THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The Paradise of Death
BBC
Invasion of the Dinosaurs

Episodes 4 Which 
one is the traitor?
Story No# 71
Production Code WWW
Season 11
Dates Jan. 12, 1974 -
Feb. 16, 1974

With Jon Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen,
Nicolas Courtney, Richard Franklin, John Levene.
Written by Malcolm Hulke. Script-edited by Terrance Dicks.
Directed by Paddy Russell. Produced by Barry Letts.

Synopsis: London is evacuated due to an onslaught of dinosaurs, controlled by a powerful group from within the city.


Reviews

A Review by John Riordan 21/8/97

This is one of my favorite stories.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs is a rare example of using the monsters as a vehicle for the plot, rather than the other way around. The dinosaurs themselves are an incidental foil to Malcolm Hulke's moving good-and-evil tale (I seem to remember someone saying that Hulke was the most adept of Doctor Who's writers when it came to moral ambiguity... pity he didn't live to write for McCoy's Doctor).

The villians in the story are not only not evil men, but genuinely good and idealistically-intentioned. Mike Yates was even willing to give his life for his co-conspirators. The story's central theme, that the most honorable intentions can have evil effects when viewed in context, is one of Doctor Who's finest. The idea that it's always better to look forward than to turn back for answers may be a little trite, but it's handled so well that you'd almost never notice. When Pertwee articulates it, it's one of his best moments ever.

The eleventh season is probably my favorite: with my favorite Doctor at the top of his game and everyone's favorite companion in support, for what more could I ask?


A Review by Jacob Cash 26/8/98

I have viewed this six-part story a number of times, and I still find myself enjoying it each viewing. The first episode (which exists in a lower quality B&W only) is somewhat superfluous to the story, but it does manage to distract you from the real story underneath, which I'm sure was the intention.

While watching this story it's hard not to believe that it will end after episode 4... it seems the whole story has been told. At the last minute the writer injects a new twist that keeps you hooked for the next two episodes. The story is never sluggish or boring, but it does suffer somewhat from the infamous Pertwee chase scene and the "Venusian Akido". The CSO effects are featured too often for their quality (watch for a decidedly rubbery mouthed dinosaurs). If they had used them a little less, the effect would have much more convincing, as you would have less time to notice the flaws.

For fans of UNIT stories, this is a good one to watch, with the Brigadier and Sergeant Benton getting plenty of lines, and even the occasional joke. Mike Yates also makes more than a passing appearance and is in fact integral to the story. Both Jon Pertwee and Elizabeth Sladen give excellent performances. In fact the whole cast are very convincing, with wonderful characters all round.

This story has quite a strong moral core, and most of this is delivered at the end, but fortunately it is countered with some humorous overtones, so that the end of the story isn't "weighed down" too much.

While this isn't the finest example of the Pertwee era, it's a strong story with plenty of interest for the viewer.


A Review by Mike Jenkins 19/11/01

The weakest story of the third Doctor's era and possibly the entire series up to this point. Invasion of the Dinosaurs has very little to recomend it. It relies for much of it's impact on the sight of Dinosaurs appearing in present day London, but unfortunately the model work by which these scenes were realised is pathetic and like many stories of the period it is too long. The reaction elicited should be one of shock and horror but is actually one of mirth fatally damaging the story's credibility.

To make matters worse, Malcom Hulke's scripts are far too heavy handed in their moralising. This was proabably inevitable as his stories always deal with morals, a storyline that can wear a bit thin. The operation golden age idea is trite and unconvincing. The lengthy chase sequence in episode five is totally gratuitous, and one of the most blatant example of padding ever seen in Doctor Who. The best aspect of the story is the sequence where Sarah wakes up to find herself apparantly on board a spaceship en route to another planet but this fails to compensate for the stories many shortcomings. Doctor Who at its worst.


A strong character piece by Tim Roll-Pickering 9/5/02

Maybe it's because Part One now only exists as a poor quality black and white film copy, but it feels extremely like the opening instalment of a 1960s story as the Doctor and Sarah search through a strange environment where things have been turned upon their head and eventually discover the nature of the threat, with many seemingly familiar reference points appearing to confuse us. The first story since Inferno which has an contemporary Earthbound setting but doesn't show Earth as an all familiar setting, Invasion is an excellent first episode for hooking the viewer for the rest of the story.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs is incredibly well constructed with some very strong ideas, ranging from the evacuation of London to the plans of Whitaker and Grover to recreate a supposed Golden Age. It is unfortunate that the story is so often remembered for its special effects, as the dinosaurs are poorly realised by modern standards and more recent offerings such as Jurassic Park show up all their weaknesses. Nevertheless the production team is to be commended for attempting a story on such an ambitious scale and the effects should not be condemned because of their failure to stand the test of time after three decades.

Script wise Invasion of the Dinosaurs contains all of Malcolm Hulke's usual magic, with every single character shown as a real person rather than as a clich? cardboard cut-out. It is possible to sympathise with Whitaker, Grover and Yates amongst others as they are shown to genuinely believe that they are making the work a better place - an aim the Doctor (as pointed out in this story) has long shared. Of especial interest is the way in which Mike Yates is used. The idea that a regular companion could turn traitor of his own free will is astounding even today, and serves to give the character an extremely strong departure from UNIT that shows him at times genuinely wrestling with himself to work out what course of action to take. Equally strong are both the Brigadier and Benton, appearing with a stronger degree of seriousness than usual for the later Pertwee stories and they show themselves to be loyal and dependable as ever, most obviously in the scene where Benton tells the Doctor to overpower him and then steps back.

The story contains many memorable images too, from the Doctor's new car to the dinosaurs, and is supported by some strong acting and direction, but above all Invasion of the Dinosaurs is a character piece focusing on the desirability of trying to take the world back to some mythical past Golden Age. This is a strong story that deserves revisiting again and again. 8/10


Jurassic Dark by Matthew Harris 26/7/02

Hmm. Odd one this. I taped it from UK Gold (blessings and peace be upon it and all its subisidaries) and then stuck the tape somewhere creative and forgot about it. About a month later, hunting for something to tape over, I found it again. But instead of deciding then and there to get rid of the thing, I found myself undecided on the subject. So I watched it again. Three times.

After the third time, I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt, perhaps partly out of a guilt complex (I have nothing else by Mac, after taping over Doctor Who And The Silurians and being driven genuinely insane by that DAMN NOISE that announced the FLAMING Sea Devils), but also because of the things I am about to tell you. Whoever the hell "you" are.

Well, after I tell you about the genuinely terrible special effects. And yes, I know having a go at Who for the effects is like criticising Citizen Kane for being in black and white. But even by Who standards, these are a whole new world of shite. They can't even MOVE for crying out loud! How the hell did these things create widespread panic and get London deserted? They're flaming INERT! They can't even move their DAMN ARMS without JERKING! The Bronts can't even WAVE THEIR HEADS! THEY LOOK LIKE THEY WERE MADE OF HOLLOW PLASTIC!

Ahem. I did like the sound though. The dino-roar wasn't half bad, except that there it constituted only one sound repeated seven hundred pigging times into my head and brain.

Getting ahead of myself. First thing that comes to mind is the excellent first episode (entitled simply Invasion for no apparent reason. Baz and Tel said they wanted to keep the Dinosaur thing secret, but if that was true, it probably would have been a good idea to not tell people beforehand). I know it's violently superfluous, but back in the bad old 1970s, with its Common Markets, and Bloody Sundays, and Showaddywaddy and all, they had to wait a whole week before the next episode, rather than being force fed every single episode all at once in a sort of gigantic ball of Doctor Who by UK Gold, or PBS, or the Eritrean Doctor Who Authority or whatever. What I'm trying to say is that padding was forgiven because padding was not only inevitable with the ridiculous lengths Mac 'n' Friends were given, but also unnoticed, what with seven long, dry days between 25-minute instalments.

Anyway. The first episode. Padding. It probably is, but I think it's great. Even if a colour print existed, I'd turn the colour down for it. As it is, it's afforded a certain atmosphere of monochromatic despair and decay, both by the lack of hues, and by the poor quality of the tape (or print, or whatever it is) itself. Very neat. Totally incidentally, try watching it with the colour down all the way through, rather than just the first bit. And the contrast, for the "only just found this tape up in someone's attic for the past twenty years" quality. The dinosaurs look a lot better, certainly. And it has the same effect as the first episode: it adds to its darkness. This is a very heavy, bleak episode.

