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30 September 2012 @ 09:30 am
Dinosaurs on a Spaceship  
That was fun.

Chris Chibnall is much maligned as a writer. I'm not sure his bad reputation is entirely deserved. His work for both Doctor Who and Torchwood has been pedestrian. I can imagine he's a writer with a reputation for delivering the goods - a script that arrives on time, and is filmable, with enough action and so forth to keep it moving. I would also say his stories have a bad tendency to have characters do stuff that is just plain stupid simply in order to further the plot. Occasionally characters have been known to do a complete about face, similarly in order to carry us towards the next plot point.

So I was actually pleasantly surprised here that no one did anything monumentally stupid or out of character. It possibly helped that the story was clearly intended to be, primarily, hectic and fun. So we had dinosaurs. We had Rupert Graves as a big game hunter. We had Queen Nefertiti. We had Rory's dad. You don't really need a great deal of plot to sustain that lot over 45 minutes, so the need to bend them out of shape reduces. What is more they were all attractively written, if in broad brush strokes.

Chibnall came in for a lot of flak after his Cyberwoman episode of Torchwood. Not just because it was stupid, but also because the eponymous Cyberwoman's outfit made her look like she'd just stumbled out of a fetish-wear store. On the assumption he didn't write in the script "The Cyberwoman is wearing a metal bikini and high heels", I'm inclined to let him off that. However he has gained something of a reputation for misogyny in certain circles. This did make me wonder if Riddell's sole purpose was to answer Chibnall's feminist critics. I, personally, have a lot of time for Rupert Graves in period costume but ultimately all he did was make sexist remarks so the rest of the characters could point out he was being sexist. Oh, and he got to hook up with Riann Steele's Queen Nefertiti whose sole purpose appeared to be to act as a straw feminist (a strange mixture of apparently uncontrolled sexuality and ball-breaking attitude who eventually got relegated to the damsel in distress role) and so undermine whatever point Chibnall was attempting to make about being a forward thinking, right-on feminist type of guy. I thought, actually, there was a lot of potential in both Riddell and Nefertiti (more in Riddell, to be honest) and Amy as proto-Doctor with Riddell and Nefertiti as her companions had promise. But they had so little screen time and were competing with dinosaurs and Rory's dad that I ended up a little disappointed with both of them.

Mark Williams, as Rory's Dad, was much better served, but he had a far more natural link in with the regular cast. Moffat, I observe, continues to be interested primarily in father-son relationships where Davies was more interested in mother-daughter relationships (yes, I know, River and Amy, but an awful lot of Moffat-helmed episodes involve fathers and sons).

Then we have the ending. I'm going to go on a limb here and say I liked it. I'm not sure it was a good ending for a Doctor Who story because what the Doctor doesn't do is set out to kill people. On the other hand, with the various dark Doctor and lonely god strands, we've seen him do far more questionable things. He manipulated the Daleks into destroying their own home planet for instance (even if it subsequently appears to have gotten better) and although he gave them a "let out" he did so in a way that meant they were never going to take it. Of course there are many fans of the show who, perfectly legitimately, think that the dark Doctor/lonely god characterisation was a huge mis-step. However set against that, there was something refreshingly honest about the Doctor's recognition that Soloman was unrepentant and that he would, without hesitation, wipe out hundreds of people again if he saw a profit in it. Killing him in a business-like fashion without speechifying, self-justification, or attempting to shift the blame onto Soloman himself seemed like a step towards a greater responsibility for the Doctor's own actions. Of course, this was a Chris Chibnall script and it could easily have been mere thoughtless characterisation of the "at the end the bad guy dies" variety. Only time will tell.

Ultimately, though, this episode did exactly what it said on the tin. There were dinosaurs on a spaceship. It was a frothy romp and, on those terms, it delivered.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/78103.html.
Susan: AmyandRorylil_shepherd on September 30th, 2012 10:27 am (UTC)
Yes, I was really pleasantly surprised, because Chibnall has annoyed me no end in the past - almost as much as RTD, in fact.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on September 30th, 2012 10:32 am (UTC)
I seem to be alone in preferring this one to the Power of Three even though the latter gets right many things that Chibnall often gets wrong (though at the expense of, as far as I could tell, anything actually resembling a plot). However both seem to be a step in the right direction in terms maintaining consistency of character.
Susan: Briglil_shepherd on September 30th, 2012 10:36 am (UTC)
Yes, there was a thread going on Facebook about "Who are you and what have you done with Chris Chibnall" was added mutterings about aliens and brain transplants.
athene: doctor elevendeinonychus_1 on September 30th, 2012 11:34 am (UTC)
Dinosaurs! Brian! Riding a triceratops! Rory and his dad flying a spaceship! Rupert Graves in period costume fighting dinosaurs! Brian!

Okay, so it's never going to go down as one of the more deep and dark and meaningful episode, but, as you say, it wasn't meant to. It was a fun adventure, and as such it succeeded brilliantly. It's certainly one of my faves for this series so far (for 'favourite' read 'most rewatched').
louisedennislouisedennis on September 30th, 2012 01:21 pm (UTC)
It's certainly a lot of fun, but I think it owes more to its set pieces and Brian Williams (and Rupert Graves in breeches) than it does to the story itself.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on September 30th, 2012 11:51 am (UTC)
I didn't like this at all. Admittedly you've mentioned a few of my criticisms and said they don't bother you (fair enough), so I'll just play Devil's Advocate and wonder what this story's reputation would be like if the impressive CGI dinosaurs were replaced with the rubber ones from Invasion of the Dinosaurs (a story I feel a bit under-rated due to its special effects). Not that that wouldn't be a laugh! (And now I'm trying to imagine Nefertiti trying to seduce the third Doctor: "Good grief! I'm sorry, m'dear, but I must go and, er, reverse the polarity of, um, something or other...")
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on September 30th, 2012 11:52 am (UTC)
I just read that back and realized it looks like I accused everyone who likes this of being shallow, which wasn't my intention! I just meant that I thought the script was weak and the story was carried by SFX and direction and to a lesser extent acting.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on September 30th, 2012 01:25 pm (UTC)
My very first memory of Doctor Who is the Doctor and Sarah driving under a dinosaur!

I know I've seen Invasion of the Dinosaurs since, but I recall little about it and what I do seems rather confused with Robot in my mind which I have watched fairly recently. This is a rather different sort of story to Invasion, in particular it's not trying to be about anything other than an over-the-top mash-up of ideas. Bad dinosaurs would have been totally fatal to it in a way they probably weren't to Invasion, even though they may have dragged it down.