After the huge success of Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who debut, follow-up episode The Ghost Monument had a lot to live up to, and it certainly delivered in terms of exciting locales, creepy new monsters and a BRAND-NEW Tardis, all within a swift 50 minutes.
However, the episode also raised some intriguing questions for the Doctor, her Tardis team and the viewers at home – so we’re here to pick up the biggest mysteries of the episode, and hopefully give you some answers about what on Earth (or Desolation) was going on…
Spoiler alert: some mysteries may only just be beginning….
Why didn’t the Doctor and co die or get injured in space?
Seconds after the Doctor inadvertently transports herself, Yaz, Ryan and Graham into the freezing vacuum of space, they’re picked up by two ships but all appear to be no worse for wear following their ordeal. Is that really possible? How long could you really survive in space? Let’s ask a Doctor…
“So, how does space kill you? I’m glad you asked,” says the Twelfth Doctor in series ten episode Oxygen. “The main problem is pressure. There isn’t any. So, don’t hold your breath or your lungs will explode. Blood vessels rupture. Exposed areas swell. Fun fact! The boiling temperature of water is much lower in a vacuum. Which means that your sweat and your saliva will boil, as will the fluid around your eyes. You won’t notice any of this because fifteen seconds in, you’ve passed out as oxygen bubbles formed in your blood. And ninety seconds in, you’re dead. Any questions?”
Yes, actually – how did the Thirteenth Doctor and co manage to survive, let alone escape any of the above?
We timed the length of their exposure to space at the start of The Ghost Monument and made it at least 18 seconds. So even assuming they all had the presence of mind to exhale before their lungs burst, by rights they should be unconscious and suffering from any number of those symptoms. Yet on board the ships, they seem fine with not even a bloodshot eye to show for the experience.
The only answer can be the ships’ magical medi-pods. Yaz is inside one when we first see her (and is told to get back in by the Doctor), while on the other ship Ryan seems to be returning to consciousness having been inside a similar device. Presumably Graham has already had his turn and whatever cutting edge medical tech is inside these pods is able to reverse all the symptoms of exposure to the void. And the Doctor? Maybe she healed herself…
How could everyone understand each other?
We wondered last week how all our human heroes could understand the language of the Stenza – short answer, Tim Shaw probably learned English – but this week, Doctor Who anticipates our questions when an alien health pod implants universal translators into the necks of Tardis team Graham, Ryan and Yaz (making them able to understand guest characters Angstrom, Epzo and Illin).
“I forgot I put stuff in these pockets,” says the Doctor as the team arrive on the planet of Desolation, and when the sand starts to get in Graham’s eyes she’s able to offer him a pair of rather stylish sunglasses. But where did she get them?
“I can’t remember who I borrowed them off now. It was either Audrey Hepburn or Pythagoras,” she says – but can that be true, given that she has just dressed herself from a charity shop and hasn’t yet found her Tardis?
There are two possible explanations here: either the Doctor is telling little white lies about her famous friends, and actually picked the shades up secondhand in the shop, or she transferred them to her pockets from her previous set of clothes, meaning the Twelfth Doctor had been walking around with Audrey – or Pythagoras’s – sunglasses in his jacket for quite a while.
What is Venusian Aikido?
The Doctor may be “Grand Master Pacifist” but sometimes even he/she needs to get a little physical. Enter Venusian Aikido (or occasionally Venusian Karate), a martial art that turns the opponent’s attacks against them and was used to great effect by Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor back in the day.
But while Three was known for karate chopping and throwing attackers, the Thirteenth Doctor demonstrates a more subtle use of the technique in The Ghost Monument, subduing Epzo by applying a finger to a pressure point on his throat: “Temporarily paralyses while also being fundamentally harmless”.
Other uses of Venusian Aikido have included the Twelfth Doctor disarming Robin Hood in series eight episode Robot of Sherwood and flooring a blue-skinned alien in series ten’s World Enough and Time.
In a Doctor Who novel, the Eighth Doctor recalls being taught the discipline by “a many-armed, glowing-eyed being in a misty cavern” and the Thirteenth Doctor thanks those “very clever… Venusian nuns” for inventing it.
Sounds like a case of girl power.
Isn’t it incredibly unfair for Illin to win his own race? And how did he afford it?
Early in the episode, Art Malik’s lofty potentate reveals that he founded the Rally of the Twelve Galaxies currently being contested by Angstrom and Epzo, and won the very first version, making his fortune.
However, we just have to wonder – where did the prize money come from if he hadn’t won yet? Is it like a pub quiz, where the pot is made up of entry fees? And considering he then won the first race, didn’t anyone feel like it was a bit unfair for the organiser to compete?
