Doctor Who: Dinosaurs On A Spaceship – Episode review

Okay, my every instinct has been screaming “NOOOOOO” about Dinosaurs On A Spaceship all week. Through the teaser videos and the promo pics that were drip-released, I was ready for this review to be a storming rant about how dumb and goofy Doctor Who had become. And probably denounce the remainder of Series 7 as a complete waste of time.

But here’s the thing: after a sixth series that was heavy on complicated story arc with River Song and delved into some truly bonkers storylines. Especially the unmitigated awfulness of The Wedding Of River Song, which was Steven Moffat throwing the kitchen sink at a storyline and hoping it would work. I hated it.

So, there was a perverse release in Dinosaurs On A Spaceship. It was The Doctor in gleeful form, discovering a spaceship the size of Canada that was filled with all manner of prehistoric creatures. Matt Smith’s childlike enthusiasm shone through in his every expression, which made it very easy to just go with the flow and enjoy the fun.

Another aspect I enjoyed was The Doctor throwing together a gang – on this adventure he was joined by Egyptian royalty in Queen Nefertiti and a 1900’s explorer as well as Amy and Rory and a reluctant Rory’s dad, dragged along when The Doctor materialised the TARDIS around him.

It’s something that Steven Moffat has had mixed success with – this running implication that The Doctor has adventures in between the episodes we’re seeing (and between his encounters with The Ponds). In Dinosaurs, it worked particularly well, because of the weird assortment of characters The Doctor assembled. Nefertiti kicked ass, and Rupert Graves completed the first ever Sherlock/Doctor Who crossover with his turn as John Riddell.

The chemistry between this random group was excellent, especially when Amy got to lead her own faction through the spaceship. I loved her balking at the shameless flirting between the Egyptian queen and the Imperial explorer.

Of course, there were also some thoughtful moments: Amy pointing out that The Doctor was calling less regularly these days, and her pondering that he was slowly cutting her off. And if The Doctor was weaning Amy and Rory off of TARDIS life, Amy made it worse with this exchange:

The Doctor: “Come on, Pond. You’ll be there til the end of me.” Amy: “Or vice versa.”

The look that The Doctor returned – a look of horror and concern that she might die while travelling with him – was like a sudden cold shower. Someone pointed out last week that The Doctor’s sudden interest in Oswin felt like The Ponds had been swiftly sidelined. Could it be that The Doctor is knowingly ‘rehabilitating’ Amy and Rory for normal life? That’ll be interesting to watch over the course of the next three episodes to see how it ties into Amy and Rory’s exit.

Overall though, I found Dinosaurs On A Spaceship to be exactly the lightweight romp it promised to be. It was fun and silly, but didn’t feel like a waste of an episode, as a story like this sometimes threatens to be. But I also found the lack of River Song to be refreshing. It’s funny, but I’m only realising now how grating that character was becoming. And the fact that Series 7 isn’t currently heaving under the weight of a massive story arc is liberating. Its nice to just be enjoying Doctor Who again.

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14 Comments

  1. sgreco1970

    I have to agree, series 6 ended HORRIBLY. I LOVED the whole River Song plotline and the astronaut and everything… until it felt like he just scribbled down some nonsense at the last minute and trash canned a promise-filled plotline for no good reason.

    That said, I really enjoyed this for the douglas adamns-y romp that it was…with one tiny exception. The Doctor murdered the villain. What was up with that? Sure, he was dreadful and dererved it, which dr who villain hasnt? Suddenly, the doctor had no problem just killing him with missiles? He penned the family of blood up in a scraecrow and a black hole etc rather than just kill them. But this time he does this? It was not only out of character but no one questioned it at all. Not even Rory. Oddness.

    Thoughts?

    1. Gerard McGarry

      That’s actually an incredibly good point. Even Amy reiterated The Doctor’s well-worn hatred of guns in this episode (and I think he did too, when it was suggested that missiles were going to be fired at the spaceship).

      Thing is, as you mentioned, it’s not really out of character. He essentially doomed the Family Of Blood to eternal torment, which when you think about it is actually a fate worse than death. And in this episode, he essentially sent Solomon off to his doom. Pretty cheerfully too.

      If I’m honest, I like to see this dark side to The Doctor every now and again. It raises that big question about heroes – if they don’t kill their enemies, aren’t they essentially leaving them free to kill innocents again? Solomon didn’t learn anything from his time on that ship – he was more interested in capturing Nefertiti. So, arguably The Doctor ended his reign of terror while simultaneously saving the innocent creatures aboard the arc.

