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Dinosaurs on a spaceship

Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship Review

In Brief:

I actually can’t do better than the episode title…

In Depth:

A very good episode that jumps straight back into the current set up for the first half of Doctor Who series 7, whereby the Doctor has no regular travelling companion, instead he picks up people along the way for brief trips and then drops them off again!

“This is the gang! Never had a gang before!”

This episode figuratively blasts off from Egypt 1334 BC, to India 2367, to African plains circa 1902, to modern day Earth (specifically the Ponds [they are not Williams’] living room) and then FORWARD again to 2367.

All in the first 10 minutes – got that? That is how fast this episode moves and it does so delightfully, maintaining the viewers interest, and really showcasing the movie/blockbuster feel that Moffat and his crack team have been advocating for months now. But I think what’s really key is that this episode is not as dark as the series opener – there is no divide within the Ponds here – fact is they come across as though they’ve never been stronger!

So Eleven has just wrapped up an incident in ancient Egypt with Queen Nefertiti or Neffy to her friends apparently (Rhian Steele), who tags along, next is big game hunter John Riddell (Rupert Graves), and of course the Ponds (it’s been a while… 10 months!).

Oh and Rory’s dad – Brian Williams (Mark Williams).

Eleven whisks them all away to the spaceship of the title, which contains, you guessed it… dinosaurs! Which is on a course to Earth. Which is currently tracking it. And will launch missiles in 6 hours.

In a few short moments the gang is quickly divided up (Eleven, Rory & Brian opposite Amy, Neffy and Riddell) and both work separately towards discovering why the ship is headed to Earth, who built the ship (I only saw it coming just before they revealed it – I’m silly like that), and why are those who built it no longer onboard…

And then there are also two large robots (think C-3PO and R2D2 only bigger. With lasers) and trader/space pirate Solomon (David Bradley)!

With so many characters involved before we’ve even gotten to the 20 minute mark you could be forgiven for feeling this episode is a wee bit over-stuffed (!) but the proof is in the pudding and writer Chris Chibnall gives every single character their due. Riddell and Solomon both come over rather one note characters, given not much in the way of motivation or reasons for who they are and how they came to be, but it’s more than up for by the sheer vigour and relish they put into their roles.

I’d love to see Riddell back; it’s a shame it most likely won’t be without Amelia Pond and her great big gun by his side!

“I’m worth two men… you can help if you like…” KA-CHIK!

It’s Nefertiti who’s character gets some delicious lines and moments within the episode too, sparking very nicely off of our dear Amy Pond too! Amelia (Karen Gillan) particularly delights, as not having to play moody and heartbroken, instead she gets to play Doctor for Riddell and Neffy, solving her own little mysteries to help her Raggedy Man any way she can, and the sheer delight to be taking charge!

And of the Ponds in general it is very good to see them getting along and bouncing off of each other; throw in Rory’s dad into the mix you do get some cracking one-liners.

Funnily enough it’s Brian Williams who gets the stand out moment of the episode, which has absolutely nothing to do with dinosaurs on a spaceship, running and pick shouty-explodey-wodey moments – it’s just a small moment towards the end of the episode but you’ll know it because its so vastly different in tone to everything that came before and I did love the music… But he also offers some good scenes between him and Rory, where he gets to show off his nursing and confident TARDIS traveller side. It’s actually brilliant to see where Brian’s character ends up at the end of this episode – faced with the Ponds leaving very soon now, having a sort of companion who is overwhelmed by the events but actually sees the solution through all the madness happening around him, and grows because of it, is very satisfying.

“I am NOT a Pond!”

I’m happy to see he’ll be returning in Chibnalls next episode of the series, The Power of Three.

What’s particularly striking about this episode is just how much fun Matt Smith is having as Eleven; he gets to bounce around the screen (seriously, watch how he runs compared to everyone else) and he shifts acting gears at a moments notice from playful to serious. His first moments interacting with Brian, blaming him and accusing him of invading his TARDIS (the Doctors fault), turning on Rory for bringing his dad along without permission (“You materialised around us!”) to welcoming him on board as a deliberate tactic. The episode is Matt Smith firing on all cylinders.

There’s a lot of good back and forth banter and interplay, but the serious moments do follow.

