Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Posted on September 15, 2012

We watched this in our hotel room during Fashion Week, on a TV that stubbornly refused to show BBC America with anything approaching the description “clarity.” Lorenzo was busy and didn’t pay too much attention to the show, but about halfway through, he looked up from his work and said, “It’s not a very good episode, is it?” “It’s okay,” said Tom. “At least a couple times a season, you just have to turn the show over to the people it was intended for: kids.” We wish we could say we’re so young at heart and charmingly child-like that we love these types of episodes the most, but to be perfectly honest, we found this one hard to sit through the first time out. There was just a bit too much of the “throw everything at the wall to see if it sticks” school of Who-writing. Which, when you think about it, only makes sense for an episode titled “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.” But our first impulse was to say “The dinosaurs on the spaceship were enough. Did we have to add Nefertiti, a Great White Hunter, and Rory’s dad to the mix? Plus Silurians and the 24th Century Indian Space Agency? PLUS bitchy robots?”

But the week passed us by quicker than we’d like and we never got around to a recap, so we sat down and watched it in the comfort of our living room when we got home. Turns out? This was a great episode; for kids and adults. It managed that very rare trick of starting off frivolously and loudly, and ending ominously, with a sense of doom and a reaffirmation of what has always been true: The Doctor is a children’s adventure hero who will coldly kill when the situation warrants it. In fact, it was the darker undertones that really made this episode for us.

Oh, sure. Eventually we got into the wacky spirit of the proceedings, helped in no small part by Amy, who had several really great moments, among them the “Yes. Yes I am.” when “Neffie” asked her if she was a queen, the “Hanging around with the Doctor taught me to push buttons whenever I’m in a new place” scene (which is a hilariously on-point description of The Doctor’s M.O.), and finally the line that reminded us that yes, she’s still River Song’s mother: “Um, I’m easily worth two men. You can help if you want.”

It was also fun to see The Doctor and Rory have an adventure mostly apart from Amy that didn’t consist of “We have to save Amy!” Amy was fine and having adventures of her own, so we got treated to some of that awesome Smith/Darville chemistry (including a full-on-the-mouth kiss, which led us to wonder which aspects of the story would be most protested if this was an American kids show: the murder, the rape threat, or the fact that two men kissed). As much as we love the Amy/Doctor relationship, with its intense, known-you-my-whole-life/my-whole-life-has-been-devoted-to-you dynamic, we really love seeing Rory and The Doctor work their way through a problem. He’s that rare Companion who has no problem freaking out on The Doctor for being irrational and irresponsible and over time, you can tell how much The Doctor has grown to respect him for it.

But The Doctor hasn’t seen the Ponds for ten months and Amy is concerned he’s “weaning” them off of him. He insists that he’s not, but then at the end, Amy and Rory effectively ask for that very thing. They want to go home for a little while. But that’s not really how the Companion relationship normally works. Normally, you sign on for a stint in the TARDIS and when you want to go home (or are forced to leave), your stint is up and The Doctor is moving on to someone new. With the Ponds, The Doctor has something different; something closer to actual family. Which makes a certain amount of sense, since technically, Amy and Rory are his mother- and father-in-law.

Which reminds us: Why did Brian not know who The Doctor was after he materialized in the middle of the dance floor at Amy and Rory’s wedding? At least last season we got a “I don’t do weddings” wave of the hands when Mel was retconned into their history, but there was no mention of why Brian doesn’t know The Doctor or seem to remember this event. Couple that with the fact that Solomon’s computer database couldn’t identify The Doctor after we’ve been told for the last two seasons that he’d gotten “too big” and too well known and we’re wondering if Oswin somehow managed a bigger trick last week than anyone realized. Could she have somehow wiped all memory of The Doctor from the universe, instead of just from the Daleks?

And it was a throwaway line, but Rory mentioned being 31 years old as of this episode, which would have to mean the events of “The Eleventh Hour” had to have happened close to ten years ago on Amy and Rory’s timeline. We’re not suggesting that actually means anything, but it is interesting to note. Moffat loves to play around with time and he’s aged this doctor 200 years in the last 3 years of show time and aged his companions a decade in that same time. Whether it means anything or not, it certainly binds these three characters together in a way previous Doctor/Companion relationships didn’t. She really has been obsessed with him her whole life and he really has had only the Ponds as his Companions his whole “life.” There’s an intensity to the relationship that supercedes most prior Doctor/Companion relationships, which tend to be intense to begin with.

