Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Doctor: “I know! Dinosaurs! On a spaceship.”

A decidedly kid friendly episode, with something for just about everyone: providing your interest in Who isn't restricted to Moffat's more adult oriented, time twisting high jinks. This felt like Jurassic Park in space, with lots of running around, ineffectual camp robots, and more ham than the Hammer House of Horror wrapped in bacon. There was some nice foreshadowing regarding Amy's departure, too. Of course, now the Doctor and Rory are kissing buddies, we needn't worry too much about Rory being alone. And I dare say there'll always be a place for him around the Weasley table.

This whole episode was a sometimes jarring mix of light and dark. On the one hand there was a lot of fleeing from dinosaurs, over-the-top characterisation and awkward familial banter; on the other there was the death of Tricey (the dinosaur who thinks he's a dog), a not-so-veiled rape threat, and the Doctor Batmanning Argus Filch (“I won't kill you, but I don't have to save you”.) I do like it when they explore the Doctor's darker side, and I thought Smith did an excellent job of channeling Sylvester McCoy. It just all sat a little uncomfortably next to Riddell's 'big weapon' and Brian 'I'm not a Pond' Williams' grassy balls.

In hindsight, the episode would probably have benefited from an extra ten minutes. There were simply too many characters to do them all justice. I liked the idea of expanding the gang and then splitting them up; I'd just liked to have seen more of them. Queen Nefititi was cool and carried on the show's tradition of having a character from history turn up and be a total bad-ass, and Solomon was the perfect villain, deserving of our boos and hisses. Kudos to David Bradley for playing him straight. If he'd hammed it up an much as Rupert Graves did with Riddell, it just wouldn't have worked. The character of Solomon gave the episode balance. Riddell just made me want to chop my own head off.

I loved the inclusion of Arthur Weasley. Did his character fit the show tonally? Possibly not. Does Mark Williams play virtually the same character every time he's on TV? Probably. But when he's this much fun, who cares? Let's face it, Mark William's just makes everything better, and his chemistry with Arthur was undeniable. Brian even turned out to be more than just a not-so-pretty face: graduating from chief cobweb cleaner, to saviour, all in the space of 40 minutes. Which should come as no surprise as this is what Doctor Who does best: takes ordinary people and turns them into heroes. I could totally see Brian becoming Wilfred Mott's spiritual successor. He has that same air of wonderment, and that almost instant acceptance of his environment. Assuming we ever see him again.

Is the 45 minute blockbuster every week working as a format? It's probably a little early to tell. The episode posters are certainly better, but I am missing the deeper story integration. The only thread currently tying this season together is the Ponds, and I got some very bad vibes from the Doctor tonight regarding the nature of their departure. Is Amy going to die? Why did the Doctor stare at her when she said “or vice versa”, yet remained unmoved when he said “you'll be there until the end of me”? And what was with the sad look he threw them both as they were stood gazing out of the TARDIS? What does he know? And where did Brian get that flask and sandwich box from?

Amy's frustration at having a diminished role in the Doctor's life is becoming more and more evident. Despite it being part of their agreement, she looked decidedly envious of Neffy and Riddell. Not that they are his new companions, thank goodness. Neffy I could probably cope with. John Riddell would pose more of a challenge. Is John Riddell an actual person and my knowledge of historical figures is letting me down? Although a fan of Rupert Graves from Sherlock and Garrow's Law, the character of John Riddell didn't offer much in terms of realism, although I did enjoy seeing Amy and Neffy kicking his gender stereotypes into touch. Would Neffy seriously have ended up touching his 'big weapon' (as per that final shot)? I suppose he did try to save her life, even if he was a walking cliché.

Chibnall did a good job with the dialogue in a script heavily weighted towards the humorous. I could quite happily sit and listen to Rory and Brian's banter all day long. The comedy robots I could perhaps have done without, despite them being voiced by David Mitchell and Robert Webb. (Whom I absolutely love.) In the Radio Times, the two robots were listed as Noel Byrne and Richard Garaghty (evidently their human operators -- according to Mark Greig), but it was obvious who were supplying the voices. The CGI was also a little hit and miss. The Ankylosaurus (if that's what they were) walking in slowmo looked weird, and Solomon's ship exploding at the end looked like something from a video game -- but it mostly worked. For a show with a moderate budget, I think they did pretty well.

Next week's story looks a cracker. It's probably the most highly anticipated episode of the series, so I'm ratcheting my expectations up to ridiculously insatiable proportions.

Bits and Pieces:

-- Why are official organisations on earth always so inflexible? They're hardly ever prepared to compromise. All they ever want to do is blow stuff up and create all manner of false tension.

-- When hiding from dinosaurs, lesson number one: if you think you hear one in the shadows, don't point a torch at them.

-- Triceratops may be herbivores, but they still have horny heads. Some have speculated the horns may have been for courtship rather than combat, but horned or horny, they're just too big and too unpredictable to stand that close to.

-- Loved the Doctor kissing Rory and then slapping his face. Comedy gold.

Quotes:

Doctor: “Oh dear, I liked you before you said missiles.”

Brian: “You're wobbling the ladder. I don't want another loft incident.”

