Doctor Who: How do you start a triceratops?

DOCTOR WHO: 7.02 “Dinosaurs in Space”

KT is a week behind, but bear with me.

As you can see, it has taken me a while to figure out what to say about this one.  I found it a fun romp (In space!  With dinosaurs!), but it wasn’t what I would call a critical success.

For one thing, there was just too much going on—by which I don’t mean that it was fast-paced or full of plot twists.  There were just more unrelated elements crammed into the episode than a one-hour story could even begin to explore.  Lemme show you what I mean. This episode includes:

  1. Dinosaurs
  2. On a spaceship
  3. That turns out to be a Silurian ark
  4. Stolen by a hateful old man called Solomon
  5. And his two bickering robots (“I hate funny robots,” the Doctor said in “The Waters of Mars.” I’m inclined to agree.)

We also brought along:

  1.  Rory’s dad
  2. A big game hunter from 1903
  3. Queen Nefertiti

All this is not to say that every episode should have the tight focus of the Van Gogh episode. But this feels like it could have used a few more drafts.

For example, with so much going on, the new characters are more rough around the edges than usual.  I liked the idea of bringing in Nefertiti as a companion (and in general, I like it when we have a companions from different times and places). Since she’s more famous for what she looked like than for anything she did historically, the writers had plenty of room to invent her personality. Only, they didn’t bother to do much of that.  She comes across as strong, but generic.

The real dud, though was the game hunter. It really seemed that no one thought through his character any further than “He likes to shoot stuff and being from 1903 makes him massively sexist.”  Which, (a) is terrifically sloppy writing and (b, and this is key) does nothing to show us why the Doctor would want him around.  On top of which, the notion that Neffi decides at the end to go hang out with him is puzzling at best, forcing us to assume that he must have redeemed himself off-screen—the alternatives being that she’s so hungry for adventure, she’s willing to put up with him or that she’s so unbelievably bored by her husband, even this lout is preferable.

Rory’s dad is played mostly for laughs, sitcom-dad style, which seems a bit of a waste, though father and son get some nice moments, like Rory getting to show off his nursing skills and bragging self-deprecatingly about the way he picks up nursing supplies wherever they go.

Amy gets some nice moments, too.  Despite having to put up with Game Hunter Dud Guy, she clearly establishes herself as the surrogate Doctor when the group splits up.  I loved the way she showed off her prowess at button pushing.  I also loved the way she doesn’t became the damsel in distress, as she has so often in the past.

The moment I wasn’t sure what to make of was her whispered conversation with the Doctor about having to wait longer and longer for the Doctor to the point where she quits jobs and feels unable to move on.  I’m sure that’s meant to build somehow to the Ponds’ departure, but it isn’t clear how.  She and Rory spend most of the episode bickering, too, which doesn’t seem like a good sign.

On the villain side of things, I imagine that Chibnall wrote Solomon by continually asking himself “What is the most horrific or offensive thing I can make this man do?” Threaten our protagonists with every other breath? Check.  Kill an adorable triceratops to show how serious/dangerous he is? Yep.  Airlock a shipful of helpless Silurians in order to steal their dinosaurs? Got it.  Treat Nefertiti as an object, abduct her, and threaten her with bodily harm in the creepiest manner possible?  Oh yeah.

In the end, the Doctor uses Solomon as missile bait—highly deserved, if also a bit uncharactaristic for the gun hating, last-chance offering Doctor. I understand that some fans were upset by the Doctor’s callousness in the face of Solomon’s doom, but I disagree.  For one, Solomon blew any chance of getting another chance when he abducted Nefertiti.  Plus, in a Chibnall episode, everyone has their clearly delineated purpose from which they are not permitted to stray, and Solomon’s purpose is to be nasty for half an hour, then eat those missiles.  And to make us all uncomfortable when we notice that a character defined by his greed has been given an historically Jewish name. This could have been called Stereotypes in Space.


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