Despite this, as Jacob Cash said, it doesn't actually drag, though the chase scene I could have done without... but I'm not one for stomach-churning, heart-pounding action seqences! (episode 3 of The Deadly Assassin didn't do much for me either) and my video has fast-forward, just like everyone else's. And the Aikido I didn't mind in theory, but not every bloody episode, and not if Pertwee's going to shout pointlessly just before regenerating into Terry Walsh and waving his arms about. They don't go in for "stealth" on Venus, then?

Now. Performances. Mixed bag, but most of the really bad ones are over and done with early on. One of my most favouritest actors, Martin Jarvis, is criminally underused, but someone is in all of them. So's Peter "Nyder-Dr-Lawrence" Miles, who's supposed to be the inventor and perperator of this whole thing, is never actually seen outside of this one room, and is given all the depth of a puddle. Not that it's for want of trying on Miles' part, he's just never given the chance. Luckily, there is better fare for Noel Johnson, who brings just the right air of kindly, well meaning malevolence to the part of Charles Grover MP, Minister with Special Powers. Whatever that means. I mean, can he fly? Does he have X-Ray vision? Super Strength? (I want you to know that I am resisting the temptation to make a reference to Sesame Street character Super Grover at this point. Oh damn). His cohort, General Finch, is quite well acted, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The story? Trite? Yes, a bit. Exciting? Certainly, some. Intriguing? Quite often, although it would have been nice if they had wrung out the conspiracy a little longer, made it a bit more... well, a bit more. Everyone knows who everyone is by the end of part three, I mean.

Compensation is provided though. Characters. Like Inferno before it (and I'm not going to embarass you or myself further by quoting the Bacardi slogan again), this is really given another dimension by its characters. To a lesser extent than Inferno, of course. This is on a grander scale. But here, in Sarah Jane's first "regular" outing after Time Warrior, we first see her infuriating habit of doing whatever the hell she thinks she ought to be doing, and everyone else be damned. We see poor old Michael Yates being torn between his friends and his ideals. Even Adam, on the ship, has a bit of depth to him, although why does he sneak off to listen to Mark and Sarah? Never mind.

AOB. There are a few good cliffhangers: episode three in particular ("we left Earth three months ago", oh, well, that's okay then, Mr Break-It-To-Her-Gently) is a fabulous example of a "What-The-French-Connection-UK" moment, and I defy you not to shout "BASTARD!" at the screen at the end of part four. However. Three of them are identical. This seems to be a theme with Mac: The Sea Devils had two Sea-Devil-Confronts-Doctor ones, whereas Doctor Who And Oh, Sod It had about 587 Silurian-Confronts-Doctor cliffhangers. Funny, that. No, it isn't, is it?

Anyway. I'm not really making clear how good it is. Well, listen up: it is Good. But it is not Great. It's a bit grim and heavy, and also very light and silly in places. And the two don't sit well. I'm thinking here of Pertwee gurning into the camera in episode two. Yes. And the story's ludicrous... but who cares. In summary: not for everyone, but hardly Doctor Who at its worst, Mike Jenkins. Haven't you seen Time And The Rani? Makes Dinosaurs look like 2001: A Space Oddessy. Instead of a solid, but unspectacular, 7/10 type deal.


A Review by Will Berridge 24/4/03

On coming to rewatch my videotape of this story, I met with initial frustration on realising the recording only started about 2 minutes before the end of episode one; the bit that there's a reprise of at the beginning of the next episode in anycase, making it virtually worthless, even if it did offer me the opportunity to watch it both in black an white, and in colour. (If preferred it in black and white, it made the dinosaur look less crap. More on that later.) This is nothing unusual, most of my recording tend to miss about 5-20 minutes off the first episode, something which happens because UK Gold don't have the common decency to show 6 or 7 part stories any time after six O'Clock on weekend mornings. Anyaway, virtually the first shot I saw was of a couple of soldiers firing their machine gun ineffectually against a Tyrannasaurus Rex. After fastforwarding the adverts and watching it all again in colour, I waited for the ravenous beast to bound over to the pitiful little men and swallow them whole within its gaping maw. But was just staying there, roaring. I waited. It just stayed there, roaring some more. Then I noticed it didn't look much like a real T-Rex at all. In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd say they made the model out of papier mache. And the reason it hadn't come up to the guards and torn them apart was because it didn't bloody move at all! For people who haven't seen this story but have heard "the effects are terrible", this doesn't just mean they're as bad as on any Dr Who serial. Thunderbirds would be ashamed if they appeared in it. I know Hulke took the sensible decision to give the dinosaurs a peripheral role in the plot, but they still appear in three cliffhangers, the dramatic effect of which is ruined entirely! Sitting there, repeating "must suspend disbelief, must suspend disbelief..." to yourself just doesn't work in this case. Just take a look at the T-Rex's mouth as it roars at Sarah in the hanger. Try to maintain the illusion after that. Do I make myself clear regarding the dinosaurs? THEY'RE BAD!

As I moved into episode two, finding out the plot wasn't just about a dinosaur invasion was quite a relief (watching 6 episodes of immobile monsters trying to attack people would be quite painful). I was gradually to discover who the real enemies were. Actually, maybe it would be less arduous if I stated who the really enemies weren't: The regular cast minus Yates. I began to wish I was stuck with the dinosaurs. Let's go through the dastardly villains in order, shall we?

Whitaker: an ingenious temporal mechanic, apparently, who rather more reminds me of one or two chemistry teachers at my school, for being distinguished by his peevishness and general lack of personality. Listen to him as he phones to Doctor to try and set him up. Is he trying to sound genuine? He tells him his whole story in monotone.

Butler: Main role is to keep Whitaker company and look smug occasionally. Rather a waste of Martin Jarvis.

Finch: Half the time he seems to be several notches above the Brigadier on the "stuck-up military buffoon" scale, the other half of the time he's trying to chat up Sarah. Though these instances don't reveal his genuine character, rather him trying to lead the UNIT crew astray, they're still painful. Incidentally, what is his genuine character? What motivated him to join the conspiracy in the first place? He never seems the idealist type.

Yates: He always struck as being too wimpy to be anything other than a "family programme" army captain, and he's quite painful at times in this. His pleading with Whitaker at the beginning of Episode three is overacted to such an extent that it comes across as a poor Tony Blair caricature. His divided loyalties and beliefs were a good character development in concept, and he has a nice scene with Sarah in ep 2 talking about the blissfulness of a quiet London, but he just comes across as another idiot idealist most of the time.

Grover: An idiot idealist, who likes to smile reassuringly, like most politicians. It gets very annoying after a while. He smiles (and even chuckles) reassuringly as he tries to deceive Sarah about Whitaker, he smiles reassuringly when she doesn't believes him and he tries to deceive he again, and he smiles reassuringly when he's trying to deceive her about the bunker. There's one scene with an opening close-up of his smiling face and you just want to scream "STOP SMILING FOR CHRIST'S &@%^ing SAKE!" at the screen.

Ruth, Adam, Mark: Idiot idealists, who smile reassuringly. They even do it when there's no reason for it. It's infuriating. As is the way they talk about "the reminder room" as if it's something for naughty children. When Adam said "I think we should all spend a little time in the reminder room before we arrived" I wanted to cry. It seemed more appropriate than laughing at the time, since the humour wasn't intentional.

So there we have the problem; Mac Hulke created quite an intelligent little plot, but with 8 villains who convey no sense of menace whatsoever. (Well, actually, if you're a cynic like most the human race nowadays, you could be quite scared by smiling idealists, if nothing else they're a much more real threat than the Daleks.) Hulke is well known for preaching ethics in his story, I just wish he wouldn't sacrifice the excitement of the story to it. Dr Who is about escapism, moral debate should be secondary to this if it is necessary to be put in at all. Half the characters in this story belong in Kilroy. A story like Genesis of the Daleks, meanwhile, manages to conduct an open-ended moral discussion but does it subtly, without the requirement of blathering idealists and a pontificating Doctor to hammer the point home. Peter Miles gets to be a Nazi maniac rather than a slightly insecure scientist and performs a lot better for it.

