Sunday 28 November 2010

Invasion of the Dinosaurs

A group of mad idealists are unleashing Dinosaurs on London. The Third Doctor and Sarah invesigate.

Conventional fan opinion holds that this story is a load of rubbish. On this one, I think conventional fan opinion is quite correct. Nevertheless, there do seem to be a remarkably large minority of fans who attempt to defend this story. The usual defence is that though the Dinosaurs are rubbish, the plot is really thoughtful and interesting. I am afraid I disagree. The plot of Invasion of Dinosaurs is an even bigger load of garbage than the rubber Dinosaurs. I can only put the attempts to defend Invasion of the Dinosaurs down to the idiotic adoration of the Pertwee era that is so common among the more traditionalist Whovians.

Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles in About Time use this serial as an example of the error of the "Yet in the loo" concept that came to dominate Doctor Who in the Pertwee years. Pertwee, on becoming the new Doctor, had offered the opinion that a Yeti encountered in a toilet in Tooting is frightening by virtue of its mundane setting. This idea was so embraced by the production team and lead to contrived plots like this one, created simply to engineer a menace into an everyday setting. Miles and Tatwood argue that the "Yeti in the loo" notion obsesses the minds of a large contingent of fans and also non-fan journalists, leading to the mistaken notion that this is what good Dr Who is all about. This gimmickry can be seen quite a lot in the BBC Wales series, such as the deadly satellite navigation devices in The Sontaran Stratagem. Letts and Dicks thought that Dinosaurs in London would be a great idea, so in order to get them there, we are served a plot so ludicrous and unfeasible that it insults the intelligence.

There is so much about this plot that makes so little sense. Are we really supposed to believe that the Golden Age people really have the power to erase human history? I really had a hard time suspending my disbelief about the possiblity of their device actually working. Perhaps it would not have done. Perhaps the Doctor was taking them too seriously. Especially given the paradox that the Golden Agers would be wiping out their own ancestors. We are also supposed to believe that this bunch of middle class idealists are going to survive in the rugged cosmos of prehistoric earth. There is also the question of whether the Golden Agers really have cryogenically frozen a bunch of 'colonists.' If they have it is pretty incredible, if they have not it seems amazing that they fooled their 'passengers.' Why did they bring Sarah on board the 'colony ship?' Surely she was bound to be a 'disruptive element.' Perhaps this was just because General Finch fancied her. We could also ask how all these famous sportsmen and intellectuals managed to disappear without attracting any media attention (including one journalist rather close to home). We could ask why everybody accepts that the Doctor is incriminated by a Dinosaur materializing in his presence when there are Dinosaurs appearing everywhere in London. Or how the baddies managed to build, or at least take over and refurbish, what must be a massive complex underneath Whitehall without anybody noticing. Malcolm Hulke gave us a brilliant story in Dr Who and the Silurians, but he can never be forgiven for coming up with this unfeasible garbage.

We are told by defenders of this story that we should admire the moral ambiguity of this story, in that the Golden Agers are environmentalist idealists. So they may be, but they have Peter Miles with them acting like every other sinister scientist. And a nasty, brutish military type who is very obviously a bad guy. Put simply, they are murdering scum and the Doctor is far too generous in his assesment of them. Still, I must commend the bold move of making Captain Yates a traitor. Though how the Brigadier really believed that the drippy captain would have actually shot him in cold blood is beyond me.

Yes, there are a few good elements in this story. The first episode is quite chilling, with its scenes of deserted London, capturing something of the menance of Day of the Triffids. Sarah Jane Smith is used really effectively in this story, with her investigative skills playing a key part in the plot. The Brigadier's knowlege of who she is has puzzled many fans, but this can be explained by Tatwood's very convincing theory that Sarah was already being employed by UNIT as an investigator before the events of The Time Warrior.

The bit where Sir Charles puts on a spacesuit had me laughing out loud, but I doubt that was the intention.

Face it. This is a bad story, along with so many other stories in the later Pertwee years.


  1. I thought the concept meant that time was rolled back, keeping the Golden Agers in a protective bubble. Therefore, the Earth as we know it would be swept clean, and Humankind would never have existed. Instead, Grover and Whitaker as just sent back to Prehistoric time, where they would be part of set chronological events which had already happened. John E.

  2. Maybe. I think it's just a load of garbage.

    Thanks a lot for commenting. How much do you like the Pertwee era in general?

  3. Hi, I love Pertwee's era. He was very moralistic. The DVD for Terror of the Autons has just been released, with VidFiring restoring the fluid video look of the studio sequences. He was very authoritarian, whereas the others were more maverick and anti-Establishment. In the Malcolm Hulke novel of this adventure, he points out the supernatural Angels depicted in the Bible, who could have equated to alien beings, an odd theological twist. John E.

  4. Are you a bit more conservative than the average Doctor Who fan then?

  5. I liked Jon Pertwee's version of the Dr, I must admit, even though Tom is usually held up as the best. Tom was Irish Roman Catholic. As I said before, 'Colony in Space' had a lot of Christian themes, with the Colonist leader Ashe sacrificing himself on the ship for the sake of the rest, ideas which were more fully developed in the novelisation. J E

  6. John -- You'll have trouble convincing me that "Colony in Space" was in any way pro-Christian, being that it was written by Malcolm Hulke- same guy who wrote "Invasion of the Dinosaurs." Hulke was both a Communist and an atheist, and so vehemently so that he asked to have no hymns played at his funeral. Perhaps this is why I identify with his stories more often than not.

  7. Matt, thanks for the comment. It is difficult to see any obvious Christian themes in Colony in Space, though John did say they were more fully developed in the novel, which I have not read.

  8. Hi, I'm a pretty big fan of the Pertwee era and I must say this is and always has been a personal favourite along with many in his final season. However I would not call myself a more traditional whovian, I became a fan as a 5 year old child in 1999, first expierience being Dr Who and The Daleks from 1965 (peter cushing film). Out of all the Doctor's I chose Sylvester Mccoy as the first one to expierience yet now Pertwee is my preffered Doctor. Also as much as McCoy is "my" Doctor, I would argue that the average output of the pertwee era betters that of McCoys by far, great reviews though and being a conservative myself I love seeing that opinion brought through!

    1. Thanks for visiting and offering your opinions.

      That is interesting that you like both McCoy and Pertwee. People who like Pertwee tend to dislike McCoy most and people who like McCoy tend to dislike Pertwee.