“I’m riding a Dinosaur on a Spaceship. I only came around to fix your light!”
The one thing that Doctor Who is often good at is jugging different genres and styles. One week its horror and scares, the next attempting to do a Western as we’ll see next week. This week we’re firmly in the realm of fun and slapstick – with dinosaurs.
Now I raise my hand and say that as a rule I don’t like Chris Chibnall scripts. So when it was announced that Chibnall was writing a Who episode based loosely on that classic Samuel L. Jackson genre film, I planned to watch this one on the loo, with a curry – braced for the worst. Instead – gotta say that even though this was - plot wise – very weak compared to Asylum, it was good. And fun!
Chibnall squeezed in some nifty Who concepts into his 45 minute carry on with Dinos - such as the reveal that the ark ship was constructed by the Silurians – presumably ferrying away a handful of assorted T-Rex’s, Triceratops, Pterandons and Velociraptors before a certain asteroid smashed into the Earth 65 million years ago. The Mill did some great work to bring the ferocious lizards to life – well they’ve been doing it for Primeval on the “other channel” for a few years – so they have the knack. My faves were the Velociraptors, but I except everyone below the age of 10 is saying to their mom and dad’s, "Can I have a Triceratops for Christmas?! They’re very good at playing fetch!"
But besides the Dinosaurs, we had a good cast. David Bradley playing a very heartless trader, Solomon, a cold calculating salesman only interested in making a profit, happy to boot Silurians out into the cold of space to get his claws around his cargo. He is backed up by two of the campest robots ever seen on the program who are more than happy to send you to the naughty step if you get out of line. Their body language was nicely enriched by the voices of Mitchell and Webb – two very clever chaps who are a regular source of great below the belt laughs on the British comedy scene. If you want to see more of their work, I recommend you google "Peep Show."
Rory’s dad was also a welcome addition to the show - although I wished he’d been brought in a lot sooner. Actor Brian Williams played him superbly, bumbling around with his trusty trowel in his trouser pockets, worried that his balls (golf balls) may get eaten by the triceratops. Oh, wasn’t he cute by the way – yeah the kids would love to have one wrapped up for Christmas – till he was shot down by Solomon. That was a nice morality switch there – comedy switching to pathos and downright anger – something that Who as a program does very well.
Things were a lot better between the Ponds – 10 months on from "Asylum" – their recent marital problems under the bridge, but as you watch Rory and Amy, with Rory’s dad tucking into his sandwiches looking down onto the Earth at the end, you get the feeling that The Doctor knows the end is coming, and as always, chooses not to say a word. Perhaps that’s why he’s so eager to visit the Ponds as often as he can between flirting with Queen Nefertiti or saving a lion from being bagged by the big game hunter, Riddel. Yeah, nice touch the Doctor having a gang...love a good gang as he says at one point. And Christmas.
There was also another hint of the "Doctor Who?" thread; now it seems the Time Lord is not registering on any databases in the Universe. When did that happen? And by the way, it was a nice touch that it was an Indian Space Agency firing missiles at the Silurian ship – although considering the grief I get from Bombay Call Centers when I phone my local bank – part of me was hoping the ship would’ve crashed on top of them!
In short, this isn’t a classic. It’s not a good Doctor Who story by a long chalk. In short, "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" is exactly what it says scratched on the rocky hull of a Silurian ship with an ocean for an engine room...and for that....that’s all you really need to know.
I hope you enjoyed the fun romp – for that it what is was – but to paraphrase the Doctor in next week’s "A Town Called Mercy" - give me a Dalek any day.
For an in-depth look at the upcoming season, check out our Doctor Who Series 7 Fall Preview.
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