Doctor Who 7.02 “Dinosaurs On A Spaceship” REVIEW

Doctor Who 7.02 “Dinosaurs On A Spaceship” TV REVIEW

Episode 7.02
Writer: Chris Chibnall
Director: Saul Metzstein

THE ONE WHERE The Doctor tries to save some dinosaurs on a space ship that’s hurtling out of control towards Earth.

THE VERDICT Back when Russell T Davies used to run the show, SFX was forever getting the piss taken out of it for use of the word “romp” in Doctor Who reviews.

Sorry, guys, the “R” word is back, and we make no apology.

In fact, “Dinosaurs On A Spaceship” possibly outromped anything Davies produced. And gloriously.

This was fun. Big fun. Slight and fluffy and silly, with the occasional creaky bit of plotting (how handy the Doctor accidentally brings Rory’s dad along for the ride when the spaceship needs two pilots from the same gene pool) but enormously entertaining. Tonally, it’s spot on, with director Saul Metzstein showing an assured control over the material. Sensibly, with ideas so broad and outrageous he reins in the performances. Only the robots (voiced by comedy duo Mitchell and Webb) are deliberately played for laughs, and even then it’s a kind of Douglas Adams humour rather than Galloping Galaxies (and speaking of Adams, anyone else think the wave generator engines and the “Argos for the universe” system could have come straight out of Hitchhiker’s Guide?).

But the hunter, Riddell, Queen Nefertiti and Brian – all characters who could have been way, way over the top – are played relatively straight (Riddell’s Carry On Up The Jungle innuendo notwithstanding). And despite David Bradley stating in interviews beforehand that Solomon was based on “a famous nightclub owner” (meaning Peter Stringfellow, surely?), Solomon actually turns out to be a genuinely chilling and loathsome villain, not some camp comedy turn. Brian, meanwhile, is the new Wilf Moff, sorry, Mott – it’s impossible not to love him, and the shot of him sitting on the threshold of the TARDIS watching the Earth below was quite wonderful, as was his sudden conversion into a pathological globetrotter.

The revelation that the ship is an ark created by the Silurians was a pleasant surprise and made perfect and pleasing sense within the show’s mythology. This wasn’t gratuitous continuity; it was enriching continuity.

The dinosaurs themselves were great (both CG and animatronic), and it says something for the strength of a show’s writing and directing when you feel genuinely moved by the death of a triceratops. Not even Jurassic Park managed that. The robots – whatever you think of their characterisation – looked amazing too.

Great, also, to see Rory doing some nursing skills and Amy using some intelligence to work out problems.

In the sheer avalanche of big ideas and big moments, though, there were a few misfires. Nefertiti was rather bland (and the actress was a hopeless runner, though that may have been the hat’s fault). The teaser was, if anything, too fast-paced; you could follow what was happening, sure, but it would have nice to have some explanation about what was happening was happening, beyond “Because it is!” The Doctor’s friendship with a big game hunter also seems a little dubious; although later in the episode Riddell is shown to have some level of conscience, he stills seems rather too fond of shooting things to make a comfortable fireside companion for the Doctor. This was one of the downsides of the fast-paced romp approach; the characterisation of some of the smaller players did lose out.

So, not a out-and-out classic, but a well-crafted ripping yarn. With dinosaurs. On a spaceship. Hell, the title alone is worth an extra star.

NICE SHIP Really loved the Silurian spaceship. Click on the image below for a larger version so you can truly admire it.

TRIVIA Richard Hope, who played Dr Malokeh in “The Hungry Earth”, “Cold Blood” and “The Wedding Of River Song”, is back under the Silurian make-up, but this time playing a character called Bleytal, according to the credits. They must be from the same gene chain.

TAKE IT AWAY, DOCTOR For the second week in the row we learn of the Doctor’s involvement in the creation of a piece of classic music (last week Bizet’s Carmen, this week Franz Schubert’s Fantasia in F Minor for piano four hands).

POTTER REUNION Both David Bradley (Solomon) and Mark Williams (Brian) were regulars in the Harry Potter film franchise (as Hogwarts caretaker Filch and Mr Weasley respectively).

IN-JOKE The two robots singing “Daisy, Daisy” as they power down is a reference to HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Earlier in the episode, Brian namechecked Arthur C Clarke.

ONE NEW VIEWER AT LEAST? Only Connect’s Victoria Coren once stated on the highbrow quiz show that she had never watched Doctor Who. Presumably with her fiancé David Mitchell providing the voice of one of the robots, she might finally have tuned in.

LOGO MAKEOVER OF THE WEEK Dino-hide titles this week. Or maybe Silurian skin?

POV Director Saul Metzstein certainly likes his “from behind a monitor screen” POV shots. We counted at least eight different occurrences of this technique – each from behind different screens – throughout the episode.

REFERENCE OR COINCIDENCE? When Brian hears the TARDIS materialising he wonders if someone has left the back door open. This is exactly what Adam’s mum said when she hears the same noise in “The Long Game”.

THERE’S A STORM COMING (aka BLEEDINGLY OBVIOUS FORESHADOWING TIME) The Doctor: “Come on, Pond, you’ll be there till the end of me.” Amy: “Or vice versa.”

WINK AT THE CAMERA TIME Amy: “I will not have flirting companions.”

DOCTOR BASTARD If you’re thinking the Doctor is acting out-of-character when he sends Solomon to his death… well, let’s just say, it may not be totally random.

BEST LINE:
The Doctor: “You don’t have any vegetable matter in your trousers, do you Brian?”
Brian Williams: “Only my balls.”

Dave Golder

Read our other Doctor Who series 7 reviews