Doctor Who Review: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
This week’s episode of DOCTOR WHO had no choice but to be outright fun, you can’t call something “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” and not have it be a swinging time. Before we take off though, I must warn you… spoilers. So if you haven’t yet seen “Dinosaurs”, either wait for it to come on the idiots lantern again or find a way to go back in time. Whatever you do though — do not read this until you’ve seen your DOCTOR.
Did you count your giggles? I know I did, but I shan’t be telling the likes of you how many times my face cracked during this deeply witty episode that was filled with those brilliant Time Lord throwaway lines that Matt Smith does so well. Yes, this is another home-run by Steven Moffat and crew. Light at the off-set with some key notes of sentiment and even a touch of wrath as it headed for it’s end — this one was a bit full, so let’s get cracking.
The Doctor has a gang and he is so very excited about it and so was I. Queen Nefertiti, a big game hunter and cad named Rydell, Rory, Amy, and Rory’s Dad Brian all joined the Doctor on a spaceship that was heading toward earth and a concerned Indian Space Agency that had vowed to blow the ship out of the sky if it got too close to earth. What was on the ship? Well, please re-read the episode title. It’s dinosaurs! Reasonably detailed dinosaurs that once again showcased the rising cinematic-ness of this show.
Why are there dinosaurs though? That was the mystery of the episode and Amy’s revelation that the ship had once been a Silurian ark was a bit heartbreaking. You’ll remember the Silurians, — and the lovely and talented Richard Hope –from the “Hungry Earth”/”Cold Blood” two-parter from season 5.
What wasn’t heartbreaking, but which was a bit anger inducing, was the ornery space pirate Solomon, played by David Bradley. Solomon had apparently leveraged the Silurian’s kindness to get aboard their ship, where he spied their selection of species re-booting dinosaurs and then eliminated everything else on board that wasn’t of value to him. A despicable “genocide” — to borrow the Doctor’s descriptor — and enough to make a good man go to war… sort of… again.
Getting back to the fun parts of this gang: Rydell is like a grown-up Captain Jack (Jack is plenty grown in TORCHWOOD but I’m referring to his splendid way on WHO) and I love his and Queen Nefertiti’s interplay and I hope to see more of them again.
As for Rory’s father — played by Mark Williams (Ron Weasley’s Dad!) — he was a nice surprise. I have to admit, someone recently turned me around on the extended families of the companions angle, and I was now a bit concerned that this might feel a bit like Jackie Tyler in “The Army of Ghosts”, but luckily that was not the case. Useful, funny, always armed with a trowel — Brian’s life was clearly changed by his experience on the TARDIS and his respect for Rory grew as well. It was an outright win for all involved, including us.
Though they weren’t a part of the Doctor’s gang, Solomon’s two robot henchmen provided more comic relief despite their menacing outer shell. Frankly, they felt like a love note to C-3PO and tapping the comic team of David Mitchell and Robert Webb (PEEP SHOW, THAT MITCHELL AND WEBB LOOK) was a stroke of genius.
The Doctor’s Anger.
This Doctor has been tested and taxed but he rarely goes fully dark. The end of this episode, where the Doctor gifts Solomon with the tracking unit that, essentially, has him acting as a decoy so the Silurian ship can escape, which leads to his ship — once freed from the magnetic hold that the Doctor put on the pirates ship was released — getting blown out of the sky.
So, my question is: why did Solomon’s actions — above the numerous “Big Bad’s” who have deserved the same fate — merit the full measure of the Doctor’s wrath? Sure, he killed a ship full of life-forms in an effort to profit, held Rory and his Dad hostage, killed a dinosaur (how adorable was that Triceratops?), and kidnapped Nefertiti — but what pushed the Doctor just a bit farther? To me, this is a continuation of the darkening of the Doctor that we saw last season. Oh sure, he’s still quick with a quip and wonderfully silly, but Moffat is filling in the character’s dimension and it is crunchy and dark. I have to wonder though, the Doctor killed the Empress of Racnoss and all of her children in “The Runaway Bride” and it haunted him and showed him that he needs someone to tell him no — what did Solomon’s death show the Doctor, because the “man who never would” sort of “did” this time*.
It seems like every episode since “The Girl Who Waited” has had at least one moment that reminded us that the Pond’s are fated to leave the Doctor’s side at some point. Here it was Amy’s suspicion that the Doctor is “weening” them off of him and then her reminder that he could be standing over their grave. Every week we are getting closer and closer to the end of these companions and I both can’t wait, and want the Doctor, Amy, and Rory to keep running and avoiding that end.
I give “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” a 4 out of 5. I don’t really have any profound squabbles with the episode but it just didn’t have the impact on both my senses and the future of the show as last week’s premiere — “Asylum of the Daleks” — at least not as far as I can tell right now.
Coming Next Week: The Doctor and the Ponds go west and battle a cyborg gunslinger.
*= Yes, yes, this is a “new” Doctor. But he retains — obviously — the Doctors memories and idiosyncrasies, so it is only natural to assume that he carries his scars as well.