Dr. Who Review: ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’
“Move over Samuel L. Jackson and forget about snakes on a plane, as this week’s episode of Dr. Who brings us something much cooler: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.”
After last week’s emotional installment of Dr. Who, the humor and wit in this latest episode was a nice change of pace.
In this week’s episode of Dr. Who, we see the Doctor recruit the help of a few new faces. Along with his usual companions, the Doctor enlists the help of Queen Nefertiti, a game hunter named John Riddell and – quite by mistake – Rory’s dad, Brian Williams. The Doctor is at first threatened by this unknown “stowaway,” however once he finds out that the newcomer is, in fact, Rory’s father, all is well and the Doctor is truly excited to have another Williams along for the excursion. He introduces Mr Williams to everyone, quickly rambling in his usual manner,
“Hello, Brian. How are you? Nice to meet you. Welcome, welcome. This is the gang. I’ve got a gang, yes!”
Seeing the Doctor so excited always brings a smile to my face.
“Harry Potter” fans will get a kick out of seeing Mark Williams — the actor famous for playing Mr. Weasley — in the role of Rory’s dad, along with David Bradley — the Hogwart’s caretaker — later on in the episode, as the ship’s intruder and criminal profiteer. The inclusion of Mr. Williams not only gives viewers a better insight into Rory’s character, but it’s fun to see Rory’s dad as a member of the Doctor’s group. He’s a natural and becomes an immediate help to the Doctor. It’s also great to watch the interactions between Rory and his father, as it brings a humanistic quality to Rory that we oftentimes forget, with all his time-traveling, alien encounters and whatnot. Mr. Williams fits right in as part of the Doctor’s new gang, and is surprisingly unfazed by everything he’s learned; perhaps being a Time Lord’s companion runs in the family?
For what reason has the Doctor brought together this multifarious gang? We all know that the Doctor never does anything without absolute logical justification. Well, here’s what we find out at the beginning of the episode: While traveling with Queen Nefertiti (or being taken hostage by her, it’s hard to tell), they visit Earth, year 2367, only to learn that an incoming spaceship is heading for Earth and is doomed for destruction if – per norm – the Doctor can’t think of a way to save both Earth and the space ship. So, the Doctor does what he does best: He travels through space and time in order to gather a gang of merry men (and women) to assist him in solving this case. He’s the Doctor, and it’s part of his nature to save any and all endangered beings that he encounters. After all, he’s responsible for the destruction of every Time Lord, so the rest of his lifetime(s) are devoted to righting that wrong. Such a task is most definitely impossible, but he’s the Doctor and we have yet to see him turn down a challenge. At least not in any Dr. Who episode that I’ve seen.
“…he’s the Doctor and we have yet to see him turn down a challenge.”
What endangered beings must be saved in this episode of Dr. Who? Well, the most endangered of them all: the dinosaurs. Upon discovering the creatures that are inhabiting the spaceship, the Doctor reverts to a childlike state of wonder. Unfortunately, this spaceship, which we later learn was created as an Arc by the Silurians in order to preserve a variety of lifeforms, has been infiltrated by a profiteer named Solomon. This new “caretaker” of the ship, the former caretaker from Harry Potter (talk about a coincidence), along with his duo of hilarious robots, are on a mission to salvage whatever they can sell, with the dinosaurs being their main prize. Regarding Solomon’s two robots: imagine the three stooges, subtract one, put them in metallic suits without eyes to be poked out, and you’ll have a good idea of the character of these two robots. Yes, I used the character, because I haven’t seen robots more entertaining than these two in any previous episode of Dr. Who, though the Daleks are pretty amusing… not. My gut feelings aren’t always spot-on, but I have a feeling we might see these two down the line in another episode of Dr. Who; their hilarity is too great not to exploit again, and hopefully there will be enough positive fan reaction to show Steven Moffat just how funny his creations are.
