This review does NOT contain spoilers.
7.2 Dinosaurs On A Spaceship
Even before the title sequence has rolled in Dinosaurs On A Spaceship, the episode has jumped through three time zones, and established that there’s a missile set to do some damage if the Doctor doesn’t intervene in time. Dilly-dallying is very much missing from the agenda, here. Not set immediately after Asylum Of The Daleks, the story also sees the Doctor swiftly recruiting a diverse group of people to help him on his latest adventure.
And, as the episode’s title suggests, there’s a spaceship and some dinosaurs involved. With a tip or two of the hat to Jurassic Park, the scene is set for a near hour-long story, and quite an enjoyable one. It’s tailored more in the direction of a broad family audience than a hardened Who fan, but it’s hard to argue with that.
If the plan with Doctor Who series 7 continues to be to give us a blockbuster episode every week, then it’s best to count Dinosaurs On A Spaceship as the enjoyably daft one. Daft is no bad thing, of course, and Chris Chibnall’s script is more focused on delivering a rollicking adventure than adding vast reservoirs of detail to Doctor Who canon.
Matt Smith is clearly having a ball with it, too. He manages a hybrid of intrigued and scared extremely well, and his range of facial expressions are worth watching the episode for alone. Usually, it’s Arthur Darvill who proves the most able comedic actor amongst the Doctor Who leads. Here, it’s Smith who’s showing he’s no slouch in that department. Not for the first time, either.
Furthermore, the dinosaurs, from the off, are very, very impressively realised. We’ve seen CG beasts of quality on Primeval over the years, and the standard of what you can get in small screen effects work, even on a BBC budget, is genuinely strong. The gap between television and movie CG seems as narrow as it’s ever been on this evidence.
But it’s the humour that works the best here. And with that in mind, the highlight of the episode is guest star Mark Williams, who’s extremely funny in a fish out of water role. There aren’t enough Midlanders in Doctor Who, in our view. He’s not the only impressive guest star, mind, and Dinosaurs On A Spaceship is an episode with a particularly strong roster of them. Rupert Graves, David Bradley and Riann Steele are all firmly in on the fun here. But it’s nonetheless Williams who steals every scene he’s let near. It’s a shame he’s not allowed in even more. We’d have a spin-off series with him right now.
Credit where credit’s due, too. Chris Chibnall’s script is sprinkled with comedy moments. Not all of them hit, but a good number do. His Doctor Who work to date has been mixed, but there’s some really fun writing here. Dinosaurs On A Spaceship is perhaps less interesting when it gets to the guts of its narrative. When it lets its hair down a bit more? It’s a lot of fun.
It’s an impressively realised, well directed and designed slice of entertainment, that isn’t without the odd deeper moment, but crucially, it’s not lacking in flat-out entertainment either. It’s fast, sometimes silly, and has the odd bump. But it’s a good, solid episode, that captures the promised blockbuster feel.
Our full, spoiler-filled review will be live after the episode screens on Saturday 8th September.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.