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Review #3022: Classic Doctor Who: “Invasion of the Dinosaurs”

Posted on the 23 September 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Written by Malcolm Hulke
Directed by Paddy Russell

One would think that a title like “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” would lead a fairly straightforward premise. And when this six-episode serial begins, that’s exactly what it seems like the story will be: an extended invasion of early 1970s London by dinosaurs. But thankfully, that’s not quite the case, and there are elements of the story that help make up for the obvious limitations.

Review #3022: Classic Doctor Who: “Invasion of the Dinosaurs”

I might as well mention those right from the start. The dinosaurs are some of the silliest looking props I’ve seen in a long time, and that’s taking the previous ten seasons of Classic Who into account. These dinosaurs make the models from “Land of the Lost” look positively life-like in comparison. It gets to the point where it saps all drama out of a scene, leaving the viewer laughing hysterically. (The best has to be the moment when two dinosaurs fight. It’s a wonder to behold.)

The other issue is the length. This era of Classic Who is notorious for padded stories, but this is one of the most egregious examples I’ve seen to date. The entire story could be told in four episodes, maybe even two, with a lot more impact in the process. Instead, there are endless chases around empty London and the usual incarcerations. Even watching this episode by episode, I found myself quickly losing patience (and interest) as the next time-consuming chase came along.

It’s too bad, because the underlying premise is not at all bad. Fed up with the ruination caused by modern civilization, a secret project to restore the Earth to a more primitive “golden age” is initiated. They use their special technology to bring dinosaurs forward to time, to prevent interference and ensure only their carefully selected candidates are safe and secure. The side effect of this plot, of course, would be the elimination of more than six billion people.

Call it more than seven billion at current count, but I imagine that there are some who would find such a potential return to innocence more than a little appealing. Certainly those who believe that the world is on the brink of utter disaster would like to see things shift back towards more idyllic times. But as the Doctor notes in the final episode, there never was a “golden age”, and as ever, the cost of trying to create it is higher than could ever be borne.

One surprising turn of events is Mike Yates and his allegiance to the conspiracy. In the end, I’m not sure the writers made a strong enough case for why he would turn his back on UNIT and his friends over this cause. Was it a result of Jo’s departure, perhaps? There was ample time to explore that side of things, so it’s a missed opportunity that didn’t need to be.

In her second appearance, Sarah Jane Smith comes out swinging, with a sense of initiative and personality that Jo Grant sorely lacked. Sarah Jane may be a bit of a stereotype at times, as if the writers were pandering a bit to the feminism movement of that era, but she’s better off for it. She’s a bit more self-assured and active than Liz or Jo. For that reason, perhaps, she doesn’t feel like a good fit for the Third Doctor. (And I’m not saying that because I know what’s coming soon enough.)

It’s hard for me to get a good sense of the Doctor at this point, at least in terms of whether or not Jon Pertwee is really just phoning it in, because the writing issues (especially the padding) make everything seem flat and boring. I do think there’s a lack of enthusiasm at play, but it hasn’t yet hit the point where he’s just visibly bored and disinterested.

Overall, this is another example of how a fairly interesting idea, laced with the social commentary for which the Third Doctor era was known for, was undermined by a too-long story and questionable execution.

Writing: 1/2
Acting: 2/2
Direction: 1/2
Style: 1/4

Final Rating: 5/10

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