The Ghost Monument
The Ghost Monument was the second episode of series 11 of Doctor Who.
This episode marked the debut of the new title sequence due to it being left out of the preceding episode, making this the first time this has been done. The sequence has also done away with the TARDIS and the Doctor’s face/eyes.
Narratively, it continued exploring the warrior race Stenza which appeared in the previous episode, as well as introducing an element of the Doctor’s past by mentioning “The Timeless Child”.
Floating in the vacuum of deep space, Ryan has difficulty breathing whilst staring into the stars when a large spacecraft shoots into view before he falls into unconsciousness. Blurred and disorientated, Ryan is awoken from a pod by Graham in a dark spaceship, being piloted by Angstrom. She tells them they are on a descent to the “final planet”, and warns Graham and Ryan to brace themselves. Meanwhile, on another spaceship, Yaz wakes up inside a MediPod outside of the control deck and walks in to find the Thirteenth Doctor arguing with the pilot, Epzo, about how to steady the crashing ship. The planet the ship was heading for is no longer in its orbit and rescuing the Doctor and Yaz depleted the ship’s fuel. The Doctor suggests that the back half of the ship be ejected to make it down to the planet, which Epzo identifies as Desolation.
On the planet’s surface, Graham and Ryan take in their surroundings while Angstrom takes readings of the planet. The Doctor makes attempts to stabilize their descent, but cannot restore the failing shields and attempts to land the ship herself. Below them, Graham, Ryan, and Angstrom notice the ship headed straight for them and run for it. The Doctor narrowly manages to stop the crash before they are crushed underneath it.
While the Doctor’s party try and determine where they are, Epzo and Angstrom talk about others who failed to emerge from hyperjump, making them the last participants of something. Hearing an alarm in the distance, the group trek over the desert to find a tent at the bottom of a sand dune. Going to investigate, the interior of the text and the occupant, a strange man calling himself Ilin, are just holograms. Illin explains Angstrom and Epzo are the remaining two participants in the final Rally of the Twelve Galaxies. On the last leg, they have to survive the dangers of the planet with no sabotage, injuries or killing one another, to a site known only as the Ghost Monument. The winner will receive 3.2 trillion Krin and be taken off-planet while the loser will be stranded. After Angstrom and Epzo take their trackers and are sent on their way, the Doctor insists that Ilin show her what the Ghost Monument actually looks like. Ilin lifts another hologram on the table to show the Ghost Monument when it appears. To the Doctor’s joy, it’s her TARDIS, their only way off-world. Ilin’s hologram then disappears and the Doctor’s group follow Epzo and Angstrom.
While her companions discuss whether or not the Doctor will be able to get them home, the Doctor finds Epzo threatening Angstrom over the boat supplied as their only means of transport. The Doctor uses Venusian Aikido to disarm him while Ryan and Graham look at the boat’s engine. Scanning the water, the Doctor and Yaz find it infested with millions of flesh-eating microbes. On the boat, while examining the engine, Graham tries to get Ryan to open up about the loss of Grace, to no avail, when they have a breakthrough about how to repair the boat. Outside, Angstrom has a discussion with Yaz about her planet, but stops herself short, when the Doctor tells them the boat is fixed and they make way.
On board, Epzo relays a story about when he was young when his mother told him to jump from a tree and be caught by her, only for her to step out of the way as he fell. He deemed it the most important lesson he’d ever been taught and has since trusted no-one. Later, as Epzo is napping, Angstrom explains the stages of the rally and that she entered the race at her family’s request so that she can return after winning and bring them all back together again. Exhausted, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz go to sleep, while the Doctor remains awake.
When they get off the boat, they make their way to the ruins of a building. While Epzo and Angstrom go their separate ways, the Doctor and her companions press into the ruins cautiously when the readings on the sonic screwdriver aren’t clear. While they all explore different parts of the building, Epzo trips a hidden sensor which activates a platoon of SniperBots. While initially inactive, Epzo fires at one while it fires back and both are hit. The shot actives the rest of the robots which shoot at the Doctor, Graham, Yaz and Ryan. Running into an enclave, they find an inactive SniperBot and discover that everything in the perimeter is target practice, including the shooting range in which they’re standing.
Opting to fight back, Ryan, against the Doctor’s express instructions, picks up one of their guns and worsens the situation by going out to shoot at them but can’t reload and runs back inside. After the Doctor reprimands him, the robots enter the shooting range and they hide behind targets. Dragging the broken SniperBot with her, the Doctor rewires it and takes out all the robots with an EMP.
Everybody regroups. The Doctor hacks Angstrom’s tracker and inputs the SniperBot’s information which leads them to a hatchway that takes them into an underground tunnel beneath the ruins. Noting the surroundings, they find the entrance to an experimentation facility. Angstrom wants to leave but the Doctor, remembering Ilin’s warning about traveling at night, advises against it. Epzo, tired of listening to her, goes off to have a nap, while everybody else explores.
Syncing Angstrom’s tracker to the facility’s computer, they find the entire tunnel system mapped out, giving them the chance to navigate underground and avoid the threat up top. Yaz and Ryan look at the surveillance and find that the SniperBots have found the hatch. Making their way into a chamber, the Doctor, Graham and Angstrom find a form of writing scorched into the floor, left by whoever ran the facility. Translating, the Doctor reads that the facility was run by a group of scientists, captured, tortured and made to work, under duress and threat of harm to their families, to create new weapons. With their work having destroyed most of the planet, the scientists opted to destroy all of what they’d created rather than let it fall into the hands of the Stenza. Angstrom reveals the Stenza destroyed most of her planet and sent millions of her people, including her family into hiding.
Elsewhere, the Remnants of the scientists’ experiments attack Epzo in his sleep, nearly killing him, but the Doctor, Graham, and Angstrom hear his cries and save him. Yaz and Ryan run in to tell the Doctor about the SniperBots and they all flee. The SniperBots shut down the life support in the tunnels, leaving them all with no choice but to go to the surface. Up top, they are confronted and encircled by the Remnants, who coax the Doctor by cryptically referencing something from her past. Telling everybody to dig themselves into the ground, the Doctor has Epzo throw his Althusian cigar into the air, which the Doctor lights by snapping her fingers, combusting the Acetylene gas in the air and destroying the Remnants.
By daybreak, the party has made it to the site of the Ghost Monument, but Epzo and Angstrom can’t agree on who really wins, so the Doctor has them enter at the same time and declared joint winners. Ilin is displeased by this arrangement but concedes nonetheless; in spite of this, he refuses to take the Doctor and her companions off-planet and the hologram, along with Epzo and Angstrom, vanishes around them, stranding them on the planet. With no apparent means off-world, the Doctor despondently apologizes for letting her friends down and breaking her promise to get them home. As her companions remain positive, they hear the TARDIS materializing nearby. Using her sonic screwdriver, the Doctor manages to stabilize the TARDIS and is emotionally reunited with her beloved ship.
Upon entering, she is overjoyed to discover that the TARDIS has rebuilt and redecorated its control room in her absence. Graham, Yaz and Ryan are in shock and awe at the ship’s interior and the revelation that it’s a time machine. With that, the Doctor starts the engines to take the others home, even having a custard cream dispensed to her from the console and the blue box vanishes from Desolation.