Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs, why do you Love Brian's Balls?
Yes, as you may have guessed from the quite frankly farcical title, the second installment in Doctor Who's seventh revived series is a light-hearted one. A romp, one could refer to it as. Don't go speeding down assumption junction just yet, though, because it may surprise you to hear that Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, the fourth Doctor Who story penned by Chris Chibnall (His previous works being 42, The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood) is actually a very solid episode. One of the best of its kind, in fact. It might also surprise you to hear that the 45-minutes this episode presents also packs some pretty serious drama, fantastic direction from newcomer Saul Metzstein and a perfectly handled mix of CGI and animatronics for the titular dinosaurs. On top of this, brilliant casting choices for the vast range of characters, as well as an at times snigger-inducing script, can also be added to episode 2's list of merits. Oh, and there's a balls joke in there, too.
One thing you definitely have to keep in mind while watching Chris Chibnall's latest (at the time of writing, at least; He's also penned episode 4 of this series) is that it isn't trying to do anything groundbreaking in its 45-minute time-frame, despite the fact that a particularly controversial, fan-splitting decision from the Doctor takes place towards the end. More on that later, though. As aforementioned, Dinosaurs certainly fits under the category of 'light-hearted romp', as it combines a fair few elements; a considerably larger set of companions as opposed to previous adventures, a stellar variety of locales (at least in the episode's pre-credits sequence; One that zooms by even swifter than that of Asylum of the Daleks) and most importantly, a multi-layered plotline that takes place almost alongside the kind of narrative one expects from the title of the episode. Yes, Chibnall has pulled the same trick showrunner Steven Moffat did with last year's divisive story 'Let's Kill Hitler' by misguiding the viewer's expectations through means of an intentionally specified title. Thankfully, though, Chibnall manages to combine the unexpected elements of this story with the dinosaur action that was to be expected judging from the title, even going so far as to give a superb, fan-pleasing explanation as to why the dinosaurs reside in such unfamiliar terrain.
|The gang is well and truly all here in Dinosaurs. Rory's newly introduced pops Brian is a particular highlight.|
Story-wise, Dinosaurs is actually rather basic. Soon after saving the Egyptian race off-screen and becoming a semi-love interest for the flirtatious Queen Nefertiti, The Doctor receives a distress call from the Indian Space Agency. Don't bother asking why they specifically made it the Indian Space Agency as opposed to, say, UNIT or NASA, because I'm as clueless as anyone else is in that regard. What this reviewer isn't clueless about is the task The Doctor must overcome having been informed by the ISA that "A spaceship the size of Canada" is hurtling towards the Earth's crust, set to crash in just over six hours. If The Doctor can't prevent this catastrophe from taking place, the Indians send up missiles to solve the problem with brute force. Knowing that he'll need more than just an Egyptian Queen to investigate, Eleven enlists the help of charming big game hunter John Riddell (fantastically portrayed by Rupert Graves) and his standardised companions Amy and Rory. Due to materialising around the latter two in the TARDIS in a rather rushed fashion, however, Rory's dad Brian also gets pulled into the mix.
|Being a CG-heavy episode, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship surprisingly nails the visual side of things. And here I was thinking the BBC were in a sticky financial state... It certainly doesn't show here!|
|Solomon, played by David Bradley, makes for a truly hateful villain... In a good way. His metal counterparts make for truly hateful characters, too, albeit in a bad way. Thank sanity that they've got their traps shut most of the time.|
The only real problem with Dinosaurs on a Spaceship is the ever-clashing themes it keeps switching between. There's just as much kiddy humour as there are dark moral undercoatings, and you just get pulled out of the moment whenever those damned Mitchell and Webb robots activate their voice boxes. Thankfully they don't do so that much and they only leave a dent on the episode's exterior. While the episode can indeed be funny - That balls joke in particular caught me by surprise - It's the darker confrontations between The Doctor and Solomon paired with the action sequences of the final third that really steal the show and definitely make up for a certain comedy duo's infuriating vocal appearance. All things considered, Chris Chibnall's latest is just a fun episode. It doesn't do anything particularly amazing and it does pack a few conventional flaws, but when it comes down to it watching TV programmes is about enjoyment, and the pure fun Dinosaurs on a Spaceship exhales delivers spades of the stuff.