Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

I’ve been writing a lot about how Doctor Who has from the very outset been several different types of show. One of them, comedy, is to the fore in much of tonight’s episode of Doctor Who, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.” But other genres are there alongside it, and at times come to the fore, including suspense, mystery, and drama. Spoilers ahead!

The Doctor does something new-ish, gathering a “gang” for this particular mission, including Queen Nefertiti of Egypt. It is good that the show ditched the idea of “not changing the course of history” and avoiding taking people from the past into the future, since every time a character from our time went to the future, they were doing just that, from a certain point of view. And there is something cool about having a famous historical person from the past come along for a trip into the future. It isn’t the first time Doctor Who has done this, and we could debate whether it works better with H. G. Wells, Nefertiti, or any other example. But that would distract from the thing that gets the Doctor excited like a child in the trailer for the episode (and obviously also in the episode itself). Dinosaurs…on a space ship!

The mystery is part of the fun in the first half or more of the episode, as the Doctor and his companions figure out what the ship is and who launched it and why they would have dinosaurs aboard. Since that is really best discovered at the appropriate moment, let me give a second spoiler warning. If you haven’t watched it yet, bookmark this page and come back later.

So eventually, Amy uses an approach she learned from the Doctor (pushing buttons) to figure out that the ship is a Silurian ship, and was created as an ark to save them and other living things on Earth from the catastrophe they expected, which in fact never materialized. The ship had been boarded by a pirate named Solomon, who threw the Silurians out the airlock in order to take the precious cargo of these extinct species.

As you can imagine, that made the Doctor angry, and we see the Doctor, having spoken not merely of piracy but genocide, showing his least merciful side.

The episode provides many entertaining moments, but also significant food for thought. Everyone in the episode is trying to survive – whether the Ponds dealing with ordinary things in their lives, Nefertiti saving her people with the Doctor’s help, Riddell the big game hunter making a living hunting other animals, the Silurians, and even Solomon the pirate.

The difference is whether they are happy to kill and harm other people in order to do so, or seek to save others along with themselves.

Rory’s dad being along for the ride is a fun element, and we are nicely shown the aftereffect of his experience. Whereas before we were told that he didn’t like traveling, at the end, we see lots of postcards from him. One significant trip can be a life-changing experience.

I was struck by the Doctor’s absence from Solomon’s database with the value of all people. Unless it was a Dalek database, Oswin’s erasure should not have affected it. Is the Doctor presumed dead at this stage? If so, then how could he be known to Earth to the authorities who authorized him to investigate the approaching spaceship? I wonder if this is something that will be important later, or like most such aspects of Doctor Who, is a sign of a demand for logic from a show that, for all its serious philosophical, religious, and ethical themes at times, is mainly for fun.

If you’ve watched the episode, what were your favorite moments? Do you think it works to have the same show be so very whimsical and farcical, and so very dark and somber, in the same episode?

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  • Dr. david Tee

    Here is a question for you Dr. McGrath. Since you mentioned Dinosaurs on spaceships, I made the connection to the argument of dinosaurs on Noah’s ark. here is the question—If you were God and were going to destroy all living things in the world, would you have Noah take over-large, old and worn out specimens onto the ark who also required a lot of food or would you have him bring the young, vibrant, fully active, and smaller versions, whose food intake would not be as large, since the goal is to have those animals re-populate the earth?

    • James F. McGrath

      If, unlike the author of the story in Genesis, one believes in a God who is not simply powerful but all-powerful, then there would be no need to devastate the Earth and kill innocent animals in order to destroy sinful humanity. One could simply annihilate the sinners with a word, and protect humans from the remaining animals with another word. But obviously the view of the author of Genesis is for from that. Either that, or perhaps one should go with the even simpler option of comprehending that the authors of the story in Genesis were reworking an earlier polytheistic story.

      And of course, a God less prone to human-like tantrums and less anthropomorphic overall would not make humanity, repent of making humanity, and then having wiped them out almost completely promise to never do so again. But these are only problems for literalists – most can see that the Biblical authors were at a particular point on a trajectory that we should follow, rather than trying to move backwards to where they were some 2500 years ago.

      But it is kind of you to ask this question here. I forgot to highlight the fact that the young-earth creationist version of the ark story in Genesis, requiring more water than it could hold without sinking, makes much less sense than this Doctor Who episode, with its water-powered ship. I wonder whether the writers had such things in mind.

