated with much more life before it was attacked by the Stenza, who forced the inhabitants to make weapons for them.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Near the end, the Doctor briefly hits this when it looks like she and her friends are stranded on Desolation after Ilin takes Angstrom and Epzo away, just before the TARDIS arrives.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: The Doctor is not happy when Ryan tries to go all Call of Duty on the Sniperbots, suggesting her dislike of guns has reverted to Ten-levels.
  • Doomed Hometown: Angstrom's homeworld is being "cleansed", and it's later revealed that the Stenza are responsible.
  • Eerily Out-of-Place Object: Not knowing what the TARDIS is, when Graham, Ryan and Yaz see a hologram of the mysterious Ghost Monument, all of them are confused as to how an old police box could turn up on an alien planet far away from Earth.
  • EMP: The Doctor uses this to fry the SniperBots, for a few minutes anyway.
  • Everybody Lives: Apart from the Remnants (whose sentience is debatable), everyone who started the episode ends it alive.
  • Evolving Credits: The new intro debuts here.
  • Foreshadowing: When the Doctor, Yaz, Graham and Ryan are rescued by Epzo and Angstrom respectively, conversation reveals that Desolation, the planet the two racers are heading to, appears to have been knocked out of orbit. The Doctor later deduces that, as a result, her teleporter actually worked perfectly (apart from bringing along the companions): the TARDIS can be found on Desolation, and they were left hanging in space because the planet has been shifted from its old orbit.
  • Ghost Planet: Desolation used to be home to a civilization, and presumably used to have a different name, but then the Stenza came and used the place for developing and testing new, horrific weaponry.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Clearly, the Stenza have been doing much more than just hunting...
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: Although Epzo is a misanthropist who doesn't like to rely on anyone, he still pulls the Doctor and Yaz onto his ship when he could have left them to asphyxiate in open space. (Granted, both he and Angstrom did assume that saving them was a bonus-earning Rally challenge...) It's a bit less hidden at the end.
  • Hologram: Ilin isn't on Desolation at all. His tent, which disappears in the blink of an eye, might be a Hard Light projection.
  • Human Aliens: Angstrom, Epzo and Ilin are all different species of this, and none of them have ever heard of humans or Earth before. Epzo even has a cigar which looks almost exactly like a Earth cigar, even though it comes from an alien planet.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The planet Desolation, whose name — as Graham points out — is not exactly conducive to positive thinking.
  • I Have Your Wife: The scientists who worked in the abandoned lab were forced to do so because their families were held hostage.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Subverted when Ryan tries to justify taking the SniperBots on with a gun through his experience playing Call of Duty. Both Hilarity and Reality Ensue as the robots get right back up and he discovers his gun is out of power. Played straight in that their immunity is the only reason it doesn't work; he takes down several with precise shots before they can even react.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The Doctor and her companions walk right into a trap and activate robot guards who shoot at them as they run away. Fortunately, all the shots are way off target. It's a little more justified than normal as the Doctor advises them to run randomly to avoid predictive targeting.
  • I Work Alone: Epzo believes that being alone is the natural state of every sentient being, and refuses to rely on anyone. The events of the episode have him reconsidering this view.
  • Kidnapped Scientist: The scientists who used to work in the lab the Doctor and company find were subjected to this. Their families were also held hostage to force them to cooperate.
  • Kill It with Fire: The cloth weapons that the group encounters after fleeing the tunnels are destroyed by igniting the acetylene in the air with Epzo's cigar.
  • Made of Iron: The TARDIS has, again, survived an explosion, this one internally. As we discover, all that happens to her after said explosion is that she ends up stuck in a materialisation loop which the Doctor is easily able to get her out of; everything else is perfectly fine.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: In-Universe, the Doctor hears that familiar "VWORP! VWORP! VWORP!" — and then the TARDIS appears.
  • Murder Water: Don't drink the water; don't even touch it because the water has flesh-eating microbes in it.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The Doctor gives Graham a pair of sunglasses she says are like a pair that she nicked off either Audrey Hepburn or Pythagoras. When Graham objects that Pythagoras couldn’t have worn sunglasses, she retorts that Graham has never seen the mathematician hungover.
    • The Doctor was a hologram for three weeks. "The gossip I picked up..."
  • Oh, Crap!: Ryan panics when his attempt to gun down the SniperBots only serves to leave him out of ammo and the SniperBots now aware of where he came from.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: The new console room is lit like this, with orange crystals and blue lighting.
  • Power Crystal: The TARDIS interior is filled with glowing crystals, all pointing at the crystal acting as the Time Rotor. The set designer explained he wanted the setup to feel like the crystals all power the Time Rotor.
