DOCTOR WHO 7.02 ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’

To save a crashing spacecraft filled with dinosaurs, the Doctor assembles an unlikely team from across time and space including Queen Nefertiti of Egypt... and Rory's father.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship"

Writer: Chris Chibnall

Director: Saul Metzstein

Previously on "Doctor Who":

Episode 7.01 "Asylum of the Daleks"

Story:

In ancient Egypt, the Doctor (Matt Smith) has once again saved the day… but Queen Nefertiti (Riann Steele) seems romantically attached to him and she insists upon accompanying him to the future to answer a distress call. In 2367, the Doctor and Nefertiti are briefed on an alien spaceship of unknown design that will crash into Earth in just a few hours. When a military officer named Indira (Sunetra Sarker) states her intent to destroy the ship if it gets too close to Earth, the Doctor leaves to gather his allies. In his first stop, the Doctor visits the African plains of 1902 and recruits big game hunter, John Riddell (Rupert Graves).

Then the Doctor materializes the TARDIS inside the home of Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), inadvertently taking Rory's father, Brian Williams (Mark Williams) along for the ride. As Rory attempts to explain the situation to his alarmed father, the Doctor and his allies investigate the alien ship and discover that it is filled with dinosaurs. After eluding a pair of really big dinosaurs, the Doctor begins fiddling around with the ship's controls and he accidentally transports himself, Rory and Brian to the ship's engines… which are apparently powered by waves on an artificial beach. Meanwhile, Amy essentially takes the lead as Nefertiti and Riddell seem stunned by her technical ability.

Amy soon discovers that the ship was built by the Silurians, who seem conspicuously absent on the ship without even a trace of their remains. Nefertiti and Riddell verbally spar with each other and they even begin flirting before Amy temporarily puts a stop to that. Meanwhile, the Doctor and the Williams boys come under attack from a group of pterodactyls. However, when they take shelter in a cave they are taken into custody by a pair of bickering robots. Rather than attempt to escape, the Doctor allows them to be brought to Solomon (David Bradley), the owner of the robots. Around the same time, Amy realizes that there is another ship docked to the larger alien vessel.

Solomon is initially happy to see the Doctor because he believes that he can provide medical help for his badly injured legs. But when the Doctor begins inquiring about the dinosaurs, Solomon orders the robots to injure Brian as a way of intimidating the group. The Doctor is visibly angered, but he does help Solomon while Rory tends to his father and patches him up while also threatening to melt down the dim witted robots. The Doctor tells Solomon that there are missiles that will be fired on the ship, but Solomon believes that it is a trick to steal the dinosaurs from him. Soon after, the Doctor and his friends make their escape on the back of a friendly triceratops whom Brian had encountered earlier.

On Earth, Indira makes good on her threat and fires missiles at the alien ship. Solomon also realizes that the Doctor's warning was not a trick when he sees the missiles heading towards the vessel. Meanwhile, the reunited team compares notes before Solomon confronts them. Solomon admits that he killed the Silurian crew to steal their priceless space ark of dinosaurs. But since the ship is about to be destroyed, he demands Nefertiti in exchange for leaving the ship to their control. When the Doctor refuses, Solomon orders the robots to execute the triceratops. The Doctor and Riddell both voice their strong opposition to Solomon, but Nefertiti surrenders in a bid to prevent further bloodshed.

In the control room, the Doctor is dismayed to discover that the ship can only be piloted by individuals from the same bloodline. However, Brian points out that he and Rory can fly the ship as father and son. In tandem, Brian and Rory attempt to evade the missiles and change course while the Doctor manages to magnetize Solomon’s ship and prevent his escape. Meanwhile, Amy and Riddell fight side-by-side to prevent the control room from being overrun by raptors.

The Doctor uses the ship’s teleport system to beam himself onto Solomon’s ship before disabling the two robots and freeing Nefertiti. The Doctor also allows Solomon’s ship to depart… but he tells the space pirate that the missiles are now tracking his ship. The Doctor and Nefertiti beam out before Solomon futilely tries to escape… but he is seemingly destroyed by the missiles.