      • Dr. David Tee

        In other words you can’t answer the question.
        I do not know what type of god you believe in but the one you describe in that post is not the God of the Bible.
        You do not grasp what took place pre-flood do you? Can animals be guilty or innocent of anything?
        yes, God could have anihilated all humans with a word, but what good would that do? Future generations would be afraid of God and never come near Him.
        Using the flood God accomplishes much–He shows His redemptive side, His grace, His way of salvation, He gives people time (I think you are nearing the end of yours before it will be too late for you to repent) to repent which means He is merciful, He is just, as all people who didn’t repent including children received the same punishment for their sins,
        He set an example for future generations of what will happen if they disobey and on it goes.
        Your way may be quick and easy but like all your ideas and beliefs, you want to rob God of so much and in the process rob people of what God has for them.

        • James F. McGrath

          If a mother drowns most of her children in a bathtub, how would that inspire less fear in the survivors than if she had simply had some way of zapping them into oblivion? I don’t think you understand the story. Perhaps you need to reread it, carefully?

          • Dr. David Tee

            A mother isn’t God and it is an apples v. oranges argument. What that event did was bring the reality of the supernatural to America. issinaries are well aware of the supernatural world but Americans scoff at it. it is time for them to sit up and take notice, they have had far too comfortable lives.
            I understand the story, you just do not want the lessons it gives

    • aar9n

      If I were God I would not commit genocide and kill off all of the creatures I just created. I would find more civilized and common sense ways to teach and show humans how to love and act properly, thereby showing them how to act and deal with problems on there own.

      If, on the other hand, I was a Jew living in exile who wished o write a story showing my God’s superiority over my host nations god, I would of course take their epic of Gilgamesh and change it around a bit to make my point.

      • Dr. David Tee

        Really?? if you were God would you think like you are right now? What you do not get about copying is that the host nation would not accept a revised version and just laugh in the face of the Jewish copyist. it would also mean nothing to anyone especially the jews for they would know its source and dismiss it as it would no tbe from God but just a revision of an untrue fable.
        is it any wonder that americans do not accept fairy tales from any nation over their own true heroic accounts? Think about it.

        • aar9n

          Yes, if I were God I would not commit genocide, especially if I were all loving and all powerful. “a host nation would not accept a revised edition”
          A. Genesis was written for the Jews.
          B. People spun stories off other stories, copied and edited stories, and forged stories all the time in antiquity. C. The point of spinning off another story is not because your story is “more factual” but to say “this is how our God is.” e.g. Our God does not wipe the world out for being too noisy, he did it because they were wicked. Our god deliberately saved someone too, and vowed in his mercy to never do it again. Its point is to be subversive, not to convey historical facts.
          D. What is you PH. D in and where did you get it?

          • Dr. David Tee

            You do not understand what all loving is, you forget that it punishes as well as cares.
            A. Really? So others can’t read it even though God gave permission for the Gentiles to have it.
            B. Yes, the Babylonians had that reputation so why aren’t they charged with ripping off God? God did not lie or committ forgery for the same reasons i have stated on this website in other posts.
            C. Wrong. A false story doesn’t show how big God is, it shows him to be a liar and a thief.
            D. None of your business. it is MY choice to reveal it or not NOT yours.

          • aar9n

            Genocide is not a loving way to punish people.

            It wasn’t just the Babylonians that make up and edited stories for their own purposes. Both the Jews and early Christians did. Take a look at some of the apocryphal writings.
            I hate to break it to you, but there are false stories and forgeries all throughout the bible. 11 books of the New Testament are deliberate forgeries.
            You do not have a Ph. D, and if you do, its from an unaccredited degree mill.

            Admiral A, M.D.

          • David

            Read the text, God gave them thousands of years to live right but they chose not to. They went so far in their practice of evil to make God repent that He had made man–what does that tell you? A response like the one you want wouldn’t do any good as even the children were corrupted beyond repair.
            You make judgements without knowing the whole story.
            So SOME people made up stories or wrote historical fiction–just like today– but that doesn’t mean the biblical writers did. you are doing a guilt by association judgement and being lazy in your research.
            There are no forgeries in the Bible.
            I have never claimed to have a PHD I have just used my properly obtained Dr. title, you assume way too much .

          • aar9n

            Drowning people’s children, no matter how long their parents misbehaved, is not just.
            The biblical writers wrote in the same way and in the same genres as other writers of there time. They wrote things that were historically inaccurate (Jonah, Ester, the conquest of Canaan, the roman census in Luke) as well as participated in forgery (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Colossians and Ephesians were almost certainly written after Paul’s death by someone pretending to be Paul, and there is no way in the world Peter, an illiterate Jew, composed the eloquent Greek writing of 1 and 2 Peter, which also were written after the death of Peter). So you’ve never claimed to hold degrees in theology, archeology, and church history?