The gang splits up, with the Doctor, Mr. Williams and Rory finding themselves teleported onto a “beach,” which turns out to be the spaceship’s control room. What a relaxing place for a control room, right? Meanwhile, Amy and her two companions have hacked into the ship’s mainframe in an effort to investigate what’s really going on. She makes progress in retrieving the data files, which is how they discover that they’re aboard what once was a Silurian Arc meant to repopulate some planet, perhaps Earth. During this time, the Queen and John Riddell engage in what seems to be quite humorous. albeit hostile, flirting. Distracted from her task, Amy replies,
“Aw, no, no. Please don’t start flirting. I will not have flirting companions.”
I think it’s great that Amy finally thinks enough of herself to proclaim that she now has her own companions. After these past two seasons of Dr. Who, I honestly can’t picture the show without Amy, but perhaps this is a sign that’s she’s outgrowing her childhood friend and moving on.
While exploring, The Doctor, Mr. Williams and Rory encounter the previously mentioned “two stooges,” who seem more like nitwits than part of Solomon’s security system; he did purchase them at a discount, after all. The exchanges between these two robots never failed to make me giggle. Even their appearance is somewhat amusing. These robots lead the group to their master and finally, the Doctor finds the man for whom he’s been searching: Solomon, the one responsible for infiltrating the Silurian ship and ridding it of every member of their species. This injured man (score one for the dinosaurs!) has good taste, as he’s listening to Schubert, specifically Fantasia in F Minor for Four Hands. Solomon asks the Doctor if he knows the piece, to which the Doctor responds,
“Know it? Say hello to hands three and four.”
The Doctor never fails to amaze us with the number of famous musical pieces in which he has taken part. There’s been at least two Dr. Who episodes thus far in which we’ve learned about how the Doctor has taken part in great symphonies. Maybe there are more and I’ve just forgotten? If so, drop me a note and let me know.
Solomon’s part isn’t nearly as interesting as the rest of the story, but the scene with him in the ship’s sick bay does highlight one important aspect that this season of Dr. Who is sure to integrate as part of the overarching story. When his monitors scan the Doctor, they don’t bring up anything. So far, the Doctor’s plan to disappear is working smashingly. Thanks to Oswin (I still hate how her story ended), not only were all memories of the Doctor’s existence erased from the Dalek hive-mind in last week’s episode, but the profiteer Solomon can find no records of his existence, either. It seems as though the Doctor is slowly vanishing off the radar, which was his wish, as he had become too big for this universe – which is quite a feat, even for a time-traveler like the Doctor. However, as of now Solomon still plays an important role in this story. If the Doctor has any chance of saving this Arc, with all the lifeforms it contains, he must find a way to work with the ship’s new caretaker and his merry robot companions and find a way to prevent their impending doom.
The addition of the extra companions, or his “gang” as the Doctor likes to call them, make for some extra humor in this week’s episode. It seems as though the Doctor is growing somewhat bored after being paired with Amy and Rory for so long. Not that I don’t love Amy and Rory, but it’s nice to see the Doctor interact with some new faces, as it helps to bring out his charming, goofy and overtly-adventurous side that we all have grown to love. Queen Nefertiti is one kick-butt lady, and game hunter John Riddell wouldn’t be so bad if he could get over his sexist comments; however, it is quite amusing to watch the two flirt while Amy is trying to work the ship’s computer system. Someone new to Dr. Who might assume that these latest additions have always been part of the show, since their acting and ability to cope with the TARDIS-effect (I believe I may have just coined a new Dr. Who term) is top-notch. Each of them takes the time/space traveling aspect of the journey with great stride. Their ability to fit in so well with the usual Dr. Who crew makes this episode and their inclusion that much more enjoyable. I wouldn’t mind seeing the occasional addition of a new companion if they can act as well as these three, especially Rory’s dad. Perhaps the fact that Mr. Williams is somehow related to the Doctor — let’s see, he’s the grandfather of River, who is the Doctor’s wife, making him… some sort of relative — means we might see him again.