Rory: “You know when Amy and I first got married and went traveling?”
Brian: “To Thailand.”
Rory: “More the entirety of space and time... in that police box.”

Doctor: “This is Neffy, this is Riddell, they're with me.”
Amy: “With you? They're with you? Are they the new us? Is that why we haven't seen you?”
Doctor: “No. They're just people, they're not Ponds. I thought we might need a gang. Not really had a gang before. It's new.”

Brian: “What sort of a man doesn't carry a trowel? Put it on your Christmas list.”
Rory: “Dad, I'm 31. I don't have a Christmas list any more.”
Doctor: "I do!"

Doctor: “That's the plan... amendments welcome... move away from the pterodactyls.”

Amy: “So, walking sleeping potion, or human innuendo? Take your pick.”

Doctor: "Brian Pond, you are delicious."

Doctor: "Come on Pond, you'll be there until the end of me."
Amy: "Or vice versa."
---
Also posted at The Time Meddler.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Chibnall did a good job with the dialogue"

Seriously? This episode absolutely sucked - and the idiot banter throughout was a VERY large part of the reason why. I sincerely hope this not a indication of the quality of writing the rest of this season is going to have. I've been watching Dr. Who since the early 1970's and I can't think of a worse episode than this trash.

The dinosaurs were okay though...

Paul Kelly said...

Hello Anon, I think it pretty much depends on taste. In a light hearted romp such as this, I thought the 'idiot banter' pretty much hit the mark. Where I thought Chibnall failed was with his robot dialogue and his characterisation of the frankly diabolical John Riddell.

As for it being the worst episode since the 70s? Worse than 'Love and Monsters'? Worse than 'Fear Her'? Worse that 'The Twin Dilemma'? Worse than 'Planet of the Spiders'? Worse than 'The Krotons'? Seriously?

Paul Kelly said...

Bah... stupid phone auto-correction auto-correcting nothing at all!

Mark Greig said...

I adored this episode. I had a huge smile on my face for all 45 minutes of it. It was a carefree romp carefully crafted to appeal to the overexcited child in all of us. Without a doubt the most purely enjoyable episode of Doctor Who I have seen in a long time.

And Paul, I think you're forget about pretty much every Bonnie Langford episode. Which is why I am reminding you of then now because I shouldn't be the only one to suffer.

Paul Kelly said...

Ughh! 'Delta and the Bannerman' and 'Time and the Rani'! Why would you do that, Mark? Why?

Mark Greig said...

Misery loves company.

celticmarc said...

And the Doctor is bringing disharmony !? It's a BRITISH show, it should NOT be taken seriously. Especially with the Doctor. You should seriously enjoy it though.

I'm not really in a position to comment since I've MOSTLY watched the Doc in the 80's, especially with Sylvester McCoy. I indeed hated Boonie L.'s screaming, but she was a dish. Blame the writers, not the poor girl. I'm sure she knocked her head on the wall a few times. And Nicola Bryant in a swimsuit ? Ah Dear God !

Josie Kafka said...

Dinosaurs! On a spaceship!

J.D. Balthazar said...

Mark I totally agree with you, I must've laughed half a dozen times. Totally silly joy, well except when the Tri got killed :(

It was a goofy premise, and they ran with it instead of trying for something deep or dark or too serious. That's one of the wonders of Doctor Who, it can be literally anything.

zob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
migmit said...

Yeah, this episode pretty much sucked.

But there is one idea about Amy's departure worth considering: let's give her another TARDIS, for her own entertainment.

Nick said...

In a way I actually think this episode was better balanced than last week's Asylum of the Daleks - that one had a lot to live up to and didn't quite get into the big storylines it was advertising (Amy and Rory's relationship, the crazy Daleks, etc.) while this one I expected to be a goofy and campy mess, so I was pleasantly surprised at how good the comedy was written.

And I thought Solomon was familiar! He even looks and sounds just like Filch, so it was like he gave up on being a Squib and decided to just be evil instead.

Great review!

Marcus said...

"I've been watching Dr. Who since the early 1970's and I can't think of a worse episode than this trash".

Then I can only surmise you were too young to appreciate just how dire some of those 70s episodes were. This wasn't a great episode (although many here would disagree) but it wasn't even the worst of the new era. For my money, Daleks in Manhattan takes that trophy.

Juliette said...

I'm 29 and I still have a Christmas list...

(By the way, I think my pick for worst epsiode of the new series would be World War Three and its partner. But there are several candidates! This one was silly, but not bad).

Mark said...

Episode went for silly & fun (mostly), so I didn't have a problem with the dialogue.

Most companions stay with the Doctor for an extended time, then leave. Although Amy & Rory have done that too, in most episodes it has been months (or years) since their last trip with the Doctor. I wonder if the mid-season will have the Ponds at an old age, after a full life.

paivi said...

Oh, I liked this one more than Asylum of the Daleks, and in my opinion this doesn't even come close to the real stinkers like Daleks in Manhattan, Last of the Timelords 1&2 and so on. This was a funny, intentionally childish episode which was a lot better in looking like a good-natured Christmas special than many Christmas specials from the RTD era.