Thursday, 25 July 2013

Invasion of the Dinosaurs

Director Paddy Russel’s first Doctor Who story was ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’, a strange story that I really enjoyed except for, well, any Doctor Who fan will know what’s wrong with this story. If you’re going to call a story ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’, then simply your first priority once the script is written is to have decent looking dinosaurs. And this story scores a massive fail in that area.
The Drashings were quite dinosaur-like in ‘Carnival of Monsters’, so it’s disappointing that something of the same quality couldn't be done for this story. The dinosaurs don’t work on any level sadly, and there are three key reasons why. 
Jon Pertwee CSOed onto a model. Not the best. The Stegosaurus isn't great, but the backdrop is dreadful.
1/ They lack detail, movable limbs and don’t look realistic at all. In fact, they look like something out of a carton of cereal. They appear to be held by their tails. It’s shocking.
2/ The backdrops they are put in front of don’t match the filming. They look like models sadly and it was a very strange decision to do it this way. As the dinosaurs only, for the most part, appear outside, the corresponding shots are all on film. So the Doctor looks up to see a T-Rex, cut to a T-Rex in front of a set that looks like it’s from ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’. They should have, in this case, shot the angles they needed on film and CSOed the monsters in. Instead the Doctor gets CSOed onto unrealistic backgrounds, shot on video, facing giant plastic toys. Fail on every level.
3. They linger sooooooo long on the dinosaurs. The key to building suspense is limit the time you see the monster. Give glimpses. But the shots just go on and on and on. The longer you look at the dinosaurs, the more you see their faults.
A T-Rex in chains.

Perhaps a different director would have come up with a different way to do the shots. But sadly it’s embarrassing for Paddy Russel. Michael Ferguson would have been perfect for this story – he is the most inventive and clever director of this era in my opinion, and that’s the sort of thinking ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’ needed to work.
But enough of the criticism, because actually I like this story save the dinosaurs, which I understand is a fairly common stance amongst Doctor Who fans. The plot, although quite non-sensical when examined closely, is very interesting. I rather like most of the sets even if many of the corridors wobble a bit too much. It’s well cast, seeing the return of Peter Miles as Whitaker, played almost exactly as he played his character in ‘The Silurians’. But mad-Professor – he’s your man! Martin Jarvis as his sidekick was perhaps under-utilised. We have Mike Yates back and Richard Franklin gets to explore the more gullible side of his nature as he changes sides, believing this Earth is in trouble.
Whitaker (left) Sarah, Finch and Grover.
Whitaker plans to turn the Earth back to the Jurassic era, keeping London intact. Really though – isn’t he just taking London back in time? Why would you bother reversing time for all the Earth when you already had equipment that pulls dinosaurs out of time and brings them to the future – ie. he has already achieved time travel!
But don’t look too hard, and you won’t notice the absurdity of the script. We have a group of people who believe they are on a space ship heading to ‘New Earth’, but in fact are still stuck in central London whilst they turn time back. It’s interesting that Hulke has written them all as quite dim, but believing that the world has become ultra-polluted and society has degenerated. He writes them as fools, in stark contrast to characters in ‘The Green Death’. That’s what is really interesting about ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’ – what happens when environmentalists go too far? Hulke and Letts, it must be said, were on different sides of the fence politically.
Sarah aboard the fake space ship.
The acting is very solid, this aspect Paddy Russel excels at when it comes to directing. It moves pretty well. There’s a strange instance when the Doctor has been framed, and then he escapes, and he starts running away to the middle of nowhere for some reason though, and that seems to simply be filler as there’s a long chase sequence. Benton has a wonderful moment when he punches General Finch, played by John Bennet. As they fight he is told he will be court-martialled and he says ‘yes sir, very good sir’ as the fight goes on. He then smiles about it in the final scene, and is wonderfully reminded by the Brigadier he’d better not make a habit of it. As for Mike Yates, it seems the end of the line for him...
Classic moment - Benton grapples with Finch!
I still like this story despite a seemingly very critical review. The plot’s bonkers and the dinosaurs are embarrassingly woeful, but still I like this one. It’s a pity the colour-recovery didn’t work out for episode one, the results are ok at points but pretty bad at others. It’s possibly the best episode of the six too, very foreboding. I love the idea of the Doctor and Sarah returning to London to find no-one around, martial-law enforced and wondering what’s happened. It’s very eerie, and we only see a dinosaur at the very end. Oh, hate to end on a negative note but three episodes end with the Doctor being faced with a (dodgy obviously) T-Rex. Oh, if only....


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