After a promising start to the seventh series of Doctor Who last week, it’s beginning to be clear that what this “blockbuster of the week” business really means is a tendency toward disjointed, half-baked plots, a lot of scene cuts to get things set up, and pseudo-character development consisting of exactly one conversation between Amy and the Doctor per episode. “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” in addition, took the opportunity to show off some newfound CGI skills – and presumably a sizable budget – with some pretty impressive but not altogether important dinosaurs on board for the ride. (One dino chase scene? One? Really?)
This second episode of the series gave us an enormous spaceship and a mystery to solve: what happened to the people flying it? Why are there dinosaurs on board? Can we stop the Indian Space Agency – who apparently have their own hotline to the man that everyone else believes dead – from blowing it up? What is Argus Filch doing here? Just for fun, this episode also gives us Queen Nefertiti, big game hunter John Riddell, and Rory’s dad, a.k.a. Mr. Weasley from the Harry Potter films. None of them seemed to be much more important than the dinosaurs, though all were given something to do, and Mr. Weasley was surprisingly chill about the whole “Oh hey dad, so this is our best friend, a mad alien with a time machine” business. And in case you were wondering, I checked: Nefertiti did in fact disappear from historical record in Year 14 of her husband’s rule. The idea of her shacking up with an Edwardian hunter in the complete wrong century instead of returning to her own time is not entirely impossible.
There were plenty of cute moments, but the most significant one in this episode was something that I fear was not meant to be significant at all – the moment when the Doctor became an executioner. Things have been a little muddy, morally speaking, since River Song appeared and started waving guns around, a far cry from the Tenth Doctor’s strong aversion to the things. This is the first time I can recall the Doctor making the conscious decision not to bring someone to justice, but to administer that justice himself, and do it in such a cold-blooded way. It makes me uneasy, if only because I can’t be certain his actions here will later be addressed. The Doctor seemed completely unaffected by his decision in later scenes. Is this who the Doctor is now? Are we just supposed to accept that?
Our on-again, off-again companions, Amy and Rory were much more involved in this episode than the last. Rory was the seasoned traveler showing his dad the ropes and Amy demonstrated a surprising aptitude for alien technology (and guns). They’re old hats now, with more adventures under their belts than even good old Rose Tyler. Skipping around both the Ponds’ and the Doctor’s timelines doesn’t help me, as a viewer, shake the general feeling of being unsettled, and maybe a little disconnected – two years pass here, ten months there. As I recall, the Doctor dropped Amy and Rory off with a new house, a shiny new car and instructions to get on with their lives sometime in series 6, so why does he keep picking them up again?
The Ponds’ looming and allegedly permanent departure is alluded to with a very long and awkward silence in this episode after Amy mentions the possibility of her own death. I doubt Moffat and his minions would be so obvious. Then again, the Ponds are proving rather hard to get rid of. It’s going to have to be something big, and the death of a companion hasn’t been tackled since the show was relaunched in 2005. Will they go there? Time will tell.