The plot isn't helped by the suspense being ruined when the ulterior motives of Grover and Finch become obvious long before their duplicity is revealed. I did have advance knowledge (I had watched this story when I was about 10, too young and gullible to realise), but when Finch turns from snorting at everybody to saying "I'm interested, Miss Smith", you can tell something's wrong. And in Doctor Who, people like Grover who deny things sceptically but with a reassuring smile ARE always lying. They just are.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs does have the odd redeeming feature. Sarah gets a lot to do, which is always good, and watching the Brigadier and Benton rebel against authority is fun. Benton even has the odd comic moment, such as his over-satisfaction with his colour-coding system for the dinosaurs. Apart from the one major flaw discussed, the plot was quite neat, with an ingenious twist at the end of Episode 3. It just falls apart in the execution, with annoying characters and some seriously crappy dinosaurs. 3.5/10.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 13/10/03

Possibly the last great Pertwee story, Invasion Of The Dinosaurs has a lot going for it. The plot itself deals with conspiracy theories, and is quite refreshing harking back to season seven. Jon Pertwee is in his element here, UNIT are used well, and there are nice touches indicative of this, such as Benton`s colour coding scheme and indeed the characterisation of Mike Yates. Sarah Jane also gets to act in a journalistic way, although it's the last time this aspect of her character is really used to any degree.

The location work is excellent and the model shots of the dinosaurs (with the exception of the Tyrannosaurus Rex) work well too. Add to this some great supporting cast roles from Martin Jarvis and Peter Miles, plus the introduction of the Whomobile and you have a first rate story.


Kklak! by Andrew Wixon 30/10/03

All right, let's get it out of the way right at the start: the special effects are mostly terrible. I say mostly because the actual models are quite good (excepting that bloody tyrannosaurus, which of course gets the lion's share of screen time), it's the CSO putting the actors in shot next to them that really lets the side down. And the rather comical glove-puppet pterodactyl. Yes, they're very bad, even by 1974 standards. Right, now for the actual review...

This is one of those stories that it's very difficult for us, watching it in 1988 or 2003 or 2011, to really appreciate - rather like An Unearthly Child or The War Games or ,a href=eart.htm>Earthshock. The shocks aren't shocking any more when they're the only thing the story is remembered for. Admittedly, Invasion isn't primarily remembered for its big plot twist (see the first paragraph) but even so it's hard to conceive how startling it must have been for a stalwart regular of over three years standing to turn to the dark side in the way that Mike Yates does here.

Of course, what makes this possible is the way that the Golden Age plotters (I'm tempted to say they're a bit of a shower, but that'd be a bit crude, wouldn't it) are clearly intended to be seen as in some way sympathetic - outcasts and misfits whose agenda isn't a million miles away from the kind of thing the production team not so subtly inserted into scripts like The Green Death. 'Intended', because on screen they come across as as callous a bunch of villains as any the Doctor's faced, Mike excepted. And I find it hard to believe this wasn't the director's intent - if you want your villains to be ambivalent and borderline-sympathetic you don't cast Peter Miles and John Bennett in the parts!

So there's a bit of a cop-out - choosing panto villainy over genuine moral complexity and conflict - at the heart of the story, which really undermines its dramatic effect. This is a shame as, modelwork aside (see the first paragraph), this is a well-staged, pacily assembled story with some nice performances. Episode One is particularly fine, and unusually atmospheric for a late-Pertwee story, but then again Episode Five is pretty much total padding after the first ten minutes. It's certainly no turkey, and the mantle of 'last story to get a proper video release' seems a little undeserved. Good fun, and Episode Six was first transmitted the Saturday before I was born - there's a magnificent non sequitur for you...


A Review by Paul Rees 20/11/03

The general consensus regarding Invasion of the Dinosaurs seems to be that it's a decent story ruined by the rubbish dinosaurs. I don't disagree that the story is, indeed, a decent one; but I will have to go against the tide as regards the dinosaurs. I think that, taking into account the era in which they were created, they are actually pretty effective. It's true that when they have to move about they do look a little silly; however, when set against the London skyline I think that they are pretty darn scary. In any case, they are certainly not the worst realised Doctor Who monsters - they are far better than the Skarasen was in Terror of the Zygons, for example. Quite why they have their reputation as being 'the crappest of the crap', I cannot fathom.

One poor aspect of this story is, however, the overuse of the Tyrannosaurus Rex in providing this story's cliff-hangers. The first time we zoom into a T-Rex looming over London, it's pretty effective; by the third time, however, it just gets a little tedious. More obvious cliff-hanger material - the revelation that Yates is a traitor, for example - is rather wastefully inserted into the middle of episodes. But then, Invasion of the Dinosaurs is essentially a monster-based B-movie rather than a character-based conspiracy tale; indeed, not only is the basic premise obviously ludicrous but (as with many B-movies) the motivation of the conspirators is pretty inexplicable. Yates in particular is given a raw deal here: he's shown little sign of insubordination or general loopiness before, and his treachery is at odds with our previous knowledge of the character. It's actually pretty amazing that the Brigadier has enough goodwill left to facilitate his honourable discharge; if an officer under my command had taken to recruiting prehistoric monsters in order to carry out terror attacks in the capital city, I'd be tempted to throw the book at him.

So, it's all a little silly, and there's precious little attempt at realism. However, the cardinal sin for Doctor Who is that it is boring and this, at least, Dinosaurs never is (well, nearly never: the car-chase in Episode Five is rather drawn-out and not nearly as effective as that in Planet of the Spiders). That aberration aside, things move at a rip-roaring pace and there are plenty of nice touches along the way. I was particularly keen on the idea of the secret networks of tunnels beneath the streets of London, and on the concept of having a lift disguised as a mop cupboard. With all the attendent smoke and mirrors, it's very reminiscent of the post-war spy genre - odd, then, that the Cold War is referred to in the past tense.

Above all others, this story reminds me of Enemy of the World. Once again, we have a group of well-meaning individuals hoodwinked into remaining in isolation, in the belief that their benefactor is on the side of the angels; in reality, however, both Enemy's Saladamander and the conspirators in Dinosaurs are manipulating events and not merely reacting to them. Where Dinosaurs is somewhat less effective than Enemy, however, is in its heavy-handed treatment of the conspiracy angle. Whereas in ,a href=enemo.htm>Enemy one was never sure who was a traitor and who was not, in Dinosaurs it's made all too clear; in this respect, Dinosaurs is rather more reminiscent of The Space Pirates. Some tighter scripting could, surely, have added considerable tension and uncertainty to the story.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs is not, by any measure, a classic Doctor Who story. It lacks depth, it lacks any sense of realism and it certainly lacks any serious attempt at characterisation. However, you could do a lot worse than show Invasion of the Dinosaurs to an eight-year-old child: it's fast, it's fun, there are plenty of twists in the tale and (above all) it has imagination in bucketfuls. It should really be called 'Doctor Who in an exciting adventure with the dinosaurs' because that, in a nutshell, is precisely what it is. 7.5/10


A Review by Paul Williams 3/1/04

I was not expecting much from this, although I enjoyed the novelisation. It twists the environmental protection theme that runs through most of Pertwee's stories, by making those who espouse it the baddies. However this isn't really explored and the principal villains aren't really mad enough to be responsible for the insane scheme of taking London back to an era which they must have known never existed. Despite this the story is watchable, and for the most part, enjoyable. The special effects used to realise the dinosaurs aren't as bad as expected and were probably okay for kids in the 70s.

Having read the book I missed out on the surprise element of learning who the traitors are but think that they are revealed too early. General Finch should have remained unmasked until the scene where he recaptures Sarah. That would make the Doctor's hint that the Brigadier was involved so much more plausible. I can imagine regular viewers being shocked by Mike's involvement but so much more could have been done with this. Why not let people think that he was prepared to kill the Doctor, and Sarah, instead of showing them the other traitor within UNIT?

Since the people recruited for the "spaceship" were quite intelligent how come they never realised that they'd been conned?

This story is let down, not by the effects as some would say, but by characters with poorly explained motivations and silly ideas.