  • The Precious, Precious Car: Epzo is initially reluctant to jettison the back half of his damaged ship to save fuel because, as he claims, ballads have been written about it. The Doctor, incredulous, snaps that a tragic opera could be written about their pointless deaths, and persuades him to jettison so they'll reach Desolation.
  • Pronoun Trouble: The Doctor is still not quite used to being a woman, telling the TARDIS "Come to Daddy — I mean Mummy!"
  • The Reveal:
    • This episode debuts the current TARDIS prop and new desktop theme; it's revealed that the regeneration was so strong, it not only damaged the console room severely enough to require a new desktop, but it knocked the TARDIS into a materialization loop that brought it to Desolation, where it's been for at least several millennia.
    • Likewise, the hologram of the "Ghost Monument" reveals it's the TARDIS.
  • Riddle for the Ages: How Desolation was knocked out of orbit is a mystery, because although it could have been the Stenza's doing, the fact that the Doctor's teleporter sent her and her companions to the planet's former location, and both Angstrom and Epzo mentioning that it's in the wrong place while on their ships, suggests this was a much more recent event.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: The normally deep-voiced Ryan has a surprisingly high-pitched panicked scream.
  • Second Episode Introduction: The second episode of the series is the first episode where we see the TARDIS' new look, as well as the show's new opening.
  • Shooting Gallery: The Doctor and her companions attempt to escape from the SniperBots by ducking inside the ruins, only to discover that the area they come out into is the SniperBots' practice range, and that everything inside the zone is considered a target. The actual targets, as Graham points out, are human-shaped.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Subverted Catch Phrase:
    • Upon mentioning how the TARDIS has redecorated, the Doctor's follow-up phrase is different from normal.
      The Doctor: I really like it.
    • When Graham, Ryan, and Yaz enter the TARDIS for the first time, none of them says "It's bigger on the inside" or any variant thereof.
  • Survival Mantra: The Doctor has Ryan recall facts about acetylene that he learned during an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) while scaling a ladder to help him keep his mind off his fear.
  • Take a Third Option: When they reach the tent marking the end of the race, Angstrom and Epzo start arguing about who should win, noting that both of them contributed to getting everyone here in one piece. The Doctor suggests that they both claim the prize, and then helps persuade Ilin to accept the verdict.
  • Title Drop: The "Ghost Monument" is a thing on Desolation that turns up every thousand years, and its location is also the final checkpoint in the Galactic Relay, the race Angstrom and Epzo are participating in. It's actually the TARDIS caught in a materialization loop after the Doctor's last explosive regeneration did rather more damage than expected.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Traversing the threats of Desolation, by the end, seems to have taught Epzo that he can sometimes rely on other people, as shown when he agrees to claim a tie with Angstrom.
  • Translator Microbes: Graham, Ryan and Yaz are injected with universal translators while in the medical pods on Angstrom and Epzo's ships.
  • Undisclosed Funds: The racers try to disclose how much the winner gets (3.7 trillion krin), but the Doctor isn't familiar with their currency, and of course they can't make any comparisons except to other currencies in the same system. They eventually settle on it being enough to set someone, along with their entire clan, up for life.
  • Weakened by the Light: The killer cloth is inactive during the daytime.
  • Wham Line:
    • The Doctor’s discovery of what really happened on Desolation.
      The Doctor: [reading from a mural] “We are scientists. Abducted, tortured, and made to work while our families are held hostage. We are forced to find new ways of destruction. Poisons, weapons, creatures. We gave them our minds, and they made us the creators of death. This planet has been left scorched and barren from our work. The atmosphere and water are toxic, killing machines and creatures inhabit every corner. We had no choice but to obey… [horrified beat] ...the Stenza."
    • Angstrom then reveals that the Stenza didn’t just target Desolation and Earth.
      Angstrom: You know the Stenza too?
      Graham: [quietly] My wife died because of them.
      Angstrom: [close to tears] Mine too! I’m sorry... They took our planet, sent us into hidin’, cleansed millions of us...
  • Wham Shot: The Doctor persuades Ilin to bring up a hologram of what the Ghost Monument looks like, and it turns out to be the TARDIS. The Doctor, in response, has a moment.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Doctor gives Ryan a lecture after he makes their situation worse by grabbing a gun.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Nearly word-for-word quoted by Ryan:
    Ryan: Why did it have to be ladders?
  • Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": Angstrom refers to what the Stenza are doing to her homeworld of Albar as "cleansing", but anyone who's ever heard the phrase "ethnic cleansing" can put two and two together.


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