Monday, 10 September 2012

On 10.9.12 by KieronMoore in , ,    3 comments

The second episode of Doctor Who series seven was always going to struggle to live up to last week’s excellent Asylum of the Daleks. A struggle which Chris Chibnall’s Dinosaurs on a Spaceship did not emerge out of successfully. Cool title, but, frankly, what a load of rubbish.

Looking at Gallifrey Base, the main argument of those defending Chris Chibnall’s episode is that it was “a fun romp”. Well, yes, sure, it did have a brilliant concept. Dinosaurs. On a spaceship. And there were some very enjoyable action sequences provided by the brilliantly rendered CGI dinosaurs. An ankylosaur stampede, the climactic fight against a horde of raptors, the Doctor riding a triceratops. All fantastic sequences to watch.

But Asylum of the Daleks was more fun, as it had a coherent story and interesting development of characters. You know, it is possible to have the big blockbuster action alongside interesting characters, clever plotting and maybe even thought provoking drama. If last week’s was Inception or Raiders of the Lost Ark, this was Transformers 2.

The main problem with Dinosaurs on a Spaceship was that it had too many characters and none of them had any time to really develop. Faced with a mysterious spaceship heading on a collision course with Earth, 2367AD, the Doctor gathered a “gang” to investigate – Queen Nefertiti, big game hunter Riddell, the Ponds, and Brian, Rory’s dad. Add into the mix a sinister space pirate, two mildly (very mildly) amusing Mitchell and Webb-voiced robots and a Silurian cameo to drive the plot forward and we have ourselves a particularly busy episode.

I liked Brian. The initial scene with him trying to change a lightbulb told us everything we needed to know about Brian and his unadventurous lifestyle, and Mark Williams’ portrayal of the comically practical and disbelieving character led to some very funny clashes with the Doctor and the dinosaur antagonists. "You don’t have any vegetable matter in your trousers, do you Brian?" is this year's "Look at the detail on that cheese plant!"

Riddell and Nefertiti, however, seemed unnecessary and only made the episode more convoluted than it needed to be. Nefertiti was merely a pastiche of the typical Moffat-era sassy, flirty female and not at all a believable character I could empathise with. Rupert Graves’ Riddell, though unlikeable due to his hobby of killing things and his misogyny, was a more interesting character, who would have made for a good guest star in an episode more prominently featuring him. But here, neither served great purpose. Nefertiti giving up both her feminist principles and her kingdom at the end to get together with someone as sexist as Riddell, who never really redeemed himself of this quality, was, well, dumb.

The villain of the piece was space pirate Solomon, played wonderfully evilly by David Bradley. Though again there wasn’t much depth to the character, the revelation of Solomon’s massacre of the Silurians was shocking enough to make him a truly hateful villain. No-one likes a killer, right? Well, you see, that’s kind of awkward, because… the Doctor murdered Solomon. Murdered him when he could have saved him. The Doctor I'm used to wouldn't accept him massacring the Silurians as an excuse to do so and so neither will I. Painfully out of character. Not good.

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship had a good cast, very impressive CGI, some funny moments, and enjoyable action, but was let down severely by its mess of a plot and poor writing of the Doctor. The main impression I got was that Chibnall was trying to emulate the Moffat era-style - collecting people from space and time, big mad blockbuster action - but failing to add much depth or talent of his own.

On the plus side, next week’s Western looks really good.


  1. Hello again. I must agree with you once again, although this time under sadder circumstances. This latest episode of Doctor Who was truly lacking. Perhaps it's a side effect of the momentum of the modern series that celebrity cameos are temptingly easy to come by, but I don't see that as a reason to book everyone under the Sun. Don't get me wrong - I love Mark Williams. And David Bradley. And Mitchell & Webb. And that guy I only know from Sherlock. But my God people, unless you use them sparingly, the viewers of an episode become less focused on the plot and more on playing the game of who's who with the BBC's entire backlog of confreres.

    Still, I wish I could say that my problems ended there. The sad fact is that I have become less and less satisfied with Matt Smith's Doctor since he took on the role. The first series he did was spicy and new; the following series was gloomy and dark. I was sick of all of those miserable corridors. But here was a chance for the show to redeem itself... such a shame. Wasn't it the Christopher Eccleston Doctor all those years ago who said "Don't you dare go making this place domestic"? Since Matt Smith we've had a marriage, a pregnancy, a divorce... Amy and Rory have tried to settle down 48 times by my count. And now we can't go an episode without bringing someone's Dad into it. Actually, I suppose that's a void point... after all, let's not forget Jackie. And Gramps. And so on.

    Perhaps I'm being over-protective of the dignity which the show seemed to have when it was first revived. But still, as you pointed out, seeing the Doctor kill someone so mercilessly just wasn't on. So call me old-fashioned, but I'm absolutely drawing the line at Matt Smith having sex. It has already been hinted at - a good few times - but if I see it happening onscreen then I'm switching off.

    Thrilling read, as always.

    1. Hi Felicity, thanks for your comment. I agree that there did seem to be too many famous faces (or voices in Mitchell and Webb's case) in one episode - far too much packed in to keep caring about the story.

      I don't actually have a problem with bringing in companion's relatives - Wilf was one of my favourite characters of the RTD era and a brilliant companion in his own right for The End of Time - and Brian did provide some of the episode's funnier lines, in my opinion, though I'll wait until we've met him again before making my final opinion on Brian as a character. I hope he isn't left clueless as to Amy and Rory's fate should something happen to them..

      I doubt there'll ever be any sex scenes in Doctor Who. It isn't Torchwood, after all.