You may have gathered that I was quite disappointed with last week’s episode of Doctor Who–though not, admittedly, as disappointed as Alex Day was–and I once again sat down for Doctor Who with low expectations, not least because “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” was written by Chris Chibnall who also wrote the really silly and suspense-lacking Silurian two-parter “The Hungry Earth”/”Cold Blood.” When the episode opened with sexy Nefertiti trying to seduce the Doctor against the TARDIS, I audibly groaned. Yet again a female character whose only role is to be sexy? Time Lord help us. That said, the episode wasn’t quite as grating as I thought it would be and in fact I’d have to say I enjoyed rather a lot of it.
Mark Williams, who played Rory’s dad and is of course familiar to Harry Potter fans for his role as Arthur Weasley, did a stellar job at getting his character’s tone right without hamming up the part where he travelled across time and space and discovered that his son and daughter-in-law had been lying to him a bit. Frankly, I think he was more concerned about having smashed that lightbulb.
The Doctor repeatedly refers to his new entourage as his gang, something about which he seems to be quite excited. Perhaps a little more sensitive to his friends’ feelings about being replaced than his previous regeneration was in “School Reunion,” he’s sure to emphasise to Amy that “they’re just people, not Ponds.” Meanwhile, dinosaurs appear and Safari!John, who I’ve quoted in my notes as Safari!Lestrade, announces that he can “take one of them” seeing as he’s a hotshot safari guy and whatnot. I was a bit impressed by how this episode continually called into question John’s role in history and his casual enthusiasm for violence towards animals. The apex of this comes later in the episode with Amy’s snappy one liner: ”or men who hurt defenceless creatures just don’t have an impact on history.”
Brian exclaims that the dinosaurs are flying the spacecraft only to be shot down by the Doctor, who tells him, ”Brian, don’t be ridiculous, they’re probably just passengers.” Clearly the Doctor has never read Astrosaurs, the smashing beginner readers series about dinosaurs who fly spaceships and save the universe, though something tells me the writers are probably familiar with it.
Rory, his dad and the Doctor are all transported to what looks an awful lot like Bad Wolf Bay, is probably just a generic Welsh beach and is supposed to be the engine of the spaceship, a vessel fuelled by water power. Things seem a bit tense between Rory and the Doctor in a way that’s never properly resolved and I don’t know if that can just be chalked up to Rory’s dad being present. I didn’t concentrate on this for too long though because Brian whipped out a trowel and asked, ”What sort of man doesn’t carry a trowel?” Perfect writing and casting for Rory’s father, methinks.
Back inside, a man in a room full of cables pants, “Doctor…after all this time.” We do not see his face. Amy and Nefertiti are chatting away (as you do), and Neffie asks Amy whether she’s also a queen. “Yes,” replies Madame Pond. “Yes I am.” Showing us what’s she’s learnt from her time with the Doctor, Amy proudly says, “whenever you enter somewhere new you press buttons” and follows that rudimentary step with a few practical ones like scanning for life forms. Unfortunately, the life forms uncovered in a video message are the Silurians, the least interesting monsters since the Slitheen. It’s not as though I can distract myself from the dullness of Silurians by enjoying the dialogue around this scene because it involves a lot of bad and boring flirting between Nefertiti and Safari!Lestrade. Even though Amy puts her foot down and declares that she will not have flirting companions, the innuendo continues and it is at best awkward and at worst totally inappropriate and drawn out for far too long.
The Doctor, Rory and Brian are being chased by Pterodactyls and then bump into some “very unhappy” yellow robots whose function seems to simply be: annoy me. None of the robot dialogue was funny and it was all part of quite a tedious connection between the beach scene and the indoor Filch–sorry, Solomon–scene.
Rory’s dad is shot by an annoying robot and this gives Rory the opportunity to show off his badass nursing skills (we’re proud of the NHS in this country, you might have possibly gathered by the Olympics). “You carry a trowel I carry a med patch,” says our R quite endearingly. We also find out that Rory has been collecting medical supplies on his intergalactic travels, which just goes to demonstrate a genuine enthusiasm for nursing that far surpasses any desire to live up to the Doctor in title alone. He’s become his own person outside of that role, as we knew he was but hadn’t been shown up until now.
The question of a Doctor/Amy relationship comes up in conversation with Nefertiti but Amy quickly corrects her, saying, “no, no, I’m Rory’s queen. Wife. His wife.” Oh how speedily the bizarre divorce narrative mends itself! As though there was never any discord! As though that was a totally useless plotline! Amy and the Doctor, once reunited, have a great quiet moment that ends with a kiss on the forehead, a gesture that recalls the image of Amy with her eyes closed in the forest of Weeping Angels. It’s a clever little shot reminding us of how far they have come since then without having to say “oh, we’ve come so far, remember when I said five minutes?”
Once the pair break away from one another, Amy stands up and gets ready to defend herself, her friends and the dinosaurs. “I’m easily worth two men,” she says to Safari!Lestrade, “You can help too if you like.” I was so pleased with how Amy specifically was being written and with how Karen Gillan was acting that I totally missed the finer points of why the Doctor lets Solomon explode into thousands of tiny fiery pieces. She might be Rory’s queen but this episode she was certainly also our gender politics queen.
It’s not as though Solomon was the most important part of the story, either. What really mattered was Brian’s request: the great sight of Earth from space, the cup of tea, Amy and Rory together and the Doctor standing alone, behind. It’s a tad foreboding, we agree, but I like that the time was taken for a quiet moment of simply observing the universe and dunking a biscuit or two.
Next week we have the Western episode of Doctor Who (watch the promo here) and no doubt there will have been another big gap between this adventure and the next. What did you think of “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” and how did it compare to your reaction to “Asylum of the Daleks?”