Contributed by Matt Donnelly
Ever since it re-launched in 2005 Doctor Who has been much a darker series than it was when it was first
conceived as a children’s TV show in the 1960s. Every now and then I watch a Doctor Who episode and wonder if I’m actually watching a kids’ show so it’s always good when there’s more o f a light-hearted episode that I feel appeals more to the younger generation. It seems that this week’s writer Chris Chibnall, whose also been busy creating the online Pond Life series, has gone through a checklist of stuff that he thinks young people will like – dinosaurs, funny robots, men with guns, a couple of stars of the Harry Potter films and a bit of romance for the girls and stuffed it into the one episode. I would hazard to guess that even casual fans of the series would be intrigued by this latest instalment simply as it is entitled Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.
It seems that this series’ main theme will be The Doctor trying gradually to fade out the Ponds as he starts this episode getting Queen Nefertiti (Riann Steele), or Neffy as he affectionately calls her, out of Egypt before travelling to 2367AD to check out a ship that seems to be on a crash course for Earth. As he has his suspicions about what’s on the ship he enlists the help of big game hunter Riddell (Rupert Graves) as well as calling in on the Ponds inadvertently taking Rory’s dad Brian (Mark Williams) along for the ride after the Tardis materialises around their front room. It is clear that Brian isn’t a keen traveller, as Rory later attests to he only goes as far as the paper shop or the gold course, however the more he is on the Tardis the more he starts to enjoy it. As the aforementioned dinosaurs on the spaceship are discovered The Doctor’s next task is to actually discover how they got there in the first place. Suddenly the group are split as The Doctor accidentally teleports himself and the other men onto a beach that starts humming before they are then attacked by pterodactyls. This means that Amy is in charge by default and goes about trying to get her husband back but while doing this finds out that the ship actually belonged to The Silurian, a race that Chibnall reintroduced in the 2010 series, who were looking for a new planet in which to set up base.
The Doctor soon discovers the reason The Silurian lost the spaceship as he encounters bounty hunter Solomon (David Bradley) who overthrew the ship killing them all off in the process and capturing the dinosaurs. It seems that Solomon is quite a cheap man as he has bought cheap robots that constantly bicker with each other (in a stroke of genius are voiced by Mitchell and Webb) although at the same time they are deadly. The dinosaurs are providing their own issues for Amy’s gang as they find a stash of stun-guns Riddell goes about trying to hunt them down while at the same time attempting to romance Neffi. Inevitably the two gangs come back together again as they try to fend off Solomon and stop the dinosaurs from eating them while rescuing one of their numbers who has proved the most valuable.
As we are already in the second of the final five episodes for Amy and Rory it is interesting to see how the show will go about writing them out. Chibnell has spent a lot of time writing for The Ponds here. He has presented a couple who are trying to live in domestic bliss. Amy though doesn’t want to settle down as her life with The Doctor provides such a thrill she can’t hold a job down due to the fact that he could return to pick her and Rory up at any minute.
Though the overall story of Amy’s inability to settle down is dealt with here the main story of the episode involves the relationship between Rory and his father. Mark Williams is brilliant as this old-school DIY expert who always goes out the house with a couple of golf balls in his trousers and believes no man should be without a trowel. It is established early on here that Brian doesn’t respect Rory, however during this trip on the Tardis the two bond as he shows his father how his nursing skills can come in handy. Arthur Darvill and Williams have a believable father and son chemistry.. Of the rest of the cast Rupert Graves was amazing as the quip-ready gung-ho Big Game Hunter with an eye for the ladies while David Bradley was perfectly cast as the menacing bounty hunter mainly because most young viewers will recognise him as the sneering Filch from the Harry Potter franchise. On a more personal level I really enjoyed Mitchell and Webb’s bickering comedy as the two bargain bin robots who often forgot their duties as they were squabbling so much.
While Asylum of The Daleks had memorable set pieces and a big twist in terms of the new companion I think Dinosaurs on a Spaceship had much more of a fun element to it in order to appeal to a younger audience. The dinosaur hunting, history-heavy episode was full of adventure and comedy and is something that I think the kids will love even though I have to say I really enjoyed it to. A great guest cast seemed to be having a ball in their various roles and as always the episode was visually breath-taking with a personal highlight being the pterodactyl attack on the beach. While I don’t think this episode added much to the overall plot of the series, apart from Amy mentioning that The Doctor is visiting her less and less, this was a good stand-alone instalment with plenty of fun, action and comedy which saw Doctor Who getting back to its roots as a show mainly aimed at the younger generation.