Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Seven: "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship"
Posted 15 September 2012 in Doctor Who by Catriona
There were dinosaurs. And they were on a spaceship. That’s it.
Okay, it was a bit more complicated than that.
We open with the Doctor being sexually assaulted by Queen Nefertiti in Egypt in 1334BC. Fortunately for him, he’s interrupted by a call from the Indian Space Agency, who have detected a spaceship heading towards Earth and intend to blow it from the sky unless the Doctor can do something to divert it. Filled with the sudden, slightly inexplicable desire for a “gang”, the Doctor picks up John Riddell, an Edwardian big-game hunter, and then materialises around Rory and Amy in their living room, picking up Rory’s father Brian in the process.
They materialise on the spaceship, which they find is, just as the title promised, filled with dinosaurs.
BRIAN: A spaceship … driven by dinosaurs?
DOCTOR: Brian, please! That would be ridiculous. They’re probably just passengers.
The Doctor heads off with Rory and Brian to find the engines, which turn out to be on a beach, which is only slightly more surprising than the fact that they then get attacked by pterodactyls. Meanwhile, Amy (momentarily distracted by the more-than-slightly disturbing flirting between Nefertiti and Riddell) manages to get the computers to reveal that the vessel is a Silurian ark, looking for a new world. So what went wrong?
The answer to that is, roughly, Argus Filch. Or, more accurately, Solomon, an inter-galactic black-market trader, who has come aboard the ark with his two cut-price robots to gather the dinosaurs for sale. When the Silurians wouldn’t trade, the robots threw them out of the airlocks, a few at a time (see “What didn’t work for me”). But then Solomon was savaged by some raptors, in what isn’t really an example of contrapasso, but I really wanted to use that word for some reason, and now he can’t stand. Through a combination of threats and actually shooting people (namely, Brian), he convinces the Doctor to work on his legs sufficiently that he can stand (whereupon Nick and I said to each other, “Well, my title is purely honorary, and Harry here is only qualified to work on sailors”).
Among all these hijinks, which included riding a triceratops and the following dialogue:
DOCTOR: Have you got any vegetative material in your pants?
BRIAN: Just my balls.
which I’m a bit surprised they got away with in this time slot, the Doctor has run out of time to divert the ark, and the Indian Space Agency has targeted them with missiles. The Silurian ark needs to be piloted by two people of the same genetic line, which is a bit fortunate and a lovely bonding experience for the Williams men, so they can divert it from the Earth, but there’s still the question of the missiles.
So the Doctor manages to divert the missiles so that they blow up Solomon’s spaceship (rescuing Queen Nefertiti from his nefarious clutches at the same time), leaving us with a moral dilemma that we can discuss in the comments.
We end (almost, excluding Nefertiti running off with Riddell for completely inexplicable reasons) with a really quite lovely moment of Brian just sitting with a packed lunch, dangling his legs out of the open doors of the TARDIS, and watching the Earth below.
What didn’t work for me in this episode
Call it nit-picking, because it is, rather, but I’m not particularly convinced by the triceratops chasing a golf ball. I’m even less convinced by the fact that an animal that they keep emphasising is a herbivore would chase a ball in that fashion. Okay, they claimed he was interested in it because it was covered in plant matter, but let’s be honest: it was dog behaviour. And dogs chasing balls is much more the act of a predator than of a prey animal. I mean, have you ever tried to get a rabbit to fetch a ball? Exercise in futility, right there.
The triceratops also felt a bit like a Victorian orphan, to me. I mentioned this to Nick, and he said, “Huh?” But I mean that it felt as though they killed him just so we’d get a cheap emotional response, like an orphan in a Victorian novel. I don’t mean that it wasn’t a little sad, because it was. But compare that to, for example, Vincent Van Gogh seeing his own exhibition—there’s no comparison in terms of emotional impact, to me.
Maybe I just didn’t bond sufficiently with the triceratops?
I was also a wee bit unhappy with Nefertiti. I suppose that having her run off with a sexist big-game hunter is one way of explaining her disappearance from the historical record, though I don’t think it’s a theory to which many Egyptologists would subscribe. But it does seem a little rough on Akhenaten, who really doesn’t deserve to be called the human equivalent of a sleeping potion.
(I’m no Egyptologist, but if the Egypt sections take place in 1334BC, Nefettit’s husband would be Akhenaten by then, yes? And they’d be in Amarna, rather than Thebes, pursuing the ultimately ill-advised policy of worshipping the Aten in favour of all the other gods in Egypt’s pantheon? And would have some six daughters? This suggests to me that Nefertiti should also have been a little older than she was presented, especially given how she is presented in her bust (which definitely looks like a mature woman, to me). It also suggests that calling her husband Amenhotep IV was rather inconsistent. Again, though: not an Egyptologist.)
(Side note: in checking a question of spelling on IMDB, I noticed that someone’s entered Nefertiti’s naming of her husband as a goof, suggesting she gives herself as married to “Imhotep”, but I remain convinced she says “Amenhotep”, which isn’t wrong but is chronologically confusing.)
I always worry, too, when the Doctor’s actions seem unnecessarily brutal, and blowing up Argus Filch certainly falls into that category. Nick’s theory on this is that the moral code that Chris Chibnall posits in his Doctor Who episodes is rather at odds with the morality of Doctor Who generally, and I suppose that’s a fair reading. The ending did seem a little brutal, especially since, let’s face it, the Doctor’s flirted with genocide himself more than once.
Then again, never, ever press the Doctor’s buttons when it comes to the Silurians.
Finally, how long do you think it took them to chuck all those Silurians out of the airlocks? That’s a dedication to airlock deaths that even Robert Heinlein would envy.
What worked for me
I very much liked Rory’s relationship with his father. It felt grounded, normal, and plausible. I was slightly worried (especially after the seemingly unnecessary “We’re basically divorced!” sub-plot of last week) that this would be another moment of heightened and rather unnecessary emotional angst. But it wasn’t. Sure, there was some general child-to-father frustration (who hasn’t been there?), and I sensed an undertone of Rory’s family maybe thinking his choice of profession isn’t particularly manly, but all that just worked to deepen the relationship for me and keep it plausible.
Also, I’ll be honest: I can’t hate dinosaurs on a spaceship. I just can’t.