Or to give it a more accurate title, Some Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, But They’re Mostly Just in the Background and It’s Not Really About Them. There’s a lot to take in, not least the huge number of guest stars. There’s Lestrade from Sherlock, and Mark Williams from the Prudential adverts, who join forces with Amy, Rory and, for some reason, a randy Queen Nefertiti to provide the Doctor with a little gang.
It’s an interesting dynamic, but with so many new people on screen there’s not time to meet them all properly, and so I found it hard to care. Nefertiti seemed a good sort, but Lestrade was very much a product of his time, and while I appreciate that all his sexism was countered by Amy and Nefertiti giving as good as they got, it didn’t make me want to spend any time in his company. I was baffled at the end when he and Nefertiti got together, which sends the message that if you patronise and belittle a powerful woman enough, she’ll end up shagging you in a tent.
Then there’s David Bradley, meaning that this episode features two Doctors (sort of), and with Bradley alongside Arthur Darvill and Mark Williams, three Aston Villa fans, surely a record for Doctor Who. And just for good measure, the comedy robots are voiced by Mitchell and Webb. What a waste of two great guest stars on such dull and flimsy characters. And why does Mitchell get three times more lines than Webb? It’s just weird.
I’d forgotten about the Silurian element. It’s a nice bit of universe-building to learn more about them even when they play such a small role, and for once they are categorically not the villains. That role is reserved for Bradley’s character, Solomon, the guy who took over their ship and flushed them all into space. He’s a real nasty piece of work, which works well in the hands of such a good actor, but the way he is with Nefertiti is a bit too much. It’s too adult and gritty for a programme about dinosaurs on a spaceship, not for prudish reasons, but for the wildly veering tone it creates.
For all Solomon did, the Doctor passing and carrying out a death sentence makes me uncomfortable, even if the guy did commit genocide. As he himself as said in the past, there should have been another way – the plot painted him into a corner whereby killing Solomon was the means of saving everyone else, and I’d accept almost any other TV character making that decision, but the Doctor always finds another way.
So this episode doesn’t really have a lot going for it, but Mark Williams as his surnamesake Brian nearly makes it all worthwhile. He’s adorable as the slightly crotchety everydad, muddling his way through the adventure with a mixture of middle-aged practicality and child-like wonder. I could have done with more of him and Rory together, and to explore how he gets on with Amy, but you can tell that he was always going to come back. It’s only a shame that he didn’t turn up earlier in the Ponds’ tenure, or he could have become the new Jackie or Wilf.
But still, I’m yet to see anything written by our next showrunner that is anything better than “OK”. Getting ahead of myself for a moment, Jodie Whittaker’s casting has made me incredibly excited about the next series, but every time I rewatch a Chibnall episode, it reminds me of how worried I was before she was announced.