Which brings us to our final point: the sense of finality hanging over everything. The Doctor was speaking the truth when he said he wasn’t weaning the Ponds off him. What he failed to mention was that he’s weaning himself off the Ponds. That “You’ll be there till the end of me!” “Or vice-versa!” exchange was perhaps a little too on-the-nose, but it can’t be denied, this intense relationship, for whatever reasons, is coming to an end soon and both Amy and The Doctor know it on some level. We’re stocking up on Kleenex now, because we have a feeling the departure of Amy and Rory from the show is going to outdo the embarrassing weepfest that greeted Donna Noble’s tragic end.



[Photo Credit: BBC America]

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  • Whoa! I think you’re really onto something here with the theory about Oswin doing a bigger memory wipe than we might have realized, as well as the way that Moffat has been playing with both the Doctor’s time and Amy and Rory’s time since they entered the story. All of Moffat’s stories for new Who have had aspects of time manipulation, back to the introduction of Captain Jack as a time agent. Hmm. Oh dear. I’m going to be pondering this all day. (And that pun sneaked in there without me realizing it.)

    • KathKo

       A hint to make you ponder more : Smith said that there is a hint about the Ponds’ fate in the Eleventh Hour episode.
      My guess is that it’s not the duck pond and that the play with the Ponds’ timeline is even bigger. Think : for the very beggining, they’re getting used to spend months, years, millenias without seeing him or each other.
      If I’m right about it I would be so very thrilled.

      •  Oh man, now I’m going to have to rewatch every Eleven episode. Again. I finally got the whole River Song/Who killed The Doctor thing straight in my head and now this? Gah. Curse you, Moffatt!!!

      • MilaXX

         Interesting because most people seem to think it has to do with the duck pond.

        • If they are eaten by mutant ducks I will cross the pond to slap the Moff myself.

          • MilaXX

            Haven’t heard any spec that out there, but something more along the reasoning of why there was a duck pond with no ducks.

          • lovelyivy

             I thought the ducks were sucked into the time crack, along with Amy’s parents and that’s why there were no ducks?

            Note: I despised the time crack story. It could have been great, but was mostly confusing and  we STILL dont know what was able to destroy the TARDIS with River on board. I may have blocked out that the ducks were never explained, in my general loathing for that whole storyline and refusal to re-watch a lot of the episodes.

            Note the second: If the Amy/Rory finale actually ends up explaining how the TARDIS exploded in the Big Bang I may change my mind about hating it.

        • KathKo

           I thought the duck disapearance was due to the crack in the fabric of the universe.
          I don’t think the ducks are relevant but, with Dr Who, you never know.

      • silaria

        I’ve always thought the Doctor’s “accidental” skipping of twenty years in Amy’s life wasn’t so accidental.

        • KathKo

           There was always a lot of time hopping with Amy : first twelve years, then two, then Rory waited 2000 years, then Amy herself waited her whole life alone, then Rory turns 31…
          That’s a LOT of time spent there, that’s for sure.

    • Chantelle James

      When Soloman’s database didn’t register the Doctor I also wondered if Oswin did a bigger memory wipe than just the Dalek database. It didn’t occur to me that Brian, Rory’s dad, may have fallen prey to that wipe as well. 

      Wiping knowledge of the Doctor from almost everything/everyone is a fine way of keeping the series fresh and interesting without rebooting the whole thing from scratch.

  • EspyRants

    I think you guys are absolutely right about where Amy and Rory are headed. I’ve definitely been getting a sort of Girl in the Fireplace/slow path sort of vibe from the first two episodes…I remember that episode as being the first one that really devastated me and she was just a temporary companion. This is going to be a thousand time worse with the Ponds isn’t it?

    • Synnamin

       that’s still my favorite episode. Plus: Steamcoco automatons!

  • piecesofconfetti

    I’m mentally preparing myself for Amy and Rory’s departure too. Moffat has already said its going to be a doozy. I lost it with Donna Noble, but nothing compares to “Doomsday”… yet.

