Synopsis 11×02: Trapped on a sandy, deserted, dangerous planet, the doctor and crew must make their way to the end of a race to find the Tardis.
First of all, credits! We got all new opening credits! And I for one love them. They’re like an ASMR-Glitter bomb in space complete with a new logo and a new tune.
Back to the plot! Last week, we left the Doctor and friends stranded in space. This week, rival space-racers, Epzo and Angstrom, scoop up the gang almost immediately. They’re on the ultimate, final space race to win billions and trillions of some kind of space money. They assumed the floating people were bonuses. In fact, the planet had moved, which is why the Doctor landed in space and not on a pile of rocks.
The race, put on by an eccentric billionaire who completed it once before, ends at the Ghost Monument, which, you guessed it, is the Tardis. It’s just been floating in and out of a time loop for thousands of years, waiting for the Doctor to stabilize it. So the Doctor and friends head off with Epzo and Angstrom to find the Ghost Monument and their way home.
Along the way, they encounter robot soldiers, murderous water, and deadly paper that’s ripped straight from Harry Potter. Angstrom proves herself to be useful and kind; she could have been a companion. Epzo proves himself to be a pessimistic lump, only becoming useful at the very end with the help of his handy-dandy plot-device. I mean, self-lighting cigar.
Gender roles play out prominently in this episode. Angstrom is a holistic thinking and continually helpful, empathetic, and compassionate. Epzo is rude, selfish, and reeking of toxic masculinity. If it wasn’t for Graham and his kind masculinity, it would have been too much to bear. I love a heartfelt Chibnall episode, but this one left a little to be desired, especially with Epzo’s final turn into a team player.
There were a lot of heartfelt moments though, just not with Epzo. There was a moment between Graham and Ryan, who are both still mourning Grace; another between Angstrom and Yaz while discussing the importance of family. And finally, there’s a moment when the Doctor thinks she failed her friends. It was disappointing to see her bravado drop so quickly; it’s only the second episode after all. But if it was meant to heighten the return of the Tardis, I’d say it did its job.
The Tardis floats back into view, redecorated and good as new. The Friends exclaim their disbelief at the dimensional engineering, but no one says “it’s bigger on the inside.” Moffat beat that dead horse into the ground, so maybe the tradition is better left out for now.
The new Tardis isn’t my favorite. It’s a bit too monochrome and CGI. I long for the practical set of 9 and 10, complete with real buttons and doodads. This Tardis has glowing columns and a shining background that are as computer animated as the new opener. But nothing takes away from the joy of watching Jodie Whittaker fly her Tardis for the first time.
With the promise of a return trip to Earth, next week’s episode looks like a classic mixup. Instead of returning to England in 2018, the Friends will wind up in 1960’s America. If I am honest, I have some reservations about this episode. Doctor Who in America is a hit or miss. We’ll find out how 13 fares next week!