A Review by Brian May 30/1/04

"Of all the lunatic schemes!" - Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart
"The monsters are a side issue!" - The Doctor
These two quotes are both wonderfully appropriate for Invasion of the Dinosaurs. This adventure has a poor reputation in the world of Doctor Who - not for being a bad story, because it certainly isn't - but for those dinosaurs. While the programme's special effects have rarely been spectacular, some of the eponymous monsters are simply dreadful. Even the "low budget charm" defence doesn't work. It's definitely not one to show to potential new fans.

This is a pity because, as the second quote implies, the story is not really about dinosaurs at all. (Perhaps this line was added after the writer or script-editor saw the finished product on the screen!) But they're still there, and they make for some embarrassing and cringe-worthy moments - as well as unintentional bursts into laughter! But in all fairness, not all the dinosaurs are as woeful as their reputation suggests. The models of the stegosaurus, brontosaurus and the triceratops are actually quite passable, especially for the day and the programme's modest budget. It's the CSO that does them the most injustice. On the downside, the screeching pterodactyl is certainly poor, but it's the good old tyrannosaurus rex that is the real special effects turkey. It's because that it's meant to be so terrifying that makes it so bad - Keith Miller's "Basil Brush" description in DWFC Monthly is as amusing as it is accurate. Its overuse in the story, as well as being the focus of three cliffhangers, merely re-emphasise this folly.

The fact that there are two model heads for the monster doesn't help either. In all truth, the second head - used in low angled shots in episode three (just before Captain Yates fires on it; also when Sarah photographs it in the hangar), and once again in episode six - is very well designed. It actually looks like a T-rex! If only this was used more, as these tight shots actually work. But juxtaposing the two heads just adds to the mess.

But, as I said above, the terrible effects don't necessarily mean a terrible story, as there is a lot to commend about it. The opening episode is great. The loss of the original colour print, whatever the cause, is another one of those serendipitous events. The location photography around the deserted London is stunning, especially in black and white. It has a forlorn, unnerving feel, which is exactly what's intended. The very opening scene, a pan left across the Thames, is gorgeous. The graphic image of the looter's smashed car next to his bloodied corpse, followed by the reaction shots of the Doctor and Sarah, is also worthy of mention. Of course, the videotaped interior sequences don't look that good in monochrome, but that I can live with while we have all those great film pieces.

The mood of the episode is nice and mysterious. The deserted London shots echo The Dalek Invasion of Earth, but the camerawork is much better. It has the look of a quickly abandoned city, with small but effective touches such as a football lying discarded in a park. The story unfolds slowly but is wonderfully suspenseful. The looters, the Doctor and Sarah's arrest, the UNIT regulars discussing the crisis but never letting on exactly what it is. But the first dinosaurs to appear - the pterodactyl and T-rex are, as mentioned, the least impressive of the lot - so their revelation is not the moment is should have been.

Parts two and three are also enjoyable. Once you suspend your disbelief (something that comes easy to Who fans!), the situation is incredibly tense and the story quite engaging. Professor Whitaker is introduced at the right moment, and as the story progresses, the dinosaurs become the side issue they're meant to be.

There are a few things in the story I find fault with. The chief one is the inclusion of the mock spaceship. It's a good idea - and the first scene, which makes for part three's cliffhanger, is a real "What the frigging hell is going on?" moment - but it's a bit improbable that all those high profile people would have been taken in so easily. And wouldn't somebody notice they'd all disappeared? The scenes on the ship also drag on a bit, sometimes becoming no more than padding, and the "passengers" are for the most part quite bland and colourless.

This is where another problematic aspect to the story lies. The scenes in the ship are not the only padded moments. The well-paced, enjoyable first three episodes turn into a rather slow, less interesting second half. Most of episode four is ponderous, especially when the Doctor infiltrates the bunker and walks around lots of corridors. The UNIT chase in episode five has a reputation for being another longwinded Pertwee chase scene. It's not as drawn out as I remember, but it's still rather pointless. Then there's Sarah's escape and recapture, then some more dinosaur appearances. The final three episodes are very plodding, typical of a Pertwee six parter.

Despite the pacing problems in the second half, there is still much to commend in Invasion of the Dinosaurs. The characterisations are excellent - the best is undoubtedly Sir Charles Grover (exceptionally well acted by Noel Johnson). He is a man of his convictions, level headed and fully composed. But the ends don't justify the means and his scheme to roll back time is quite terrifying - as Sarah rightly says, it's "worse than murder." But notice that the Doctor sympathises with his ideals, and Grover is the only character the Time Lord pays any respect in the whole story!

What happens with Mike Yates is also excellent. For so long he was simply a public school prat and dashing UNIT window dressing - it's only since his last appearance, The Green Death, that he was given any character development. Making him a traitor is an inspired idea. It's another great plot twist and proves that trusted and familiar figures are not above corruption. Richard Franklin handles Yates's dilemma magnificently, especially when he confronts Whitaker and Finch after their attempts to kill the Doctor. There's also a great moment when he cannot make eye contact with Sergeant Benton. The Doctor has found him out and he cannot bring himself to look at his subordinate - the shame on his face is all too evident.

The majority of the performances are pretty good. John Bennett as Finch gives a great performance, fleshing out a rather blandly written character. Whitaker is also unremarkable, but Peter Miles does what he can, but he looks unenthused and is not up to his usual excellent standard (Doctor Who and the Silurians, Genesis of the Daleks). Carmen Silvera as Ruth is the best of the spaceship crew. Elisabeth Sladen's second outing as Sarah Jane Smith is as confident and assured as her first - she gets to be the proper journalist, something which would sadly disappear in her later stories.

Malcolm Hulke's scripts are always excellent. His concern for the environment is evident, but skewed with the thought provoking suggestion that idealism can be carried too far - extremists and fanatics can be do as much damage as the polluters they rally against. Despite some ideas that don't work (the spaceship, as already discussed), it's extremely well written, with nice injections of humour (the Brigadier and Doctor's reaction to Sarah driving off in General Finch's car!). There's also a knowing nod to the fact that invasions always occur in London. The question is asked "Why not the Yorkshire moors or the Highlands of Scotland?" Of course, the writer comes up with a reason to justify the location, but the above acknowledgment is wonderfully tongue in cheek!

Invasion of the Dinosaurs is a flawed story, but what Doctor Who story isn't? There is a lot to enjoy, especially the first half. The special effects, perhaps the worst in the series, shouldn't really matter. The story doesn't deserve the ignominy of being the very last complete story to be released on video. It's much better than that. 7.5/10


Grrr... by Joe Ford 14/5/04

There is one moment in Invasion where the dinos actually manage to scare, that's how good the performances are in this story. No its not when the bendy Tyrannosaurus smashes his delicate head through the brick wall or when the flying birdy thing with big teeth whose name eludes me right now smashes the car window and snaps ferociously at the Doctor. Nor is it when the cuddly Brontosaurs croons on a main road. Nope it comes when the Big Man, The T Rex wakes up in the hangar and attacks Sarah in the little observatory, not when the thing stands up because that is clearly the work of strings but when she realises she is trapped in the room at the mercy of the creature and brilliantly, it attempts to get at her by whacking its tail against the window. The ideas are marvellously scary and Elisabeth Sladen is SO good she manages to convince this is really happening despite the duff model.

How could you describe this story to a non-fan? Could you honestly hold this up as a prime example of Doctor Who? No of course not, it has the most embarrassing array of special FX that would dismiss any argument you might try to make for the story. It just goes to show how fickle we are because it is clear Invasion has one of the best scripts of the year, the best location work, performances, character development and ideas. And yet because of some unfortunate plastic dinos it is vworped into oblivion and pegged as 'the last story to come out on video'.

