Saturday, 8 September 2012

Review: Doctor Who 7.2: Dinosaurs On A Spaceship

Written 8/9/12

It's actually quite rare that I find a story so bland and useless that it has no value to me, but this happened to be one of those delightful stories. The horrifically gimmicky title promised so many things, and of course the well-worn destructive hands of Chris Chibnall failed to do anything with any form of competancy whatsoever. Dinosaurs In A Spaceship was never actively offensive (except with certain gender politics issues that the show's been suffering from recently,) but it did fail on nearly every level - as entertainment, as drama and, most importantly, as Doctor Who.
The Doctor has a "gang" which means the standard, "I'm Chris Chibnall,
look at me create a load of hollow side-characters" thing.
      An alien ship is heading towards Earth, and The Doctor wants to investigate, so he drags along a random Queen Nefetiti of Egypt, picks up a 1900s bounty hunter (Rupert Graves) and tries to pick up Amy and Rory, managing to suck up Rory's amazed Dad (Mark Williams) in the process. They discover that the ship's cargo is a ton of Cretaceous-era Dinosaurs and plants, and that the ship used to be a Silurian seeding ship that was trying to find a new planet. The Doctor ends up confronting bounty hunter Solomon, who, with his annoying robot sidekicks (an unfortunately cast Mitchell and Webb) manage to have committed a little genocide on board. After selling Nefetiti to him to get him to retreat to his ship The Doctor gets Rory and his Dad to pilot the ship away from Earth and manages to get Solomon's ship blown up. Everyone goes home and I felt pissed.
     The episode's incredibly rushed pace also leant to it it's biggest weakness - none of the characters seemed to have a real reason to be there, and their convenient uses felt more contrived than deliberate. I have enjoyed Chibnall's work before on Life On Mars and one or two episodes of Torchwood, but here it didn't even feel like his writing; more the combined ramblings of an over-excited five-year-old and someone desperately unaware of what the series is. Had this been an episode of the Sarah Jane Adventures... I might have understood. But it was just so empty of any meaning or themology - it didn't even try to say anything or do anything particularly interesting.
      So what do you do if you can't do anything interesting? Hey, let's replace it with annoying! First of all are the Mitchell and Webb robots, whose dialogue is absolutely excruciating and belongs more in a parody of science fiction than anything else. Then there's the issue of gender politics, which is treated as subtlely as we've come to expect of Moffat Who - Solomon treats Queen Nefetiti like an object (literally,) Amy has to tell of the misogynistic Riddell, it's all stuff we've seen before, done better. The humour, especially from Mark Williams' character, was incredibly crude and mindless, and I had notable flashbacks to The Dark Times of Red Dwarf. The dinosaurs were either really bag CGI or useless animatronics, and they played such a little part in the story that it feels like the Let's Kill Hiter title fiasco all over again.
The only decent thing in the episode was Amy's writing,
which is miles better than under Moffat. Shame the same
couldn't be said of all the other characters.
     There was some good here, although only where the bad seemed to dry up. As we saw in Torchwood, Chibnall is probably better at writing for female characters in general than Moffat is, and so Amy here suddenly became incredibly competant and generally the best she's been since The Eleventh Hour, taking charge of Riddell and Nefetiti and ultimately helping to discover most of the episode's expositional material. David Bradley, who played Solomon, is a great British character actor and, while I dislike the way the character was written, I found his performance incredibly captivating as someone so materialistic as to see people as prized possessions.
     In his element, Chibnall is not a bad writer, but when it comes to this show he has a track record of producing complete and utter tosh. Dinosaurs On A Spaceship continues this track record with ferver, and makes me very, very nervous not only for the fourth episode of this series, also written by him, but also for the rumours that Chibnall is being lined up to Moffat's successor. If this episode is anything to go by, I won't be tuning in. It was crude, heartless and completely pedestrian despite the abnormality of its premise, and that is the greatest failing of all.


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