    • KathKo

       I think Donna’s fate was worse than Rose’s. At least she got a human version of the Doctor to take home and keep her warm.
      Donna… She had nothing out of it. Maybe a little more love and support from her mother but what else ?
      I mean, every companion left with mixed feelings : Romana got stranded in a parallel universe like Rose, Sarah Jane was left behind, Ace’s fate is unknown, Martha had a broken heart, etc.
      But at least they still had their memories and they could peer into with fondness. They had a good time with the Doctor.
      Donna as well, but she can’t even remember them.

      • h2olovngrl

        Martha got Mickey. There are worse ways to go. Noel Clarke is a fine looking fellow!

        • MilaXX

          And quite talented too. I’ve read a few Spike Lee comparisons

        • CozyCat

          Martha was also the only companion to quit before she was wounded too badly;  always leave the party while you’re having a good time (or at least, before the heartache of unrequited love gets too bad).

        • lovelyivy

           I always thought the show tried way too hard to make Mickey into a badass (possibly to make up for the length of time he was pretty much castrated and mistreated by Rose/10- the way they treated him was a big part of why I was so ready for Rose to go) when he went to the Cybus-verse, but I can not deny his hotness. Yum.

      • alula_auburn

        Me too!  What happened to Donna still breaks me.  (But I have a huge squick about any kind of memory loss/mindwipe story.  It scares me much more than separated lovers, etc.  This may say something about me.)

  • StelledelMare

    Love this recap and it’s given me much to think about (especially that Oswin theory). It took a second viewing of this episode for me as well to really get into it. Part of me thought it was just a ploy to shove in several cameos (you guys should watch Sherlock, btw ,if you haven’t). But overall it was a fun episode that still had the serious moments that were probably needed as Amy and Rory begin their departure.They’ve only got 3 episodes left with the Doctor, I believe, so I wonder how they’re going to go.  I will be drowning in tears, I know it.

    • julnyes


  • KathKo

    It was a great episode.
    I mean : dinosaurs on a spaceship ! It’s like someone looked at my christmas list ! And to think that today’s going to be about cyborg cowboys. Come on, isn’t it great ? Throw you back to good old 80’s SciFi movies. I mean, have you watched the trailer ? The gunslinger could be Yul Brynner’s cousin !
    I love my show.
    And, yes, the Doctor might loathes weapons but there was a time when he wasn’t advert to genocide. He would gladly wipe the Daleks and the Cybermen from the universe without a blink. And he used to manipulate his companions to do the job and keep his hands clean.
    The Gamma Forest girl made the point very clear in last season. For her people, a Doctor is a mighty warrior.
    That’s what the Doctor is and that’s what he hates about himself.
    It would come to reason that he might to be a little bit forgotten.
    And don’t forget that silence will fall when the First Question is asked “Doctor Who ?”. And the Daleks asked it. So I guess that silence has litterally fallen over the Universe. I think Oswin indeed managed to do better than just erase the Daleks’ database. I don’t mean the whole Doctor’s memory across time and space, or else the ISA wouldn’t have call him for help. But maybe something else’s at work, something that manages to erase slowly the Doctor’s existence from the very universe. That would be creepy.
    And it wouldn’t be the first time a companion would be thrown in the Doctor’s arms and be a weapon designed to destroy him (remember Ace ?). could be the same thing for Oswin.
    Still Pond’s impending doom sadden me.

    •  Yes, yes. And remember Turlough as well.

    • MilaXX

       The clip of that gunslinger reminded me of that miniseries from the 80’s Westworld.

    • Qitkat

      Exactly what I thought when the Daleks asked the question. Waitaminnit, wasn’t that supposed to be a really HUGE deal? I don’t personally do a lot of analysis, I just try to go with the flow and understand what’s happening, not always easy we all know. But this jumped out at me.

      • MilaXX

        But is it literal silence or just total silence regarding his existence?

        • Qitkat


  • Oh, such lovely theories today! I am in the presence of my peoples! Wonderful things to think about in the midst of Saturday chores and errands.

  • Joshua

    I’m glad you guys gave this episode another shot. I really liked it myself, despite thinking it would be (and witnessing somewhat) a total cheese fest. It was one of those episodes that really reminded you that the doctor is capable of making tough and terminal decisions and that he does so on a regular basis. Loved the kiss too, lol.

