Here’s a picture of the Doc, well actually, a pair-’o-Docs. And a Silurian. Riding a dinosaur! On a spaceship!
Participants include a "Jurassic Park" ‘tricey’, which you can see has a little pre-scored chunk of flesh that can be popped out to reveal juicy internal organs…what a jolly kiddy toy that one was! I’ve got the 3rd and 11th Doctor from the big "11 Doctor Who" action figure set. Oh, yes and a Silurian lassy. Throw in a couple of velociraptors. A TARDIS telephone ringer. And one of the Galoob toy "Star Trek Next Generation" shuttlecrafts. All snapped against the traditional black velvet backdrop. Fun, eh? Though I don’t mind telling you that it was a regular pain to set up, as the dino’s got a broad back and everyone had to ride side saddle, and kept dismounting, and then the whole thing tended to slide off the smooth-hulled shuttlecraft but I had to persevere because it’s not Dinosaurs OFF a spaceship, after all.
The Australian broadcast of Doctor Who’s "Dinosaurs On A Spaceship" (September 16th, 2012) felt like it had been quirkily fortified with an injection of DNA (That is to say, Douglas N. Adams, who apart from the obvious “H2G2” connection was also a former story editor and writer for “Doctor Who”), perhaps most obviously manifest in the rusty tantrum throwing robots, fussily voiced by comedy duo, Mitchell and Webb. (David Mitchell has some interesting links to Doctor Who criticism and satire. Oh, go google it yourself!) You’ve got to love them or hate them but then again they’re not in your face for all that long and besides, I have a sneaking suspicion that they must just be ‘taking off’ the Ponds, on a bad day!
Writer Chris Chibnall’s script cheerfully flaunts its gimmick in the breathless title (Did you catch the saurian scales in the actual title card in the opening credits?) but he’s far too accomplished a wordsmith to fail to properly flesh out what could’ve been a one note concept. I loved the way all the wee details introduced came back as little grace notes later on. Joss Whedon would approve! Chibnall has lashings of experience with the pivotal though off-stage Silurians as well as heavy duty Whovian and genre credits. His C.V is another one to google for. (I’ll wait.)
Doctor 3.0, Jon Pertwee, and companion Sarah Jane Smith, Elisabeth Sladen, along with the stalwart squaddies from U.N.I.T famously struggled with some sadly wobbly looking saurians in the 1974 serial, “Invasion Of The Dinosaurs.” (Dinosaurs! Time travelling! In Chroma Key!) Even for back then they looked a bit rubbish; hardly an issue here with the splendid CGI critters and some well sculpted physical props on display. No, I shan’t be smug about it, or indeed, ‘Smaug’, following the reptilian line. How do you think today’s special effects wizards GOT so good anyway…by standing on the shoulders of the teshnicians before them.
The usual breakneck, one story per episode, pace worked mostly to the story’s advantage, though in this case it did mean we were shortchanged with the ad-hoc companions, who inevitably ended up as slightly sketchy tertiary characters once the main ‘gang’ slots were filled with the Ponds and Rory’s dad. Although it helps if you just think of them as similar background level characters to, say, the personable security guards, Stubbs and Cotton, in Bob Baker and Dave Martin’s 3rd Doctor era serial, "The Mutants". (By the way, "The Mutants" is set in the 24th Century, same as "Dinos"! Where was there spacefleet?) The single episode format of "Dinos" prevents them from rising to, for example, the same delightful level as Jago and Litefoot from the 4th Doctor story "The Talons of Weng-Chiang."
I still enjoyed meeting Queen Nefertiti and Mr Riddell, with the former having fun with the saucily haughty historical stereotype and the latter channeling fictional adventurer Allan Quatermain. (Moore please!) Rupert Graves was a suitably ‘pukka’ hero with an appropriate measure of cool professional enthusiasm so long as he can bag a dino tooth. Best moments for Neffers was when she got flirty with Riddell and later kicked Solomon…right in the crutch!
