‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’ is a decidedly mixed episode. On the one hand it is extremely silly. Tricey plays fetch and gives rides. Rory’s dad carries odd things in his pockets. Mitchell and Webb voice the robot sidekicks. But on the other hand, we have mass slaughter, human trafficking, hostage-taking, and, ultimately, what may be the Doctor’s first up close and personal on-screen murder.
There are plenty of things to like about the story. I like the idea of Silurians running away from death by asteroid, with an ark of Silurian-era flora and fauna to seed a new world. (I wonder if this is a different branch of the family from those who stayed sleeping underground.) I like the Indian Space Agency. I like Amy and Nefertiti asserting themselves. I love Rory’s dad: coming to terms with the impossible, sharing tender moments with his son, overcoming his personal reluctance to see the world. But there are a few uncomfortable moments, and some strangeness. Nefertiti’s behavior in the opening scene bothers me in the same way Amy’s does in ‘Flesh and Stone,’ and Martha’s in ‘Smith and Jones.’ Solomon’s treatment of her is likewise a little too unsettling for family television. In addition, the Doctor is confusing. He left Amy and Rory behind for their own good after ‘The God Complex,’ and hasn’t seemed to mind paying them occasional visits when the mood strikes him. Now he has apparently changed his position – at the same moment that they have changed theirs, in spite of Amy’s expressed unwillingness. Is she giving in to Rory after their difficulties in the prior episode? Is she ready to give up the Doctor for him? And has the Doctor now realized he doesn’t want to do without them, regardless of the risk to their lives?
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. It’s a strong episode, fantastical and sweet and adventurous. The characters are great, even if Nefertiti and Riddell are drawn a little thin. The ideas are good, and the acting is excellent. Another good outing by writer Chris Chibnall.
I only wish we’d gotten more Brian.