Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Aragon vs. Anderson: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Now that I have a few minutes free, I thought I'd go back to one of my great passions...bashing The Whorist (or as it's generally known, The Nerdist), in particular their Doctor Who reviews by one Kyle Anderson.

Mr. Anderson (now doesn't that sound sinister) in my view, has rarely if ever met a Doctor Who post-Rose story that he hasn't loved.  I don't mean liked.  I mean L-O-V-E-D, to where that particular episode is the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time...until the next episode when THAT becomes the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time.  It's gotten to be almost a point of parody to see how Anderson rarely finds fault with a Doctor Who episode.  I don't mean just to nitpick on a few things.  I mean give a bona-fide negative review.  Even I, someone who has been vociferous in my condemnation for many NuWho episodes, do admit when I see a good one (like Flatline or Mummy on the Orient Express).  Anderson, however, will almost always find something to wax rhapsodic about, even on something as atrocious as In the Forest of the Night

I was intrigued by this, so a little research was required.  I went as far back as I could regarding Anderson's Doctor Who reviews, and the earliest one I could find was the Series/Season Six opener, The Impossible Astronaut.  What I've done is taken Kyle Anderson's review verbatim, and offered my own 'translation' to the text to see what Anderson is, in my view, really saying.  I also throw in my own thoughts as to what is being said.

I hope this will be a fun and informative journey into the strange mind of the Functioning Nerd.

I present Part 16 of The Nerdist as Whore: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.  My 'translations' are in red.

I have to confess; when I heard the title of episode two of Series 7 of Doctor Who was to be “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” I was a bit cautious.

I have to confess: when I heard the title of episode tow of Series 7 of Doctor Who was to be "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship," I thought what we all did: this is going to be beyond stupid.

Seemed a very silly title, the likes of which we haven’t seen in the show, save, of course, “Let’s Kill Hitler.”

Never mind the already silly title, what kind of plot could they develop out of it?

After the first teaser and even the full trailer for the episode aired, I was still a bit wary.

After the first teaser and even the full trailer for the episode aired, I was still convinced that this would be a disaster, something the show could ill afford given just how bad it's sinking (and how much further it has to sink, like the Titanic).

It just seemed ridiculous and Doctor Who isn’t, traditionally, known for pulling off broad comedy.

"Hear that, Ian? Doctor Who can't pull off comedy."
"You know Babs, there are fools who think
Kyle Anderson is an 'analytical critic'".
"Oh, Doctor, how droll..."

It needed to have something besides people just running around a spaceship after dinosaurs.

Because if Doctor Who is lacking in something, it's in running around spaceships...when aliens aren't invading Earth.  Of course, we DO get people just running around a spaceship after dinosaurs, but why bother with pesky bits of information?

Having now seen the episode, I find that there is a much firmer grounding in storytelling than I had been expecting, but it was basically just running around a spaceship. Yet, you know what? That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Having now seen the episode, I find that there is no amount of fawning I won't do for a bit of green.  So what if it was basically just running around a spaceship?  You know what?  I'd watch forty-two minutes of a test pattern and declare it the Citizen Kane of television and greater than Caves of Androzani, if Moffat told me to. 

The Doctor Who fan community doesn’t have much of a high opinion of Chris Chibnall, the writer of “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.”

The Doctor Who fan community doesn't have much of a high opinion of Kyle Anderson, the writer of sycophantic reviews of stories like "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship".

I suspect most of this is to do with his being the head writer on the first two series of Torchwood, which I know some people love, but I thought were pretty much pants, with a few exceptions.

Never having seen the adventures of Captain Jack Harkness, or the Intergalatic Nymphomaniac, and having no interest in watching said adventures, I have no opinion on Torchwood

Still, Chibnall’s work on Who has been fine if nothing special.

Chris Chibnall is just OK.

Having written “42” in Series 3 (the one where the ship is crashing into the sun with the “Burn with me” stuff) and the Silurian two-parter, “The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood,” in Series 5, I’d say his work is passable if uneven.