      I think there’s a line coming up in the next episode where AMy says to The Doctor “See? This is what happens when you travel alone for too long.” I think there’s maybe a little more moral ambiguity to come, so that’ll definitely be worth watching out for.

      1. Emperor Gregor

        I agree killing Solomon wasn’t out of character. Tennant brought out his conscience but in Matt Smith we see a man who (as he reminded Madam Kovarian) has (and needs) a lot of rules to live by. This is the man who eliminated the entire Time Lord race, and the Daleks too. Did you notice the exact moment when he decided Solomon was going to have to die?  He didn’t have a solution to the missiles and couldn’t turn the ship round in time. Then Solomon killed the dinosaur as an example to them all. Then the Doctor is the man with a plan. I didn’t think the Doctor regarded it so much as murder as a justified execution. I also think it carries a sub text about how he sees himself. He too committed genocide and has left a trail of dead people in his wake and he doesn’t like himself much. 

  2. Mondula

    I wonder what would have happened if Rory’s dad had met Jackie Tyler?

    Also, I loved the way that Brian always had a trowel to hand – the mark of a real man. A very Arthur Dent touch!

    1. Emperor Gregor

      Didn’t like the robots much. Too much Jarjar Binks meets the Heart of Golds alternative personality in Hitch Hiker’s Guide. Thought on first viewing that dinosaurs were a bit done to death by now but kids love them and Jurassic Park meant you recognised the velocoraptor hunting strategy instantly. And i loved the doggy stegosaurus  Liked them better second viewing. I don’t mind the highly abbreviated style full of jump cuts. It’s fast, furious and moves the story along fast enough to have it told in 45 minutes. In fact I now find Tom Baker really slowwwwww. 

      And yes, Brian was a brilliant Arthur Dent. Better actually. I always found Arthur a bit wet. 

      Re the dislike of heavy story arcs- the classic series had 6-episode stories, while at one point the Doctor was marooned on Earth for a whole series. I too loved the whole River Song arc. I dont think Series 6 ended horribly. River knows all his weaknesses and self hate and recrimination. Why shouldn’t she not want to let him die without knowing the good he has done and how much he is loved?

  3. pirho

    Anyone else notice the recycling of Sci-Fi/Fantacy actors?  Solomon (David Bradley) portrayed Argus Filch in Harry Potter movies, and of course Rory’s dad (Mark Williams) is best know as Olaf Petersen from Red Dwarf.  Also this episode leads me to believe that it was filmed after the hiatus, where as the season opening was filmed before.  If you notice Amy looks like she put on a few pounds, (not that I’m complaining I think she looks great) since the last episode.  Over all though this episode really bothered me, it lacked a decent story line, it seemed to jump right into the episode with no real introduction as to what it was about.  What was he doing with Queen Nefertiti to start with, who was this woman Indira?  What organization was she with that she has authorization to blow things up with missiles from Earth?

    1. Gerard McGarry

      I think for me, the introduction of Nefertiti just shows that The Doctor can pick up a new companion from literally anywhere in space and time. 

      They’ve definitely been playing up the idea of his “other” travels this year, with all the hints about people he’s met and this running joke that The Doctor has appeared on loads of famous recordings throughout history. It’s how he was already acquainted with Winston Churchill back in Victory Of The Daleks.

      Honestly? I don’t know how I feel about this. I think since Back To The Future we’ve been trained that people shouldn’t mess with established events or an ill-advised snog with your mother when she’s a teenager can result in your entire family disappearing from a Polaroid.

      So why exactly is The Doctor – supposed to be keeping a low profile since he’s “dead” – running around with important historical figures and recording music with classic composers?

  4. Emperor Gregor

    I think it did have one and also contributed to the development arc. 

    A ship is approaching Earth and an pore not answerable to America or Europe regards it as a threat and will only allow the Doctor a limited time to deal with it  So why didn’t he just jump back a day or two to give himself more time – just a quibble). He rounds up the Ponds and ‘a gang’, discovers the ship has been hijacked for its cargo, defeats the murderous hijacker , avenges the silurians and completes their mission (just where did the Silurians get dinosaurs without time travel?). 

    along the way we see the Doctor weaning Amy and Rory from his lifestyle, see his deep sorrow when it works, and see hints about how he views genocide (of which he is guilty and which we know he feels guilt for and trailers hint this is building). I think the gang is him looking for a new companion on his travels. In fact there are hints the big game hunter has had at least one adventure with him. 

