Doctor Who: Invasion of the Dinosaurs
(6 episodes, s11e05-e10, 1974)
It’s an invasion! But you don’t know what’s invading until the second episode! Or until you read the title of this Timestamp!
Sorry for the spoilers.
Actually, it’s fairly clever to hide the plot device by changing the name of the first episode. I mean, it’s pretty fun to figure out why London is empty – a feat that had to be fun to orchestrate and film – except for UNIT, the regular army (led by General Finch), and looters avoiding the martial law imposed on the evacuated metropolis. It’s even more clever to make this the “real” timeline instead of an alternate or parallel timeline from the actual events. The history books never really explain the great British dinosaur invasion of Nineteen-Seventy-something-something.
The Doctor and Sarah Jane explore the area, get robbed, try calling the police, and get distracted as their robber’s car gets into an accident. That seemed like a particularly grisly scene for this show. As the pair keep looking about, they encounter more looters and a pterodactyl before being apprehended by the army. In a humorous bit, they are designated as Prisoners 177781 and 177782 as they keep disrupting the booking process. Luckily, once they are on the official books, the Brigadier and Sgt Benton discover their status and send a dispatch to retrieve them.
Did I mention pterodactyl? Yeah, the city is being evacuated because of dinosaurs.
The travelers are sentenced to a detention camp, but before they depart, the Doctor stages a fight with a fellow prisoner, then subdues the guard before making a run for it. The duo are soon captured again and loaded into a truck for transfer, but the truck gets ambushed by a tyrannosaurus rex.
Unfortunately, the tyrannosaur’s appearance highlights just how terrible the dinosaur effects are.
The travelers escape and hide in a garage where they meet a medieval peasant – not a dinosaur – who believes that the Doctor is a wizard. He attacks the Doctor with a knife but then disappears back to his own time. Soldiers soon arrive, accompanied by the Brigadier, and the group returns to the temporary UNIT HQ where the Brigadier explains the situation. The Doctor theorizes that the dinosaurs are moving back and forth through time, but he doesn’t know who is controlling the process. The general, accompanied by Captain Yates fresh off leave after the adventure with the mine maggots, doesn’t believe any of it.
The Doctor and Brigadier go out to a dinosaur sighting where they find a stegosaurus. The dinosaur fades away into a time eddy, and the localized distortion makes time run backwards for the witnesses, which eliminates the memory of the transition. The Doctor works on a gadget to knock out a dinosaur and track the temporal distortions, which are the result of Professor Whitaker and fellow scientist Butler’s experiments. Unfortunately, Yates is working with the scientists, and proposes that the Doctor could be helpful to them. Whitaker declines in order to protect the operation and directs Yates to break the dinosaur stunner. Yates accompanies the Doctor and Brigadier to a dinosaur sighting, and sabotages the stunner. A time eddy takes the apatosaurus away, but a tyrannosaur appears behind them.
In trying to escape the threat, the Doctor falls, and Yates rushes to his rescue, fixing the stunner and taking down the dinosaur. Yates berates the scientists for trying to kill the Doctor, but agrees to sabotage the Doctor’s efforts to track Whitaker. Sarah Jane, who is still a reporter, has also been working on finding him for months.
Yates continues to hinder the Doctor by breaking the tracker. Sarah Jane gets permission to photograph the T. rex, and it wakes up and chases her because General Finch has loosened its chains. The Doctor rescues her, and Sarah Jane begins her own investigation as the Doctor begins work on a smaller, portable tracking device. Sarah Jane’s investigation leads her to an ecologist Member of Parliament, Sir Charles Grover, who is the acting Minister with Special Responsibilities in London. When she presses her points, he drugs her. She wakes up on a spaceship three months away from Earth.
Wait, what? Where did that come from?