And yet... I don't think the dinos are that bad at all! Am I mad? No because I can see some effort went into trying to make this work and I can forgive that more than I can with monsters like the Ergon, the Myrka, the Gastropods, monsters that are shot and designed to look cheap. What is cool about this story is how they try and pass it all off as normal, the performances and direction work overtime to make you really believe this dinos are attacking. They even create this wonderful miniature environments for the monsters rather than just CSO-ing them onto landscapes (okay there is a little CSO but not half as much as you would expect from Pertwee Who). Love the house that the T-Rex demolishes and the road crossing that the Stegosaurus stands by. And with some shots the monsters themselves are passable, the Triceratops in the shadowy underground is a memorable image, so is the Brontosaurus the Doctor walks right up to. I won't deny it would be nice if this was made with convincing digital effects, in which case it would be a near perfect story or that the FX tarnish its reputation (by all accounts the worst story of the Pertwee era, thanks to some ungrateful fans) but I am willing to let them slide because the story has so much more to offer.

Such as the perfect first episode, only existing in moody black and white. This 25 minutes of pure Doctor Who bliss, a pure example of a formula that has continued to work for 40 years. The Doctor and Sarah land in London, present day but discover all is not well, buses are not running, people are not on the streets, looters are out en masse and the military is patrolling the streets and arresting anyone who is about. The location work sets the scene beautifully, a montage of shots expressing the empty despair that has infected London far better than the much-lauded 28 Days Later of recent years. There is no hurry to get to the answers, the Doctor and Sarah explore the barren mainland, an empty park, a promenade of shops, warehouses... it's all very eerie and leaves you with no doubt that something BIG is up.

There is one moment in the initial episode that could rank as one of the best in the series to this point. The Doctor and Sarah are held at gunpoint by a looter who escapes in a car, they attempt to phone the police and hear an almighty crash and rush to see what has happened. They race down the street and discover the car smashed to a pulp and the looter a blood stained wreck... it's everything Doctor Who should be, tense, mysterious, exciting and gorgeously filmed.

Does the story lose any effect when it transfers to colour? Hmm, perhaps because the introduction of UNIT and the politics that comes with them diminishes the effect of sight of dinosaurs in London (which themselves look better without colour) and this promises to become another Pertwee earthbound thriller in The Sea Devils vein (oh yawn). But Malcolm Hulke seems to have learnt his lesson after his last three disappointing scripts and returns to his roots of quality that began with the superlative Silurians and he manages to make UNIT and the political nonsense the BEST thing about the script. What with have here is an early day X-Files/Alias, the former providing the government conspiracies and the latter the unusual double-crossing of practically every character. It works so well here because UNIT has been dumbed down to such an extent it is impossible to imagine the producers dealing with a traitor in the ranks with such severity. This helps to give the story a season seven feel especially when it turns out to be lovable old Mike Yates, a character who has been with the show for four years, who is defecting to the enemy. What a twist! Loopy Mike wants us to return to days gone by with wildlife trampling through London without all those horrid commuters getting in the way. What a whacko! Scary thing is, given the misty look in his eye and his extreme acts of sabotage prove that he really means it. And for a regular to be taken in such a disturbing direction is very anti-Who and enjoyably experimental.

After a few episodes it becomes obvious that everybody who is left in London is involved in the conspiracy. Ffinch and Grove go in opposite directions, the former is far too horrid to be anything but the enemy and the latter is so cuddly and helpful his involvement is assured. But the script continues to have layers, these villains are shown in a sympathetic light, their methods are extreme but their goals are (supposedly) for the benefit of the human race. Once the 'oh my God another traitor!' twist starts to get old Hulke pulls out his ace and switches the direction of the story to a spaceship that is carting a bunch of specially selected to New Earth. This comes completely out of the blue and highlights the efficiency of the scripts, shocking well into the latter episodes where a regular Pertwee epic would start to bore. The cliffhanger with Sarah waking up and staring out at the stars is as good as the similar shock twist in ,a href=invasionoft.htm>Invasion of Time episode four. I rather love the idea of tricking these celebrities into thinking they are heading towards another planet when if fact it is the real Earth that is being altered for them. It is a mad scheme to be sure, but very imaginative and works thanks to the talents of the wonderful Carmen Silvera (top actress) and co who convince totally as the duped humans.

It's another story that highlights the potential in the Pertwee/Sladen relationship. I am a long supporter of this pair simply because nobody gives it any time compared to her later stuff with Baker. Sarah is at her sparky best here, a little naive perhaps but totally involved in the action, digging up useful information from her contacts, trying to get the story that will make her career. The Doctor looks very tired in Invasion, his era coming to a close and appropriately Pertwee foretells this end in his subdued performance. It may seem stereotypical for the Doctor to be frustrated by UNIT morals, to treat his female assistant as a bother, to just want to get on with making his equipment that will save the day but never forget it is a formula that worked and helped to keep the show on air for five years of successful ratings. It is rather clever how Hulke suggest this will be another Doctor moralistic rant story but then twists it into a Doctor on the run plot, linking it to season seven again and taking the unlikely option of UNIT hunting him down to extremes. These sequences may be long winded but they are filmed with real style and Pertwee never fails to convince as action man. I am not a subscriber to the view that season eleven saw a downswing in quality for the Pertwee era, like most seasons there is one story I actively dislike (Monster of Peladon) and one story that is hugely flawed but still watchable (Planet of Spiders). Death to the Daleks is a nice little Dalek story and at the top of the league are The Time Warrior and Invasion of the Dinosaurs, two back-to-back winners that combine strong SF ideas and realistic settings and create something rather sublime.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs works for me, the direction is tight, the music is good, not one performance out of place. If you can overlook some astonishingly naive FX there is a great story to be had here. And come on, when did special FX ever make or break a Doctor Who story?


A Review by Steve Cassidy 9/10/04

Can someone please explain to me why Invasion of the Dinosaurs has a poor reputation?

Granted, the dinosaurs fail miserably in 2004. When we are used to the living breathing CGI of Jurassic Park or the Star Wars prequels the handpuppets of 1974 fall by the wayside. But how else in this time before pixel orientated SFX were they meant to realise them? I remember the seventies quite clearly and their ambitions were always high. There were hand puppets in The Land that Time Forgot and stop motion monsters in the Sinbad films but such things were way above Doctor Who's budget. A state funded television channel that had always prided itself on its prudence isn't going to go splashing money around for stop motion photography - even if it did have the luxury of time. To be frank this was a children's show which ran for almost six months a year. Its shooting schedule was tight and it had to turn out a good story each week - and in this Invasion of the Dinosaurs succeeds admirably.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs is good. Damn good.

All the anachronisms of the Pertwee era are here - the UNIT family, the Earthbound threat, the Barry Letts preachiness. But it is held together by a superb script by Malcolm Hulke that is rich in characterisation, plot and surprises. When the novelty of the dinosaurs wears off then the story takes another turn that catches the audience by surprise. And all is held together by the tight script-editing of Terence Dicks. Not a scene is wasted, not a piece of dialogue is superfluous. It's a tight exciting piece of television take actually builds to an effective climax. And that in itself is a rare thing in the Who cannon.

And the dinosaurs? To be frank they are not as effective, and certainly not as scary as the Drashigs in the fabulous Carnival of Monsters and aren't really as well realised. The thing is the canvas was probably a bit too ambitious for such a production so 95% of the adventure is drama with the UNIT regulars. But they have to appear and when they do the entire thing has the feel of a comic strip or B-Movie. I expected little bubbles to appear out of Pertwee's mouth saying "A triceratops! Just keep it busy Brigadier while I finish doing this!" OK, the Tyrannosaurus Rex looks like a rubber doll, the kind you can win at a fairground and the fight with the Brontosaurus in front of Moorgate tube was unbelievable (I shall never look at that station in the same way ever again). The pterodactyl was as scary as the mop the Doctor used to fight it off. Only the Stegosaurus and possibly the Triceratops emerge with any credibility.

And yet it all seems eerily possible. Due to superb acting and directing the premise of giant sauropods roaming all over central London (surely the most hackneyed B-movie plot ever devised) it all actually works. And this is because, in short, the dinosaurs are superfluous. The adventure could have been called Invasion of the Mongol Horsemen or Invasion of the Hairy Vikings as the story is really about idealistic people endangering the rest of the population by scaring the bejesus out of them so they can formulate their plans. But I suppose the title Invasion of the Dinosaurs looked better in the Radio Times. The scale is bigger then a few dinosaurs - the whole of human history is in jeopoardy. And that is what is so good about this adventure, which is rapidly moving up the scale to become one of my favourite Pertwees, that there are layer upon layer of story here. There is stuff here which is incredibly adult - idealism, ecology, self-deception, the ends not justifying the means. One of the most chilling threads was the removal of 'disruptive influences' and the measures used to ensure cohesity amongst a group.

