Doctor Who: 702 “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”

Just to let you know, there will be spoilers in this review – so be warned. We start in 1334, Egypt, with the Doctor getting a lot of attention from Queen Nefertiti after he has saved her kingdom. They both get whizzed off to a distress signal from Earth (2376) where a ship is on a collision course.

No one is answering so it’s up to the Doctor to nip on to the ship and see what is going on. Before that however, he decides he wants to have a gang with him; so old favorites Rory and Amy turn up, as well as Rory’s poor dad Brian, who gets taken along accidentally for the ride. We also meet a hunter called Riddell from 1902 who is pals with the Doctor. This motley crew zip aboard the ship to find dinosaurs!

From here the crew have to figure out why the hooting heck dinosaurs are on this spaceship, where said spaceship came from, and where all the crew are, as well as turning the ship around because if they don’t do it fast then they are going to get nuked out of space. The group are quickly separated with Amy, the Queen and Riddell not doing much other than potter around, while the Doctor, Rory and Brian find two slightly camp robots who introduce us to Solomon – who has a busted up leg, until the Doctor heals it for him under duress. Amy and co find out that the ship is a giant ark for the dinosaurs built by the Silurians to try to leave Earth before it all got a bit hairy for them. Remember them? If not then they used to look like this.

But now look like this. Personally I think the older one looks better but that is not really relevant so back to the plot.

The Doctor finds out Solomon had all the Silurians killed so he could sell the dinosaurs, but then got stuck on the ship because he had no clue how to fly the plane without them and his own ship was stuck! To wrap it all up Solomon threatens to kill everyone unless Nefertiti goes with him. She does. The Doctor finds out how to free Solomon’s ship and the Silurian ship (need to have the same DNA strand so lucky Rory and Dad are on board, hey?), the missiles get fired, the Doctor rescues Nefertiti and plants a tracking device on Solomon’s ship, so the missiles blow him up, they move the ship away and everyone is happy.

This actually seems like a very complex episode but in fact it’s actually quite basic. I have very mixed feelings about this episode. In viewing it ,it’s a silly old mess. The Doctor’s new chums resemble very much the Bill and Ted movies (hey, they both use phone boxes so why not!). They are quirky and silly, and some do nothing other than be there – but with the Bill and Ted movies they had an hour or so to give each character a little bit of a story. Here there are three new characters and really only one gets the most screen time, and that’s Brian, Rory’s dad.

Now don’t get me wrong, he is great in this playing the same kind of stuck up and never happy characters he used to play on The Fast Show (or Harry Potter if you have no idea what The Fast Show is) but as fun as he is poor Queen Nefertiti does not get much to do aside be flirty and kick Solomon in the balls later on and Riddell gets even less screen time coming off as a reject from Jurassic Park.

What we do get is the two surly robots voiced by Mitchell and Web of Peepshow fame (or the Magicians if you saw that). They are great and come off a little like Mardy Vogons from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Solomon is fantastic; he just oozes evil out of his very pores. You really do want to give him a good kicking but you would be too scared to. David Bradley plays him (another Harry Potter star) and he is a villain who should make a return as he was great. The problem is that he won’t, because the Doctor actually gets him blown up. No one seems to bat an eye lid, either. I thought the Doctor never killed anyone? He shuts down the robots (in a great homage to 2001) which is fine, but no one questions him on the murder of a scum bag?

This is just one of the many plot holes. Solomon says he spoke to the Silurians about buying their dinosaurs but they said no, so he woke them up in small batches and threw them out into the vacuum of space one at a time. Bit harsh yes, but I got confused. How long did it take to dump them out into space? I’m guessing each robot could carry four people so that’s eight at a time. Amy finds that there were thousands on the ship. That is a long job. Also why did the Doctor let Queen Nefertiti and Riddell hook up with a ray gun in 1903 when this seems to mess up whole sections of time stream continuity?

The problem for me now is after all these faults, I actually liked it. Sure it’s stupid and silly and has dinosaurs in it and makes no sense, but a part of me liked all of that. Maybe it was because of the heaviness of the last episode that I found myself more drawn to this show, or maybe I’m just a sucker for pieces that have dinosaurs in them. I can see old school Who fans hating this episode as it brings nothing to the table, is essentially filler and is blooming daft. Which are all fair points.  But we have to remember, pretty much every series before, it was silly in some episodes. I was terrified by the liquorice all sorts man from the Sylvester McCoy era which today looks ludicrous and that same episode had cannibal grannies in it which is like something Troma would put out!

At the end of the day this show is, and always will be, aimed at children. Sure it has a lot of adult fans now, maybe more so than ever before, but we grew up watching Who as kids and now as adults can see and appreciate the whole Who mythology. For a small child however, who has never seen the show, this would be the perfect episode for them to jump into the Who universe – and if it gives a kid his first glimpse of Doctor Who, I’m all for it. Doctor Who has always tried to do a balancing act between stuff for children and adults (much like The Simpsons) and some times it just makes episodes for the young ones, and there is nothing wrong with that. Don’t be to sad adult Who fanboys and girls I’m sure soon there will be a more cerebral episodes in the future, but for now let the kids have their fun. In your defense though it does seem like writer Stephen Moffat is just going through his childhood fantasies list this series. I mean look at the next episode; it has space cowboys in it!

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