Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship Review -

Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship Review

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Episode: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
  • Starring: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, David Bradley, Rupert Graves, Riann Steele, Mark Williams
  • Written By: Chris Chibnall
  • Directed By: Saul Metzstein
  • Network: BBC One, BBC America
  • Series:

Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship Review

Like Snakes on a Plane only Better!

By Kimberly McCall     September 11, 2012

Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers

This week, Doctor Who fans continued their adventures with the Time Lord in the second tale of the 7th season entitled “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. 

Now, with “Asylum of the Daleks” still fresh on everyone’s mind from last week, Steven Moffat offers a colorful, more family friendly installment which offers a break from what is sure to be a very dark journey into the inevitable desolation of the current “scooby gang”, as it were.

In the first few minutes of this episode, we are already following the Doctor as he very quickly cruises time to recruit two new characters to accompany him. One is the ancient Egyptian Queen, Nefertiti (Riann Steele), who is way too feminist for her time. The other is early 20th century big game hunter, Riddell (Rupert Graves), who offers a comical chauvinistic contrast to the queen. Why did the Doctor select these characters? Well, no real reason is given. They merely help to quirk up the story and, I suppose, do their part aboard a spaceship filled with prehistoric mayhem. Another accidental passenger is Rory’s father, Brian (Mark Williams), who steels the show as an everyday handyman who finally gets a front row seat to his son’s and Amy’s intergalactic “vacations”.

The gang promptly finds themselves investigating a mysterious spaceship on a sure collision course with Earth and what follows is the usual Doctor Who roller coster ride of robots, aliens, villains, magic, and a touch of human heart. As to the dinosaurs? Well, they are no more than innocent (but valuable) passengers on a kind of space ark squandered by a pirate (David Bradley).  The giant beasts have plenty of onscreen time as they are shown sleeping, attacking, and even showing their lovable side as a Triceratops gives Rory’s dad a tongue bath. What was a relief was that they didn’t look half bad. Doctor Who has been known to use a pretty equal mix of CGI and practical effects and (for these creatures that none of us have ever seen, personally) it worked just fine. Even the silly comic relief robot duo was forgivable in this illogical, but fun bedtime story. In true Doctor Who fashion, it is best to just go with it.

For a series that can become very dark at times, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” seems almost a whimsical departure from the progressing storyline, which will inevitably come to a climax later this year.  Granted, there was some dialogue dealing with unsettling issues in the lives of Amy and Rory, as well as the Doctor’s slightly amoral decision as to the fate of the villain. However, as the heaviness of last week’s premier looms over viewers,  it is nice to curl up and be reminded of all the reasons to love Doctor Who. I mean, with a sprinkle of Harry Potter actors playing the types of characters they play best, what’s not to enjoy? Oh, and the dinosaurs in space thing.

Next time on Doctor Who... 


Showing items 1 - 7 of 7
karas1 9/11/2012 4:39:13 AM

I very much enjoyed the two wise cracking robots.  They had a very Hitchikers Guide vibe to them.  And the dinosaurs were wonderful.

Ryodin 9/11/2012 6:07:44 AM

The robots reminded me of the benevolent aliens in The Fifth Element, in terms of design. And unlike the reviewer, I did not find this episode whimsical and light-hearted at all. I thought it was pretty dark, in fact. The genocide of an entire race, the sad fate of the triceratops, and the Doctor's hand in the villain's ultimate demise was not the stuff of children's bedtime stories at all. But maybe that's just me.

This was one of the better written episodes, however, and a good start to the season along with last week's "Asylum."

monkeyfoot 9/11/2012 7:21:09 AM

Enjoyed this episode, too. I always love it when a character is introduced to the world of the Doctor and they did it for Rory's dad in a very unique way. He didn't even have time to say "It's bigger on the inside!"

I also found the Doctor's way of offing the villain out of character. Sicne he and his robots were so different, I'm wondering if they've found some way to survuve and will come back for vengeance.

mike10 9/11/2012 9:47:45 AM

I really enjoyed the episode. The Doctor is not as innocent as some of you believe. In the earlier series the Doctor has had to kill many times and even had the chance to eliminate the Daleks in "Genesis of the Daleks" and was actually going to do it in the end but a Dalek broke the connection to the explosives.

 As for the two robots they reminded me of Hack and Slash from the Reboot CGI show back in the 1990's.

parallaxview 9/11/2012 2:48:37 PM

 I actually thought that the way the Doctor delt with the villain this episode harkened back to the Eccelston/Tennant days.  He gave the character a choice, and then followed through on that choice.  No bluffing.  I still am having trouble getting attached to this new path.  Maybe it's because I got so attached to David Tennant's Doctor, and the style that Russell Davies brought to the series, but as good a job as Matt Smith is doing, it's still just not as good as it once was.  This episode was a bright spot for the new Doctor though, so I hope it keeps up.

Wyldstaar 9/11/2012 8:41:08 PM

The Fifth Doctor, who was also portrayed by a very young actor, often became quite ruthless with his opponents, especially if they kept repeatedly showing up and causing trouble.  He picked up a gun and started shooting Cybermen in Earthshock (which is notable for being the last time a Companion was killed).  He allowed The Master to be seemingly burned to death in an episode who's name escapes me at the moment.  That's just off the top of my head.  I haven't seen most of those stories in more than twenty years.

jetpackjesus 9/15/2012 3:25:21 AM

I have to disagree with parallax.  Well, I don't necessarily disagree on the Tennant thing.  I think Matt Smith is phenomenal, but I don't know that I necessarily like him better.  He is outstanding, though.

I do think the show has been much, much better under Moffat than under RTD, though.  When I go back and look at the best (IMO) episodes from the RTD years, they were almost always written by Moffat.  For me, even the best RTD had to offer came through Moffat.  

I always felt like RTD had a very vague idea of what he wanted to do.  He had the outline, but he didn't really figure it out until the last minute.  It always felt like he had to come up with some kind of Deus Ex Machina out of the blue to fix everything. Moffat, on the other hand, knows exactly what story he's going to tell us and how he's going to do it.  He really does take the viewer right where we're supposed to go.    I think he was even doing it under RTD with the Library episodes.  It's like he already had a plan for the show before he was even running it.  

I don't think the solutions to the problem are any less radical under Moffat, but I never feel like they came out of left field.  Moffat always lays the foundation throughout the season for the crazy way the Doctor fixes everything at season's end.  I never felt like RTD managed that.  Bad Wolf was probably the closest he came.



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