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Saturday, 8 September 2012

Doctor Who 7x02: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.

Can you get high from watching Doctor Who? Signs point to YES because right now I'm sitting here giggling to myself because this episode was just. So. Delightful. After last week's rather patchy season-opener I had my doubts, but episode two was an absolute slam-dunk, incorporating just about everything you could possibly hope for from a standalone hour of Doctor Who: silly jokes, exciting space adventures, cool side-characters, poignant Doctor/companion moments, a handful of adult jokes for the grown-ups, DINOSAURS, and an old-school Doctor Who moral underlying the whole thing. They even managed to include a couple of funny talking robots who miraculously didn't annoy the crap out of me, which is well-nigh impossible. (Funny talking robots: not for amateurs. They're the Jar Jar Binks of Doctor Who.)
(source unknown)
During the opening scenes I was concerned that the spirit of Moffat was lurking in the form of a flirty girl hitting on the Doctor for audience laughs, BUT NO -- Nefertiti turned out to be awesome, and provided an excellent foil for the other characters. Really, all the companions were brilliant this week! Dinosaurs On A Spaceship definitely falls into the category of lighthearted, non-plotty episodes, but that didn't make it bad. The tone and pacing were perfect -- funny and fast-moving enough that there was no real need to explain anything, especially since Rupert Graves' character seemed to have traveled with the Doctor before and Nefertiti had just had a run-in with another set of aliens. As for the dinosaurs, they were an ideal choice for this type of episode. Gimmicky cameos and ideas like "dinosaurs on a spaceship" can often be too flimsy to hold up a full episode, but in this specific case? Not so much. Firstly because the storyline (such as it was) had enough separate components that it wasn't just relying on the draw of dinosaurs on spaceship, and secondly because, well, everyone loves dinosaurs. If Doctor Who had 2012-quality special effects in previous decades, you can damn well assume that they'd have been making at least one dinosaur special per season, because dinosaurs are in the near unique position of appealing to kids and adults on exactly the same level, ie, "OMG dinosaurs!!". 

OK, I ADMIT THAT THIS ISN'T REALLY A REVIEW. I just enjoyed this episode so much! And I genuinely believe that as an action-comedy with no real impact on the seasonwide plot arc, it was pretty much as good as Doctor Who gets. My only quibble would be over the Doctor effectively killing the villain at the end, but quite frankly this has happened so many times now (ie, the Doctor allowing someone who "deserves it" to die, even if he doesn't actually pull the trigger himself) that the idea of a pacifist Doctor is a thing of the past. The Eleventh Doctor is the fish-eating vegetarian of pacifism -- he doesn't kill anyone unless, you know, it's really necessary. And never with a gun.

John Riddell
John: "You know what I want more than anything?"
Amy: "Lessons on gender politics?"
John: "A dinosaur tooth to take home." 

Have you heard of Rupert Graves? Did you know that he is professionally handsome? Did you know that Tumblr loves him so much that literally every second of every movie and TV show he's ever been in has been split into its component parts and turned into reaction gifs? Did that you know that in episode 7x02 of the television show Doctor Who, he wears a waistcoat?
(source unknown)
I already knew from the trailer that he was going to be in this episode so I made sure the butler was standing by with a tray of smelling salts and a stiff gin, but unfortunately the trailer hadn't prepared me for John Riddell's accent. Is anything more entertaining than the self-aware inclusion of a character who speaks in the accent and syntax of an Edwardian douchebag adventurer? I don't thinks so. In fact, John Riddell's accent, mannerisms, and general outlook on life made me laugh to death because he was so gosh-darn perfect as a one-off side character. He's a revolting flirt, yet somehow not in a creepy way! He's realistically misogynist for a man who was born in the 1850s and lives in a tent with his gun collection, but all the other characters call him on it! His entire aim in life is to shoot things, and yet he's so clearly an entertaining and useful person to have around that the Doctor invites him along anyway! He's played by Rupert Graves! (Did I tell you about Rupert Graves, yet?) Oh, and he's another great example of the adult/child appreciation levels in this type of episode, because the kids will love the way he's a badass and makes funny pratfalls over dinosaurs, whereas the parents will find his skanky turn-of-the-century sex-pestery hilarious and recognise him as a very particular type of stereotypical English adventurer that died out in the early 20th century.
This episode was a veritable sisterhood love-fest, which I can ONLY AGREE WITH. Nefertiti is QUEEN and she will do what she wants! I loved the moment where Amy is totally fangirling Nefertiti, and then John Riddell goes in a snit because Amy hasn't heard of him. And then later on Nefertiti stands up for her and Alison Bechdel rides in on a unicorn and buys everyone an icecream. (I may have imagined that last part.) Oh, and Nefertiti's costume? LOLz 4 dayz because her crown is so beauteously crafted from whatever was left over in the prop room. Which isn't to say it looks bad, but I'm weirdly glad to notice moments where the Doctor Who crew are transparently being mindful of their budget. The Eleventh Doctor seasons are of a considerably higher grade when it comes to special effects and set-design, but you can bet the backstage crew were glad that Rupert Graves could wear any old crap from the BBC's costume warehouses. And at the end of the episode Rory and his father drive the spaceship via the technological wizardry of... spotlights. I LOVE IT.
This is almost certainly a matter of personal taste, but there was some indefinable nuance of the Nefertiti/John Riddell banter that I really loved. I think maybe it was because they managed to avoid that thing where a sleazy-seeming guy wins a girl over by persistence? As in, John was kind of old-school James Bond, but Nefertiti was clearly into that and was badass in her own right (but not in a Lara Croft way)? Maybe Rupert Graves can just get away with stuff that other people can't, I don't know.

