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Doctor Who Series 7, Episode 2: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Posted: 13/09/2012 14:08

They say the creators of the film Snakes on a Plane started with the title and worked backwards. I know, that's a surprise, right? It's so good, you'd think they spent ages brainstorming which kinds of animals would feature:

"Whelks on a Plane?"
"No Brian, that won't do at all. Needs more menace."
"How about snakes?"
"Perfect!"

Having watched last Saturday's Doctor Who episode, I can only assume they did the same thing.

"Whales on a Spaceship?"
"NO, Brian, we did a Space Whale episode in Series 5, you idiot."
"What about dinosaurs?"
"Perfect!"

That's possibly why the whole episode felt so tiresome. Yes, the Doctor is a time traveller. Yes, it's possible for him to summon Queen Nefertiti and big game hunter John Riddell (along with Amy, Rory and Rory's dad) for a jaunt to a hijacked Silurian Space Ark filled with dinosaurs, but the question is: should he?

It's all starting to feel a bit like Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Next week, he'll go back in time to collect Napoleon, Billy the Kid, Beethoven and Socrates to help him with an intergalactic Battle of the Bands competition.

Also, the scene where the Doctor, Rory and his dad rode to safety on the back of a CGI triceratops was just ridiculous. I know it's a family programme, but that's not a reason to dumb Doctor Who down to the point it's just a PowerPoint presentation full of outlandish scenarios.

Last week's Asylum of the Daleks was good, but there was still some kind of determination to up the ante by having decaying skeletons in astronaut suits suddenly sprout Dalek eye stalks.

"How can we make Daleks scarier?"
"ZOMBIE DALEK ASTRONAUT SKELETONS."
"Well done, Brian. You're on a roll today. What about the Weeping Angels?"
"PUT THEM IN CLOWN MAKE UP AND REPLACE THEIR HANDS WITH MACHINE GUNS."
"You just earned yourself a promotion."

They were effectively cross bred with the zombie astronauts from the series four episode Silence in the Library: but this kind of inbreeding probably won't help the programme in the long run. It certainly hasn't done much for the Royal Family.

Strong plot arcs and intrigue are surely a better way to build tension, but so far we've seen little evidence of the kind of hook that kept series six together. The Doctor's apparent death at the hands of an 'impossible astronaut' in Utah was a blinding series opener, and seemed a lot more interesting and subtle than either Asylum or Dinosaurs.

In fact, DOAS (as all the cool kids are calling it) seemed more like a comedy than a sci-fi show. This probably wasn't helped by having Peep Show stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb voice the two slightly camp, Marvin-the-paranoid-android security 'droids employed by the ark's hijacker, Solomon - who in turn looked like Albert Steptoe at a pirate fancy dress party.

There was a touch of darkness towards the end when the Doctor allowed Space Steptoe to be killed by approaching missiles, but because the rest of the episode had felt like an 8 year old's fever dream it seemed quite jarring. As did the scene where Steptoe killed the dog-like Triceratops:

'This episode's been a bit daft really, hasn't it?"
"Let's kill off a loveable animal to prove we can still be 'edgy'."
"Yes, that'll play well with the 8-11 age group".

On the plus side, Mark 'Arthur Weasley' Williams was great as Rory's dad Brian. Though again, he did play it as a comedy part meaning it did feel like a sitcom at times. There was also a lot of extremely convenient shorthand and a lack of real explanation for, well, pretty much everything. It felt very rushed and confused: just a sound and light show for six year olds (with a bit of casual dinosaur murder thrown in) rather than something the whole family could enjoy.

Hopefully next week's episode will be a bit more thought provoking. Although based on the series so far, it'll probably star Cybermen-werewolves and be set inside a black hole full of ghosts.

 

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