Simple but effective - A spoiler free preview of this Sunday's Doctor Who 'The Ghost Monument'
One of the key themes of Chris Chibnall's opening episode for his Doctor Who was his focus on rich character development. By the end of The Woman Who Fell Too Earth (check out our spoiler-filled review here) we really got a sense of who Jodie Whittaker's Doctor might be and who new companions Ryan, Yaz and Graham were.
The focus on characters continues in his second episode The Ghost Monument. At nearly fifty minutes (we've got less episodes this series but they're all slightly longer), Chibnall continues to work at developing the characters at that extends to the two guest characters, played by Shaun Dooley and Susan Lynch. Throughout the episode we understand their motivations, their decisions and they feel just as part of the ensemble this episode as the Doctor and her companions.
The failing of some previous Doctor Who episodes was that plots felt rushed and characters undeveloped and that certainly isn't the case here. If anything, it's perhaps a little too simple at times, but the journey of the characters is afforded that strong character development I referred to above. I have some issues with the dialogue at times (I feel that Chibnall is quite as adept as this as previous showrunners Steven Moffat or Russell T Davies) but it's a small gripe that I'll explore more in my spoiler-filled review.
However there are two real highlights I want to touch upon (I'll keep the plot strictly off limits for now) that really stood out on first watch. The South African locale is stunning, adding some gourgeous grandeur to episode as the Doctor and the rest of the cast traverse the planet of Desolation. From the epic desert locales to underground tunnels, everything is lavishly directed by Mark Tonderai. I also really appreciated Segun Akinola score; it's much more understated than Murray Gold's music but there were moments this episode which were stunningly beautiful to listen to.
The Ghost Monument is a simple but effective episode that gets on with developing this latest Doctor and her companions. It still feels like set up but it works. I'm not quite feeling the magic of previous seasons yet, but I'm also appreciating the fresh approach to Doctor Who and looking forward to what happens next.
Join us after this Sunday's broadcast for a more spoiler-filled look at episode two...