“Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” (07.02, 2012)
Written by Chris Chibnall (Past Episodes: “42,” “The Hungry Earth,” “Cold Blood”)
Directed by Saul Metzstein (No Past Episodes)
In the history of the new Doctor Who, there have been few truly bad episodes. Even most of the weaker episodes, like “Boom Town” (01.11, 2005), “Voyage of the Damned” (Christmas Special, 2007), “The Fires of Pompeii” (04.02, 2008), and “The Waters of Mars” (Autumn Special, 2009) have generally not been truly bad, just not up to the series standards. Then, “Let’s Kill Hitler” (06.08, 2011) happened. It was closely followed by the execrable “The Girl Who Waited” (06.10, 2011). Steven Moffat then apparently decided to prove he could reach new lows with “The Doctor, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” (Christmas Special, 2011). Suddenly, the show has a few truly bad episodes, and with this episode, they now have company, making for a truly disturbing trend.
The episode opens with a flirty scene between the Doctor and Egyptian Queen Nefertiti that calls to mind the opening of last season’s opener, “The Impossible Astronaut.” It’s a retread and doesn’t work as well because it’s just not as over-the-top and doesn’t have the payoff explanation for its excess that last season’s version did. It also exposes a problem that has lurked in the background throughout Moffat’s run—his habit of repeating character archetypes. Nefertiti is the same basic character as Elizabeth in “The Beast Below,” Reinette in “The Girl in the Fireplace,” and even Amy Pond (she has more depth, but we’ve also had more time to see that depth).
Unfortunately, the rest of the episode doesn’t really improve on that introduction. Amy and Nefertiti have some fun interactions (“Tell me, Amy, are you also a queen?” “Yes! Yes, I am.”) and the surly robots are rather funny when they first appear, but it’s a rather predictable episode that’s filled with far too many effects-laden action sequences. Sometimes, it seems that the Doctor Who crew forgets that it cannot afford good effects, a limitation that means that effects sequences should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Having the Doctor ride a triceratops to safety is a great example of something you should avoid unless you can make it look great (and, really, even then it’s probably not worth doing), and it doesn’t look great here.
It was a forgettable episode that offered nothing really interesting. Season seven is not starting off well.