Three people should share the credit - Malcolm Hulke the scriptwriter, Barry Letts the producer and director Paddy Russell. First of all Hulke comes up with a reason for their being dinosaurs roaming around Oxford Circus. And from this he builds a very interesting story. The villains aren't villains, at least in their own minds. They think they are doing great good returning mankind to a simpler less polluted age. Mankind has destroyed the planet and they want it returned to a more pristine time where their guiding hand will ensure the abuse never happens again. To them, they are doing great good. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Grafted onto this is almost a 'cold-war' type story of cross and double cross where it becomes apparent that anyone left inside the central zone is working for the idealists. And then we have the big shocker at the end of episode three where the audience is just as stunned as Sarah. A spaceship! She's been on a space ship for three months! With the stroke of a pen Hulke turns the story upside down in one of the best story twists of the entire series. Watching this part again I couldn't help thinking of Capricorn One, a Hollywood film where they fake the moon landings and the astronauts eventually twig and rebel. Invasion of the Dinosaurs predates this by about five years.

Producer Barry Letts knows exactly how to create such a story. Going from his DVD commentaries Mr Letts winces along with the rest of us watching subpar effects so it would be interesting to know his opinon on the dinosaurs thirty years on. The production company at Pinewood certainly let him down in that respect. But on the whole the production is top-notch. The first episode is incredibly atmospheric. Certainly it benefits from being in black and white, and the whole episode has something of sixties Who about it. But director Paddy Russell certainly evokes a deserted and abandoned London with ease. The audience shares the disquiet of the Doctor and Sarah as they roam around trying to find out what has happened. Their arrest as looters works wonderfully and Pertwee pulling his funny faces as their mugshots are taken was very funny. But it is evoking atmosphere and getting good performances from the cast that Russell excels. There is not a duff performance amongst them.

The three "villains" are well handled. Instead of the usual ranting meglomaniac with have a couple of faceless beaureacrats who want to change the world. Each one is well-drawn, Whitaker is the scientist who has finally cracked the secret of time travel and thinks he is using it for something good. John Bennett, a long way from his sympathetic portrayal of Chang in the The Talons of Weng Chiang plays General Finch. Finch is played so unsympathetically by Bennett that if Finch were one of the good guys we still wouldn't like him. And then there is Grover, the government minister who is behind all of it. Politicians always claim they go into politics wanting the change the world - well, Grover does, back hundreds of years in fact. It is a very good performance and for the first three episodes we like him immensely, such a kindly gentleman - his scenes helping Sarah in his office, making the tea, are very gently done lulling the audience into a false sense of security - then WHAM! He betrays her! Noel Johnson brings the right kind of gentle charisma to the role. I've seen him play government ministers before, I'm sure that was him in the pretitles of For Your Eyes Only as First Sea Lord.

And Captain Mike Yates? His betrayal is one of the best things in the adventure. The character was pretty faceless before, just a public school ladder-climber. We learn't more about the real Mike Yates then we have over the two/three years he has been with us. That at heart there was an idealist who was willing to sacrifice himself and all about him for a better world. He did, however, have a weakness - he would not kill his friends. Time and again he stops the idealists from killing the Doctor. It's a good way for a character to depart and interesting to watch the character develope over the six episodes. Top stuff.

Finally we have the Doctor and Sarah. It has been claimed that Pertwee was running on autopilot for most of season 11. I can see no evidence of it here. In fact his portrayal in this one is one of my favourite EVER Pertwee performances. Swinging from that spiky no-nonsense boffin we know and love, to a warm humanity and someone who can actually sympathasise with what the idealists are trying to achieve but not the way they are going about it. And no one can look more interested and engrossed in some silly bit of machinary then Jon Pertwee - he does it so well. And Lis Sladen? Adventure number two for her and the production team must have been rubbing their hands with glee with what they could do with Sarah Jane Smith. In this adventure she is superb - leading a rebellion, chasing off on her own leads, getting frustrated at her treatment at UNIT, showing scepticism and good humour at every opportunity. They could use her much more in the story then they ever could Jo Grant. Can you imagine Jo Grant opening an airlock to prove a point? Or standing up to the Elders so much that they talk about destroying her? Lis Sladen is a natural actress, she emotes easily and no one does fear quite like she does. Also, I love the seventies black leather jacket.

So there you have it. If my review hasn't convinced you to get a copy then shame on you. As I said before, it is fast moving up the list to become one of my favourite Pertwees and certainly is one of the more enjoyable UNIT adventures. Naff dinosaurs aside, it is a well constructed scripted tale with lots of special moments. Why has it had such a bad reputation for so long? I can think of worse effects (Erato, the green mattress in the pit for example) and what are you watching Who for SFX for anyway?

To me it is the best of Who, a little gem hiding away in season 11. Actually, keep quiet - it will be our little secret. A hidden treasure...


Dodgy Dinos Devastate Doctor Drama by Keith Adams 20/1/06

I can only surmise that any casual sci-fi watchers (non DW fans) who bought the Invasion Of Dinosaurs VHS release or indeed, any that caught it on UK Gold, probably watched the story with some amusement, chuckling at the dinosaur effects and 70ishness of the whole affair. That's fair enough. With anything that assumes a fan following, there will always be things that could not be to casual followers' liking or understanding. Watching, and indeed, enjoying Invasion of Dinosaurs largely depends on ignoring 2 things:

  1. The dinosaur effects
  2. The use of the tyrannosaurus as a cliffhanger to fill four of the five cliffhangers.

It might be expected by this stage, following the death of Roger Delgado, the departure of Katy Manning and the impending complete break-up of the UNIT family, which had become very much the Doctor Who staple for the last five years, that Jon Pertwee would stop caring about a television show which he was planning to leave. However, there is not one minute during the entire 6 episodes (or indeed the final season) where you get that feeling that the show is anything less than running as strongly as it ever was. Invasion of Dinosaurs plays as a very strong and quite tight story which I think is highly entertaining and well worth having, if you can forgive the dinosaur effects.

First off, the story itself. The story here is excellent and provides an interesting twist to the idea of threats to the world coming from humans themselves as opposed to from aliens, computers or the Master. Invasion of the Dinosaurs is a complete conspiracy from start to end - in which the viewer has to guess which of the so-called good guys will turn bad next. However, I felt that it might have been better to have kept the fact that Mike Yates was the traitor disclosed from the audience right up until the last episode where he pulls a gun on the Brigadier - now that would have been a surprise! The whole conspiracy story unfolds at the correct pace - I think if this had been a 4 parter then it would have felt rushed, with perhaps episode 5 being padded to allow the chase scene where Finch's men chase the Doctor. Aside from this, the story cuts between the Doctor and UNIT, Sarah, the antics of Whitaker and Butler, Grover, the spaceship people, Mike Yates and the dinosaurs very well, allowing most of the characters shown on the screen to develop.

I'm glad that Sarah spends so much of her time cut off from the Doctor in this story - remember this is only her second story - and this allows her the opportunity to shine. She's strong: look at the way she handles the spaceship occupants; she's caring: she bothered to return to save them. She does come across as very much the "investigative journalist" that she claims - sticking her nose into things and wheedling out the truth. All too often a companion's background/skills would be forgotten about by the second/third story whereupon they resumed the screaming female in trouble role - NOT Sarah. I found difficulty in understanding General Finch's involvement in the conspiracy, he didn't come across as environmentally conscious or hateful of the brutality of the world (perhaps being in the army allows him to cover his emotions). Similarly - Professor Whitaker - I can't imagine what a scientist of his caliber would do living on a farm...

Mike Yates is perhaps the biggest surprise of the whole piece; whereas Benton was always more comedy than anything else, Yates always had a more serious and harder edge, but we only ever got to see this vulnerable side to him on a few instances before. This was an interesting way for his character to be written out, although it would have been nice to have seen him at the end of the story trying to explain himself. Thankfully we have Planet of the Spiders to say goodbye.