  • Lauren Bradshaw

    I am so happy that I am not the only person who loves a distinct mixture of geekdom, fashion, and bitchiness.  Where else am I going to find this but here?  Thank you.

  • MilaXX

    I think for parts of the fandom it will be a weepfest, myself included, but other parts will be dancing in the streets with joy. It seems while you guys where at fashion week, Moffet flounced off twitter and parts of the fandom declared him the worse thing to ever happen to Who & wished the Ponds would leave yesterday.
    Me? I love the show full stop and still adore Amy and Rory. On the other hand I want to see how Oswin is introduced.  I’m interested to see how River fits into this leap in time we seem to have made.

    • Qitkat

      I too am fascinated to see how River will continue to interact with the Doctor. I know the fandom has very mixed feelings about her, but she is my all-time favorite character.

      • MilaXX

        When we first meet her in the library I disliked her, but she has grown on me and while not my all time fav, probably in the top 10.

    • CozyCat

      My favorite part of the episode was getting to meet Rory’s dad and finding that like father, like son.  Both were really nice, good hearted but not too exciting chaps.  Then they meet The Doctor, and their spirit of adventure is ignited–the fact that Dad’s one request was to see the Earth from space and that then he went out to explore it on the ground was such a, well, Rory thing to do…

    • lovelyivy

       Do you have links to any particularly spectacular hissy fits? I generally avoid Who fandom online due to the excess fanboi warring factions. For some reason Doctor Who inspires way too many nerd wars- it’s hard to find a forum that is fun and funny without the bitterness. Except here, so hooray for TLo!

      • MilaXX

        There’s an entire tumblr devoted to the fandom belief that Moffet has ruined the show. I don’t have the link, but a quick google would probably bring it up.

  • Frank_821

    Ultimately there will never be a true consensus of love for any one era. I recall how there was vocal bitching about RTD and people couldn’t wait for Moffat to take over. There are people who love Matt Smith and people who hate him and the ponds and wish he would go away. As someone who watched the show since the 70s, I chuckle and tune it out.

    1 thing though is that you are right about the Doctor’s relationship with the Ponds. They’re the closest he has to a legit family since his granddaughter. As much as the writing has focused on Amy’s connection, I really respond to the Doctor’s relationship with Rory and how they have become family as well. But they’re mortal. Their time is finite. It goes back to the episode School Renuion with Sarah Jane. He can’t spend his whole life with them

  • formerlyAnon

    All you analysts. I’m just sitting there musing on Rory.

    And I do like Amy much more when she’s actually kicking ass than when she’s just slinging attitude.

    P.s. I REFUSE to think about the departure of these companions from the story line. Time enough to be distraught when it happens.

  • watchmeboogie

    Agreed on all points, TLo. It’s particularly interesting now to look back at the Doctor wondering just what it was about Amy that they kept crossing paths.

  • sockandaphone

    I HAD NO IDEA YOU GUYS DID DW RECAPS THIS MAKES ME SO EXCITED. and i love your oswin theory! i didnt even notice that before.

  • Okay, but weren’t you at least a little bothered by how cavalierly the Doctor just threw Solomon in the path of a missile?  He *smirked*.  Usually he’s at least grim and heartbroken about it, but this time he joked and *smirked*. Yes, our bad guy was genuinely unredeemably evil (I mean, he couldn’t even settle for a *Kick* the Dog moment to prove his evilness), but countering No Subtlety with Less Subtlety was apparently the theme of the night, and that’s not what I watch DW for.

    The whole script must have been written with a crayon.

    Nope, still hated this episode.

    • Qitkat

      Count me among those who were bothered. In a different way it reminds me of when Ten became completely full of himself, thinking he had ALL the answers and NEVER made mistakes in judgment (all of which I thought Tennant played brilliantly, a callback to his classical and Shakespearean training). Then came an enormous downfall. Perhaps Eleven is heading down a very dark arc, delighting in tormenting his enemies, I was going to say losing his humanity, but since that’s absurd, losing the perspective that his human companions bring to him. 

      • alula_auburn

        I thought that too, about that kind of moment being symptomatic of something coming unstuck.

