Review: Doctor Who – 7×2 – Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Not the worst thing written by Chris Chibnall

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

In the UK: Saturday, 7.20pm, BBC1
In the US: Saturday, 9/8c, BBC America


This review… being transmitted… outer space.


…Dinosaurs!… Borderline Jewish stereotype…


…like nails on a blackboard…


…Chris Chibnall!


End of transmission

Was it any good?
I won’t go into a full review of the episode, because Frankly (and there’s a joke in there), that’s what the gods put Cathode Ray Tube on this earth to do. And this was an episode written by Chris Chibnall so why waste too much of my incredibly precious time on it?

But I will say this – it was probably the best thing Chris Chibnall has ever written. Drama and plausibility are not something that are really within the purview of the Chibnall so why not play to his weaknesses and get him to write something a bit comedic, that doesn’t have to be the slightest bit plausible and that has enough self-awareness to realise that it’s badly written? It’s a master move by Stevie Moffat. Well, okay, a true master move would be not to keep commissioning Chibbers in the first place, but if you are going to have Chibbers writing for you, this would be the best way to go.

There were even a few things to admire in the story: the use of the Silurians, some actual dinosaurs (no, I don’t know if they were from the correct periods in history), giving the Doctor a gang and the best move of all, introducing Rory’s dad (Mark Williams). One of the biggest problems with Stevie-era Who is that in contrast to Rusty Who, there’s barely been any of the companions’ families in it. Actually caring about Rory has been correspondingly hard and to his credit, Chibbers actually made Rory considerably less sponge-like this episode and Williams was superb as… Mr Williams. Now we want to go back in time a couple of seasons and put him in all the episodes.

We also got a bit of series arc – the phasing out of the Ponds – some lovely effects work and a few bits of comedy that worked.

The minus side of the equation was a little heavier, though. It was, essentially, complete bobbins, with few of the important plot points making any sense. Poorly paced bobbins, too, that frequently made me look for something more entertaining to occupy my time with, such as darning socks and polishing bits of the Forth Bridge. Nefertiti wasn’t exactly what you’d expect of an Egyptian queen in any sense and the Solomon stereotype – a money-obsessed Uriah Heap-alike with a Jewish name – was very close to a hate crime. Characterisation of the non-Rory regulars was a bit wonky and there were several lines of dialogue by supporting characters that made me feel like I was being eviscerated, such were the pain they evoked.

Not that Chibbers was the worst thing about this. Murray Gold – what is the matter with you? Does comedy immediately make you want to produce something that both signals “Hey, this is comedy!” and drowns everything out so we can’t actually hear what’s going on?

But on the whole, there have been worse crimes against humanity committed by Chris Chibnall (cf any episode of season 1 of Torchwood), kids could probably overlook the worst bits of it and frankly, if you didn’t expect it to be awful in advance, where have you been for the last five years or so?

  • benjitek

    One of the worst episodes so far…

  • benjitek

    One of the worst episodes so far…

  • This season, since Stevie M took over, since the return of Who, or ever? It's certainly worse than last week's, but that's out of two. It's pretty poor but still better than Chibbers' last Silurians two-parter, that pirate one and a few others. It's not brilliant. In fact, it's probably below average, but I wouldn't go as far as one of the worst.

  • bob

    I don't get the Chibnall hate at all. He's okay.

    “Actually caring about Rory has been correspondingly hard”
    Huh? I've cared about Rory since the first episode he was in. The chemistry between Rory and the Doctor is brilliant and the fact that they were together without Amy for some of this episode was fantastic. Plus I didn't have any grubby “this is pretty sexist” thoughts this week which makes it better than SM's episode this season.

    Of course it was outrageously stupid and childish. And I really want a serious episode (preferably one with lots of Rory and the Doctor).

  • I was fearing the worst, but for a different reason: after witnessing some trully awful CGI on Falling Skies and Alphas, the dinasaurs on the BBC weren't that glaringly awful. Don't get me wrong, they didn't look real but they didn't take me out of the story so much.

    Computer generated fire is my biggest quibble at the minute. In the past you had a wide shot of a stunt man, filling in for the actor, actually on fire, now you have a close up of the actual actor pretending to be on fire – how is this an improvement. I'll log off before I go on a tirade about CGI explosions.

  • There's some interesting comment on the dinosaurs from a Smithsonian paleontologist here � nitpicking, of course, but fun.

    Agree that it was the Chibster's best script, which isn't saying much. I liked the way that the female characters were handled, although Nefertiti was underused. I'm kinda thinking we'll see her & Riddell again before the end of the season. David Bradley was pure class as he always is (does he ever play anything other than really unpleasant old men? Solomon was almost a retread of Walder Frey from Game of Thrones, down to the creepiness) but I have to say that the antisemitic angle didn't occur to me. Possibly with a lesser actor and worse direction it would have.

    All in all, a surprisingly bearable episode, but not one I think will stick in the mind. This season's Night Terrors?