Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
(1 episode, s07e02, 2012)
Sailing the stars Jurassic-style.
The Doctor did a good thing and saved 1334 BC Egypt from a swarm of locusts. On his way back to the TARDIS, he’s intercepted by Queen Nefertiti who wants to thank him properly for his services… if you know what she means.
Her efforts are interrupted by a message on the psychic paper from the Indian Space Agency. He’s forced to take “Nefi” with him because she forces her way onto the TARDIS, and once he arrives in the 24th century, he’s informed of a non-communicative spaceship approaching Earth. If it gets within ten thousand kilometers – the edge of the Earth’s exosphere – the Indian Space Agency will start shooting missiles.
The Doctor decides that he needs some additional help, so he jets off to Africa in 1902 to convince game hunter John Riddell to join the fun. He then travels to 21st century London. There, Rory and his father Brian are changing a lightbulb. Amy finds things amusing until the Doctor arrives, materializing around the three and immediately setting course for the 24th century.
Brian is shell-shocked and the Doctor is confused, but soon enough everything is set in motion as the crew starts exploring amidst the pounding noises around them. When they reach a lift, the doors open to reveal a pair of dinosaurs.
On a spaceship.
*ding* There’s the title!
The group runs for cover from the Ankylosauruses. Riddell claims that he can take one of them alone with his knife, but the Doctor is intrigued by the discovery and wants to preserve them. They find an interactive monitor and the Doctor starts mapping the ship. When he asks for a path to the engines, he, Rory, and Brian are teleported to a foggy beach. Brian loses his mind as he tries to process what’s going on.
The Doctor tastes the air and determines that they are on Earth… sort of. The air is slightly wrong, the ground is humming, and Brian discovers a metal deck under the sand. As Rory calls for the Doctor to show him what they found, a mysterious watcher orders someone to bring the Doctor to him.
Amy, Nefi, and Riddell continue to explore the ship, literally stumbling into a Tyrannosaur nest. Luckily, the tyrant lizard is fast asleep. The trio continues on.
The Doctor finds another monitor and learns that the beach is the engine room. In fact, propulsion and energy are maintained by the waves. The Doctor’s excitement is cut short by the arrival of a flock of pterodactyls. The trio rush for a cave, avoiding the snapping beaks but running right into a pair of stomping robots.
Amy’s team find another monitor and review the ship’s logs. Amy finds out that the ship is Silurian and was a form of ark that was launched when the Silurians feared a cataclysm when the Earth aligned with the Moon. Between the time of launch and now, the population has drastically decreased. Also, the ship has been boarded before.
The Doctor’s team and the accompanying robots run into a triceratops that acts like a puppy, licking Brian’s face and playing fetch with a golf ball. The group is taken to Solomon, a man listening to Fantasia in F minor by Franz Schubert as he tries to recover from a raptor attack. Solomon has mistaken the Time Lord for an actual medical doctor, which isn’t that far from the truth. When the Doctor offers assistance in exchange for information about Solomon’s arrival, the wounded man orders the robots to shoot Brian. The Doctor works on Solomon while Rory tends to his father’s burn, and Brian is surprised that Rory keeps a medical supply pack with him. It’s a family habit to carry tools around, as evidenced by Brian’s convenient trowel.
Amy calls Rory via mobile phone – the TARDIS superphone returns! – to tell him about the Silurians. Meanwhile, the Doctor finds out that Solomon is a trader and is interested in selling the dinosaurs as precious cargo. He is intrigued in how the Doctor doesn’t exist in his database. Solomon explains that the Silurians rescued the trader, and in return he ejected them from their own ship. Unfortunately, Solomon couldn’t control the ship so it automatically set course for Earth.
The Doctor gathers Rory and Brian, set on making sure that Solomon does not control the ark of the Silurians. The trio hops aboard the triceratops – which the Doctor has named Tricey – and they escape from the robots as the dinosaur chases the golf ball down the passageway. When Tricey catches the ball, she bucks her passengers off and sits patiently.
The Indian Space Agency calls the Doctor, warning him that the ship has entered the atmosphere and they have no choice but to open fire. Meanwhile, Amy’s team finds some stun rifles. As Nefi learns that the Doctor is married, Amy watches the Doctor over the security feeds as he tries to figure out how to stop the missiles.
Solomon catches up to the Doctor and makes him an offer: He’ll let everyone go if he surrenders Queen Nefertiti. The Doctor refuses, so Solomon shows that he’s serious by murdering Tricey. Amy’s team uses the teleporter to reach the Doctor, and Nefertiti offers herself willingly. Solomon transports himself, Nefi, and the robots back to his ship.
The Doctor takes everyone else to the control room, explaining that Solomon couldn’t control the ship because the Silurians designed it to require two pilots who share similar DNA. The Doctor magnetically locks Solomon’s ship to the ark as Brian offers to pilot the ship with Rory. The Doctor explains how to control the ship while Riddell stands guard against the roving velociraptors.
The Doctor works on the wiring, chatting with Amy while he works. Amy expresses her fear that his visits are becoming farther and farther apart. One day, he might never show up. The Doctor comforts Amy by explaining that he’ll always come to see them. As the Doctor teleports to Solomon’s ship, Amy joins Riddell on guard duty and fends off the velociraptors.
The Indian Space Agency notes that the ark has changed course, but they still maintain their missile lock.
The Doctor arrives on Solomon’s ship and disables the robots as Nefertiti disables Solomon. The Doctor leaves a green tracking orb on the ship’s bridge and releases the magnetic lock, teleporting back to the ark as the missiles destroy Solomon’s craft.
With the ark back on course for deep space, the Doctor offers to take everyone on an adventure, but Rory suggests that he take everyone home. Before they do, Brian asks for one favor: As the TARDIS orbits the Earth, he sits on the edge of the doorway and sips coffee while staring at his homeworld.
Riddell returns home, though he is now joined by Nefertiti. The Ponds return home as well, but they keep receiving postcards from Brian. It turns out that Rory’s dad – a man who used to be afraid of traveling – has gone traveling with the Doctor, including to Siluria, the new home of the dinosaurs.
David Bradley does his best evil in this story. I mean, it was deliciously evil. He was previously the voice of Shansheeth in Death of the Doctor, and (spoilers) he’ll eventually follow Colin Baker’s and Peter Capaldi’s lead by playing an incarnation of the Doctor after previously holding a role on the show. His demise did strike me as especially brutal: The Doctor literally set him up to die, which differs from the typical tactic of allowing the foe to set themselves up.
Sometimes this particular incarnation scares me.
Brian Williams is so much fun as well, paving a narrative path for Rory to become the only person to travel in the TARDIS with both a parent and a child (though not at the same time). Brian’s excitement nearly leapt off the screen as he tried to figure out what was going on around him and how best to help. His travels at the end of the story made me smile wide.
This story was a great follow-on from Doctor Who and the Silurians, which previously showed us the relationship between the Silurians and dinosaurs. At that time, the Silurians were using a dinosaur to guard their base. It also echoes back to previous stories about arks (The Ark, The Ark in Space), Invasion of the Dinosaurs (wherein the Third Doctor also prioritized preservation of the dinosaurs), and the literal extinction-level event for the dinosaurs (Earthshock).
How many more times can I say dinosaur? I’ll save the most moving instance – the most traumatic, especially as a dog owner – for last. Tricey’s demise was heartbreaking. It serves as a fantastic testament to the writer and production staff since it solidifies Solomon’s despicable nature and makes me stand in awe because I fell in love with a computer-generated dinosaur in a handful of minutes.
That writer, by the way? Chris Chibnall.
Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: A Town Called Mercy
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.