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Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Preview Review: Doctor Who - Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Poster for Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

As this is our first preview review of an upcoming episode, I thought I should clarify our status. My reviews (because we plan on each of us doing our own separate reviews as we are individuals) are going to mainly be non-spoilery. I will, however, mention one or two minor things that occur in the episode, but rest assured, this will not spoil the actual plot of it. Some of things that I talk about can also be gathered from press releases and trailers.

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. About as literal a title for an episode as you can get.
Moffat has already said that the new series episodes will be far more stand-alone from each other and be far more like block-busters and he wasn’t kidding.

Chris Chibnall
I have said this several times already.  Whatever Chris Chibnall (the writer of this episode) was smoking while writing it, I want some. This episode is one of the stranger ones of the series, and that works really well.

The pre-titles sequence to this episode is extremely similar to the The Pandorica Opens cold open. We begin off in Egypt 1334 B.C., directly after The Doctor saves Queen Nefertiti’s people where he proceeds to “pick her up” after receiving a message. We see both Earth 2367 A.D and the African Plains in 1902 A.D.
The Gang

The concept of “One story companions” that we saw back in the 2009 specials are further explored here. As you have seen, Amy and Rory are dropped off on Earth after the events of Asylum of the Daleks again so we see The Doctor on his own again. But, this time, we see The Doctor pick exactly who he wants as a companion (for one of the 3 newbies anyway) on how much they’re required. He saw he was against dinosaurs? Lets pick up a hunter to help. I felt that this worked rather well throughout the episode, however for some, it may draw attention away from the 5 episodes that are very much centred around the Ponds. Personally, I felt that this is a fairly good thing and I’ve always enjoyed it when others join, even if it’s just for one episode.

In a similar way to this, we also see the concept of how easily The Doctor could kidnap someone. The Ponds are brought into the story via a rather unique method. Materialisation. Think of Rose and the Dalek at the start of Parting of the Ways and apply that to Amy, Rory and Brian. Wait…Brian?
Brian is Rory’s dad. He’s just round to fix the bulb. He only goes to the post office and to play golf. The Doctor was really his “so clever and so utterly stupid” at this stage, that I had to laugh a lot, so I won’t reveal that to you. But I do feel a little disappointed in The Doctor’s actions towards Brian even after this throughout the episode.

But the Ponds. Amy begins to grow more as a companion as she begins to use skills she has picked up from The Doctor, despite the 10 month gap from her adventures during Asylum of the Daleks, and started to pick up one or two traits from his previous regeneration. I’m a little disappointed at the lack of Rory though, especially as it introduces his dad. But when you only have 45 minutes and you’re introducing 3 new characters (and those are just the ones on the good side), the regular ones sometimes needs to take a backseat and so, Rory is reduced to having an argument with the robots over manners. For now. All the same though, it does give a very slight rushed feel to certain aspects of it.

The other two characters that are introduced are Queen Nefertiti and John Riddell. Described as The Doctor himself as “just people, not Ponds”. These are not designed as companion replacements, however they work very well. They all feel important, but not too important that they over-take the main companions.

 We see Queen Nefertiti (Riann Stelle) as one of The Doctor’s “famous people that he’s met”, who Amy practically fangasms over. John Riddell (Rupert Graves) is the opposite type of character in this respect. One of those who thinks he left a legacy. Despite this, the two work very very well together, despite there being a bit of sexual tension at the beginning. Both are very open to violence if need be and are strong minded.

On the other side, we have Solomon, played by David Bradley. He’s another character who has met The Doctor before. He’s a very unlikeable character who will go far enough to use violence just to stop The Doctor asking questions and killing just to make a point. His two robots caused a fair few laughs, however, with a concepts of manners and being grumpy.

But with the Spaceship hurtling towards Earth and the Human Race preparing missiles to send at it, what can The Doctor do with 6 hours?

For the sake of saving the best things till last: there are, however, two failings that I feel about the episode. One of these is the title sequence. You’ve all seen Asylum of the Daleks’ title sequence. Well, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship is pretty much the exact same, with a very slightly greener feel to it and different textured logo and episode information. I find that a disappointment after the massive build up given to us about it.

Excellent CGI 
And the other failing would be the scene right at the end. Without going into it in detail, I felt that the photoshop jobs on them were exceedingly poor. Previews only show us these in fairly low resolution (when compared with things like 1080p) so either I could be seeing things and be wrong about it. Or, as I fear, if I could see it on low quality, then it will be fairly obvious when showing it. For having such great CGI throughout the episode, it’s a little disappointing to see a job that looks like a fan who’s crap at it did it.

Exposed on a beach? Not as thrilled
The plot of this episode is great. We have multiple problems with a solution for each of them. Rest assured that the episode is not like Let’s Kill Hitler. The dinosaurs are a fairly a key part of the episode, from causing The Doctor more than enough interest to causing them problems and solutions. While we have a great overall problem that’s revealed just a few seconds from the start, we receive the main problem to that fairly close to the solution. This is probably the best way because, IMHO, the solution was very obvious if I thought about it so the show would have needed to get there before us.