I will never tire of the way the Doctor refers to all Amy-adjacent people as "Ponds". Rory's dad was a great addition to the gang, bringing along a note normality to the endless string of heartwrenching space-epics we see week after week. Parents have been unfortunately absent from Moffat's Doctor Who, which saddens me because parents are always funny in this show. People watch it with their parents -- some with their parents and their parents' parents, I imagine -- and there's so much universal humour to be found in the situation of the Doctor interacting with the in-laws. Rory's dad was such utter distilled dad-ness that he was almost a parody character, but Mark Williams' acting is good enough that even over the course of one episode you come to love his sagging face and embarrassing mannerisms. Plus, Arthur Darville (Rory) is world champion at the long-suffering reaction shot. The ultimate transformation of Rory's father from confused stay-at-home to adventure-seeking traveller was the kind of background story that Doctor Who does best -- heartwarming without being hackneyed, and showcasing the Doctor as an inspiration rather than a leader to follow.
The one moment connecting this episode to the darker, more adult side of the show was the brief exchange between Amy and the Doctor in the control-room of the spaceship. It made me wish that I didn't know anything about the future of this season, to be honest, because even as a standalone scene it was a lovely moment of affection and foreboding between the two of them. Amy and the Doctor have come a long way over the past couple of years, but the audience knows that they can't be together for much longer because no one travels with the Doctor forever. And more importantly, the Doctor himself knows that. I just wish that the casting of the new companion wasn't front-page news, so I wouldn't have to know the exact timeline of the show regarding the final adventures of the Doctor and the Ponds.
Postscript: Just to test a theory, I looked up the phrase "silver fox" on Tumblr. The first results were all Rupert Graves. Google, however, just provides you with lots of pictures of actual mammal silver foxes, which I can only imagine are Rupert Graves' daemon.


  1. Okay, I have a possibly shameful admission which is that I have never watched a full episode of Doctor Who, except for that Christmas special with Kylie ages ago. BUT I love Rupert Graves, and have done ever since watching A Room With A View' while doing A-levels about 12 years ago. So now I really must watch this episode. Thanks for the heads up!

  2. hah! well, i suspect that among the (few) denizens of tumblr who are yet to latch on to doctor who, the presence of rupert graves may be the final thing to push them over the edge.

    btw -- doctor who is A LOT better than that kylie ep, usually! :)

  3. WELL THAT WAS ALL KINDS OF AMAZING. Seriously, I loved that to bits, and I completely agree with every single thing you said about Rupert Graves and his character. He could've stepped straight out of H. Rider Haggard or Wilkie Collins. WAISTCOAT. It can't be said enough.

    One of the things I really liked about this episode was that Rory got to be quietly competent (and full of pockets!). He just pulled his tiny nurse kit out, grabbed the relevant items, and patched his dad up, all the while being properly nursely matter-of-fact and telling terrible lies about the prospective painfulness of injections.

    And the robots. And the dinosaurs! Lovely dinosaurs! Being all dinosaur-y!

    I was waiting for Nefertiti to do something really badass at the very beginning, when Solomon grabbed her, especially after all her talk about executing people to Riddell, but she didn't. And that was better, because it was more - there wasn't an opportunity yet, but she knew there would be one, and she would take it, and he would regret every single word he'd said to her. I mean, also kind of horrifying, because that opportunity could've been a very long time coming. But also more probable as an adventure plot point. Escape opportunities don't often come in the first five seconds.

    And she and Amy were brilliant together, and I loved every second of it. Essentially.

  4. This is the best review of anything anyone has ever written, no joke.

    I can't breathe



    That's all I got from the episode, because besides the triceratops and RG, I was honestly kind of bored... You would think dinosaurs+Rupert would make me care. It was campy fun, sure, but I wasn't really invested.

  6. lol, thank you!! :D