Monday, August 25, 2014

Doctor Who--"Dinosaurs on a Spaceship"

Steven Moffat took to the internet all during the week to promote “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” as fluffy fun, and he is correct. ’dinosaurs on a spaceship” is as light as “Asylum of the Dalerks” was dark. In spite of a cotton cany plot, I still had a good time watching.

The episode begins in ancient Eypt where the Doctor is dodging the advances of Queen Nefertiti when he gets a message that a spaceship will crash into the earth in six hours. The doctor grabs Nefertiti, Victorian big game hunter John Riddell, Amy, Rory, and accidentally Rory’s father and heads off to investigate the ship before UNIT is forced to destroy it by missiles. Our heroes discover it is an ark built by silerians to house dinosaurs, but has been taken over by a crook named Solomon and his two goofy robot henchmen, Mitchell and Webb.

Actually, the robots are not named onscreen, but they are voiced relatively in character by the comedy duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb, aka Mitchell and Webb, so those are the names with which I am going. The two are hilarious in their annoyed banter with both one another and their sparring over perceived rudeness with Rory.

There is not much of a plot here. The sark can and will be safely destroyed before it hits Earth, Even Solomon and his robots are a bit of an afterthought. It is not until Solomon kidnaps Nefertiti and the doctor has to rescue her is there any real tension. Was there ever any doubt the doctor could save the ark full of dinosaurs from being destroyed/ of course not.

“Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” is a showcase for special effects and rapid fire jokes. The doctor is his usual manic self. Amy is far more assertive, even toting a tranquilizer rifle alongside Riddell at one point dinosaur hunting. Rory has his awkward father son pairing. Thankfully, the two have a solid relationship. I had braced myself for there to be some level of estrangement between the two because…well, I do not know. Rory is kind of a dweeb. Or maybe his macho father is embarrassed his son is a nurse. Anyway, I am glad the powers that be avoided the cliché. I have already mentioned enjoying Mitchell and Webb. The episode channeled Douglas Adams at his best.

Considering the title, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” features few dinosaurs due to budget constraints. What few there are is impressive. There is a combination of CGI and animatronics when needed. Both manage to grant the dinosaurs personalities. I am impressed, even though the dinosaurs added little to the plot other than show off the special effects and add a few cute moments.

The second episode of any Doctor Who series is noxiously lackluster because of the larger scale of the series premiere, so Whovians have low expectations for it. “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” amps up the fun actor to elevate the otherwise measly plot for a highly enjoyable episode. It is not a classic, but is a big step beyond the usual filler for a second episode.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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