Doctor Who, 'The Ghost Monument': Ladders. Why'd it have to be ladders?

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Oct 14, 2018, 11:04 PM EDT

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Season 11, Episode 2, “The Ghost Monument.”

Picking up exactly where we left them — you know, floating in space — the Doctor and her new crew of besties find themselves aboard two dueling ships racing toward the planet Desolation. Pilots Epzo (Shaun Dooley) and Angstrom (Susan Lynch) are competing in this special episode of the Amazing Space Race in an effort to reach the Ghost Monument — revealed to be the TARDIS, which is phasing in and out of reality.

We get to know a bit more about our Doctor — like her predecessors, she's not a fan of guns, far preferring brains to bullets. She also has a penchant for the casual insult ("Take one of your heroic naps") and is endlessly optimistic.

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Which she needs in the face of the d*ckish Epzo, following in the footsteps of last week's Carl as Useless Male of the Week. The Doctor and Co. excellently and shrewdly knock him down a peg at every turn, but when the episode ends with him and actually useful Angstrom sharing the prize (because his constantly referencing his sentient-paper-murdering Chekov's Cigar makes him important, I suppose?) it's a bit of a let-down. But that doesn't really feel the point of the episode ultimately. What matters most is the Doctor, Ryan and Graham's relationship to each other and to their grief and emotions, the Stenza, which are in the early running to be our Big Bad this season, and, of course, the TARDIS.

Yes, the Doctor and her TARDIS reunite at the end of this episode, and the TARDIS has once again redecorated. Resplendent in corals, golds, and warm tones, watching Jodie Whittaker's Doctor (wo)man the controls was a heartbursting moment, a reminder of how important this Doctor truly is.

We also got our first OTP of the Whittaker era: Graham and his potentially Pythagorean shades.


The opposite of OTP? Ryan and ladders. His dyspraxia, as we saw in Episode 1, makes climbing ladders majorly difficult, and this episode saw no shortage of climby bits. Something I hope the series keeps up is the fact that disability isn't necessarily something you can overcome through sheer will and want, and that that's OK. I appreciated that Ryan didn't successfully ride a bike in the premiere, and I appreciated his ladder trepidation in this episode, as well as the Doctor's warm support mixed with matter-of-fact urgency.

We are still in the early days of this season, so I will give it a few more episodes, but for the love of all things timey-wimey, give Yaz something to do. She's clearly excellent and capable, on board for adventure in a different way from the resigned Graham and cautiously curious Ryan. Yaz is practical and trusting and accepts her wholly bizarre circumstances. She doesn't yet have the sense of awe we've seen in nearly every other companion, and that is a truly interesting sensibility to examine. She's up for it and ready—give her something to do with that.

Yaz's one moment of character development, along with the discovery of Angstrom's driving motivation, hit once again on the topic of family. In just two episodes, we've already gotten hit hard with the importance of family — what we would do for them, what they would do for us, and how we should never take them for granted. It would seem we shouldn't take it for granted as a matter of plot, either — we're building to something in the family way, for sure.

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