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precarious since 1997 | by maryann johanson

Doctor Who blogging: “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”

Doctor Who Dinosaurs on a Spaceship Matt Smith

(all spoilers! don’t read till you’ve seen the episode… or unless you don’t care if it’s spoiled for you. this is a love fest only — all complaints and bitching must come from a place of love / previous: “Asylum of the Daleks”)

(get my downloadable discussion guide to “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” for teachers, librarians, and everyone else who needs to keep kids amused, engaged, and educated at DoctorWhoTeachersGuides.co.uk)


Oh, I love this. Not just the wonderfulness of this episode, but that I can unreservedly love a Doctor Who again. That feels so good.

This could be one of my favorite episodes ever. It’s everything I fell in love with about the show in the first place. It’s got wonder, danger, moral ambiguity, flirting, kissing (actually, there was never enough of that in the old show), cute guys, awesome gals. It’s got lizard people herding dinosaurs onto a space ark. It’s got big goofy Douglas Adams-esque robots.

Doctor Who Dinosaurs on a Spaceship Matt Smith

It’s got those robots singing “Daisy.” It’s got a “fabulously impossible” spaceship. It’s got the Doctor being grossed out:

Doctor Who Dinosaurs on a Spaceship Matt Smith

It’s got the Doctor being silently mysterious:

Doctor Who Dinosaurs on a Spaceship Karen Gillan Matt Smith Arthur Darvill

(What is going through his head right there?)

All this crammed into 45 minutes. It’s hard to think of another show that can be this all over the place so successfully. Doctor Who has often done comedy and drama and science fiction and horror… but not all at once. It’s hard to even think of another Doctor Who episode that featured so many characters — five companions! — and moved so smoothly.

What other show could shift, on a dime, from light and silly to dark and dangerous, as happens in the moment when Solomon orders the robots to injure Rory’s father? Suddenly we’re in a new realm of casual horrors, as Solomon calmly explains that he ejected the thousands of Silurians who were on the ship. His awfulness is made worse by how unfussy he is in his villainy. He doesn’t rant and rave: he’s so composed. As he’s telling the Doctor about the thing he’s discovered on the ship that’s more valuable and more unique than dinosaurs — “I don’t know where you found it… I want it” — I was certain (as I’m sure was writer Chris Chibnall’s intention) that he was talking about the TARDIS. But it’s Nefertiti he means! She’s a thing, an object… and yet Solomon is looking forward to breaking her spirit.

This is not the stuff of kiddie TV.

At least Nefertiti is able to fight back against Solomon. The poor triceratops! It had just been playing catch like a puppy, and then it is destroyed without a second thought by Solomon just to make a point. Awful!

But then it’s worst again! The Doctor casually executes Solomon without a second thought… but with a joke. There isn’t even any of the hint of regret of David Tennant’s Doctor (“I used to have so much mercy”).

This episode is one of those sucker punches Doctor Who delivers once in a while, where you don’t even realize how dark it’s getting until you’re already deep inside the darkness.

And then there’s perhaps a hint of the darkness to come:

“You’ll be there till the end of me.” –the Doctor
“Or vice versa.” –Amy

Is Moffat gonna kill off Amy and Rory? In a way, I hope so. Not that I want them to die, but that’s a lot more dramatically interesting than him just forgetting to drop in to see them.

Random thoughts on “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”:

• Okay, need-to-know time! The Doctor has been having cool adventures with the likes of Queen Nefertiti, who is obviously hugely impressed with him

Doctor Who Dinosaurs on a Spaceship Riann Steele Matt Smith

and with a big-game hunter whom the Doctor has lead astray at least once before

Doctor Who Dinosaurs on a Spaceship Matt Smith Rupert Graves

and who was about to lead the Doctor astray the last time the Doctor popped out on him. (The Doctor also knows that Riddell is someone who would “love to get a look at” the spaceship — was the Doctor anticipating big game such as dinosaurs?)

I want more stories with these two. And now that they’re together

Doctor Who Dinosaurs on a Spaceship Riann Steele Rupert Graves

it wouldn’t even be all that difficult to bring them back.

Oh, my fanfic lobe is throbbing!

• This week’s custom credits: lizard skin.

Doctor Who Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

• When someone asks if you’re a queen, you say yes.

• Aww, Rory’s been collecting cool nursing stuff around spacetime…

• Is “Only my balls” the most surprising line of dialogue ever on Doctor Who?

Doctor Who Dinosaurs on a Spaceship Arthur Darvill Matt Smith Mark Williams

Or just the one most mortifying for Rory?

• Is this the most surprising moment ever on Doctor Who?

Doctor Who Dinosaurs on a Spaceship Arthur Darvill Matt Smith

This is all the more mesmerizing because Rory is suddenly totally hot, and I’m not sure when that happened.

• The Doctor is not in Solomon’s database of valuable things

Doctor Who Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

but it sure seemed like he was worried about what was going to show up on the screen. I wonder why? (And is the fact that he is not identified another instance of that ultimate question: Doctor who?)

• Steven Moffat keeps defending his choice of giving the Doctor very young companions by saying things about how he doesn’t imagine that middle-aged people would want to run off with in the TARDIS. But here we have Brian, Rory’s father, who is clearly having a ball and is clearly enchanted by the possibilities travel with the Doctor offers.

Doctor Who Dinosaurs on a Spaceship Mark Williams

There’s the suggestion, too, that Brian travels a bit with the Doctor after things are wrapped up here, including to whatever planet the dinosaurs got resettled on… because Brian sends Rory and Amy a postcard from there!

Doctor Who Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

So where is all this nonsense about only youngsters wanting adventure with the Doctor coming from? Hell, Riddell is middle-aged, too, and he obviously has had at least several adventures with the Doctor. Or is it merely that Moffat isn’t interested in telling stories about more-complicated middle-aged people?

• Great quotes:

“Where’ve you been, man? Seven months! You said you were popping out for some licorice. I had two very disappointed dancers on my hands.” –Riddell, to the Doctor

“I found… something” –the Doctor
“No no no, I shan’t fall for that again.” –Riddell (spoiler: he falls for that again)

“I’ve spent enough time with the Doctor to know whenever you enter somewhere new, press buttons.” –Amy

“Don’t wake the baby.” –Amy, about T. rex juvenile

Doctor Who Dinosaurs on a Spaceship Rupert Graves

“I’m a Sagittarius, probably.” –the Doctor

“How do you start a triceratops?” –the Doctor

“You clearly need a man of action and excitement. One with a very large weapon.” –Riddell, to Nefertiti

“Where’s a Silurian audience when you need one?” –the Doctor

“Dinosaurs ahead, a lady at my side, about to be blown up. I’m not sure I’ve ever been happier.” –Riddell
“Shut up and shoot.” –Amy

(next: “A Town Called Mercy”)



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