Jodie Whittaker’s second Doctor Who episode, The Ghost Monument, introduces a lot of new sci-fi ideas to the Whoniverse including a deadly planet called Desolation, a galaxy-spanning race against time and evil ribbon-like creatures who attack at a moment’s notice.
However, the episode also makes reference to a (slightly) more familiar part of the series – alien species the Stenza, who were introduced in the new Doctor’s first episode The Woman Who Fell to Earth in the form of human-hunting tooth-faced baddie Tim Shaw/Tzim-Sha.
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Based on Tzim-Sha’s appearance in the series premiere, you might have assumed that his species wouldn’t crop up in the series again, as he isn’t a MASSIVE threat to our heroes and he’s fairly summarily defeated.
But clearly, new Who boss Chris Chibnall has grander plans for this new race of intergalactic nasties, who in series 11’s second episode are revealed to have been behind the horrible fate of the planet the Doctor and her friends are stranded on, as told in a carved message left behind by scientists (see below).
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…..the Stenza.
After the message is read out, the sheer scale of the Stenza’s villainy is laid out as Bradley Walsh’s Graham recalls how they are (indirectly) responsible for the death of his wife Grace (Sharon D Clarke), while guest character Angstrom (Susan Lynch) reveals that the terrible conditions on her own home planet were caused by the Stenza as well.
“They took our planet – sent us into hiding, cleansed millions of us,” she tells the Doctor and Graham.
After this, the story moves on and the Stenza aren’t mentioned again, but there’s clearly a lot more to these particular aliens than first meets the eye – and given how they’re set up in this episode as a serious threat to the galaxy, we’d be extremely surprised if the Doctor and her team don’t run into them again.
In fact, it could be that the Stenza are being set up as some new arch-foe for Whittaker’s Doctor, a new entire species that she has to take on in lieu of well-known enemies like the Daleks, the Cybermen or even the Sontarans.
So who are they? Well, according to the BBC, the Stenza come from “5000 galaxies away” (presumably in relation to Earth), and describe themselves as the “Conquerors of the Nine Systems,” wherever they are. The Woman Who Fell to Earth also established that the Stenza’s home world is naturally very cold – their icy skin can kill a warm-blooded human – and quite militaristic in culture.
And it may be that we have yet to see the Stenza at their full strength, given that Tzim-Sha came to Earth almost entirely unarmed (save an illicit gathering coil and a short-range teleport, the big cheat) and this episode establishes the Stenza have interest in developing deadly weaponry. Who knows just how dangerous they might be when they’re fully locked and loaded? A Dalek isn’t much cop when it’s out of its metal shell, after all.
Anyway, presumably we’ll find out more about them in the coming weeks and months – personally, we’re just curious whether they all collect teeth from their victims, or if they can pick different body parts – as the Tardis team uncover more about the new villains on the block throughout their adventures this year.
And who knows? Maybe we’ll all be hiding behind the sofa from the Stenza by the time this series finishes.
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