Sometime later, Riddell is returned to Africa in 1902… with Nefertiti by his side. But before the Doctor can bring the Ponds back to Earth, Brian asks him for a favor. Some time later. Brian eats his lunch on the edge of the TARDIS door and he takes in the incredible site of planet Earth below him while Amy, Rory and the Doctor also look on. Amy and Rory tell the Doctor to check back with them in a few months, as they aren’t ready to resume their travels with him.

Months later, back on Earth, Amy and Rory receive a series of postcards from Brian as he travels the world with a new taste for adventure, thanks to his brief time alongside the Doctor. There is also a postcard from the Doctor pointing out the new sanctuary world of the dinosaurs.

Breakdown:

In the modern era of “Doctor Who,” the Doctor rarely brings more than two or three companions along on an adventure. But it’s not completely unheard of… in fact, the season six opening two parter featured Amy, Rory, River Song (Alex Kingston), Canton Everett Delaware III (Mark Sheppard) and even President Richard Nixon (Stuart Milligan). And that was a team that really popped.

While the idea of the Doctor bringing a “gang” together for "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" is hard to resist, neither Queen Nefertiti nor John Riddell were able to recapture the magic that Canton and Nixon brought to the mix. To be sure, Nefertiti and Riddell had some fun moments and their flirting was entertaining. But Nefertiti and Riddell also lacked substance as characters and they didn’t get nearly enough development as Amy's defacto sidekicks. Had they been previously introduced in their own adventures alongside the Doctor, it may have played out a little more effectively.
 
However, Rory’s father, Brian was a terrific addition to the team… even if only temporary one. And Brian served as a great reminder why “Doctor Who” needs to replace its companion characters every few years. Amy and Rory are so used to the craziness of the Doctor’s life that they are barely phased by their latest adventure. But by experiencing the episode through Brian’s eyes, there was definite a sense of wonder that has been missing for a while.

It was funny to see that Brian was more prepared for this adventure than his son thanks to a trowel and a pair of golf balls in his pockets. But Brian’s presence also gave Rory a good moment to shine when he demonstrated his medical skills on his father and when the pair piloted the alien spaceship together. Hilariously, the Doctor declared Rory’s father to be “Brian Pond”… over his objections. It seems like the Doctor considers even Amy’s relatives through marriage to be members of the Pond family. But it’s probably just a term of endearment more than anything else.

The Doctor also gave Brian a fresh outlook on life, as shown in the closing moments and the great scene overlooking Earth's orbit from the TARDIS porch. However, it’s become clear that Amy and Rory are growing more distant from the Doctor and they were apparently annoyed and even angry about being grabbed from their living room without any warning. Obviously, they still love the Doctor, but they also made a point of not rejoining the crew of the TARDIS just yet. If the Doctor could just leave Amy and Rory alone, they would probably be happy enough to live ordinary lives. But they may not be so lucky in their remaining appearances, as a dark fate for Amy was briefly foreshadowed.

It could be nothing. Back in the early seasons of the current “Doctor Who,” ominous hints about Rose Tyler’s fate didn’t lead to her demise. Maybe Amy and Rory will be allowed to gracefully ride off into the sunset… but I doubt it will be that easy for them.

The character interactions between the Doctor, Amy, Rory and Brian were the best parts of this episode, along with some occasionally terrific FX work on the dinosaurs. The death of the triceratops was affecting and it was exciting to watch Amy and Riddell fight back-to-back against the raptors.

Unfortunately, Solomon and his robot lackeys were less than compelling villains. David Bradley is a fine actor, but Solomon was simply too one note as a space pirate. The two robots were played by the comedic duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb. Despite that, most of the robots' lines simply weren’t funny and they only had a few chuckle worthy moments. I would have liked to have seen Rory make good on his threat to melt them, but the robots were less than afterthoughts for the Doctor to deal with.

Apparently, there are some “Doctor Who” fans who are upset that the Doctor allowed Solomon to be killed by the missiles. Honestly, it is a little out of character for the Doctor considering that he usually offers mercy to his enemies before condemning them to their fate. But perhaps we aren’t meant to condone the Doctor’s actions. Without human companions, the Doctor’s more alien nature sometimes asserts itself. Maybe that’s one of the reasons the Doctor keeps checking back in with the Ponds. They’re definitely a positive influence on him.

"Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" was a good one off story, even if it was far from perfect. But I'd still like to see Amy and Rory have a few more classic adentures before their time on this show ends.