The dinosaurs look really great and despite being used sparingly are integral to the plot. The contrast of having the prehistoric beings on a futuristic spaceship could only be done on Doctor Who and instantly reminded you of Stephen Moffat's episode 'The Girl in the Fireplace' that similarly juxtaposed the past and the future...
Wait...what's going on!
"Hang on a minute!" is probably what you're thinking right now while reading this, "you can't just jump straight into a review without first writing some kind of introduction so that we know what the article is about and can follow it with ease." Well that's what the latest Doctor Who episode did. Exposition was cast aside in favour of diving straight in at the deep end this week as in the space of a few seconds we saw the Doctor and Queen Nefertiti of Egypt, a big game hunter in the African savannah, the Indian Space Agency, and the Ponds at home, before they all found themselves together on the reptile-ridden spaceship.*
The blistering pace of the show can be bewildering at the best of times, so to those that missed the first couple of minutes must have been completely lost at sea. Luckily despite the seeming abandonment of exposition, you could still sit back and enjoy the ride as 'Dinosaurs on a Spaceship' was a fun and boisterous affair that whilst not as clever as last week's opener did deliver a whole load of laughs and an excellent villain in David Bradley's Solomon.
Amy, Rory and Brian Pond
The Pond's home life seems to have returned to normal, or as normal as it can get when a mad Time Lord turns up on your doorstep every now and then to take you across the stars. But these visits appear to be getting less frequent, a fact that Amy has noticed: "They're getting longer you know, the gaps between your visits. I think you're weaning us off you."
Amy's jealousy over the other two members of the Doctor's gang, Riddell and Nefertiti, also comes out when she says, "Are they the new us?" Like 'A Good Man Goes to War' last year, a random assortment of companions comes along for the ride simply because it seems the writers think it would be fun. Riddell and Nefertiti are both great characters that definitely add to the oddball vibe of the episode, but by far the greatest companion is Rory's dad. Brian Williams (or Pond according to the Doctor) is the classic British cliché of how a father should be. A handyman about the house, he is busy changing the light bulb when the TARDIS suddenly materialises around him. His trusty trowel kept on him at all times, in a quietly powerful moment he asks the Doctor to let him enjoy a sandwich and a cup of tea whilst looking down on Earth.
Solomon, Mitchell and Webb
If the companions are all a hoot, the villain of this week's episode is a much more sinister figure. Unlike the Daleks indefatigable hatred of all other life, as just a lone figure Solomon is more terrifying because he is motivated by pure selfish interest. David Bradley excellently underplays the evil role, calmly threatening the Doctor after injuring Rory's dad by saying, "Now fix me or the next bolt will be fatal". The darkness is somewhat alleviated by him having the most camp robots since Star Wars as henchmen. Voiced by Robert Webb and David Mitchell, they deliver comical asides throughout the episode such as when they're chasing after the Doctor, Rory and and Brian as they scarper atop a triceratops: "We definitely used to be faster!"
Big game hunters
As well as providing a lot of the episode's humour, the two robots serve an important purpose. It would have been easy for the dinosaurs to be just a sideshow in the episode, a novelty monster such as in Jurassic Park. Instead the episode deals with issues regarding equality and objectification. The Silurian Ark was designed to preserve the animals, but the ruthless Solomon sees them only as possessions that can be traded for profit. This extends beyond just the dinosaurs to the people on board the ship as well. At first he seeks to cash in on the Doctor before discovering that an Egyptian Queen is more valuable. Disregarding why the Doctor would befriend a big game hunter, Riddell similarly struggles to recognise that men and women are on equal footing. Amy tells the chauvinistic hunter he needs a lesson in gender politics, and he does indeed learn throughout the course of the episode to not see himself as superior to both women and the animals he pursues. Solomon fails to recognise that he's exploiting living creatures and is so punished in a dark moment where the Doctor leaves him stranded on his own ship before missiles blow it up.
Light & dark
The finale exposes one of the problems with child-orientated episodes likes this one; the schizophrenic tonal shifts between light comical moments to entertain young audiences along with the dark horrors that are the embodiment of Doctor Who. The Mitchell and Webb automatons are designed as comical underlings, but when they're gunning down dinosaurs it is an abrupt gear-shift that can feel awkward and clumsy. Despite this 'Dinosaurs on a Spaceship' was an enjoyable hour of television that provided a great deal of entertaining moments between the multitudes of people, animals and robots on board the vessel. It will be interesting to see how the quintessentially British Doctor Who deals with the most American of genres, the Western, in next week's episode 'A Town Called Mercy'.
* Actually dinosaurs were probably birds rather than reptiles, but try telling the Silurians that.