TV Recap: Doctor Who - Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

By Edwin Davies

September 10, 2012

Every five-year-old's dream come true.

New at BOP:
Share & Save
Digg Button  
Print this column
We can say this much for “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”, it certainly featured dinosaurs, and they were definitely on some form of interstellar transport. Keeping with the traditional structure of following a thematically and dramatically heavy episode with a comparative bit of fluff, this week we saw The Doctor, Amy and Rory (as well Rory’s dad, played by Mark Williams), a big game hunter (Rupert Graves) and Nefertiti (Riann Steele) because why not?) travelling aboard a mysterious vessel heading on a collision course for Earth. Rather than let the ship be destroyed, The Doctor and his gang get onboard in the hopes of diverting its fatal course, in the process discovering that it is home to dinosaurs, comedy robots and Solomon (David Bradley), an old man who views everything - be it object, animal or person – purely in terms of monetary value.

Back when Doctor Who started in 1963, part of its remit was as to act as educational programming with sci-fi overtones, which was the main reason why The Doctor would keep running into real historical figures and roping them into his adventures somehow. Five decades later, the educational aspect of the show has eroded away to be replaced with a drive to be as purely entertaining as possible – which is a change for the good, in general – but the desire to work real people from history into the storylines remains, even when they serve no real purpose. New Who has been very hit and miss in this regard, with the only real standout historical figure episode being the Charles Dickens-centric “The Unquiet Dead” during Christopher Ecclestone’s tenure in the TARDIS.

“Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” was particularly bad in this regard since the justification for having Nefertiti involved was that she happened to be with The Doctor at the beginning as he was wrapping up an off-screen adventure in Egypt, circa 1334 B.C. Once he discovers that a new problem is on the horizon, he decides to take her along because he thinks that it’d be a good idea to have a gang for once. It’s a minor thing, but in an episode that was already kind of packed with ideas and events, it seemed weird to just cram Nefertiti in there as well. Whilst her playful sparing with the sexist walking innuendo Riddell was funny, it felt like a distraction within an already pretty distracted episode. Maybe she’s going to come back at some point in the future and this was a way of introducing her, but if that was the case then it felt very forced and kind of half-arsed.


But what does that matter if the episode had dinosaurs on a bloody spaceship? Clearly the joy and wonder expressed by Matt Smith when he said the title of the episode was indicative of the exhilaration that credited writer Chris Chibnall and the rest of the crew clearly had getting to realise such an impossible premise, and much of that came through in the program itself. This felt like an episode that was very much aimed at the show’s younger fans, for whom “dinosaurs + spaceship” is an inherently awesome equation. The actual way in which those elements were combined – the ship is an old Silurian ark which Solomon took over years before, which in the process caused the ship to change direction back to its point of origin, Earth, trapping Solomon on the ship – was pretty awkward and slapdash in the way that the wackier episodes of the show tend to be, but the exuberance of it was more or less enough to paper over the cracks in the narrative.

What it couldn’t paper over was the fact that the episode squandered a potentially interesting addition to the world of the show: Rory’s dad, Brian, who accidentally gets taken for a ride when The Doctor picks Amy and Rory up. Even though he had previously been unaware of his son’s exploits across time and space – he thought that they went away after their honeymoon so that they could go backpacking – he found himself thrust into a new and bizarre situation, and more or less kind of got on with it. There was a nice little freak out on the beach (actually the engines of the ship), but it seemed like the show was in too much of a rush to get through everything else on its checklist to actually give Brian and Rory any time together outside of the scenes in which they flew the spaceship (which, since they consisted of Mark Williams and Arthur Darvill leaning from side to side in uncomfortable-looking chairs, highlighted the limitations of show’s effects budget).

Continued:       1       2



Need to contact us? E-mail a Box Office Prophet.
Sunday, May 26, 2024
© 2024 Box Office Prophets, a division of One Of Us, Inc.