Again, never saw 42, but I did like Cold Blood Parts 1 & 2 (even if it was repetitive of The Silurians, which was superior in every way).  Cold Blood also featured another Death of Rory What's-His-Name, but back then, it wasn't the nonsensical farce it's turned into.  I now my liking of Cold Blood Parts 1 & 2 puts me against the grain, but unlike Kyle, I not only stand by my views but don't write something to please others. 

His strong suits are definitely premise and atmosphere, but the actual stories tend to get muddied by the end. He also wrote all five parts of the recently-aired “Pond Life,” which in total couldn’t have been more than three pages long. Based on all of this, I think “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” is actually his best work on Doctor Who to date, which I know sounds like damning with faint praise.

Given how crappy his writing has been (particularly in regards to the Pond Life bits which made Asylum of the Daleks even more idiotic), Dinosaurs on a Spaceship is his best work on Doctor Who to date, which is damning with faint praise.  It's also a sad indicator of how wretched the show has become, to think a story about 'dinosaurs on a spaceship', particularly THIS one when others could have done more with the title, is already dreadful on its own. 

He definitely threw the kitchen sink into this story, populating it not only with dinosaurs but with prissy robots, historical guests, companion family members, pirates, missiles, and his old buddies the Silurians for good measure. And let’s not forget the whole “You have six hours to do something or this whole craft will be blown out of the sky.”

Using an old writing trick, Chibnall threw in all sorts of rubbish into the story and hoped that somehow people wouldn't notice how jumbled and chaotic everything was, let alone nonsensical.  We also got another standard plot device: the 'race against time'.

I was quite surprised at how much plot and story were actually involved.

I was quite surprised at how much garbage was thrown at us.

What I think saves this from being an over-complicated jumble of ideas is that he was actually, somehow, able to give each character their moment or two to shine and give them each a purpose.

Despite his general ineptness, he managed to make something that I thought wasn't a total fiasco.  Mind you, it IS a fiasco, but it was pretty.

If Chibnall does anything well, it’s creating situations where the characters have to split up into different groups, create their own dynamics, and solve their own problems before it’s all brought back together.

That is something the show has never tried before *cough* Keys of Marinus *cough*.

Does it 100% work? No; there is just a hair too many threads (see what I did there?) and it does a bit just become a silly romp, but sometimes the show can be a silly romp. It doesn’t have to be dark every time.

Given how Doctor Who doesn't generally pull of broad comedy, how now can the show be a silly romp?  Did I miss something?  We usually laugh AT the Eleventh Doctor, but this time we are meant to laugh on purpose.  I do have a little tip for aspiring comic Anderson: it isn't funny or clever if you have to point out how funny or clever it is. 

See what I did there?

A huge help and a genius move

The second time he's used 'genius' in regards to a Doctor Who episode in as many weeks...

was to get a really fantastic guest cast to play all these new supporting characters. It was important that they each have their own personality and charm so we enjoyed having them onscreen. Riann Steele playing Nefertiti was the only actor of whom I was completely unfamiliar, but I think she did quite a good job playing the very strong Egyptian queen.

Want to say that to my face, Kyle?
If I don't know who they are prior to the show, I really don't care, but I make exceptions for hot women.  I'm not going to begrudge this point: Steele was good in the role, but I have a feeling we've seen actresses play strong Egyptian queens before...Claudette Colbert, Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh.  Nothing against Steele, but I think these three ladies did a better job as Cleopatra (another very strong Egyptian queen) than Steele did as Nefertiti.

Rupert Graves (Lestrade in Sherlock) did a really fine job as the Edwardian man’s man Riddell. He didn’t get the most to do until the end of the episode, but, despite this, his character is very well-rounded, and pitting him opposite Nefertiti and Amy was really delightful.

Broken clock: Graves was good, though I had not seen Sherlock when I saw Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.  Therefore, I couldn't care what his other acting jobs were prior to this stint.

