With a title like ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’, it’s impossible not to have fun during the second episode of the current Doctor Who season. With last week’s season opener and this week’s offering, it looks like the series is opting for a return to standalone adventure episodes. Even so, we do get small glimpses into what to expect for the rest of the season.
Let’s take a closer look after the jump.
Although we get plenty of fun on the Silurian ark watching our crew play fetch with an adorable triceratops, tranquilizing raptors, tiptoeing around sleeping T-Rexes and outsmarting deplorable pirate, Solomon (David Bradley), what stands out in this episode are the implications of the moments outside of the main adventure plot.
Even though Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) haven’t officially vacated their position as companions, it appears that more and more time is passing between their adventures with The Doctor (Matt Smith). This week’s adventure takes place a full 10 months after the zombie Dalek confrontation we saw last week.
After the introduction of a new “gang” of companions, including game hunter, John Riddell (Rupert Graves) and Queen Nefertiti (Riann Steele), Amy shares her dismay with The Doctor, wondering if he’s ‘weaning’ the Ponds off the space/time adventure train. I must admit, I think we’re meant to have the same reaction. Although Amy and Rory are present in episode after episode, they don’t come off as integral parts of the team so much as tag-alongs who jump in occasionally. We don’t get significant glimpses into their domestic lives, but there’s a feeling (from Rory especially) that the Doctor’s adventures have begun to serve more as interruptions and nuisances rather than thrilling opportunities. This is especially obvious at the end of the episode when Rory asks if the Ponds can be the first to be dropped off at home, which is the cardinal sign of someone who didn’t have the best time at the party.
Amy, on the other hand, is a bit harder to read. She acknowledges that she can’t help but continue to wait for the distinctive sounds of the TARDIS, but she also exhibits more commitment to her life with Rory than she has in seasons past. Of course, from our position as viewers, there’s still a strong bond to these companions and we’re not ready to let go of them yet, even though they are becoming slightly less invested with each subsequent adventure. Amy’s oscillation between her life with Rory and her continued desire to wait for The Doctor mirrors what we viewers are going through: we’re excited with the prospect of a new companion(s), yet it’s difficult to say goodbye to the ones we love.
My heart skipped a beat during the exchange between The Doctor and Amy when he reassures her that she’ll be there ’till “the end of him” and she replies “vice versa”. It is a touching moment that reminds us that the Ponds’ time on the TARDIS is coming to a finite end, and that the end may not be a happy one (I’m hoping the Ponds don’t leave the show in death). But the significant question raised by this exchange is whether death is that the only way Amy can stop waiting for her Doctor?
Throughout his little adventures, we also catch a glimpse into the Eleventh Doctor’s darker side. We’ve seen him exhibit disgust and contempt toward the Daleks, but on the whole, this Doctor is more apt to settle disputes without violence. Even when Solomon first tries to intimidate The Doctor by getting his bickering robots to blast a non-fatal laser at poor Brian Williams (Mark Williams), The Doctor submits to Solomon’s demands and fixes his legs. But in between callously killing the poor triceratops and darkly suggesting he will “break” the spirit of his new possession, Nefertiti, The Eleventh Doctor turns into an executioner. He could have easily transported Solomon and his robots back to the ark to dole out a punishment after the ISA’s missiles are redirected to Solomon’s getaway ship. Instead, he leaves Solomon clawing on the ground for his crutches as he closes the gates, leaving the pirate on the ship to perish. The Doctor coldly departs telling Solomon to “Enjoy his bounty,” on behalf of the triceratops, Neffy and the poor Silurians that Solomon killed in pursuit of it. Perhaps I’m wrong about this, but I believe this is the first time in my memory that this particular Doctor has willingly killed some one. (Side Note: Notwithstanding his orchestration of The Silence’s execution via the moon landing in 6×02 “Day of the Moon‘) The collective actions of The Doctor, throughout his incarnations, has earned him the title of “Predator” and the like, but now this doctor is adding to that descriptor.
Other bits and bobs:
- Rory’s father Brian is an excellent addition to the “gang”. His wide-eyed disbelief, naivety and exuberance (‘I’m flying a spaceship!’) are quite refreshing amongst the more seasoned crew members (i.e. Amy’s getting pretty proficient at using alien technology, don’t you think?) This addition is another tactic to help accustom us to a new, impending companion(s) and reminding us that the Ponds have other family back on Earth.
- I loved finding out what’s in the pockets of the Williams’ men: first a portable trowel (!) in Papa Williams’, and then a nurse’s kit in Rory’s (Because Rory’s a nurse! Remember? I’d nearly forgotten). It also gives us some touching moments between father and son and preps us for their bonding moment flying the ship
- The production budget of the show has definitely increased exponentially. Not only are the outer space effects gorgeous, but also the CGI dinosaurs rivaled those found in Jurassic Park. The now-defunk Terra Nova should’ve consulted with the BBC apparently
- We’ve now seen two enemies fail to identify The Doctor this season. Last week the Daleks were left asking “Doctor Who?” after Jenna-Louise Coleman’s Oswin erased the Doctor’s file from their collective mainframe. Now Solomon’s scanny-how-much-are-you-worth-thingy has the same problems and its clear that the pirate is unaware that he’s more than a doctor to fix his leg. Is this going to be a running theme throughout the season as io9 predicts?
- This also marks the second time The Doctor has identified his role in significant classical music pieces. Last week, we’re told he played the triangle in Carmen‘s aria and this week he admits he was the second piano player in Schubert’s Fantasia in F minor. Is this another running theme that will prove to be significant, or is it just an attempt to be cheeky?
- Finally, is ‘Dinosaurs on a spaceship’ the Doctor Who version of Snakes On A Plane?
So what did you think Who fans? Do you prefer the standalone adventures, or would you rather mind-bendy, complex plots that stretch over multiple episodes? Do you think we’ll now begin to see a darker side of the Eleventh Doctor this season? And will one or both Ponds exit the series in their death? Sound off in our comments section below.
Doctor Who airs at 9:00pm EST, Saturdays on BBC America and on SPACE in Canada