Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

15-episode set
Region A/1
15-episode set
Region B/2
Standard DVD
5-episode volume

See below for purchasing options
(Doctor Who Story No. 232, starring Matt Smith)
  • written by Chris Chibnall
  • directed by Saul Metzstein
  • produced by Marcus Wilson
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 47 minutes
Story: When the approach of a giant space ark threatens the Earth in the year 2367 A.D., the Doctor recruits a small gang to help him investigate. Why are there dinosaurs on board? Who controls the trigger-happy robots? And how can the Doctor find a way to safely steer the ship and save the dinosaurs before it must be destroyed by Earth missiles?

DVD Extras for this story on the 15-episode box sets include:

  • Behind the Scenes featurette: Raptors, Robots, and a Bumpy Ride (4 min.) with Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond),
    Arthur Darvill (Rory), Rupert Graves (Riddell), David Bradley (Solomon), Richard Garaghty (Robot #2), writer Chris Chibnall,
    executive producer Steven Moffat, and 3D supervisor Matt McKinney.

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have
already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide to the season instead.

What this story possibly does best, over and above all of its rivals this season, is to capture and celebrate the unique joie-de-vivre of Season 33. It's utterly and purely a fun romp of an adventure, one that continues to tick off a lot of boxes on my "most want to see on Doctor Who" list while steering far clear of a lot of the embarrassing negative points that recur often in modern Doctor Who.

I have to say that I do thoroughly enjoy the new "gang" that the Doctor collects for this adventure. Riddell in particular often reminds me of Robert Culp, particularly Culp's regular role on "The Greatest American Hero" as a wise-cracking conservative tough guy. Riddell cracked me up as he was being introduced/recruited, which boded well for the rest of the tale. I was less sure about the inclusion of Queen Nefertiti, but her perspective and presence continues to pay off from character moments to plot throughout the story, in addition to adding unusual extra eye-candy to the show via her colourful, regal costume. I also thoroughly enjoyed the addition of Rory's dad Brian to the cast, as the character was nicely written and so entertainingly portrayed by the actor Mark Williams, and it added so much new material for the regular trio to explore in their dynamics with each other.

As with the last adventure, the TARDIS gets a bit short-changed today. The only materialization we get to enjoy is seen through the Ponds' eyes from the inside - which we need for story purposes. I'd have also shown at least one more somewhere else, probably for arrival on the ship itself, just to give the story a more classic feel and make the show less obscure to non-regular viewers. We don't actually get a lot of TARDIS interior today either.

The "spaceship" of the title deserves mention. With it reportedly being the size of Canada complete with its own massive beaches, and designed by Silurians instead of Humans, it inherits all the scope and cultural variety I'd want to see from an alien planet, accordingly earning the story all the points it would get if it had been set on an alien world. I do question what will become the common assumption - that it was built to avoid the same catastrophe as that which sent Silurians into hibernation. That catastrophe turned out to be the harmless arrival of the moon into Earth orbit, which probably would not have alarmed the Silurians so much if they were already capable of building a nearly-moon-sized spacecraft. But then of course, there would naturally be so much history behind the Silurians that we have yet to explore, including perhaps more rises and falls of technologically-based Silurian civilizations, that we should hesitate to make too many hasty false connections.

Of course, dinosaurs themselves are another successful element in this story. It is quite rare to see them on Doctor Who, and rarer still for them to appear in anything resembling their natural habitat. In that respect, perhaps we could have had a bit more jungle here, but at least this story is pretty good at fooling the audience into believing/trusting that there is more jungle to be found just behind the next bulkhead and on other parts of the ship.

I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that Doctor Who can now afford to do dinosaurs with the same professional CGI technology as had been seen on Jurassic Park, and like Jurassic Park, a large percentage of dinosaur footage is achieved using simpler techniques. Clever. I have to say though, I think "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" is a much better story. "Jurassic Park" fell into very predictable bottle-story horror formulae in its second half, where the narrative focused on generating fear, and the only real question left in play was who would get eaten before the story resolved. The audience demographic being marketed to dictated that anyone with a remotely familial connection on display would be immune from consideration.

