Doctor Who: Invasion of the Dinosaurs

“Where is everyone? The third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) find London nearly deserted after dinosaurs return to terrorize the earth. Racing against time, the Doctor unmasks top-level conspirators, just before they kidnap Sarah Jane.”

For years I’d heard that Invasion of the Dinosaurs was nearly unwatchable by quite a few people; usually because of the special effects. The CSO (green screen) effects are often cited as being atrocious, the dinosaurs are said to be bad sock puppets, and the whole thing is always shrugged off as a total mess. I only recently got to watch this story on DVD and I have to say – it’s not that bad. In fact, I think it may be one of my favorite Pertwee era stories! I think this serial may be the victim of the often misguided fan smear effect. If enough fans figuratively crap on something, enough to where it gets said to be “the worst..” of anything, many folks go into it with all kinds of baggage that keeps them from liking it.

I know that I may be in the minority of fans, in that I hadn’t seen this episode prior to it entering my DVD tray, but the special effects didn’t bother me at all. In fact I’ve seen much worse in later 1980’s episodes; ones that are lauded in a total opposite way that Invasion of the Dinosaurs is shot down. I’ll agree that the puppets of the dinosaurs aren’t anything special, but the creatures themselves aren’t even the focus of the show. In fact, they are barely in it for their name to be so prominently placed in the title!

The reasons in which I like this serial are many, and it all begins with the general mood within. When the Doctor and Sarah Jane arrive in London, presumably to drop Sarah Jane off, they soon realize that something is amiss. The streets are vacant, debris is strewn about, and there seems to be a great military presence. They soon find out that martial law has been declared, and they end up on the wrong side of it. Being a huge fan of post-apocalyptic stories, I loved the scenes involving the deserted London. The fact that the director woke up at 4AM to film these scenes (illegally!) was a great thing to find out about in the special features, and this detail really sets the scene for the story. In my reviews for Survivors, I talked about the disturbing sense one gets when they see such a sight, especially if there is a noticeable landmark in it. This worked in Survivors, Day of the Triffids, I am Legend, and many other bits on film and TV to the same effect – isolation, desperation, and terror.

We also have U.N.I.T. playing a prominent role; including a furthering of the “fall from Grace” that we have been slowly witnessing Yates succumb to. It was cool to see The Brigadier in a role as a “politician” of sorts instead of the “Doctor’s yes man” that he appears to be in some other stories. The way he deals with General Finch is nothing sort of great. At first he goes along with his superior, assuming that he knows what is right, only to discover that the Doctor was right all along. We get to see the rare “badass brig” in this situation, and it is truly awesome. U.N.I.T. combined with Sarah Jane is basically one of my favorite “companion teams” and I truly enjoy them all when they appear.

Since this is really Sarah Jane’s real episode as a “companion”, it was good to see her get a good portion of the episode to do her own thing. Her side-story involves the second half of a zany conspiracy the bad guys are hatching that involves opening holes in time (where the dinosaurs are coming from) and bringing back a “golden age” to which a group of “astronauts” are involved. Since Sarah Jane does her job of snooping around a bit too well, she finds herself kidnapped and placed with these “astronauts” onboard a spaceship that will help start this new “golden age”. These two stories seem not to fit together, but are the two complimentary halves to the overall bad-guy plan going on, and it’s nice to see a story with enough room to flesh it completely out.

Overall, I loved this story, and felt the DVD is a nice package. It comes packed with a nice offering of special features including one about Sarah Jane, one about the special effects, one showing deleted scenes, and your typical “then and now” stuff. Aside from this, the DVD also has commentary track, but I’m not really into listening to those to be honest. Despite a bit of mediocre color restoration on episode one, This DVD is a solid package, and a great addition to any collection. That is unless one is too immature for bad CSO and sloppy Dino-puppets.

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Reaction – Doctor Who: The Wedding of River Song

Tick tock goes the clock
And what now shall we play?
Tick tock goes the clock
Now summer’s gone away?