Although the historical proximity of Lestrade..sorry..Riddell, Nefertiti, Jago, Litefoot, and the Silurian Samurai Vastra and her sidekick, Jenny, along with other Victorian/Edwardian Doctor Who characters does make me think that there could be a rather spiffing period team-up story along the lines of "The League Of Extraordinary Companions". Which is only fair, since Alan Moore’s perfect pastiche tips its hat to both Silurians and Sea-Devils as well as several Doctors.
WHERE did the Doctor pick up an Edwardian big game hunter as a friend, anyway? Perhaps some ripping yarn in which an alien hunter ironically stalks human prey barricaded in an isolated hunting lodge…? It seems as if it would be out of character for the Doctor to hunt for sport, but try telling that to the astonishingly assorted bag of beasties that’s he topped over the years, purely in self defence or to look after others. Bemusingly enough, when he drops Nefi and Riddell back off in the early 20th Century, they still seem to have the high tech stun guns with them, which hopefully will make Riddell’s hunting a bit less lethal. Well, safari, so good. Bring ‘Em Back Alive Riddell? Maybe he’ll hook up with Carl Denham, in a few decades!?
The Ponds were as fun as ever and I’m going to miss them to pieces when they finally depart the series, especially with the tragic foreshadowing that’s clearly in play.
The Doctor: "No. Come on, Pond. You’ll be there ’til the end of me."
Amy: "Or vice versa."
When the Doc glanced sadly at Amy, heralding the future death of the companion, it scored a palpable hit. Nice bit of character direction to, by Scottish director Saul Metzstein (2nd ADI on the new “Dredd” film), who generally handled the slippery slope of a New Who ep. quite well, although the opening whirl is still very much “Don’t blink! ‘Cos you’ll miss way too much exposition.”
For now, it’s a treat to watch the talented Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill do their by now accomplished turns as on-again-off-again companions.
Cue Amy’s charmingly feisty attitude!
Nefi: "Are you a Queen too?"
Amy: "Yes. Yes I am."
Rory’s very long suffering history as the heroine’s ‘manbag’ was underscored by his perfect comic timing and often overlooked but always useful practical medical skills, here topped off with his slightly embarrassed, but stoutly protective reaction to his father’s unexpected inclusion in the adventure.
Rory’s Dad, Brian, was a nicely judged bit of random too, and another Douglas Adams style addition to the cast. Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley from "Harry Potter", and one of the meta-crew of the good ship "Red Dwarf") was a perfect fit for the slightly Arthur Dentish but game man-who-knows-where-his-trowel-is.
He also got to reference other S.F when in/on the space ark’s beach-like wave powered engineering room. (Classic Douglas Adams’ whimsical space drive!)
Brian: "We’re outside we’re on a beach."
The Doctor: "Teleports! Oh, I hate teleports! Must have activated on my voice."
Brian: "Ah. Yes. Well. Thank you, Arthur C. Clarke. Teleport. Obviously. I mean, we’re on a spaceship with dinosaurs. Why wouldn’t there be a teleport. In fact, why don’t we just teleport now!"
(Later on, Solomon’s Siriusly Cybernetic Corpses expired singing the "Daisy" bicycle song peddled so well in “2001”. )
Best of all, Brian gets to play fetch with a dinosaur! (All together now, follow the bouncing golf ball: On a spaceship!)
[Triceratops nudges Brian’s leg.]
The Doctor: "You don’t have any vegetable matter in your trousers, do you, Brian?"
Brian: "Only my balls."
The Doctor: "I’m sorry?"
Brian: "Golf balls… Grassy residue."
Rory: "What are you carrying those around for?"
[Triceratops licks Brian’s face]
The Doctor: "Oh, bless."
Ooer! A bit of the old innuendo in this episode, not to mention a very nasty straight out threat of rape by the main villain, Solomon, as he drools over the thought of adding Nefertiti to his collection. (Ick!) Not quite as adulty as Torchwood but it’s a good thing I don’t have offspring so I don’t have to agonize about allowing them to watch this.