But here, we're not restricted to watching the carnage of carnivores, as has happened on dinosaur flicks throughout the history of cinema trickery. Boring old carnivores make but brief cameos here. We spend far more time with herbivores, and take time to explore their characters and attempt communication, culminating in the celebration of a Triceratops. Much more interesting! Personally, I think Brian was a little TOO close to Tricey while trying to figure out what he wanted; I would not quite have trusted Tricey to be that docile from the outset. But there is so much about dinosaur behaviour that our science simply cannot prove yet. I'm glad this story explored some different possibilities.

I also like the way the villain of the piece and his robot servants are revealed gradually and in ways that pique the imagination much more than such characters might have with plainer exposition. The opening exploration phases of this story are nicely paced by quickly giving the audience everything it needs to understand the story title before it appears, while allowing the rest of the details of set-up and backstory to be the rewards for our gang's persistent investigations.

The robots work really well in terms of physical design, up to and including the brilliant laser beams superimposed later on. The robot characters as written and performed aren't quite as exciting, but since they thankfully get very little dialogue, they still work well within this particular story. I would predict we will see this robot design return in a future story, but with a totally different personality programmed in.

There's a nice bit of fair turnabout in this story as Amy becomes the de facto leader of her own little trio, and has to put up with their flirting distracting her from solving problems. Exactly what she always used to do to the Doctor - now she sees the dynamic from his perspective, which makes a nice little moment.

Personally, I do find it hard to believe that our villains succeeded in putting thousands of Silurians to their deaths, even just a few at a time, without more of a fight ensuing at some point. If they had that much control over their cryogenic resuscitation equipment, why not just sabotage it like HAL in "2001: A Space Odyssey"? Oh well, it's a relatively small plot hole.

It's also nice for variety to see Earth being defended by an Indian Space Agency. The character of Indira becomes a welcome and easily recognizable focal point for this aspect of the story.

The Doctor is quite busy in this story discovering clues in all the story's varied locations. Once he has everything he needs to put the mystery together, he masterminds a very fast-paced and involved solution, which works from many, many levels. On the downside, the defeat of the robots seems a trifle too simplistic, considering the total control they exhibited in an earlier confrontational stand-off. And the chief villain's final fate doesn't really demonstrate the Doctor's philosophy at its best, although his sentiments remain understandable.

But in the end, this story's better elements are the ones that get the screentime, and I feel inclined to cite it as my favourite of Season 33. There is plenty more good stuff to enjoy though, as we continue....

International Titles:

Deutsch: "Dinos im All"

Magyar: "Dinoszauruszok egy űrhajón"

Français: "Des dinosaures dans l’espace"

Русский: "Динозавры на космическом корабле"

Italiano: "Dinosauri su un'astronave"

Curiously, the Germans and French put their dinosaurs in space... and then neglected to mention any ships they might be sitting in.

This story has become available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Season 33 Box Set
15 episodes

NEW for
Sept. 24, 2013.

NEW for
Sept. 24, 2013.
Blu-ray U.S.

NEW for
Sept. 24, 2013.
Blu-ray Canada

NEW for
Sept. 24, 2013.

This 5-disc DVD box set includes
13 regular episodes, 2 Christmas specials,
4 audio commentaries, documentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and additional scenes.

The Blu-ray version has identical content in high definition spanning 4 discs.

This Region A/1 version (U.S. & Canada) is new for September 24, 2013.

Season 33 Box Set
15 episodes

NEW for
Oct. 28, 2013.
Blu-ray U.K.

NEW for
Oct. 28, 2013.
The Region 2 box set has identical content to its North American counterpart, except that it also has one additional extra feature called:
  • As Good as Gold

This Region B/2 version (for the U.K.) is new for October 28, 2013.

The music CD is new for September 9, 2013.

Check out this companion 2-disc Audio CD as well:

Doctor Who: Original Music from Season 33
(aka "Series 7", 2012-2013) by Murray Gold

More info & buying options (2-disc album)

This story is also available in a 5-episode volume with minimal extra features.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

Standard DVD:
NTSC Region 1 - U.S.
NTSC Region 1 - Canada
PAL Region 2 - U.K.
Region A/1 - U.S.
Region A/1 - Canada
Region B/2 - U.K.
Extras are limited to:
  • The Science of Doctor Who documentary (44 min.)
  • Doctor Who at ComicCon 2012 (11 min.)
  • Prequel / promo scenes:
    • Pond Life (5 parts/scenes)
    • Asylum of the Daleks prequel
    • The Making of the Gunslinger prequel

Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "A Town Called Mercy"

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