But having said that, I believe that the solution is epic enough to make up for it regardless. I’m also very glad that it came from Brian. Sure, that’s predictable. But totally worth it.

There’s also a few scary moments in it, such as having a baby T-Rex, with lots of large sharp teeth, between your legs. But it’s clear that this episode is not meant to be primarily scary. A good episode for young children who don’t like the really scary episodes.

Also, Chibnall includes a few innuendos (look at the teasers for some examples) or other sex related things. I counted at least 5 of these throughout the episode. Most of these involve either Riddell (when he’s talking about those “two women”) or Nefertiti. Or, like most, with both of them. Be it “balls”, “big weapon” or “spanking”. They’ll be something.

I’m rather worried by The Doctor’s actions at the end of the episode, as we can see what happens when he travels alone, despite having FIVE companions with him this time. This could be a constant theme throughout this series. We have all seen the trailer from episode 3 where his actions are called into question too.

But Matt Smith still played him perfectly, if it’s sticking his tongue out, facial expressions or a croaky throat. Arthur Darvill and Karen Gillan also worked brilliantly, despite not being together as much as you might have hoped. But they’re like usual. What about the new actors in this episode?

Well, I’m sure you all hate people simply saying “They’re great” just because it’s Doctor Who as much as I do, but again, I didn’t notice anything wrong. And if you don’t notice things wrong, then it’s pretty great really.

Murray Gold’s music is extremely similar. I don’t pay attention to music as much as most people do, but I didn’t notice anything new. The music is fairly quiet except for the few bits where I am the Doctor and its variants plays, and one or two other miscellaneous parts. Though the section when the dinosaurs are revealed is new. In other words, it’s just as good as it normally is.

But the best sides of the episode would be two things. One; Chibnall’s writing. He follows on from his previous writings rather well and keeps the insane, funny and extravagant plot lines while keeping the overall serious of a ship that’s either going to crash into Earth or going to be blown up. And the revelations about it increase that all the more.

Riding the Triceratops
The other is the wondrous CGI in the episode. Be it, if the Doctor is stroking a Triceratops, riding on it, or if it is returning a certain physical object. The interaction between real things and the dinosaurs is extremely realistic, despite the camera movements and other factors. Also, the spaceship looks very unique and amazing.
So when you combine these two things to have the ending scene with Brian, it just feels superb. I bet every Brit wishes they could do it. (You’ll have to watch it to find out!)

Overall, I would rate this 7.5 out of 10. Most things work fairly well but a couple of things let it down.

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship begins at 7.35pm. Be there!


riftmaster said...

How did you guys get to see the episode?

Arthur Daley said...

Perhaps this guy should stick to the technical side of things. As the review goes he's written far too much and not very well.

pcjonathan said...

Care to share WHY?

Adam A.J. Kalontas said...

I'm looking forward to it, but again I'm afraid the episode will suffer from having a cinematic plot crammed into 45 minutes. I think people don't give Chibnall enough credit.

Don't you think we could use someone like I hear Riddell to be on a permament basis? He could be a nice foil to more idealistic characters, like the Doctor or his usual companions.

Adam A.J. Kalontas said...

I assume some of them work for something that falls under "press", so they get advance copies.

The Gene Genie said...

Hmm, in some ways that sounds good - I like the idea of the Doctor knowing Solomon, but it also sounds a little bit silly, which, for a Chibnall episode is sort of a shame. But hey, there you go, looks like this is just going to be exactly what it says on the tin, so I guess that's something you've got to expect.

pcjonathan said...

A bit silly? Wait till you see the robots.

That's one thing this episode has going for it. It actually gives what it promises.

The Gene Genie said...

Have you seen it then?

pcjonathan said...

Yep. I'm the one who wrote the review :P

The Gene Genie said...

Can you please tell me something? Which episode of series 6 is it most like? That will give me an idea of whether I'll like it or not.

pcjonathan said...

So I've thought about it for a while. Still not got anywhere. It's not really like any of them.

I mean, it's got elements from a few of them, but it's not like any one of them more than the rest. Sorry.

Ann Rtist said...

As much as I loved this episode, but then I love all of them, so no one can judge by my "loveness", the one think that that I was left with at the end was the "preemptive" comment about "or vice versa" from Amy Pond in reply to the Doctor's remark "You'll be there to end of me" (paraphrasing because I can't remember the exact line and I've only watched it once) and then his "don't" in reply, and his exquisite face acting at that moment. Thus already setting us up for the Ponds departure. Sad. I hope they don't do this every episode until they are gone.

BlueDalek said...

I thought that the bad Photoshopping was because he was using a green screen. You know, places like the Spinnaker Tower where they have a green room so they can Photoshop your image onto one of the landmark and sell it for huge prices, maybe with an 'I am here' sticker.