I’ve grown used to Matt Smith’s Doctor, and am now more amused than bemused that the actor’s decidedly unhinged interpretation of the character neatly expands upon the previous occupants Tennancy while a natural consequence of the madcap pacing of the "New Who" series in general.
He doesn’t half get some great lines though!
The Doctor: "The ship does all the engineering. The controls are straightforward. Even a monkey could use them. Oh look, they’re going to. [Rory and Brian don’t get it.] Guys, come on. Comedy gold. Where’s a Silurian audience when you need one?"
The Doctor: "Steer away from the Earth. Try not to bump into the moon otherwise the races that live there will be livid."
Regarding the Judgement Of Solomon, the genocidal pirate was actually going to die anyway before the Doctor arrived, and the Doc did give him his customary warning to get out while he could.
The Doctor: "What did you do to the Silurians?"
Solomon: "We ejected them. The robots woke them from cryo-sleep a handful at a time and jettisoned them from the airlocks. We must have left a trail of dust and bone."
The Doctor: "Because you wanted the dinosaurs.
Solomon: Their ship crossed my path. I sent out a distress signal, they let me board. But when I saw the cargo, things became more complex."
The Doctor: "Piracy, then genocide."
Solomon: "Very emotive words, Doctor."
The Doctor: "Oh, I’m a very emotive man."
Of course, there’s precedent for the Doctor dealing in ‘rough justice’ before now. He has, after all, killed the odd PLANET or two. I’m not particularly startled that he assists in lethally sorting out an unrepentantly genocidal villain here, with a little help from the Indian Space Agency. It does, however, sit slightly askew with the lighter side of the story, which is understandably and unashamedly giddy with the notion of "DINOSAURS ON A SPACESHIP!" No, wait, Solomon had the cute golf ball chasing triceratops blasted to death…target a few more missiles up his scruffy arse for good measure, there’s a good chap!
Actor David Bradley (Another “Harry Potter” staple, and “Doctor Who” audio adventure vocalist, but I know him best as Cohen, The Barbarian from “The Colour Of Magic”!) deserves a Big Ghoul’s Blouse for his Dickensian portrayal of Solomon.
Oh, and Jon Pertwee’s Doctor was a lot more uptight about nicknaming dinosaurs with contractions of their Latin names. Talk about your Jurassic Doc!
To close on a Douglas Adams note. The Silurian who appears on the computer screen, Bleytal, was played by Richard Hope, whom we know from the “Doctor Who” episodes “The Hungry Earth”/ “Cold Blood”/and “The Wedding Of River Song”, where he had the role of Malonkeh, Chief Scientist of the underWales Silurian colony and, in an alternative timeline, Chief Physician to the Holy Roman Emperor, Winston Churchill! On stage though, he has played Ford Prefect, in a production of “The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”.
It was all good fun really, a lighter hearted romp (well, apart from the space pirate lizard genocide!) that made a neat little one off interlude but which nevertheless had some nuggety inclusions that gave us a taste of the story arc to come.
See, now, I got through that whole review without mentioning Kamikaze Adric and killing off the dinosaurs. Which he did. Just sayin’. ‘Cos there’s a REASON why the Silurians built a space ark, don’tchaknow. Well, alright then, obviously I mentioned it just NOW! I was making a point. Get off my back, I’m no dino!
Anyway, look, Dinosaurs on a spaceship!
Here’s the radio-on-demand for the review as broadcast on Zero-G: Science Fiction, Fantasy & Historical Radio:
Or y’all can ride the podcast, here:
Posted by zero g on 2012-09-21 01:04:23
Tagged: , DOCTOR WHO , DINOSAURS ON A SPACESHIP , ZERO-G , 3RRRFM , TARDIS , THE DOCTOR , STAR TREK , NCC-1701D , SHUTTLECRAFT , ENTERPRISE , TRICERATOPS , JURASSIC PARK , JON PERTWEE , MATT SMITH , SILURIAN , DINOSAUR , SPACE , VELOCIRAPTOR , STETSON , GOLFBALL , ROB JAN , ROBERT JAN , #SaveTheDay , #DrWho50th , Doctor Who 5oth Anniversary