Mark Williams was a terrific choice to play Rory’s dad, Brian. It was a lot of fun seeing him play off of Arthur Darvill. My only complaint about how he was written is that his main quirk, being a homebody who doesn’t like to travel, was mentioned but not really explored as well as I’d have liked.

I'm not going to argue about Mark Williams or Brian "Pond". Yes, I know it's Brian Williams, but shouldn't I just go along with all this "the Ponds" business and call him Brian Pond, like so many NuWhovians? My only complaint about how he was written is that his main quirk, being a virtual recluse, was mentioned but not explored in a show that is already rushed.  Maybe I'm in the minority on this point, but I don't think being a homebody who doesn't like to travel is a 'quirk'. 

I’d bet there was more of him at home with the Ponds before the Doctor shows up, but those are usually the first things cut when episodes run long. Still, Williams, Darvill, and Matt Smith had really great chemistry in their scenes.

KYLE YOU DAMN BLOODY IDIOT!  "I'd bet there was more of him at home with THE PONDS"?  THE PONDS?  DID YOU NOT SEE THE EPISODE?!  RORY'S DAD TELLS THE DOCTOR OFF BY SHOUTING, "I AM NOT A POND!"  Why then do you refer to them as "the Ponds".  Ugh, stupid NuWhovian...

I was most struck by the story’s villains, Solomon, played by David Bradley, and his two easily-offended robot bodyguards, voiced by comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb.

As my mother says, "they know them in THEIR houses"...

It’s been a really long while since the show’s had an honest-to-goodness villain who had no other preoccupation than his own greed and being nasty.

It's been a really long while since the show's had an actual antagonist worth our time and interest, one who is evil just because he is evil.

Sure, the Daleks and Cybermen are evil, but they have an ethos they’re perpetuating.

Sure, the Daleks and Cybermen are evil, but they have catchphrases they're perpetuating. 

Even Madame Kovarian had the master plan of the Silence driving her actions.

Whose 'master plan' no one ever fully understood or which was logical.

Solomon has no master plan or any belief structure to explain his actions; he’s just a mean, greedy SOB who literally has no problem killing anyone or anything that stops him from getting what he wants.

He kills a poor dinosaur, for Pete’s sake!


He was refreshing in a way; not a “The world is mine! Muahahahahah!” type of antagonist who I feel like we’ve seen way too much lately.

I'm trying to remember the last Bond villain to appear on Doctor Who, especially given how much Anderson loved Madame Kovarian and all her hijinks...

The robots were very funny, surely channeling the bickering three-headed knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but also proved to be quite deadly, and will do anything Solomon tells them to do.

The robots were very stupid, surely a waste of time and nowhere near the genius of Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I thought this story had some of the strongest characterizations of Amy and Rory we’ve seen yet. Amy basically being the de facto Doctor in her group, even referring to Riddell and Nefertiti as her companions, was bold.

We had confirmation of what we've known ever since Rose premiered: that the Companion was the star of Doctor Who, and the title character is really a supporting actor (so far) in his (so far) series. 

It’s nice to see that she’s actually grown and learned through her time spent with the Doctor. She’s come an incredibly long way since Series 5 in terms of maturity and ability to handle these situations.

Rory, likewise, has left his trepidations behind, taking things in stride and handling himself accordingly.

How long ago did Anderson declare Rory...Pond?  Williams?  Pond-Williams?  Williams-Pond?  a 'badass'?  Given that, how is it that he has 'left his trepidations behind' now, when he had faced down an army of Cybermen?  How soon they forget...

It’s especially nice to see how well Rory and the Doctor work together, like a real team and not just as two people fighting over Amy’s attention. The scene where Rory tends to his father’s wounds is quite nice and it makes me wish Brian had been a character earlier so we’d have been able to see their relationship before.

I get the sneaking suspicion that Brian Williams was an afterthought.  When did Rory What's-His-Name mention his family? 

As a whole, though, it’s really lovely to see the Doctor, Amy, and Rory working together, like a well-oiled machine even after the ten-month hiatus.

