Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

While the novelty of having a title such as X on a(n) X (ex: Snakes on a Plane) would have been more topical in 2006, it does show exactly what we are getting here: a fun “romp” episode that doesn’t take itself seriously at all. With how serious and well-layered the previous episode was, this stands as a stark counter-balance to Asylum of the Daleks with all the “in your face” zaniness that is usually reserved for comedy episodes. I know a lot of fans dislike episodes like this, but I generally like them. As you will see, there is a dark edge here as well, not just fluff.

The plot centers on an unidentified spacecraft that is found to be hurling towards earth, this of course freaks out many Earth-based agencies including the Indian Space Agency. The Doctor is enlisted by the ISA to “take care of it” so that they can stop any sort of crisis with it crashing. The Doctor needs a “Gang” to check it out, so who better to enlist than the legendary Queen Nefertiti, a big game hunter named Riddell, and “the Ponds”. They find out that the ship is an ancient Silurian “ark” full of dinosaurs, and fun ensues.

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This episode is notable for introducing a new character – Rory’s father, as played by Mark Williams of Harry potter fame. Brian (Rory’s dad) is sucked into the whole situation completely accidentally, and the first truly humorous scene involves The Doctor’s reaction to his presence. When the Doctor picks up “The Ponds” Brian is helping Rory fix a light bulb just as the Tardis shows up and materialized around all three of them. The Doctor does not in fact notice Brian until way later when they are leaving the Tardis. He assumes some random person walked into the Tardis. It’s never explained how the two don’t seem to have ever met despite the zany antics The Doctor was up to at Amy and Rory’s wedding, but I guess he could have been absent. In The Big Bang, we clearly meet Amy’s parents, but Rory’s family appears to be his siblings or something. I guess it’s a mystery we will never know the answer to!

Another Harry Potter Alumni takes the stage as the villain of the piece – David Bradley as Solomon. As with many Doctor Who villains, Solomon is initially not the antagonist of the piece, but reveals himself in the third act. His initial story is that the problems are all related to the fact that his legs have been mauled by raptors and his “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum” of the robot world (as played by the double act –Mitchell & Webb) have been insufficient in helping him out. Once we realize that he wants to capture “Neffy” for his collection we learn the real truth. Solomon is basically a space pirate and has killed all the Silurians on board and a lot of the dinosaurs. He was trying to figure out a way to monetize the dinos before the accident happened, just as the “Gang” shows up.

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What happens next has divided fans of the show, but is not without precedent. The Doctor, realizing how truly evil Solomon is, sets it up so that Solomon is killed by a slew of missiles launched by the ISA. He doesn’t give him a second chance or anything; he basically says “your dead!” and leaves him to his fate. Many internet fans flipped out because of this, partially because many were lead to see the Doctor as a pacifist “space Jesus” up through the first few seasons, but having this view is a mistake. I could list a number of times where the Doctor essentially murders people, but there is no more telling instance than the very first serial of the show. At one point The Doctor, as played by William Hartnell, has to be stopped from smashing a caveman’s skull in with a huge rock simply because he “was slowing them down”. The doctor has a dark side, and being away from companions makes him like this. Hopefully this is a theme further explored!

All in all, I really liked this episode. It isn’t the most intellectual stimulating episode out there, but it’s a fun episode none-the-less. It was great to see some of Rory’s family in a little bit of detail, and Brian was a great character. He was not as cool as Wilf when it comes to family members of companions, but not many are as awesome as that guy! Chris Chibnall has done some mediocre work on Doctor Who in the past, but this episode was pretty good. Maybe fans can look forward to his second episode this season after all!

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Reaction: Doctor Who – Closing Time

Aside from Vincent and the Doctor, The Lodger was easily one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes of season five. Aside from being totally unorthodox in the way it was structured, it was almost like a buddy comedy. I felt that it was one of the better episodes solely based on the face that it showed The Doctor totally at odds with how to act in modern society; it truly brought out his alien nature. Simple mistakes like paying rent with a huge bag of cash may seem like a good idea to The Doctor, but would raise more than a few eyebrows. When it was officially announced that Craig (played by James Corden of Gavin & Stacy fame) would be returning as a “fill-in” companion this year, I was pretty stoked. Not only would a character I liked return, but it was revealed to be a Cybermen episode. And not a Russell T. Davies era “stomping around saying catchphrases Cybermen” episode, but a proper one, complete with Cybermats!

While there are some emotionless metal guys running around, the majority of the episode is centered on The Doctor and his one last attempt at saving the world. It seems that despite knowing that he will die in mere hours, he stops by Craig’s old haunt on some sort of a “farewell tour”. There is an ulterior motive of course, in that he has found some kind of power fluctuations in the area, so the Doctor uses this as an excuse to investigate a bit. What we see is a man on his last legs presumably 200 years after he dropped off Amy and Rory (in his time), trying to cope with his imminent death, and stop the death of one of his friends. Knowing that he basically endangers all that come near him, the Doctor wants Craig to stay away, but seems to only draw him in more.

This episode was very good for what it was: the fluffy episode towards the series finale that keeps one optimistic before their soul is crushed by the bleak ending we all know we will have. This has been seen in Boom Town, Love & Monsters, and finally The Lodger. I know that all of these episodes are somewhat “love it or hate it” affairs, but I think that Closing Time is one of the better ones. My personal favorite thing about the episode was the Doctor’s revelation that Craig’s son calls himself “Stormageddon” in baby language; I give it weeks before someone actually names their kid that. In the grand scheme of things Closing Time does nothing for the larger picture save a scene with River Song at the very end, but that wasn’t what it was there to do. It was the “palette cleanser” right before the main course, the episode that will hopefully blow us away and finish up some stuff we’ve been getting worked up about for 2 full seasons.

spoiler for next week: