Friday, 14 September 2012

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. Review.

Dr Who, dinosaurs on a spaceship, Amy Pond and Queen Nefertiti of Egypt look perplexed

Our weekly fix of Primeval may have been taken from us but can the show whose success inspired its creation fill the gap? The blog that laughs in the face of velociraptors finds out.

In the far future, a spaceship’s about to crash into the Earth, so the Doctor gathers together all the people he’s going to need to make this week’s episode work – including Queen Nefertiti, a big-game hunter and Rory’s dad  - and sets off to the spaceship.

There, they discover the vessel’s an ark launched millions of years ago by the Silurians in order to preserve the dinosaurs.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is a crook called Solomon’s had his robots throw the entire crew out of an airlock and is now out to sell off the dinosaurs and anything else of worth he finds on board. Possibly good news for Rory’s dad but not such good news for Queen Nefertiti.

I can’t deny I came to this with low expectations, having hated all of Chris Chibnall’s previous scripts for both Torchwood and Dr Who, and it has to be said that early on in the episode it looks like my fears are to be justified, as it seems we’re going to have to endure the horrors of a comedy episode, complete with crass and inappropriate jokes. On top of that, lowering himself to the level of his script, Matt Smith is quickly reduced to gurning mode.

But, magically, all is transformed when Solomon makes his appearance.

Solomon’s a truly nasty villain, played beautifully by David Bradley, his appearance suddenly giving the episode a welcome edge and pushing it back into the direction of being actual drama. There’re still lapses after that - the escape by triceratops being particularly silly and nonsensical. Yes, if you want to flee death rays, climb on board a slow lumbering animal. It also has to be said that Mitchell and Webb’s voicing of Solomon’s robots seriously undermines  the triceratops escape scene, totally robbing it of any tension.

We also get Chibnall’s habit of recycling old Who ideas into pastiche, while his traditional inability to get into the heads of his characters gives us a Doctor who’s good friends with a big game hunter. Surely the current Doctor would despise such a character?

And exactly why does the Silurian spaceship need two genetically related pilots? It’s a contrivance clearly put there purely to justify the presence of Rory’s dad.

On the positive side, Chibnall does give us an assertive Amy, taking the lead of her group, and Karen Gillan’s excellent at it, reminding us again that she’d have made a much better Doctor than companion.

It’s also impossible not to like the scene where Rory’s dad sits in the TARDIS doorway, drinking his tea while watching the Earth spin below him.

So, although it’s not any kind of masterpiece, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship  is, in the end, a perfectly viable episode and at least defies my worst fears.

Upon which admission, I have to declare that the trailer for the next episode - A Town Called Mercy - leaves me cold.

But it’s only just over twenty four hours before I discover whether my fears for that one are as misplaced as they were this time.

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