Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

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I had two thoughts when I heard the title Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. The first was ‘is it a revenge mission to Alzarius?’ The second was whether this could be a multi-Doctor, old companion get-together a year early. Of course it’s neither.

Like The Ark and The Ark in Space before it, this is another cautionary tale about sending stuff out into the universe to keep it safe. Something will always go wrong. Maybe it’s time the Doctor checked on Starship UK‘s progress.

The pre-title sequence is at breakneck pace, introducing potential new companion Queen Nefertiti, smooth big game hunter Riddell and Rory’s dad Brian efficiently and humorously. We’re on the eponymous spaceship with the dinosaurs revealed before the titles crash in.

After that the episode is a little reminiscent of early Doctor Who; they are exploring a strange, dark spacecraft, looking for clues to unravel the mystery. Of course it has to move quicker than that, and the reveal that the Silurians did their own Ark in Space is a great explanation, using the series own mythology, for the dinos to be up there.

In this case though, it’s not the Wirrn that did for the crew, but a particularly nasty wheeler-dealer called Solomon. The villain is one of the stronger points of this episode for me. There is something about having a human villain threatening violence, and in the case of Nefertiti tacitly sexual violence, which ups the stakes somewhat. Aliens and robots can tend to be summed by one defining characteristic. Despite his funny bitching (in the complaining sense) robots, he’s a very dark character indeed. Not really seen this sort of threat to a companion since Barbara’s encounter with Vasor in The Keys of Marinus.

The impact of a human villain also gave the ending more gravity. A few people on my Twitter feed saying it wasn’t like the Doctor to blow Solomon up. It’s exactly the like the Doctor to do that; the Zygons, Slitheen, Krillitane all ended up in smithereens to name but a few. They just didn’t have a human face. For me it’s entirely consistent with the character: Solomon got his chance to leave. No second chances.

The spectre of sexism rears its head again in this story. Nefertiti throws herself at the Doctor, much like Amy in Flesh and Stone and more recently Mata Hara.
Ladies: men are not pieces of meat just there for you to grab and paw at. Shocking attitude towards the male of the species!

Nefertiti and Riddell are great guest characters too, memorable and assured performances. Mark Williams is always terrific, and without being too heavy-handed his relationship with Rory is well-drawn: the father practical with a tool and know-how for every occasion, probably a bit unthinkingly dismissive of Rory’s nursing and lack of DIY knowledge.

Overall, another belter of an episode. I’ve considered Chris Chibnall a bit workmanlike in the past, I felt The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood was the weakest story in Series 5, but this was much more impressive and bodes well for The Power of Three.

Not seen Dinosaurs on a Spaceship yet? Buy on DVD from Amazon:

Doctor Who – Series 7 Part 1 [DVD + UV Copy]

or blu-ray:

Doctor Who – Series 7 Part 1 [Blu-ray + UV Copy]

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