Chibnall’s second episode as showrunner did not focus on plot as much as his previous episode, but it allowed for more characterization. The companions are developing as characters while we see them interact and define the interpersonal dynamic of this newly formed group. Graham seems almost hobbit-like in his travels as he is constantly out of his comfort zone, yet always optimistic. His genuine concern for a relationship with his step-grandson, Ryan, is compelling and endearing. Ryan has the headstrong confidence of youth desperate to prove his independence. Rounding out the trio of companions, Yaz (who apparently borrowed Homestar Runner’s shirt for this episode) struggles with her conflicted feelings about missing her family that seem far from perfect. It appears that as this makeshift group evolves, it will become her new family.
This week’s episode began with a bit of Douglas Adams' flair when the Doctor and companions were rescued by passing ships after last week’s cliffhanger of being ejected into deep space. Their rescuers are the two surviving contestants in a grueling intergalactic Iditarod-type race. As the competitors reach the final planet, the Doctor learns that finish line is the titular Ghost Monument, which is her TARDIS struggling to materialize. Its phasing in and out is the cause of its ghost-like quality. In another nod to Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the competitors humorously give an overly in-depth explanation on various alien currency exchange. While traversing across the hostile planet Desolation, the Doctor learns that the once-prosperous planet was destroyed by the Stenza. Seeing as this was Tzim-Sha’s race in “The Woman Who Fell to Earth,” I think it is pretty safe to assume that this warrior race will be the primary big bad this season.
After reaching the end of the race, the Doctor stabilizes the TARDIS, and she discovers the new interior of her ship as we do. We do not get it too often, but I prefer when the show reveals a new TARDIS through the Doctor’s eyes. There is a lot of joy seeing the glee in her face as she unwraps her new toy for the first time. I really like the new interior. It looks like a cave with luminescent crystals whose walls are lined with the hexagon and circle motif of classic TARDIS interiors, which also appears to echo the gear theme of the Doctor’s chambers on Gallifrey in “The Invasion of Time.” I had hoped that the arc for Series 11 would be the Doctor trying to get back to her TARDIS. That is clearly not going to happen, but perhaps the problem phasing will allow for a broken and less controllable TARDIS. This could provide a similar feeling of being adrift in the universe.