I can’t speak for every single Doctor Who fan, but the second Steven Moffat introduced a clip for “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” at the San Diego Comic-Con panel, I was overjoyed. All I’ve ever asked for was a dinosaur episode. They teased me with a shot of pterodactyls in “The Wedding of River Song,” but that was it. Until now.
It’s 1334 BC, and the Doctor and Queen Nefertiti, or Neffie as he calls her, have just finished saving Egypt from aliens. He’s trying to leave, as he always does, when the psychic paper does something it’s never done before — honks like a car horn. The Doctor giggles excitedly and they travel to 2367 AD, where Indira and her crew are protecting Earth. They’ve discovered a spaceship hurtling towards Earth that will crash if someone can’t stop it. They’ve tried to communicate with the ship, but haven’t gotten a response. When they show the Doctor the life signs on the ship, he gets very excited, rambling about how the Ponds will absolutely love this. Indira ruins his happiness by saying if the ship gets within 10,000 kilometers of Earth, they’ll have to shoot it down with missiles. He’s got 6 hours and 19 minutes to find a way to save the ship.
He goes the African Plains in 1902 AD where he finds John Riddell (or Lestrade as I called him, since he’s played by Sherlock’s Rupert Graves). Riddell chastises him for running of without saying anything, leaving him with two dancers, which he wasn’t complaining about. The Doctor says he’s found something, and it doesn’t take much to convince Riddell to come along.
The Ponds, meanwhile, are trying to switch out a light bulb with Rory’s dad, Brian Williams (played by the Harry Potter series’ Mark Williams). Suddenly the TARDIS materializes around the three, including the ladder Brian’s standing on. The Doctor doesn’t even glance at them as he rambles in excitement and lands the TARDIS on the spaceship.
It isn’t until after the Doctor, the Ponds, Brian, Riddell, and Neffie exit the TARDIS that the Doctor angrily spots Brian. He accuses him of having snuck aboard, been sent to spy, until Rory interrupts and quietly tells him it’s his dad. Everything’s ok now, minus Brian having no idea what is happening. Rory has to quickly explain that they were never really traveling in Thailand last year; they were traveling through time and space.
The gang, as the Doctor’s decided to call them, find a door with lights, counting down. It opens, and to their astonishment, the life signs on the ship turn out to be DINOSAURS. The Doctor’s face lights up as he says, “Dinosaurs! On a spaceship!” before they all run away. Best open to the show ever.
They hide down a side tunnel and wait until the dinosaurs pass to try to figure out where the engines are so they can stop it from crashing on Earth. When The Doctor says “We need to get down to these engines,” he accidently activates a teleport that sends him, Brian, and Rory to a beach. At that point Brian freaks outs about everything that’s happening. Apparently, Brian hates traveling. They realize the beach is vibrating and dig in the sand, finding a ground underneath. As they call for the Doctor, a man onboard the ship watching them on surveillance is pleased to hear the Doctor is here.
Meanwhile, Amy, Neffie, and Riddell are still searching through the ship. Neffie introduces herself to Amy and Riddell, who fangirl over her for a moment, before they all realize they’re standing around a sleeping baby T-rex. As they tiptoe around it, Riddell introduces himself and is displeased to hear he doesn’t matter in history enough for Amy to recognize his name.
Back on the beach, the Doctor explains that the beach IS the engines, which are powered by the ocean waves. They’ll have to find the control room in order to do anything, but first they’ll have to deal with the pterodactyls that are approaching. They barely make it inside a cave without getting hurt, where they run into two robots, who oddly state, “We’re very cross with you.” They’re bickering, joking robots, which is a pleasant change to the threatening, life-hating robots we normally get.
Amy, Neffie, and Riddell find another screen with buttons, which of course Amy starts pressing as Neffie and Riddell flirt behind her. They discover the records and learn that this was a Silurian ship. The ship is an ark, like Noah’s Ark, but something’s happened to the Silurians. Amy asks the computer to show her the life signs present on the ship during takeoff and at the present time, and they spot another spaceship docked in the middle of the giant spaceship. Someone else boarded it before them.
The two robots are taking the Doctor, Brian, and Rory somewhere when a triceratops appears. The Doctor immediately turns into a five year old, rawr-ing back at the dinosaur and petting it. But Tricey, as he starts calling him, seems to like Brian more. He’s interested in Brian’s balls — golf balls, that is – in his pockets. Tricey just wants to play fetch. Adorable.
The robots bring the Doctor to the man who was watching them on the beach. His name is Solomon (but I called him Filch, since he’s played by the second Harry Potter guest star for this episode, David Bradley). Solomon was attacked by three raptors who chowed on his legs for lunch. His two robots saved him and tried to repair the legs, but he needs a Doctor to fix them. The Doctor wants to know how Solomon got all these dinosaurs, but instead of answer the question, he tells the robots to injure Brian. Naturally, the Doctor doesn’t respond well. Solomon doesn’t want to answer any questions, and threatens to shoot to kill if the Doctor doesn’t fix him.
Rory is very angry with the robots, but since he’s a nurse (and likes to remind people of this quite frequently), he pulls out a med kit to treat the minor wound. Amy calls him on his cell phone, which works in space thanks to the Doctor, and tells him it’s a Silurian ship.