    Prt hate (apart from the robots?). The “snakes on a plane/dinosaurs on a spaceship” joke was lame. 

    1. pirho

      The whole story line was lame.  That makes 2 episodes that were god awful.  Hell of a way to come off of a season that brought us “The Doctor’s Wife”, and “Day of the Moon”.  And coming from a guy who brought us Torchwood (Chris Chibnall), I found it disappointing.  Be prepared for another disappointing episode, since he will also be writing “The Power of Three” whatever they do, please don’t let this be an episode about witchcraft.  This season is starting out to be a big let down.

      1. Emperor Gregor

        I quite liked last week episode. Much more than this week’s which was OK but firmly aimed at the sub teens hiding behind the sofa – until Solomon’s death. 

        Next week should be interesting. Dr Who meets Westworld. I rather like Westworld. Let’s hope the cyborg is as scary as Yul Brinner.  We will have to wait and see. 

  5. sgreco1970

    I absolutely like the fact that Dr Who is for all ages. It brings out the kid in me to watch 2 boyhood favorites mashed together: dinosaurs and spaceships! But while I enjoy the adult sci fi aspects mixed with a childhood romp, I can’t help but feel the execution of the villain is too strong for children. I think moffat has to decide if he still wants this show to have overtones for children because the Dr being judge, jury and executioner, I feel, is way off base. At least when tennant did it, there was significant self loathing and a strong message was being sent that there is a grey area within the notion of “its sometimes necessary to kill.” I always liked the Dr.s “no guns” policy, but lately he’s just been finding other weapons instead. There’s not much out there these days for kids to look up to on tv, and very little that teaches them there’s a better way than violence and death. I just wish The Dr was still one of them.

    1. Emperor Gregor

      Yes, the execution at the end seems aimed at the adult audiences and the kids who watch Eastenders, which seems full of characters with absolutely no redeeming features at all and a sad reflection on our times. 

      On the plus side the ambiguity of the Doctor to his past is still there. I can still see the self loathing, which has been a major feature of Eleven’s persons. And the trailers do hint it is significant. In the past we have seen comments about the doctor using people as weapons. And the damage he does to those who survive him. This ties in with his comment about the most damaged Daleks being the ones “who survived me”. I don’t think he sees much difference between him and them. 

    2. DoctorWho_Lover15

      the doctor will always be one of us i myself am a teenager and it just shows me that sometimes there are hard decisions in life I mean the fact of the matter is if he hadn’t of killed solomon everybody on that ship would have died amy, rory, his father, nefertiti,the explorer, the doctor himself and all of the innocent creatures on board instead of a murderous kidnapper who woukd have gotten the death penalty anyway and some robots.

  6. Stormegeddon_Dark Lord of All

    posted this in another post but since everybody seems to be over here and I did post it last night I decided I would post it again.

    Anyway, I’m not sure if someone else has come up with this thoery. I haven’t had time to look at forums with college and all that but here it is.

    *SPOILERS BELOW*

    IN AOTD the Doctor took his bracelet off and put it on Amy. There was a cheap throw away line with Amy saying that he is a Time Lord and probably doesn’t need it. Now I didn’t think anything of it until seeing DOAS. The Doctor did something very out of character, he in a sense killed Solomon. Now at first I was like I think that it was the right choice, but then when I started thinking about it more, there was another alternative. I’ll get into that later. Then after reading about ATCM where the Doctor, who is a known pacifist, is holding a gun and doesn’t know what he is going to do with it. After thinking all this through. I think that the Nano cloud converted some of the Doctor’s love into hatred which is causing some off this out of character reaction. It is just a theory but what do you think

    Another theory that I had came up with was about the Doctor being alone.

    Here it is:

    The Doctor has been on his own traveling amoung the stars. What has he been doing? Why doesn’t he have another companion? Does he have another companion…that we just haven’t seen? All questions that are to be asked since the Doctor saved The Queen and her people and then brought her with him, and then also along the way picking up a game hunter. So while he may not have had a long term companion it seems like he has had small ones that go for one adventure. Through this he probably has had the opportunity to meet some very different personalities. I think though that he has been traveling manly by himself. Through he is becoming more like 9 and 10 in the beginning. (Examples: Letting Cassandra dry up, Angels into Time Crack, Racknoss.) The main part of this theory is basically. The Doctor through travelling by himself with random adventures throughout with seemingly random people has been going back to his darker self. Remember 10 when travelling by himself got full of himself and changed history. So I think it could be similar.

    That is my other theory about The Doctor changing because he has been by himself..

     

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