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.