The great thing about the reboot of Doctor Who is how sometimes the show just throws up its hands and decides to see just how many fun little pop culture references it can cram into an episode. Remember when the newly-regenerated Tenth Doctor lost his hand in a swordfight to the Sycorax while wearing pajamas and a dressing gown in "The Christmas Invasion?" Don't tell me that somewhere in production someone didn't say, "Can we combine Star Wars and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in one go?"
Well, "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" certainly topped "The Christmas Invasion" in that respect, in addition to having a title that Joe Satriani is probably kicking himself over not having thought of first for an album title. First off, Rory's dad has come along for the trip, and he's played by none other than Mark Williams, also known as Arthur Weasley of the Harry Potter series.
The link between Doctor Who and the world of Harry Potter is almost as complicated as time is when viewed from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint. There's the matter of David Tennant being Barty Crouch Jr., Martha Jones prompting William Shakespeare with, "Expelliarmus!" and Dumbledore showing up in the "A Christmas Carol" in the form of Michael Gambon. You can now add Arthur Weasley apparating all over an alien spaceship in order to help the Doctor fight off a space pirate played by David Bradley, better known to American audiences as Argus Filch.
Oh, and just for extra fun was the catering officer and best friend of David Lister on the amazing comedic space show Red Dwarf. You should've taken three drinks by now in case you've lost count. Or not, because this column runs pretty early in the day and morning drinking is a bad sign.
What's going on is that a gigantic spaceship the size of Canada is headed towards 23rd century Earth on a collision course. To head it off the Doctor collects the Ponds, accidentally including Rory's dad Brian, and for absolute no reason aside from its inherit hilarity, Queen Nefertiti and an Edwardian big game hunter named Riddell played by Rupert Graves.
Turns out the ship is actually an ark launched by the pre-human Silurians in an effort to escape the oncoming KT Event that ended the Mesozoic Era. In addition, the ship is full of dinosaurs including Tyrannosaurs, Anklyosaurs, Pterodactyls, Velociraptors, and Triceratops that can be ridden and chase grassy balls and no I will not under any circumstances explain that reference. Watch the damn show. And when you're finished go look up the Fourth Doctor serial "The Ark in Space" to remind yourself just how far we've come from green bubblewrap monsters in Doctor Who.
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Riddell ends up holding off an advancing line of raptors with tranquilizers gun while drinking from a hip flask and being insanely British. That's drink number five for the Jurassic Park reference, and how Chris Chibnall restrained himself from adding the line, "Clever girl" I will never know.
Overall, it was a very lighthearted and fun, a welcome diversion from the darkness of the premier. Still, there was a definite and profound sadness permeating the adventure. For the first time in the rebooted series I can actually sense companions relishing their time with the Doctor knowing it's coming to an end.
You can see it in sideways glances from the Doctor and the Ponds in a way that wasn't even present in Martha. It's like we're being treated to a long, painful goodbye, even while we're reveling in the awesomeness of dinosaurs, the triumph of the Doctor over douchebaggery, and the simple joy in seeing someone as much as a homebody as Rory's dad discover the pleasure of seeing more than the his house, work and golf course.
While the Ponds will never be my favorite companions because of Amy's batshitted craziness and the inconsistencies of Rory's portrayals, I have a feeling that there won't be a dry eye in the house the day the Doctor finally leaves them behind. Hopefully alive and intact.