As the Doctor works on Solomon’s legs, he figures out that Solomon is a trader. He scanned the Doctor in order to figure out how much he might be worth, but of course, since the Doctor’s dead to the rest of the world, he doesn’t exist to the scanner. Rory gives the phone to the Doctor so Amy can tell him about the Silurians. He’s disturbed by the information and tells Rory to be ready.
He finishes Solomon’s legs and demands to know what he did to the Silurians. Solomon had run across their ship and sent out a false distress signal in order to board their ship and discover what was on board. When he saw the dinosaurs, he knew they’d be valuable since they’re extinct. The Silurians wouldn’t negotiate, so he ejected them into space. He couldn’t change the course of the ship; otherwise he’d be headed to a market.
The Doctor warns him of the approaching missiles and escapes with Rory and Brian, launching himself onto the triceratops. Solomon demands the robots to stop them, but Brian uses one of his golf balls to get Tricey to run away. They ride the dinosaur. I’m extremely jealous.
They crash through a wall and successfully escape the robots. Indira activates a computer to tell the Doctor she has to launch the missiles now that the Earth is within 10,000 kilometers. He begs her to reconsider, but it’s too late. There’s only 30 minutes until impact.
Meanwhile, Riddell’s discovered a stash of guns, or “dinosaur protection,” which Amy vehemently objects to — until she realizes they’re stun guns. Neffie questions if Amy is the Doctor’s queen, clearly wondering if the Doctor has a significant other, as her husband is extremely dull. Riddell implies Neffie needs someone more exciting. Amy rolls her eyes.
The Doctor’s brainstorming what they can do to stop the missiles. Rory wonders if the ship has a defense system. The Doctor is so thrilled by Rory’s cleverness that he kisses him, much to Rory’s disgust, before quickly discovering that no, there’s no defense system. It may be the silliest reason in new Who for the Doctor to kiss a full-time companion, but considering Rory was the only one he hadn’t, I will gladly take it in order to continue that tradition.
They’re interrupted by Solomon and the robots teleporting into their midst. He’s realized the Doctor was right about the missiles, and plans to leave, even though he can’t fit the dinosaurs on his smaller spacecraft. He hasn’t left yet because he’s scanned the entire ship and discovered something even more valuable, almost priceless. It almost implies he’s found the TARDIS, which certainly could hold all the dinosaurs, but no — he’s found Queen Nefertiti. If they give him Neffie, he’ll let the rest of them live. The Doctor naturally refuses, and in anger, Solomon has the robots shoot Tricey. The Doctor’s heart breaks, but he still refuses.
Amy, Neffie, and Riddell find a way to teleport themselves in as well. Neffie agrees to go with Solomon in order to save everyone else, emphasizing that it’s her choice even though Riddell and the Doctor clearly disagree. Solomon is really creepy, telling her that he enjoys it when his possessions have spirit that he can break. He teleports with Neffie back to the ship. Alarms start going off; the missiles are approaching. Suddenly, the Doctor has an epiphany.
They teleport to the control room. The Doctor sends Riddell to protect them from dinosaurs while he works out the plan. For starters, he’s magnetized Solomon’s ship so he can’t fly away. He realizes the ship needs two pilots who are connected by the same gene chain, hence why Solomon couldn’t change the navigation. Brian points out that he & Rory fit that perfectly. They’re supposed to fly the ship as far away from Earth as possible.
As the Doctor works on something with his sonic screwdriver, he asks Amy how her job’s been. She says she gave it up because she’s always waiting for the Doctor. She suspects he’s making the gaps between visits longer in order to slowly wean them off him, and she worries that one day he’ll never show up. The Doctor promises that’ll never happen, saying “You’ll be there til the end of me,” which Amy retorts, “Or vice versa.” They stare at each sadly. I try not to cry.
Riddell rushes in, saying there are too many dinosaurs and it’s a two person job. Amy grabs a stun gun excitedly to help. She and Riddell fight off the dinosaurs while Brian and Rory fly the spaceship. The Doctor teleports himself to Solomon’s ship, where Solomon demands he disable the magnetization and let them go, or he’ll kill Neffie. She’s not too pleased by this, and instead knocks him to the floor. The Doctor reveals his plan. He’s switched the signals of the Silurian ship and Solomon’s ship, so when he de-magnetizes Solomon’s and it flies away, the missiles will be tricked into targeting Solomon. Solomon tries to bargain for his life, but the Doctor asks if the Silurians begged him for their lives. He leaves and demagnetizes the ship. The ship detaches from the Silurian ark and explodes within moments.
Having saved the ship, the Doctor wants to drop off the dinosaurs, but the Ponds are ready to go home. Brian, on the other hand, makes a request. He wants to see the Earth, from space, and drink some tea. Neffie and Riddell get dropped off together, and the Ponds are back at home, still trying to fix that light. They’re getting postcards from Brian, who’s now traveling around the world. His unexpected trip in the TARDIS was good for him.
All in all, a much more lighthearted episode compared to the season premiere. It certainly lived up to every expectation I’ve had since watching the clip at Comic-Con. Next week on Doctor Who, we get a western in America (but shot in Spain), with a cyborg and robots and accents!