      • >
        Perhaps Eleven is heading down a very dark arc, delighting in tormenting his enemies

        After today’s episode, I’m even more convinced you’re right.  I’m starting to worry that he’s taken to this Predator nickname with disturbing enthusiasm.

  • Synnamin

    Stupid question, and something that bugged me all episode: why didn’t they just shove everyone onto the Tardis? There was an awful lot of running around without great effect.

  • Eclectic Mayhem

    Glad you guys enjoyed the episode and I’m really glad you’re recapping and that you gave it a second chance!

    Is the Doctor’s new ‘low profile’ maybe to do with Oswin *and* what happened at the end of the last season, the semi-reboot for time when he cheated death?  Sometimes the timey wimey stuff defeats me utterly so I might be getting the wrong end of the stick!

  • alula_auburn

    I will admit that I have a soft spot for stories where “dismissive/not getting it parents become witness to child’s heretofore unrecognized awesome,” so especially the bit where Rory was patching his dad up and said “now you get to see my nursing skills” got to me a bit.  

    The rest of the episode really felt cluttered.  I’ll probably watch the repeat tonight and see if I get anymore nuance when I’m doing less–“er, what?”

    I. . .don’t really get if I’m supposed to feel good about Nefertiti taking off with Great White Hunter.  Mostly I felt, okay, well, at least it meant some of the “plucky” banter got lifted from Amy so she could do other things.

    • julnyes

      Well The Great White Hunter did redeem himself a bit during the episode and Nefertiti does disappear from history rather abruptly … plus Rupert Graves is dishy.

  • LeBarron

    I had missed this episode last week so I watched it last night on BBC America after the new episode and Coppers.  I liked alright.  Like T Lo, I think I will have to re-watch to really appreciate it since I was mostly distracted by Detective Inspector Lestrade as the hunter and David Mitchell and Robert Webb as the wise-cracking robots.  The latter distracted me so badly, I had to look up the episode on Wikipedia as it was airing to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind and make sure it was in fact their voices I was hearing. 

     They’re definitely dropping hints left and right about Amy and Rory’s fate, but as is typical of my experience with Moffat, I won’t put iot together until it happens.  And I have a feeling I will be devasted.  Like rip out my heart and stomp on it style. 

  • Markatha

    I loved the Triceratops (sp) that acted like a puppy dog.  I love Rory.

  • Markatha

    I REALLY have enjoyed the dynamic of the Dr. with Amy AND Rory as companions.  It’s been fun having a guy companion thrown into the mix.  Also the fact that they are a couple has added a lot of Drama & Humor.  I’ll really miss this whole package and am not looking forward to them leaving AT ALL.  I really like Amy but I’ll miss RORY most of all.  I’m already sad.

  • …I’m probably going to have to be stopped from throwing things at Moffat by the close of this season…

  • Jangle57

    Count me in with those who won’t shed too many tears when the Ponds exit stage left.  I’ve watched a lot of companions leave and there are some I was sorry to see go.  Some of the ones that saddened me the most were Sarah Jane, Tegan (brave heart Tegan!), Adric (who got blown up), Rose (bawled my eyes out!) and Donna.  I didn’t cry when Donna left so much as was a bit angry at the way they left her with no memory of the Doctor; I thought that was mean.  So I am looking forward to meeting the new companion.

  • Scott Hester-Johnson

    Can I just say how much I love that you keep referring to Amy and Rory as “the Ponds”? Another swipe at poor old Rory.

  • The bitchy robots were my favourite thing about this episode; but then, I have a soft spot for David Mitchell and Robert Webb. Actually, the whole guest cast of the this episode was kind of epic.

  • Don’t feel bad; I sobbed my eyes out for Donna b/c it also broke The Doctor’s heart.  Truth be told she was my favorite of the new generation of companions.  Amy & Rory are a close second so I hope I don’t need a whole box of tissues.  The Pond-Williams combo will be truly missed.

  • I know I’m late to this recap, but AUGHHHHHHHHHHHHH I am stocking up on Kleenex too. I am SO worried about what is going to happen with Rory and Amy. My poor heart could barely handle what happened to Donna … if something even more horrid happens to Amy and Rory I will be a giant mess. (I told my husband all this, and he now thinks I’m completely unhinged.)