Clearly, Illin is a scammer par excellence – and we’re betting he cheaped out on the race set-up the first year to make sure the prize pot was even bigger.
Why is it always ladders?
Tosin Cole and Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who (BBC)
Why indeed? Doctor Who continues to explore the effect of Ryan’s co-ordination disorder, dyspraxia, in the new episode as he struggles to climb up and down various ladders.
And when it comes to this piece of dialogue, we couldn’t help but wonder whether writer Chris Chibnall was drawing a subtle parallel with Harrison Ford’s iconic film hero Indiana Jones and one of his best-known lines.
“Snakes… why did it have to be snakes?”
Snakes and ladders… get it?
What were the ribbon monsters?
The Ghost Monument introduces some creepy new monsters to Doctor Who lore in the form of the Remnants, ribbon-like bioengineered creatures who lie dormant during the day and then awaken at night, ready to devour the injured of the planet Desolation (or anyone else who gets in their way, really).
As revealed in the episode, The Remnants were designed by imprisoned scientists on the planet on behalf of the Stenza (who you can read more about in a later entry), and they apparently have some sort of telepathic power given their stated ability to sense fear and know secrets about the Doctor’s background.
Why didn’t the Remnants just attack everyone instead of monologuing?
Like many villains the Remnants clearly love the sound of their own voice, failing to attack our heroes when they had them surrounded and instead monologuing about the Tardis team’s inevitable doom, inner fear, secret pasts etc etc.
We have three possible explanations for their lack of killer instinct.
1 – The Remnants were being cautious given that a few of the party (Angstrom and Epzo) were armed, and had managed to injure one of them before with a simple knife.
2 – The Remnants’ genetic engineering or programming makes them try to intimidate their foes before attacking, perhaps with the idea of scaring people enough to scatter and make them easier pickings.
3 – It’s a TV show, and it was dramatically necessary.
Now this we can answer – Game of Thrones and Torchwood star Ian Gelder is the voice of The Remnants, and has more Doctor Who credits to his name. You can read about his involvement with the series here.
The Remnants introduced us to what looks set to be a new mystery arc for series 11. But who or what is the Timeless Child? The Doctor herself? An earlier version of her from a unknown previous regeneration cycle? Her granddaughter Susan? The Master? We examine some theories here…
In a surprise move, the alien race introduced in Jodie Whittaker’s first episode were referenced again this week, with the Stenza (the species that tooth-collector and human-hunter Tim Shaw/ Tzim-Sha was a member of) revealed to be behind the terrible fate of the planet Desolation (and the various robots and monsters attacking our heroes, indirectly).
So will the fight against the Stenza be an over-arching plot this year? Did we underestimate Tzim-Sha, especially given that he was unarmed when the Doctor and friends managed to overcome him? And do they all collect teeth, or is that just a weird quirk Tzim-Sha has that makes all the other Stenza a bit uncomfortable?
We go into all these questions, as well as a few more in-depth details about the Stenza, in our breakdown of their role in The Ghost Monument here.
Well, rather a lot. We finally get to see the new version of the Doctor’s time machine towards the end of The Ghost Monument, and the revamped interior (from designer Arwel Wyn Jones, fact fans) switches up the machine-like vibe of the previous model, instead building the central control console around massive crystal columns like a sort of offbeat Faraday cage.
Meanwhile, the walls of the Tardis have also had a revamp, making the interiors seem even more infinite thanks to inner and outer panels, infinity mirrors, shifting, screensaver-like cogs whirring in the background and many more new features.
We’ve gone into a bit more depth about the Tardis design in our article here – but you can also find out even more in the next issue of Radio Times magazine, on sale from Tuesday 16th October, which features our own exclusive guide to the new Tardis.
Including unseen photos and exclusive interviews with Jodie Whittaker and her co-stars as well as designer Arwel Jones, it’s one not to miss.
The exterior of Whittaker’s new Tardis has also changed slightly (it’s still a police box, don’t worry!) and we’ve gone into more detail about that here.
What did the Doctor get when she pulled that lever in the Tardis?
The Eleventh Doctor was a fan of Jammy Dodgers, the Twelfth had a machine that dispensed macaroons, and now the Thirteenth Doctor has discovered that her newly revamped Tardis features a lever that dishes out another retro British biscuit, the custard cream.
Custard creams are still going strong but arguably hit their zenith in the 1970s and 80s so if you’re lucky enough to be too young to remember those decades – or if you come from a country where they call biscuits cookies – we’re basically talking about a sandwich biscuit with, you guessed it, a custard-flavoured filling. And they’re delicious with a cup of tea.
This article was originally published on 14 October 2018