Take Eleven with Solomon where it takes it up a notch; gone is the playful façade and you do start to wonder exactly how well do we the viewer, really know this man. The actions the Doctor takes at the end of this episode do fit the man now, especially after a particularly uncomfortable act Solomon commits to get his own way…

Or how about Amelia and Eleven, discussing in a brief moment, where so much is left unsaid, that the Doctor is weening himself off of the Ponds, and Amelia genuinely fears she has been replaced with Riddell and Neffy. We know the Ponds are coming to the end of their time with the Doctor, but Amy’s bold faced statement about what could only tear them apart…

There’s also the gentle re-enforcement that now that the Doctor is “dead” he no longer is recognised; Solomon scans him in an attempt to value his identity and the computer, which has archives of all time and space, cannot find a match. In between stories is Eleven going around and deleting knowledge of himself? The Question is coming… Doctor Who indeed…

Oh and I haven’t even mentioned the dinosaurs yet who looked glorious! They are used when necessary and an awful lot of time has clearly gone in the CGI (was it the Mill or the Walking with Dinosaurs team!?) and the animatronics/physical versions! When the triceratops licks Brian William’s in pursuit of his uh, lets say sporting goods, it was particularly funny to see his (and Rory’s) reactions. The dinosaurs conveyed real menace and playful insecurity as needed – to quote Mr Pond “Goodo!”

So all in all, I have to say this is a good, fun episode to watch. It’s such a refreshing change to last weeks more grim and gritty approach from Moffat which challenged and thrilled, whilst this one sparks and runs. Both approaches kept this reviewer on the edge of his seat, and disbelieving at how much time had really gone by.

Clearly this blockbuster format is working a treat!

3 and a half Doctors riding dinosaurs out of 5!

Next week? Showdown at the OK Corral in A Town Called Mercy…

Perseids over VLT

The Perseid Meteor Shower 2012

As there is a bit of a space theme going around the Internet this weekend; I thought I’d continue it. The annual Perseid Meteor shower is now upon us and is set to peak this Sunday night and during the small hours of Monday morning. The Perseids along with the Geminids in December are seen as the best displays of meteor activity throughout the year reaching a peak of 100 plus meteors an hour. The forecast is looking like there may be a few clear spots at the weekend so we might have a good chance of seeing the meteor shower.

The stunning picture above shows a Perseid caught over the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in 2010, if you are looking to watch the shower this weekend all you will need are some warm clothing (as it will get cold) and your own eyes. The meteors will all come from around the same area and shoot across the sky, so the best way to see them is to look up towards the Perseus constellation in the NE of the sky.

Remember if you do spot a Perseid over the incoming week make sure you take part in the meteorwatch campaign on twitter by tweeting #meteorwatch and your location. More information about the Perseids and the Meteor Watch can be found here at www.meteorwatch.org

Happy star gazing.

Mars Science Laboratory (MSL)

Curiosity Has Landed

Congratulations to NASA and the entire team behind the Curiosity Rover trip to Mars. At 05.32 GMT, Curiosity successfully landed on the surface of Mars.  I was watching it live on NASA TV and loved the reaction from the team when they heard the news. The image below sums up the reaction from the team.

Shortly after landing a few low resolution pictures where beamed back to earth and more are expected around lunchtime today.  The first few images sent back to earth can be seen below:

Who was it that said we were born to early to explore the Universe?

Dare Mighty Things!

The Pale Blue Dot

That’s us, that pale blue dot right in the center of the image is Earth. The image above and the video posted below just makes you realise just how small we are in the grand scheme of the universe.

Enjoy the video.

The Grand Design Spiral Galaxy M81

One of the things I love to look at in life are the stars, and I am sure a lot of you sci-fi loving geeks are the same. The above image shows the sharpest picture ever taken of the Grand Design Spiral Galaxy M81. It uses the combination of images taken in blue, visible, and infrared light to produce this incredible image.

You can head here to the European Homepage for the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope for the image in it’s original size of 22620×15200 or if you don’t have the monitor the size of a football pitch you can download it in some smaller sized resolutions that are perfect for you screen.

I don’t know about you, but I am severely tempted to download the image in its original size, even though it would take the guts of a day with my laughable broadband connection.

And on a side note, you should definitely check out the Top 100 image on the site here.

The Known Universe

I came across this video on YouTube, which has been produced by the American Museum of Natural History. They describe the video as:

The Known Universe takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world’s most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. The new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010.

The video is very impressive and leaves you in awe of the universe, what we actually know about. It also makes you think about how insignificant we are in comparison. Enjoy.