TV REVIEW: Doctor Who - Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

With possibly the best title since last series' Let's Kill Hitler!, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship finds the Doctor and the Ponds aboard an abandoned craft populated by dinosaurs, with only an Egyptian Queen, a rather bemused member of the Pond Williams family and a Victorian game hunter for help. As always, there be spoilers ahead.

Finding himself propositioned rather strongly by Queen Nefertiti (Riann Steele), the Doctor (Matt Smith) is relieved to be called away to 2367 AD to help Earth out with a hurtling spaceship problem. Earth's authorities declare that they are going to blow up the ship in six hours if the Doctor can't stop it. Nefertiti has come along for the ride and the Doctor decides to enlist a friend, a big game hunter named Ridell (Rupert Graves), and the ever-reliable Ponds (Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill), accidentally bringing Rory's father, Brian, along for the ride (Mark Williams).

The first thing that struck me about this episode, apart from the new episode-themed title sequence, was how much fun the cast seemed to be having. Matt Smith has really settled into the role of the Doctor now and the constant mood swings the character experiences are well-handled from his infectious humour to his despair at Solomon's actions (David Bradley). Chris Chibnall's script was packed full with great lines that offered each of the main actors, regular or guest, to shine whilst also offering us a fast-paced narrative that was both well constructed and easy to follow. It was a proper caper episode, from start to finish, and should go down as one of the more enjoyable adventures of the Eleventh Doctor, fitting well into Steven Moffat's new blockbuster mantra.

I've long been a fan of Rupert Graves and his gung-ho Victorian hunter was brilliant from start to finish with his innuendo-ridden chat-up line to Nefertiti providing one of the big laugh-out-loud moments. Also, his ongoing battle with Amy was a real highlight and played well with the actors' chemistry and their different social attitudes. David Bradley made a suitably scenery chewing villain but the most adorable member of the cast had to be his fellow Harry Potter alumnus Mark Williams. Given his very own character arc across the episode, he was both funny and poignant, going from a man who lives a staid life to one who travels the world, the universe and beyond. Williams handled the role perfectly and the shot of him sipping a cup of tea whilst looking at Earth from the TARDIS was a lovely moment.

There was one slight drawback in the proceedings however as the episode was also notable for the appearance of comedy duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb as a tempestuous pair of robots who looked like they had been sourced from The Fifth Element leftovers. Sadly, despite their considerable comedic skills, the pair unfortunately forgot to utilise their funny bones and were let down somewhat by the material they were given. Many of the supposed jokes that the pair came out with fell rather flat and paled in comparison to the considerably more hilarious scenes between Ridell, Nefertiti and Amy. All in all, their appearance was perhaps the only low point of the episode and detracted from the immense fun that was going on elsewhere.

It wasn't all laughs and positivity in the narrative either as the whole episode had an underlying air of doom, from the massacre of the Silurians to the impending departure of the Ponds. With Amy's declaration that the Doctor could be with her to her 'end', there was a rather ominous hint to her potential fate. Whilst my love of Arthur Darvill's Rory is both well-known and unabashed, I've had a rather difficult relationship with Amy throughout her time on the series. Recently though, Karen Gillan has proven herself repeatedly and has completely won me over. After the heartbreaking revelation about the consequences of Demon's Run in the last episode, feisty Amy was back and here, Gillan acquitted herself well, showing how Amy has developed into a competent time-traveller in her own right. I'm going to be extremely sad to see the Ponds go.

A rather worrying trend was beginning to emerge in the Moffat/Smith era of the second episodes in the series being rather, to put it bluntly, crap. Thankfully Dinosaurs on a Spaceship is a riot from start to finish and a great way to continue from the excellent Asylum of the Daleks. Next week sees our heroes hit the Wild West with cyborgs and Matt Smith donning a Stetson. Stetsons are cool.

- Becky

You can read Jen's review of Asylum of the Daleks here.

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