Sat, 8 September 2012
"Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" is the second episode of the seventh series of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which first aired on BBC One in the UK on 8 September 2012. It was written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Saul Metzstein.
The episode featured alien time traveller the Doctor (Matt Smith) and his companions Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) accompanied by Rory's father Brian (Mark Williams), Queen Nefertiti (Riann Steele), and John Riddell, an English big-game hunter (Rupert Graves). The group landed on a large spaceship that contains dinosaurs.
When in Egypt with Queen Nefertiti, the Doctor receives a call about a spaceship which will crash into Earth in six hours. Taking Nefertiti with him, he picks up Edwardian explorer John Riddell and his companions Amy and Rory ten months after he last saw them in "Asylum of the Daleks", accidentally taking Rory's father Brian on the TARDIS as well. They land on the spaceship and come face-to-face with ankylosaurus dinosaurs.
The Doctor and his companions discover that the ship is a Silurian ark designed to carry the reptilian humanoids to a new planet along with flora and fauna from their time period. After escaping from a group of pterodactyls, the Doctor, Rory, and Brian are escorted by two robots to a human called Solomon who was injured in a raptor attack. Solomon, who had boarded the spaceship and killed its inhabitants in order to sell the dinosaurs on board, threatens the Doctor into repairing his legs and into giving him Queen Nefertiti after seeing her value.
Missiles are fired from Earth to stop the ship from crashing. The Doctor disables Solomon's robots and rescues Nefertiti before he tricks the missiles into targeting Solomon's ship and detaching it from the Silurian ark. Meanwhile, Rory and Brian pilot the ark away from the Earth.
The Doctor then takes the Ponds back home after letting Brian view the Earth from orbit. The episode ends after showing that Brian Williams has now taken to travelling across the planet.
Showrunner Steven Moffat said that putting dinosaurs on a spaceship was "the secret of success". The idea to use dinosaurs in Doctor Who came from the special effects teams The Mill and Millennium FX. As "Asylum of the Daleks" was a darker opening episode, "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" is more about fun. In Moffat's pitch to writer Chris Chibnall, he proposed, "Maybe it's a ship heading towards Earth, and Earth is on alert". Chibnall had previously written the Doctor Who episodes "42" (2007), "The Hungry Earth"/"Cold Blood" (2010), as well as work for the spinoff series Torchwood. The Doctor had previously encountered dinosaurs in the 1974 serial Invasion of the Dinosaurs.
Chibnall suggested including a "bonkers" gang of characters picked from around time and space. He felt that Doctor Who could have "collisions of characters that no other show in the world can do", and that it was about finding a "disparate" group of characters who would "bounce" off each other. Chibnall asked to introduce Rory's father, as Amy and Rory would be leaving in four episodes and Rory's family life had not been explored yet. Rupert Graves, who played an Edwardian hunter in this episode, previously worked with Moffat on the BBC series Sherlock. David Bradley's character, Solomon, was modelled on a "well-known nightclub owner with long hair". Chibnall described him as "half businessman, half Somali pirate".
"Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" and the following episode, "A Town Called Mercy", were the first episodes to be produced for the seventh series, both directed by Saul Metzstein. The two episodes are Metzstein's first Doctor Who credits. The production team had to be mindful of the series' budget when planning the effects and sets; Chibnall commented that "it would be very easy to spend £300m on this but we don’t have it". As such, the dinosaurs could not dominate the episode, and Chibnall had to tell "a big other' story". The episode contains one of the biggest sets ever built for the show. Some scenes were also filmed at Southerndown beach, Vale of Glamorgan in late February 2012. The beach had previously been used as "Bad Wolf Bay" in "Doomsday" (2006) and "Journey's End" (2008), and as the planet Alfava Metraxis in "The Time of Angels"/"Flesh and Stone" (2010). A preview clip of the episode was released at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con International. Smith had to wear padded trousers when riding the dinosaurs, and recalled it was "a painful couple of hours, a laugh though and definitely worth it". The dinosaurs in the episode were built from scratch, and are a variety of "favourites".