The boldy-titled second episode of Doctor Who's latest season is sure to grab your attention, fan or not. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship is one of those great mash-ups to put alongside zombie Nazis and pirates vs. ninjas. But at some point in the writing process, the creators of Doctor Who decided that wasn't enough, crafting one of the most jam-packed and fun episodes we've seen in a while.
The episode opens with the Doctor scooping up the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, a big game hunter named John Riddell, and then materializing the TARDIS around Rory, Amy, and Rory's dad, Brian. They all take off to a derelict ship on a crash course with Earth. Precious cargo or not, the ship would cause unparalleled destruction to the planet, so the Doctor and his hastily assembled team must save the ship, the cargo, and the planet before its all blown up.
The precious cargo on board turns out to be more than just dinosaurs, as the ship is actually a Silurian version of Noah's Ark. Dinosaurs and strange plant life all make up parts of the Silurian homeworld's flora and fauna, so they presumably escaped Earth to make a new home elsewhere. Unfortunately, with no sign of Silurian life on the ship, it's only assumed that something tragic happened to them. That tragedy comes in the form of Solomon, a curmudgeonly thief looking to sell off the dinosaur cargo.
Here's where the episode takes a dark and subtle twist. In order to take control of the ship, Solomon and his two robots woke up the Silurians one by one and tossed them out the air lock. The episode doesn't really say one way or the other, but you have to wonder if that's the end for the Silurians. Genocide seems a bit excessive, and the Doctor's retaliation is unexpected, but more than appropriate.
Fast-paced and dense, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship is an episode with a lot of fun stuff to pick apart. Rory's dad, Brian, could have been more of a focal point in the episode, but we get enough of his connection to Rory and his reaction to the Doctor that the character manages to be pretty fun. John Riddell and Nefertiti are the big surprises though, and Nefertiti shows what a total badass she is when Soloman starts making his demands.
Amy and Rory continue to have their fate subtly hinted at in this episode, as Amy questions the Doctor about his increasingly infrequent visits. Are Amy and Rory destined for a happy ending or a deadly fall? With this show it could still go either way.
In last episode's write-up I mentioned that the Doctor's faked death from last season didn't get enough attention. This episode it gets a second mention, and now that it's been acknowledged twice in a row I have to wonder what importance it will have in later episodes. Is it possible his sudden irrelevance is going to backfire? Either way, I'm glad it's a plot point they aren't tossing aside.
It's also worth noting that this week's episode was packed with stars. Between Mark Williams playing Rory's dad and David Bradley playing Solomon, it was like a regular Harry Potter reunion. Then you have Rupert Graves of Sherlock fame making an appearance on yet another Steven Moffat show. Still, for my money, you don't get much better than the comedy duo of David Mitchell and Robert Webb voicing the episode's dopey robot pair. Pretty amazing stuff overall.
Next week we're headed to the wild West for an episode that will hopefully be better than Cowboy's & Aliens. It seems this season is all about themed one-shot episodes, but if they're all as good as Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, I'm ready for more. Something exciting is building, and in the the meantime we get a very fun ride to enjoy.