With its history and dedicated fanbase it can sometimes be easy to forget that Doctor Who is a family show, developed as a BBC children’s programme nearly 50 years ago. A lot of time has flown through the vortex since then and, as the show has evolved over the decades, the viewers have come to expect an exciting, complex drama. For the most part Dinosaurs on a Spaceship is a family friendly fun adventure with thrills and spills aplenty.
The dinosaurs of the title are beautifully realised and the ensemble cast breathe life and light into the linier plot. From the frantic opening in ancient Egypt, via the ‘kidnapping’ of Brian Williams (the excellent Mark Williams) and chases with dinosaurs, through to camp security robots the episode is a light hearted visual treat. The introduction of David Bradley as the sinister Solomon adds shade to the story, a shadow that grows longer and darker as his deeds are unveiled. This change of tone feels as natural as it is shocking as the story progresses from the banter between Nefertiti and Riddell to mass genocide and ultimately cold-hearted murder. It is this murder which appears all the more shocking to the viewer as it is committed by the Doctor himself.
This is the Timelord at his most alien switching from bumbling big brother to judge, jury and executioner with barely a blink. This is not to suggest that Solomon may not have deserved his outcome, simply that the titular hero often goes to such lengths to rehabilitate his foes that this appears almost heartless. The episode is not perfect by any means. With such a large cast in the Doctors corner it occasionally feels rushed, while the rationale behind Riddell’s inclusion is left unexplained. However the major plot points are neatly covered with no mcguffin required.
There is apparently no over reaching plot arc through this series of Doctor Who, yet a running theme of classical music (and the Doctor’s involvement in it) is clear, as is the obvious passing of time between episodes for the Ponds. This is all leading up to episode five which will see Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill leave the cast. Based on the evidence of Dinosaurs on a Spaceship this ride will be as fun as it will be emotional.