And now on to the dinosaurs, since they are one of the coolest parts of the show and most likely made every child and adult watching this week’s episode of Dr. Who squeal with excitement. Even the Doctor acts like a kid upon first seeing them, crying out,
“I know! Dinosaurs! On a spaceship!”
I hate to make blanket assumptions, but I have a feeling that most Dr. Who fans loved dinosaurs growing up; I know I did. For a show that struggled with CGI during its first few seasons, the special effects, set design and overall production value of this episode more than made up for it. These dinosaurs looked, sounded and acted real, which isn’t easy, and it made the episode even more awesome in my book. I think my favorite dinosaur scene involves Mr. Williams and the slobbery triceratops. This dinosaur has an unknown affinity for Rory’s dad, which turns out to be due to the golf balls in his pocket; who knew that triceratops liked to play fetch?
This week’s episode of Dr. Who did leave me with a few questions, though nothing that detracted from my enjoyment while watching the show. First of all, why did the Doctor choose to bring along the game hunter, John Riddell and Queen Nefertit – well, maybe he didn’t have a choice when it came to that “firecracker” – when he had a whole universe of loyal friends from which to choose? Perhaps it foresight on the writer’s part to include a game hunter in an episode about dinosaurs, or maybe it was a coincidence. Either way, I did enjoy John Riddell’s, albeit small, role. Secondly, why had the Doctor been traveling without Amy and Rory for ten months? Being such loyal companions, one would think the Doctor would make more of an effort to include them in his travels, as Amy and Rory clearly miss traveling with the Doctor; it’s obvious that he’s the one that’s been out of touch. Then again, just as the Doctor says in this week’s episode, “time flies,” although he admits to not fully understanding the meaning of that phrase.
I don’t believe that Steven Moffat has it within him to make a boring episode of Dr. Who. This episode was exciting, and for many reasons. The introduction of new, if only temporary, companions helped to spice things up. I’d have to say that Rory’s dad helped to make the episode great, and I would love to see him tag along in the future. The inclusion of dinosaurs was a nice change from the aliens that we so often encounter in Dr. Who, since they’re something with which we’re familiar and can feel empathy towards. After all, they’ve already been wiped out once, so who wants to see them wiped out again?
By the way: If you happened to watch this week’s Dr. Who episode on BBCAmerica, do you want to order those Dr. Who toys as badly as I do? They’d go great alongside my TARDIS keychain and stuffed Dalek who exclaims, “Exterminate,” and “You would make a good Dalek,” each time you squeeze him. A cuddly Dalek; huh, who would have thought? You can see some great Dr. Who toys at thinkgeek.com.
The Doctor: “Don’t move! Do you really think I’m that stupid that I wouldn’t notice? How did you get aboard… who sent you?”
Rory: “Doctor, that’s my dad.”
The Doctor: “Well, frankly, that’s outrageous. You think you can just bring your dad along without asking? I’m not a taxi-service.”
Rory: “You materialized around us!”
Mr. Williams: “Are you saying Dinosaurs are flying a spaceship?”
The Doctor: “Brian, please, don’t be ridiculous.”
Rory: “Dad, I’m 31. I don’t have a Christmas list anymore.”
The Doctor: (From the distance) “ I DO!!!”
Queen Nefertiti: “And you, Amy? Are you also a Queen?”
Amy: “Yes. Yes I am.”
Queen Nefertiti: “Only an idiot denies the evidence of their own eyes.”
John Riddell: “Egyptian Queen or not, I should put you across my knee and spank you.”
Queen Nefertiti: “Try, and I’ll snap your neck in a heartbeat.”
Rory: (speaking to the robots) “Look, you need to learn some manners.”
Robot 1: “No, you need to learn some manners.”
Rory: “No, YOU do.”
Robot 2: “No, you do, Mr. Manners.”
Geek Smash Score: 86/100
Not my favorite Dr. Who episode to date, but definitely fun, funny and worth the watch.
– By Julie Tutwiler