The spaceship is filled with minor celebrities and is bound for New Earth, a pure, younger version of the current Earth. There are over 200 people on the ship in stasis, and there are seven ships. I’m not sure that 1400 people are enough for a diverse gene pool, but the concept is there I suppose. Sarah Jane questions things, so the others send to the re-education program so she can be trained to think like them.
The Doctor drives his new Whomobile – Where is Bessie and what is this shark-jumper? – and tracks the temporal distortions to an abandoned Underground station. He discovers a hidden elevator and takes it down to the lab and heads toward the reactor. The scientists steer him back to the elevator by closing a series of doors (which make the sets shimmy), and then they set a pterodactyl on him. He fights it off and escapes.
The Doctor brings the Brigadier back to the station, but the elevator has been disabled. The two of them confer with MP Grover who tries to deflect them, and Operation Golden Age, a plan to establish a fresh start for humanity by rolling back time across the entire planet, now conspires to discredit the Doctor. Whitaker comes out of hiding, pretends to be an innocent bystander in the affair, and asks the Doctor to meet him in the hangar. The scientists drop a stegosaurus in the hangar when the Doctor arrives, and Finch brings in the Brigadier to reveal the “true” perpetrator. The Brigadier places the Doctor under arrest, which helps the Doctor to uncover the UNIT mole when Yates will not help him escape. Sgt Benton, on the other hand, allows the Doctor to run so he can unravel the mystery.
Sarah Jane attempts to convince Mark, a fellow captive on the spaceship, that the whole thing is a elaborate ruse. He watches her depressurize and step out of the airlock without being harmed. As the Doctor evades capture by an army squad, Sarah Jane is captured by Finch after trusting him with what she’s discovered. MP Grover explains the plan to her, and then starts rolling back pockets of time. Coincidentally, this leaves the Doctor surrounded by dinosaurs. The dinosaurs fight each other in a bloodless battle (which is strange since the car accident victim in the first episode was a bloody mess), and the Doctor runs only to be apprehended by Finch and the Brigadier. The Brigadier asserts his authority to take custody of the Doctor, and they return to the temporary HQ where Yates holds everyone at gunpoint. He explains the plot to the Doctor, the Brigadier, and Benton, but is distracted by another soldier which allows Benton to disarm him.
Sarah Jane returns to the spaceship, convincing Mark that it’s all fake, and they set out to reveal it to everyone on board. They get locked away for disruptive behavior. Adam, the ship’s leader, calls MP Grover and explains the situation. Grover comes into the spaceship set in a spacesuit, and berates Sarah Jane in her cell. Adam overhears the discussion and frees Mark and Sarah Jane. Sarah Jane demonstrates that the airlock is not real, and the captives escape.
So, there’s only one ship. That’s 200 people. That’s definitely not enough for diverse gene pool.
Also, everyone we saw on the ship was white. Oops.
Anyway, the Doctor and the Brigadier infiltrate the underground lab. The Doctor goes in while the Brigadier calls for reinforcements, but Benton is held at gunpoint by Finch. Benton overpowers the general and dispatches the reinforcements. Everyone confronts Grover and the scientists, and Whitaker responds by throwing the switch. It freezes everyone except (conveniently) the Doctor, and he stops the process and reverses the polarity of the machine. Grover throws the switch again, but it sends Whitaker, Grover, and the machine back in time to their Golden Age, presumably as dino snacks.
The bad guys are put away, Yates is given the opportunity to resign quietly, and the Doctor convinces Sarah Jane to travel with him.
I loved the interaction between the Brigadier and the Doctor. We don’t see a lot of that, so it’s refreshing when it happens. I also loved how much of a hero Benton became with this story. Sarah Jane is a-maz-ing, and I’m so happy to see her character in these stories.
On the costume front, the Doctor’s green and brown outfit was a good break, but I really like this blue and gray wardrobe. He has a ruffled wardrobe for all seasons.
The story was good, but the effects and logistics sketchy at best. I settled on a 3.5, and, fortunately for this story, I round up.
Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Death to the Daleks
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.