As a whole, though, it's really sad to see the Doctor, Amy, and Rory schlepping together like a lame horse no one wants to put down. 

Note: I can’t really confirm this, but I feel like this story takes place earlier in Amy and Rory’s timeline than Asylum of the Daleks. The fact that Amy’s wearing the same outfit she did in most of “Pond Life” and the way it seems there never had been any problems between them, or even mention of their last adventure, made me pause and think maybe this came before. Just a feeling I get; it might never come up again, but it’s just a theory I have. We’ll see.

"It might never come up again."  Oh, I think that's a pretty safe bet.

Now, for the story itself; there were things I quite liked, and things I didn’t.

There were things you didn't like?  Well, that IS a shock!

I thought the idea of the Silurians building an ark was very interesting, and totally in keeping with what we know of the very cautious Homo reptilia.

I declare myself Expert on All Things Silurian.

They were all about preserving themselves and surely, if they thought Earth would be uninhabitable, they’d have tried to go elsewhere.

Maybe it's just me, but if they had the ability to create rockets prior to the rise of Homo sapien, wouldn't they have tried to shoot down the Egg they thought was going to crash in on them?  Just a thought.

More importantly, it provided the story with a decent reason for their being M-Effing dinosaurs on an M-Effing spaceship.

That's right.  There was a decent reason for their being M-Effing dinosaurs on an M-Effing spaceship.  Whatever you say, Kyle.  Whatever you say... 

I would bet it’s controversial, but I also quite enjoyed the fact that the Doctor allowed it so Solomon’s ship would get blown up. This is a truly evil man who, if left unchecked, would probably cause untold more damage and might even wipe out another whole species. The only downside of this is that we won’t get Solomon as a recurring villain.

Broken clock: I thought Solomon would make for a good recurring antagonist, but given this is Doctor Who, can't a little timey-wimey bring him back from the dead?  I will say I don't see this as particularly controversial, but that's just me.

Stuff that didn’t sit well with me were the somewhat lazy things Chibnall does. First, why wouldn’t Brian know who the Doctor is? Presumably Brian had been at Amy and Rory’s wedding,

Presumably, unless he refused to go as a protest to his only son becoming Rory Pond.

and the Doctor did make a pretty memorable entrance to said party, so even if they hadn’t met, Brian would at least remember the weird guy in the blue box. This is never addressed, though, save Rory just saying, “Remember how we left after our wedding?” It just seems like a misstep on someone’s part.

Continuity.  Who needs it. 

Second, it was a bit too convenient that the Silurian ark could only be piloted by beings from the same “gene chain.” There wasn’t a logical reason for them to construct their vessel that way aside from getting Rory and Brian to work together, which they could have done anyway even without the necessity of family bonds.

Plot contrivances.  Who has it.

Third was the way that the ship’s teleporter worked some of the time and not other times, but only when it was helpful in the script for it to do so. Chibnall’s much better at creating things that happen than he is at reasons for them to happen.

Plot holes.  Who is full of them. 

Overall, I was actually fairly impressed by the episode.

SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a
Doctor Who episode!

It was certainly better than I’d expected it to be and all the characters seemed to gel mostly well.

I got a nice bonus for peddling this particular piece of trash.  Either that, or I'm easily pleased.

It still was silly (they rode a damn Triceratops) but not offensively so and was much more enjoyable than it really had any right to be.

It went beyond being silly (they rode a damn Triceratops) to being openly offensive to those who think.

Probably Chibnall’s best. Not a great episode, but one I won’t mind watching again when the DVDs come out.

Not a great episode.  A pretty bad episode.  I have not seen Dinosaurs on a Spaceship since it first aired and have no desire to watch it again.

Next week is Toby Whithouse’s “A Town Called Mercy” which, as I’ve said countless times, I’m quite looking forward to. Here to whet your whistle is the next-time trailer.

As much as I dislike your idiotic, sycophantic reviews, Kyle, you're in for a BIG disappointment...

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