Now here's the Doctor I know and love! The second episode of Season 7, "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship," was a fun, sass-filled romp with just enough dark edges to keep me intrigued.
There are a few types of Doctor Who episodes, and one of my favorites is the big, frothy, nothing-earth-shatteringly-dangerous-will-happen-but-this-is-going-to-be-nuts type. The addition in this installment was some new friends. "Are they the new us?" Amy asked, and the Doctor responded, "I thought we might need a gang. It's new." Indeed.
The Doctor was made aware that a very large ship was hurtling its way toward Earth, and if it came within a certain distance, the Indian Space Agency would blow it out of the sky. It was time to investigate, and the show got back to what I call "Willy Wonka Doctor," a goofball with touches of anger but who's mainly just excited for adventure. He gathered up Queen Nefertiti (yup, THE Queen Nefertiti), his adventurer friend John Riddell (played by Rupert Graves, a.k.a. Lestrade from Sherlock), and, of course, the Ponds. Since the Ponds were hanging with Rory's dad Brian (played by Mark Williams, a.k.a. Arthur Weasley from the Harry Potter movies, which I guess, in a weird way, makes Rory a Weasley), he got dragged along for the fun. Rory and his dad had a fun dynamic, but I got the impression there's much more to their relationship that the show left on the cutting room floor. Or maybe I just wanted to see more of the two of them interacting.
This episode also included the Doctor's ongoing passion for nature conservation, which is a well-worn but fundamental Doctorism. This show is amazing at introducing a species we've never heard of and then making us weep for its possible extinction, which makes the show's sometimes-zany storylines more impactful.
Case in point, the gang landed on the incoming ship to find it overrun with dinosaurs, and I gotta say, they looked fantastic. Really well done. Everyone split into two groups: Amy, Nefertiti, and Riddell, and the Doctor, Rory, and Rory's Dad. Each group had its own adventures—the Doctor's was trying to find the ship's control room to change its course, and Amy's was just trying to not wake up sleeping dinosaurs. (I didn't imagine that dinosaurs slept lying down on their sides, but I guess I'd never really thought about it before.) Amy and Nefertiti bonded over being spunky and tough ladies, and Riddell was bummed to learn that hunting defenseless animals doesn't earn him a place in the history books. (This guy is sure to be a recurring character, right?) The writers made a point of showing off how much Amy has learned from her travels with the Doctor; I'm keeping my eyes peeled for how things will play out as the season progresses.
Amy discovered that the ship belonged to our old friends the Silurians—reptile people who'd fled, Noah's Ark-style, from "the destructive impact forecast for [their] planet." The only beings left in the Ark were the dinosaurs. The Doctor's group was captured by two hilariously droll, rusty robots (voiced by David Mitchell and Robert Webb of the wonderful Peep Show) and taken to their leader, the grumpy and disabled Solomon (played by David Bradley, a.k.a. Argus Filch in the Harry Potter movies). Solomon was a shifty trader who tricked the Silurians into letting him board and then dumped them all into space, in effect murdering them all. He wanted to sell the dinosaurs. Solomon scanned the Doctor for his worth on the black market and found him to be a completely unknown entity, which pleased the Doctor. This is a point that will certainly come back up again later. Is this his plan, to slowly make himself forgotten by the universe, starting with the Daleks and moving on up?
The ship stayed on its trajectory to Earth, which of course forced Earth to launch missiles at it. I'd love it if just once, in any movie or TV show, military people listened to their guts and didn't fire the missiles just because it was protocol. But I digress. With moments until impact, Solomon demanded the more valuable Nefertiti in exchange for everyone's lives, and that's when we got to see the "Do Not Mess With Me" Doctor I adore, when he coldly and furiously said "NO." Solomon responded by shooting the triceratops the boys had been riding, and the Doctor stroked its adorable head as it died. Now he was REALLY pissed.
As he tried to figure out a way to control the ship, the Doctor asked Amy about her job, by which I assume he meant her job as a model. She gave it up, as she's given up all jobs, because every minute she's "listening out for the TARDIS sound." The Doctor's absences have been getting longer, and she's been terrified that he's trying to rid them of himself, or worse, that something bad would happen to him and she would never know. "You'll be there 'til the end of me," he assured her. "Or vice versa," she joked, and there was a terribly long pause. The Doctor figured out how to save the day by sending the missiles to Solomon's smaller ship instead of the larger ship (one of the few times the Doctor has seemed excited to kill someone), and Solomon died screaming "Doctor!"... but I'm more interested in what happened afterward. While the Ponds and Rory's Dad took in the Earth from space, the Doctor appeared behind them, looking extremely worried.
A storm is definitely brewing. The Doctor knows something about either his fate or the Ponds' fate, and it ain't good. I thought perhaps he wanted to distance himself from them further, but he seemed upset when they wanted to be taken home. The Doctor, for Amy at least, is a bit like drug addiction—so good when you're high that you spend the rest of your time thinking about how you can get high again, plain and simple. Maybe the Doctor will make Amy think he's dead in order for her to move on? Maybe she'll get burnt out on waiting for him and reject him? What do you think will be the Ponds' eventual fate?
Overall, I really enjoyed this big, gonzo episode, and I wish it had been the season premiere. Perhaps it was a bit silly, but it gave more of a sense of the Doctor's magic, and the wide range of possibilities for adventure for the group. It seems like we're marching toward the inevitability of Amy and Rory's goodbye, and I'm looking for the tiny bit of tension we felt in this episode to keep cranking up until we can't take it anymore.
– The Doctor: "You don't have any vegetable matter in your pants, do you?" Rory's Dad: "Just my balls." Rory: [facepalm].
– I giggled at the slapstickiness of the Doctor kissing Rory on the mouth and then slapping him in the face several times.
– Fun fact: The Doctor is a Sagittarius, probably.
– As much fun as it was to watch the Doctor, Rory, and Rory's dad riding a dinosaur, that scene went on a bit longer than necessary. How many times can three grown men "Wooo!"?
– I checked and rechecked, but as near as I can tell, the Silurians have always been an Earth-dwelling people. What soon-to-destruct planet were they fleeing from? – And speaking of the Silurians, can we have a moment of silence for them? They were one of my favorite species, and I feel like their genocide barely registered. Perhaps it would have brought down what was clearly supposed to be a lighter episode, but my goodness!