Tick tock goes the clock
And what then shall we see?
Tick tock until the day
That thou shalt marry me

Tick tock goes the clock
And all the years they fly
Tick tock and all too soon
You and I must die

Tick tock goes the clock
He cradled her and he rocked her
Tick tock goes the clock
Even for the Doctor..

Tick tock goes the clock
He cradled her and he rocked her
Tick tock goes the clock
Till River kills the Doctor..

Now that’s more like it! After a few episodes that honestly felt like filler episodes in the grand scheme of things, we have a really well done Moffat episode. I know the fanbase will be largely split with Moffat fans rejoicing to the hills and his detractors slamming it, as this was a VERY Moffat episode. Structured in a similar vein to The Impossible Astronaut and even The Pandorica Opens, we see more of the old “timey wimey” going on. We know how the Doctor escapes death, why River is in prison, and whether or not River is married to the Doctor (sort of…lol).

Not every question was answered, but we got through a good chunk of it. I guess we can chalk most of my previous ramblings about who broke into Amy’s house, and the destruction of the Tardis to be the master plan of the Silence to kill the Doctor at any means necessary. This largely points to these first two seasons being merely a stepping stone in a much larger ongoing storyline. This is both good and bad, as I hoped we would finally know everything that has happened at this point, but I’m glad all the answers weren’t rushed in one solitary episode. I was truly worried that we were going to have seen sixty minutes of random flashbacks and such.

The Wedding of River Song was a very important episode, not as much for the actual content, but as a casual reboot of the series. What many may not notice is that with the perceived “death” of the Doctor as seen by many, we have seen the end of the “super Jesus, Earth savior” Doctor, and the birth of a hopefully more reclusive Doctor that spends less time on Earth. What I hope we see is more “monster of the week” episodes where we might see a sense of the Silence “being onto him” or some such, but just in the background. We all know this will lead to the eventual reveal of the final battle between the Doctor and the Silence, most likely for the 50th Anniversary. I still cling to the possibility that we haven’t seen the person in charge of the Silence as of yet, and it would be amazing to find out who it is in a few years. All I know is that once he starts going to a place called “The Fields of Trensalore” we’re in for it.

Another fun tidbit is that the emphasis on the mystery behind the Doctor’s name adds new relevance to the title of the show. Many casual fans, or folks that may skim an episode here and there may wonder why the show is even called Doctor Who, some might even think that it’s his name. It’s a nice capstone for nearly 50 years of continuity and makes us wonder why he’s so secretive of his name. Does his name link him to something terrible?

My ongoing theory is that there is some big bad guy out there that needs to know the Doctor’s name for some reason. I’m wondering if the Doctor didn’t use it as the password for the “time lock” he used to trap the Time Lords and Daleks within Gallifrey, once it is uttered, this lock will be broken and cause havoc. Suddenly you’d have The Master set free, and all sorts of other pissed off Timelords. This would fit in with the alien coalition trying to stop the Doctor at all costs with the Pandorica, and even explain the Silence claiming that they have witnessed a dark future caused by the Doctor. Of course we won’t hear the name as viewers, as finding out that the Doctor’s name is “Barry” would probably ruin the show.

On a side note, I loved the little “fan-wanky” bits in this episode. For starters, when we find that all of time has been compressed to a solitary moment, we see anomalies such as Charles Dickens talking about his upcoming BBC Christmas special. Once he gets rolling you realize that he is talking about A Christmas Carol. Dickens was once again played by the returning Simon Callow, a man that many will remember from An Unquiet Dead way back in season 1. Other nice nods included the reappearance of Winston Churchill, who has apparently started riding a mammoth to work. With a less “in your face” cameo, we find that fan favorite companion “The Brigadier” has finally been laid to rest within the show. This follows the real life death of Nicholas Courtney. I would have liked a similar send-off to the one Elisabeth Sladen received, but the nod was nice to see.

So yeah, good episode, and a good savior for a somewhat mellow second half of a season. I can’t wait to see where this goes.