Doctor Who and dinosaurs haven’t had the best history. Just ask anyone who’s seen the Jon Pertwee serial “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” (it hit DVD earlier this year without the extra of enhanced dino effects). Or look earlier in the Pertwee era to “Doctor Who and the Silurians” where a large dinosaur served as a watch-dog of sorts to the aliens of the week (or in this case, seven weeks).
Now as the series comes up on its fiftieth anniversary, Steven Moffat and writer Chris Chibnell seem to want to make up for previous dinosaur related faults with the fairly innocuous ”Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.” In many ways, the story was exactly what I expected–a fun, entertaining story that’s a nice way to pass an hour or so of television viewing.
For the second week in a row, I was surprised at how little of the story was given away in pre-publicity hype and the trailer. If anything, this season seems to have some big ideas as the hook and then is content to lure us in with solid storytelling and spectacular production values. And it doesn’t hurt that you’ve got a link or two to the classic era as well to keep old school fans like myself smiling and content.
The hook this week is the title of the show. The lure is the nice character work throughout the installment. And while the revelations here weren’t quite as mind-shattering (at least on first glance) as introducing Jenna Louise-Coleman was last week, I have a feeling it’s setting up some things for how the Ponds storyline finally plays out. Moffat has stated since he took over as producer that Doctor Who is the story of the companions–and while I may or may not agree with fully with him on that, I think he’s done a fine job of telling the story of Amy and Rory for the past two years. So much so that I think I’m going to miss them a lot more than I miss other companions that many new series fans hold in such high regard and that I’d be just as pleased if they never crossed the TARDIS threshold again.
(For those of you wondering at home, it rhymes with dose).
Interestingly, when the Doctor assembled his “gang” to look into the mysterious space ship headed toward Earth, I felt fairly certain one or two of them would be dinosaur fodder. Interestingly, that doesn’t happen and everyone lives–well, except this week’s bad guy Sebestian. I’m sure a lot of the classic era fans were screaming in frustration when the Doctor allowed Sebestian to die and I will admit it struck me as a bit un-Doctor-like. Until you call what a manipulative, dark character he can be at times. It’s interesting that “Vengeance on Varos” hits DVD again this week with the controversial acid bath moment…because I could see this scene being taken the same way. Of course, part of this could be that the Doctor has been alone for a while and is functioning without the moral compass of his companions. Or it could be setting up how and why the Ponds finally sever ties with the Doctor (assuming, of course that they don’t get killed off….). Could the Doctor get too dark for them to allow him to be part of their lives any longer? Is that the moment that causes such tears among the cast when the final moments of Amy and Rory are filmed? And could that influence how the Doctor will interact with Clara when they meet again?
OK, so maybe there was a lot more to this episode than I originally gave it credit for.
It was fun and while it didn’t have the cool factor that last week’s installment did, it still feels like a solid episode. It may not be an instant classic, but it’s a solid example of the series striding confidently toward a big anniversary.