And, onto the Doctor: Jon Pertwee ensures that the character is always portrayed well and this is 6 episodes of Venusian akido, vehicle and karate chop-driven gold. The Venusian akido was so wonderfully Jon Pertwee's Doctor and there's lots of it on offer here. The Whomobile is a joy to see in the story too, albeit if only for the brief time we see it. The Doctor is the glue that holds this whole story together: talking the viewer along, explaining and getting stuck into just about every melee that requires a chop or a pinch to sort it out. There's a real trend of overthrowing authority in this story: Benton turns on Finch, as does the Brigadier, Yates turns on UNIT, it even looks like the Brig has turned on the Doctor at the start of episode 5!

I imagine that the story is going to be attacked with claims that it is padded or that the idea was too ludicrous, but the pretense behind Invasion of Dinosaurs is superb - bringing dinosaurs from the past to empty London so that a scientist can send world-conscious people to start again. Clever and original, I think! The only time I felt that things were padded was during episode 5 when the Doctor is being pursued by Finch's men. Aside from this the story was tight and quite rounded.

The second source for complaint will probably be about the dinosaurs; ah yes, THOSE dinosaurs. The dinosaur effects range from okay to dire. The shot of a Stegosaurus standing outside the tube station in episode 6 looks good and the Brigadier's approach on the Triceratops with a flare was convincing, but the majority of the dino appearances are poorly realized. The battle between Tyranosaurus and Brontosaurus is terrible and quite obviously should have been cut and replaced with something more manageable. Of the five dinos seen in the finish production, the Tyranosaurus was the worst realized creature, but unfortunately, the most used of the puppets. Perhaps the monsters wouldn't have looked so bad if they had been shot at nighttime or more in the darkness to hide the puppet inadequacies? In the initial episodes the dinosaurs are everywhere, beyond episode 3 they become little more than token monsters on hand to make things difficult for the Doctor's quest for finding out the truth of what's going on.

The acting of the story was good all round - I've already noted how good the Doctor and Sarah were acted. There didn't seem to be any weak links in the story, with perhaps the exception of Private Bryson, who was obviously acting for laughs.

In summary, I would say don't damn the story because of the effects; it is 30 years old. But do watch for some great acting and a damn fine story. Ignore the dinosaurs - yes they are rubbish. It is off course sad to see an era coming to an end, but there is not a feeling of regret in this story. Everyone plays their part here with conviction and at the end of the day if a story is good and well acted, then what more can you ask? Buy this story and prepare to be entertained.


Dinosaurs are strong and scary... OK, not so much by Michael Hickerson 24/2/06

When faced with the dilemma of either syndicating only five parts of Invasion of the Dinosaurs or leaving it out of the syndication package entirely, for years the BBC decided to just skip part one and show the five remaining episode. I'm not sure which this speaks volumes about more: the BBC's desire to make as much money as possible off Who sales and dump the first episode, or the Pertwee era itself in which you can leave out an entire episode of a story and still not lose the audience. I do imagine had this been a four-part story, this would be a bit more of a dilemma, but maybe not really.

It speaks volumes for the storytelling of the era when you've got two stories that can skip an entire episode in the syndication package for years on end and the audience can still follow what's going on. It's a bit more obvious in Planet of the Daleks when the Doctor jumps from being held prisoner by the Daleks to suddenly roaming around free. But here with Invasion of the Dinosaurs, we can easily skip the first 25 minutes of this adventure and not be any better or worse off. Sure, you miss an episode that's right out the Hartnell years -- full of a mystery situation and atmosphere -- but in terms of the overall impact on the story, you miss part one and you're not going to be hurting too much. We know that dinosaurs are appearing and that London has been evacuated -- something that is summed up by the dialogue early in episode two.

Now imagine missing an episode of anything in the JN-T years: you miss one episode and you're lost. You may never quite recover and figure out what's going on.

It's not intended to be a criticism so much as an observation about the era from which this story came. It was full of six-parters and a lot of them were padded like an over-stuffed couch.

Such is the case with Invasion of the Dinosaurs.

It's not that it's a bad story concept, per se. It certainly fits in with the overall theme of the Pertwee era that humanity is its own worst enemy. The big problem with Invasion of the Dinosaurs is that we know all the players and the situation by the end of episode three and the start of episode four, but it takes another three episodes before it all comes to any kind of resolution. Invasion of the Dinosaurs is a story that's very repetitive: from the recycling of the Doctor in danger from a rampaging T. Rex for three cliffhangers to the fact that Sarah wanders on and off the alleged spacecraft for what seems like forever in the final two episodes.

It's interesting to see Invasion of Dinosaurs as sort of sequel to The Green Death. It follows a similiar theme of taking care of the environment, though this time instead of fighting those who choose to destroy it, the Doctor and company fight against those who take protecting the environemnt a bit too far. It's full of the shades of gray villians that made most of Malcolm Hulke's other Pertwee era stories work so well, though I will admit the characters are under-realized. Compare what we find out about General Finch and Minister Grover to the hints we find out about characters in the Silurians and it pales by comparison. And that may be part of the problem -- in The Silurians or Frontier in Space or even The Sea Devils we could work up some sympathy or understanding of why people were taking the actions they did. Here we just get some scientists who want to roll back time and create a new Golden Age. We're never sure what their motive is or why they even appeal to their followers so. Why does Mike Yates suddenly turn on UNIT and his friends as he does here? Its' a nice twist but not one that is particularily motivated by anything.

I'll give Hulke some credit: he does at least try to connect the dots a bit in his novelization of the story, which I read long before I saw this one on screen.

Which may have been a problem. When you read about raging dinosaur battles on the printed page, the only budget is your imagination. On screen from the 70s, it's a bit more limited. With the budget of Doctor Who, it's very limited, though you've got to give them credit for at least trying. In a day and age when we see such dynamic effects as Jurassic Park, this story pales by comparison. But then again, it's not about the special effects, it's about the stories.

And that's where Dinosaurs lets us down the most. Visually, it is what it is. I will admit I laugh a bit at the dinosaurs who can't move three inches and are obviously badly-done model shots. But if you have a good story, you can redeem a lot of visual faults. And sadly, Invasion of the Dinosaurs isn't a good story. It starts out well, but it's a diminishing returns kind of thing. The longer it goes on, the less story there is, until the final episode when it should be full of suspense and drama as the Doctor works to stop the Golden Age plan and instead it's just your standard "ho-hum, I guess the Doctor will save everyone cause that's what happens on the show". Again, part of is this there are few, if any, surprises to the final three or so episodes since we, the audience, know all the players and their roles in the drama unfolding by episode three.

And don't even get me started on the protracted chase that pads out episode five...

It's a shame really. Malcolm Hulke wrote some great stories in his time. But he ended his Who writing career on a downnote with this one. But then again, even Robert Holmes had the occasional lackluster story as well.

But he got chances again in the 80s. Sadly, Hulke did not. It's too bad; he deserved to go out on a higher note than this one.


A Review by Bob Brodman 7/1/07

A time-traveling hero meeting dinosaurs seems to have been an obvious idea for Doctor Who would have great appeal. It is amazing to think that it wasn't until season 11 that this idea was used. Dinosaurs appear in a great number of science fiction films and TV. The usual plot is that scientists either discover a lost world where dinosaurs survive to modern times or they find a way to revive dinosaurs by waking a sleeping giant or using DNA technology or as an accidental by-product of pollution or atomic tests. Fun and thrills with tooth and claw ensues.

For a program like Doctor Who, it would have been simple to travel back in time 100 million years and have the fun begin. But Invasion of the Dinosaurs brings a novel and interesting idea. Dinosaurs are picked up by a time scoop and brought into modern London. They serve as distraction to hide a conspiracy plot. This approach is fresh and works as a good double mystery for the Doctor to solve. First where (when) are the dinosaurs coming from, and second who is doing this and why?

The mystery involves a secret society of environmentalists who believe that humanity has ruined the earth with violence and pollution and want to reach a new earth so they humanity can start over and get it right this time. The plot involves an intriguing conspiracy which unexpectedly reaches deep into realms of science, politics, and military. In 1973, the environmental theme would have been an educational warning and it still is today. However I have to agree with the Doctor when he says that it would be better to save the planet that you have rather than run away to start over. There is also the moral of what happens when sheepish do-gooders are taken advantage of by their evil leaders.

