Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (Episode Review)

If you wanted an example of all the flaws found in the Moffat era Doctor Who’s writing look no further. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship seems to serve largely as a display of where the series falls short in its scripts and which aspects keep dragging its stories down.

To put it simply it relies upon the audience accepting things without thinking.
There are some gaping plot holes, mood whiplash is rife, characters are dropped in without introductions of any sort and the first act seems only to exist to be gotten out of the way as fast as possible. Rather than stopping to bloody well explain anything or spend time setting anything up; the entire episode is devoted to putting as much things on screen as possible and rush through them.

To give a quick example, the episode opens up with the Doctor having done… something in Egypt and queen Nefetiti being very interested in him. He then sees something alerting him on a card and the scene jumps to the present day in the Indian Space Agency where he is told an object the length of Canada will soon impact with the Earth. He has six hours to stop it. He then jumps back in time, grabs a Victorian big game hunter, Amy, Rory and Rory’s father then heads for the ship.
This is all within the first five minutes. Why does the Doctor not just travel back further to give him more time to stop it? Why does he want the Victorian explorer with him? Why is the Indian Space Agency dealing with this rather than UNIT? Why is queen Nefetiti of more titles than I can list still with him?
Not explained. Oh, and this is the short list of things which are never gone into. You wouldn’t believe how long the list of plot elements which are raced through at breakneck speed or brought up then promptly dropped is.

A good nine tenths of this stuff consists of things they could have easily dropped. Rather than giving us the distorted feeling of five scene transitions, multiple time travelling jumps and everything else the episode could have easily started with him picking up Amy and Rory. Worst case scenario is that one of them might ask the Doctor the same questions the audience had by this point – who the hell are the two people with him and why has he picked them up this time. It’s about seventeen minutes in and with a thirty second conversation that any semblance of an explanation for anything is given and the show starts to slow down a bit.

What’s more is that while Doctor Who usually has some zany aspects to it, especially with Matt Smith’s Doctor, the writers really amped it up to the maximum for this episode. It’s understandable that it would be greater than usual with the themes of dinosaurs on spaceships, but this takes it a good nine or ten steps too far.
For example, the threatening mass murdering robot henchmen who effectively wipe out an entire colony ship’s worth of sentient beings bicker like an old married couple, act as incompetent as humanly possible and are not terrifying in the slightest. In the very scene where they shoot a hostage and we are told they killed thousands of silurians; they’re shown to be arguing about manners and are used for light comedy. It takes a very rare talent and character to have a figure pull of being both hilarious and capable of giving people nightmares, and unfortunately for us neither robot even comes close to this. Nor does their master.

Their master in fact is given quite possibly even less personality than the robots. All we learn about him is that he’s callous, money driven and is so unimportant that we never even learn his second name. No, really, it’s like the writers realised at the very last minute “Oh hell! We actually need a proper antagonist!” and wrote him in as best they could. He’s given no background and the way he’s written makes him so forgettable that you’ll forget his name seconds after it’s said, just like many characters in this era.
Perhaps the only reason anyone might remember him is that the producers managed to get David Bradley for the role. The same goes for a lot of the characters with Rory’s dad, Brian, being played by Mark Williams and Rupert Graves is the Victorian hunter. None of who are given any vast amount of time to act out their parts and were it not for the calibre of actor playing them would be completely forgettable.

By the end of it the script is flimsy bordering upon non-existent and almost all the episode’s qualities come either from the effects department or the actors. The latter of who deserved a much better episode than this. It’s just too much by the end. Too many elements introduced leaving it overstuffed, too directionless, too many unnecessary characters leaving them somewhat one-dimensional, too much plot and scenes to get out of the way, and far too many jarring moments without warning or build-up. Perhaps the best part of the actual script was the hint of the Doctor’s identity being lost and the reason dinosaurs are on the ship, but these are very small elements of the story.
While we have seen much worse on Doctor Who, this is just not very good. It’ll keep you entertained for a while, but you’d probably just do better to go on iPlayer and re-watch Asylum of the Daleks.


Doctor Who and all related characters and media are owned by the BBC.

No comments:

Post a Comment