Monday, December 10, 2012

Invasion of the Dinosaurs

Dear Gary—

Invasion of the Dinosaurs should be better than it is. Someone had the germ of a good idea, but the execution fails. A tyrannosaurus rex terrorizing the streets of London sounds impressive, but it just looks bad. It almost looks like they cut out a dinosaur from some cheap B flick and then mounted it on a Popsicle stick puppet style and moved it about in front of the camera while filming shots of London; then this footage was projected onto a background while the actors stood in front of it pretending to be scared. It’s bad.
Perhaps I exaggerate. Or perhaps it would have been more effective if they had actually done it this way.

I can forgive poor effects, however, if the rest of the story makes up for it. Invasion of the Dinosaurs doesn’t quite.
It is a shame because the first episode starts out rather promising. The Doctor and Sarah arrive back in London to find it eerily deserted. “Perhaps it’s Sunday,” the Doctor speculates, but even Sunday would not account for the totally dead and silent streets.

This sinister start, however, comes to a screeching halt when the first fake pterodactyl is flung at the Doctor’s head. Then we have a rather mundane arrest as the Doctor and Sarah are rounded up as looters.
Even the Brigadier can’t quite save this story. “It’s more important to find the cause of this crisis than to deal with their effect,” he says quite sensibly, but the cause of the crisis is rather nonsensical.

Earth is in danger of “becoming one vast garbage dump inhabited only by rats,” and a small group of fanatics is bent on bringing the planet back to a simpler time, before it was defiled “by the evil of Man’s technology.” This is a common enough goal, but the means by which this group wants to accomplish this end is convoluted and ridiculous.
Again, I can forgive convoluted and ridiculous plots if the rest of the story justifies them. Again, Invasion of the Dinosaurs doesn’t quite.

Dinosaurs are being transported for brief spans of time onto modern day London streets by a mad scientist in order to evacuate the area so he can work in secret on his real project of rolling back time to a pure and innocent age. Why dinosaurs are chosen as the instrument of terror is a mystery and I suppose incidental. The real question is why do it at all? He is already working in secret in an underground bunker; the dinosaurs have effectively evacuated government workers and civilians, however UNIT forces and the army are now concentrated in the area and on high alert.
OK, the mad scientist has this covered; he has the general in charge of the area on his side and he has the one remaining government representative on his side. But neither of these men are convincing as environmental fanatics. I just can’t see General Finch caring about chemical and industrial pollution or Sir Charles Grover worrying about mercury poisoned fish.

“It’s not the oil and the filth and the poisonous chemicals that are the real cause of pollution, Brigadier; it is simply greed.” Perhaps it is greed that is motivating the general and Sir Charles, but what will they get out of turning back time? Are they stockpiling wealth so that when all of civilization is gone and none but the chosen few remain they will be kings? But kings of what? No, the motivation for Finch and Grover is murky at best.
And then there is Yates. Poor Yates. I can believe that Yates would care about dying fish, but I can’t believe that he would condone the destruction of countless generations of people to achieve utopia. A mental breakdown of this nature just does not seem in character for poor Yates. Why didn't he just go off with Jo and her professor to the Amazon if he was interested in saving the planet?

I am at least glad to see that Sergeant Benton remains stalwart.
Sarah Jane also does not disappoint. The feisty, independent character that was developed in The Time Warrior is maintained here in Invasion of the Dinosaurs. Ignored and dismissed, Sarah ventures off on her own and discovers the truth. She does get kidnapped, but she doesn’t need the Doctor to save her. She saves her fellow inmates, although she first has to convince them that they need saving.

This is another rather unbelievable element of our story. Hundreds of intelligent people have been duped into believing that a scientist has discovered a means of space travel that will take them to a new planet (that he has also discovered) in only three months time and that they are actually on a spaceship on such a journey, and that all of this has been kept secret from the world at large.
This hoodwinked group kept in an underground bunker reminds me of the similar group in Enemy of the World, except that this group doesn’t believe they are in an underground bunker and the outside world has been dangerously irradiated from war, this group believes that these couple of rooms in an underground bunker is actually a spaceship and that they are on a journey to the stars. And this group is made up of an elite core of intelligentsia. I don’t buy it.

Six episodes of cut-rate dinosaurs and unconvincing characters is a bit of a letdown after The Time Warrior. But it is still Doctor Who and has enough entertainment value to make it passable. One interesting note—the Doctor seems to have abandoned Bessie in favor of a sleeker new age model: “This car of mine is exactly what I need; speed is of the essence.”
I’ll let this go, Gary—speed it off into that time swirl of the Doctor and hope it finds its way to you . . .

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