Doctor Who reviews: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
|REVIEWS - DOCTOR WHO|
It's entertaining enough, but could anything live up to that title?
Strangely, given its high-concept title, ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’ actually has a story, with the eponymous spaceship-situated dinosaurs being mostly incidental, if entertaining, additions to the episode.
Most of the time, the idea of a film or TV episode ‘not having a story’ is thought of in a derogatory manner, as if high-concept awesomeness weren’t awesome enough. Generally speaking, coherent, meaningful narrative storytelling is a very good thing. However, when you have a concept as genius as ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’, why wouldn’t you want the entire story to be about that? Any critics of this approach could simply be answered by the words, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”.
So, as always in these cases, despite the quality of the episode, it seems a little disappointing for the eponymous high concept to be essentially pushed aside somewhat to make way for things like story.
Admittedly, the presence of the dinosaurs on the spaceship is explained as a part of the story, and it does play a part in explaining why some things happen they way they do, specifically Solomon killing the Silurians to get his hands on the dinosaurs. However, aside from this, the dinosaurs themselves seem to simply interact with the characters on occasion (in interesting and exciting ways, admittedly), as one small piece of the bigger story.
Thus, the title seems a little bit of an exaggeration, in implicitly presuming to define the core of the episode, rather than just the most easily summarised aspect, and thus raising (at least some of) the audience’s expectations to near-impossible-to-meet levels. But perhaps it was unrealistic to expect that any episode could live up to the pure awesomeness of the title ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’.
Now that we’ve dealt with the highly important business of judging an episode by (whether or not it lives up to the potential implied by) its title, we can now talk about the story.
Basically, The Doctor rounds up a gang of people to stop a spaceship that’s hurtling towards Earth. The spaceship turns out to have dinosaurs on it, upon which The Doctor gleefully exclaims, “Dinosaurs…on…a…spaceship!”
He also says: “This is my gang. I’ve never had a gang before…”
Well, he has had small groups of companions, so he sort of has. Perhaps The Doctor has a particular definition he’s working from; or perhaps he just made one up.
The ‘gang’ comprises Amy and Rory, Rory’s father, Queen Neferti, and a big game hunter.
Rory’s dad, being a fairly ordinary fellow, is understandably a bit confused when the TARDIS materialises around them and transports them inside a spaceship. And then The Doctor starts acting all weird (well, Doctor-ish). Rory briefly explains: “Dad, you know when Amy and I went off…on holiday?”
“Well, it was actually more like all of time and space.”
As Inspector Lestrade in Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ Sherlock, Rupert Graves perhaps went slightly too hammy at times (at least in S2 E2, ‘The Hound of Baskerville’), but here that approach works perfectly, as he plays a cheesy, ‘rah rah’ big game hunter from 1902. He’s basically a slightly subtler version of Nathan Fillion’s Captain Hammer from Doctor Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog.
It turns out this was a Silurian ship, evacuating their home planet. And they brought along lots of dinosaurs, because even Silurians know dinosaurs are cool.
But there are no Silurians left, because Solomon, a ruthless, materialistic space pirate, killed them all to get his hands on the rare (and thus valuable) dinosaurs.
The Doctor’s reaction when he asks Solomon about what happened to the Silurians is one of heavy, understated grief.
He accuses Solomon of “Piracy and genocide”. Solomon deflects by calling them, “Very emotive words”, to which The Doctor replies: “I’m a very emotive man.”
Solomon’s name is clearly ironic. Unlike the biblical king, he very much lacks wisdom. Specifically, he ignores Jesus’ teaching in Mark 8:36 that, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”
At the end, The Doctor refuses to grant Solomon mercy.
The Doctor asks: “Did the Silurians beg to be spared as well?”
Then he adds: “The nice, shiny missiles are all yours. Think of how valuable they are! Enjoy your bounty.”
Then The Doctor disembarks, de-magnetises the ship, and sends Solomon to his death.
And this is after last episode, when a Dalek (well, she was fighting her Dalek nature) helped save his life. Perhaps the difference was that she rejected her Dalek nature, whereas Solomon showed no signs of redemption.
It’s not all darkness, though. There’s a nice scene at the end where Rory’s dad sits on the edge of the TARDIS with his mug of tea, looking out over Earth from space.
Then he sends Rory and Amy postcards from all over the world, including Siluria. He’s finally conquered his fear of travelling! Or cheated it, but it would be nicer to think he’s conquered it, which is quite feasible. After all, he did have great fun flying the TARDIS.
Like Season 6’s ‘The Curse of the Black Spot’, ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’ is a fun, reasonably episodic adventure with lots of great quotes and some hints as to future storylines.
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