TV Recap: Doctor Who - Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
By Edwin Davies
September 10, 2012
Doctor Who has done family stuff in the past, with very mixed results, but I would have liked to see more of Brian and Rory interacting just to get a sense of their relationship. Again, everything felt so busy this week that the human element seemed to get squeezed out, something that became more apparent when it actually slowed down and allowed for a really lovely scene of Brian getting one wish from The Doctor: being able to see Earth from space. It was an unexpectedly sweet moment in which an ordinary man got to experience something truly extraordinary, and as such it stuck out like a sore thumb in an episode that was so busy being busy.
It also stood out in sharp contrast to the other great moment of the episode, in which The Doctor decides that Solomon is too awful to live, and allows him to be destroyed by the missiles which have been launched by Earth’s defences to destroy the Silurian ship. It was not uncharacteristically dark for The Doctor to have to make a life-or-death decision like that, but there was a callousness to it that we haven’t seen in a while, and the episode did a very good job of building Solomon to a point where it became apparent that he was rotten to the core, and perhaps wasn’t worth saving. Much of that is down to the writing, which was all over the place this week but was very sharply focused when it came to making Solomon out to be a cast iron bastard, but David Bradley was also deliciously villainous in a role that required just the right level of malice, which he delivered with aplomb.
As tends to be the case with the lighter episodes of Doctor Who, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” didn’t have the emotional or dramatic weight that the show can have at its best, and despite a neat high-concept premise its plot proved to be fairly predictable. Then again, with a title like “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”, should we have expected much better than that?
--I can see why people might like the robots that Solomon had helping him (voiced by Peep Show actors David Mitchell and Robert Webb) since they had a Douglas Adams vibe to them, but I thought their inclusion was a massive miscalculation. Doctor Who works best when the flippancy of The Doctor is contrasted against the serious and malevolent intent of his enemies. Having enemies which are basically comic relief makes it harder to take the menace seriously.
--I liked that the episode wasn’t about The Doctor saving the Earth, a plot device which the show ran to again and again during the Russell T. David era, since the ship would have been destroyed even if he didn’t stop it, but was about preserving a ship which housed technology and life-forms which were interesting. Nice shift of focus that made the problem of the episode feel important without being – literally or figuratively – Earth-shattering.
--Bit of foreshadowing of The Ponds’ exit this week with their talk of The Doctor leaving them alone for months, potentially slowly removing himself from their lives? As I said last week, I don’t mind that Steven Moffat is taking time to say bye to his own characters, but every time something like that happens I find myself wondering why the show hasn’t made a clean break yet.