          • David

            You missed the point of what I said and what God did. The children were just as evil as their parents. NO they didn’t. They wrote the way God wanted them to write and it ispossible that the other authors copied their style.

          • aar9n

            Really? So infants and young children can be evil enough to drown them?
            I’m not hiring you as a babysitter!

            Your reasoning is not new, however. Many, many Christians in the last 2 thousand years used the very same logic to justify killing the Jews. After all, they were “exceedingly wicked” “Christ-killers”.

    • aar9n

      And FYI, it takes much more than a pair of animals to repopulate a species. With only a single pair, the species would die out from inbreeding within several generations.
      BTW, if you take a lot of animals young, you would have to take their parents as well, till they are done nursing.
      Further FYI, an youtube guy already outlined the utter absurdity of taking the Noah’s ark story literally.

      • Dr. David Tee

        That is only if the stay in the same area and continue using the same genetic information. But then the options for genetic reproduction runs into the milions if not billions. In other words, parents do not pop out carbon copies of the oldest child and there are a lot of differences that contribute to each child or animal.
        I’m sorry but your BTW is just not correct and less than intelligent. Do you not think that God knew that?
        wow…to your FYI point. a fallible human declaring the Genesis account is not true.Hmmm…how is he any different from the millions who already have said that? Was he there? did he record it? What evidence does he have?

        • aar9n

          I suggest you go study genetics.
          Two of a kind cannot repopulate a species.

          • Dr. David Tee

            actually they can and you are applying reproductive conclusion to events long before it was instituted

  • Erp

    Somehow I don’t think I would want a group of active animals on board a boat especially in the numbers that Noah supposedly had to take (14 head of cattle, 14 goats, 14 sheep, 14 deer, 14 gazelle, 14 bison, 14 moose, 14 giraffe, 2 elephants, 2 hippopotamus, 2 rhinoceros, 2 cobras, 2 mambas, 2 anaconda, 2 horses, 2 donkeys, 2 zebras, …). Also did he take aboard 2 locust or 14? 2 bees or a beehive (a queen isn’t going to reproduce successfully without workers around and a drone cannot work [he isn’t built for it]).

    Anyway the question is a bit like asking how the gods endured living in the nasty weather on top of Mount Olympus. Was Hephaestus good at building weatherproof palaces? Did he use stone or wood or a combo.

  • Plutosdad

    Not having cable anymore I have to wait awhile before I can watch it, but I certainly hope someone says something along the lines of “I am tired of these wibbly wobbly dinosaurs on this wibbly wobbly spaceship!”

  • Cuddles

    I wrote a blog entry about Doctor Who that got a lot of traffic recently. I’ve updated it just now with Asylum of the Daleks and Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. One was great, the other was one of the worst ever, I thought.

  • Beau Quilter

    I loved seeing two favorite actors on the show: Mark Williams and Rupert Graves!

  • Eva

    This really was a fun episode- with many favourite moments. I loved the ballsey-ness of the Queen, and there were lots of great one liners.
    Mind you, I watched it at 5am this morning, when it became available here in Australia. I may need to rewatch it to properly appreciate the profound bits!

  • Jeremy Klingendorf

    I haven’t watched this episode yet but it looks really
    good. I work Saturday nights at Dish and
    I miss the live airing. I really am
    curious what Queen Nefertiti has to do with dinosaurs, and Noah’s Ark? I’m really confused, but I will watch tonight
    on my Hopper DVR. Actually, I have a ton
    of great episodes of Doctor Who on my Hopper and with 2000 of available
    recording time I’ve got room for a ton more.
    I like the changes the new seasons of Doctor Who has taken. I can’t wait to watch and find out what’s the
    deal with dinosaurs.

  • Desariella

    I liked it. It was a fun episode. I loved Tricey. Rory’s dad was
    interesting. But I wonder why he didn’t recognize the Doctor. The Doctor was at
    Amy & Rory’s wedding. (He made quite an entrance.) Was Rory’s dad not at the

    Please check out my Doctor Who story “The Aresian Saga” (Just Google the

    • James F. McGrath

      I think you are onto something – there seems to be something going on related to memory and the Doctor being forgotten that will most likely turn out to be a major theme this season. Could Oswin have hacked not just the Dalek database but all of reality?

  • Rosalynd

    NO Rory’s dad, Brian was not at the wedding.