The story gives the character of Captain Yates some interesting depth and nicely sets up his final Doctor Who appearance in Planet of Spiders. I also liked the use of Sarah Jane Smith and an independent investigator who has the skills to work out what is going on even before the Doctor. Too bad future adventures with Sarah do not utilize this aspect of her character.

At 6 episodes there is some padding, especially in episode 5 which seems to be an endless set of chase scenes, but the storyline kept me interested throughout and wanting to see the next episode. Although readers of this review should know that my interests in paleontology and environmental science might make me a bit more interested that the average viewer.

What holds this story back is the poor special effects. The dinosaurs are crude rubber puppets. A few shots of the Apatosaurus and Stegosaurus are effective. The Pterodactyl works because we only get glimpses of it - a tactic that is best when you cannot create a visually effective monster. The Tyranosaurus, however, is just awful. Perhaps Barney is the only less convincing T. Rex that I have seen on TV. You can just about imagine that at any moment a child's hand will reach down to grab his toy. I have read comments of some reviewers who defend the special effects by saying that they were good for their time (1973). I disagree. These dinosaurs look worse than the B-movie dinosaurs of the 50s and 60s, even those that were men in dino-suits or lizards with horns and spikes glued on them. The best examples of dinosaurs in movies by the time of this episode (1973) were stop animation (e.g. King Kong, Valley of Gwangi, When Dinosaurs Ruled the World). In the mid-70s puppet dinosaurs were a short-lived cheap alternative that just didn't work as convincing creatures (e.g. Land that Time Forgot). What makes Invasion of the Dinosaurs look dated isn't just the type of the special effects but that much about our understanding about the biology of dinosaurs increased greatly by the 1980's. The body postures with tails dragging on the ground and the lumbering movements are what date this story. Jurassic Park and Walking with Dinosaurs were among the first major vehicles which depicted dinosaurs as we currently understand them.

The storyline is interesting and imaginative, but falls short on the visuals. When originally aired the ratings steadily lost viewers over its 6-week run and I wonder if the unconvincing puppet dinosaurs were the reason. I think that this story would be a great candidate to be redone with post-Jurassic Park CGI dinosaurs. Overall it is a fun romp and really good for young kids. I recently watch this with my 8 year old daughter and she really liked it. I had seen it one time prior in the late 1980s and I remember thinking that it was OK. However I would not recommend it as the first Doctor Who adventure for an adult to view.

2.5 out of 4.


"Good grief, it's a triceratops!" by Neil Clarke 13/11/08

That was great! So much so, I was genuinely delighted to realise at the end of episode four that it's a six-parter - something which doesn't happen very often!

Despite the perceived failings of its effects, Invasion of the Dinosaurs has none of the shoddiness or sense of laziness, lapses of internal logic, or lack of conviction among its extras which plague "mid-era" Pertwees like, say, The Three Doctors. The Pertwee era, to my mind, is - god love it - particularly shoddy, and, worse than that, just a bit... dull, really. It's great that this story, with its awful reputation, belies that.

It's particularly great seeing the Third Doctor not simply in a contemporaneous setting - obviously there's no great shortage of them in his stories - but one which is actually grounded in real life; much like seeing the First take taxis and so on in The War Machines, it is pleasingly novel to see the Third in Tube stations and urban parks and streets, rather than the usual cavalcade of laboratories and power stations. I have to admit feeling a little thrill at seeing the Doctor in the underground: "I go to work on that!" This is a really solid story, literally: even the Golden Agers' ex-government underground base seems more realistic than, say, the Wenley Moor facility.

Visually, the story is, yes, let down by the dinosaurs themselves, but, come on, if we were that bothered about facile special effects, we wouldn't be here! Paddy Russell's atmospheric direction more than compensates, as far as I'm concerned. There are so many great visual touches here: the sweeping helicopter PoV shots; the crashed cars and litter in the abandoned London; even the kids' drawings on the walls of UNIT's impromptu HQ.

In fact, the models are actually brill; it's the CSO they're let down by. Yes, the T-Rex is unfortunately the crappiest model, but they look great - almost stylised - on their detailed miniature sets. Also, the decision to mainly CSO people onto these sets is much more effective than placing the creatures into real locations. Personally, I think the effects will look great simply cleaned up for the (probably far-off) DVD.

Story-wise, at first I was perfectly happy to let the atmospheric direction and lighting mask the absurdity of the plot; I mean, yes, it is absurd, but I was pleased to be proved wrong when the plot addressed my major gripe (namely, why bother with the spaceship, beyond its effectiveness as a twist?).

Despite the plot's absurdity, it's pleasing to feel this story is something of a return to a "harder" approach (ie, the gory aftermath of the looter's car crash; even some of the riot footage in the "Reminder Room" is quite full-on).

Lots of people here have mentioned Malcolm Hulke's trademark ethical ambiguity, which adds to the slightly more adult tone than, say, The Time Warrior (much as I love it), or Planet of the Spiders. Whitaker, Grover, Finch and Butler (and even Mike) make an interesting and atypically large collection of villains, and therefore things seem much less straightforward than is usual - especially given the gradually revealed nature of their relationship to one another.

In fact, the sense of dishonesty pervading this story is hugely in its favour; it really does feel like no one can be trusted, which is unusual for Doctor Who (which doesn't really do conspiracy that much, or at least not subtly enough for it to really mean anything). There's a feeling, in fact, that the normal status quo doesn't apply here (which can only be a plus when dealing with the "cosy" UNIT family); the Doctor is arrested by the Brigadier! Benton is threatened with court martial! Yates points a gun at Benton and the Brigadier; he actually is a traitor!

Enough of the boys though; Sarah is fab here! I mean, I know everyone knows Sarah is fab, but I've always been doubtful of the slightly tedious certainties within fandom (The 80s Were Crap; Tom Baker Is The Best Doctor, Hands-Down; The Sixties Are Boring; gah, give me a break!), but it's great to actually see how much of a star Lis Sladen always was. It really is in the little details with her, isn't it? I much prefer efficient short-haired Season 11 Sarah to the dippier non-Pertwee version though ("I'll say whatever I like! There's nothing wrong with MY mind!"). It's particularly interesting now - given the Sarah Jane Adventures - relating Sarah 1974 to her 2008 version. I try to maintain a healthy cynicism about new Doctor Who, in the face of the unremitting hype, but it actually is a joy that Lis is still part of the family.

Actually, everyone gets to shine here: the Brigadier is a bit of shadow of his former self (and why doesn't messing around in the underground make him recall The Web of Fear, hmmmmm??), but at least he confounds his perceived buffoonerisation. Even Benton, who I've always felt pretty apathetic to, gets some good lines (tussling with Finch whilst contritely apologising for insubordination and smacking his gun-hand against a desk).

As an aside, though, what the hell was with the inexplicably horrible 40th Anniversary clip-show at the beginning of the video?! (Yes, yes, I'm a bit behind the times...) Who chose these clips to represent the show?! Keith Barron sipping sherry! Anthony Ainley with sparkles! Wow, what a jamboree of a celebration.

Even worse, the shots of Nicola Bryant's breasts from Planet of Fire, coupled with the abyssal "disco" version of the theme tune is so obviously crying out, "Look, Doctor Who is cool!" There's nothing less cool than trying so desperately to make something seem that way.

Doctor Who will never be "cool", in a conventional sense; its popularity with kids at the moment notwithstanding. And thank God! I'd rather be in love with a show where a bouffanted 50-year-old dandy fights a rubber pterodactyl. In the underground. With a mop.


A Review by Daniel Saunders 6/4/09

Doctor Who producer Barry Letts wanted to do a story about dinosaurs. On a Doctor Who budget, this might be considered brave - brave in the Sir Humphrey Appleby sense of "doubling income tax and cutting expenditure right before an election would be a very brave move, Prime Minister." The pterodactyl attack in the first episode works because of the camerawork and direction. The rest is rather less impressive. The video has a rather impressive picture of a dinosaur on the cover, but that is about as good as it gets. The start of part six has to be seen to be believed, so terrible is the CSO, the model work (clumsy and anatomically inaccurate) and the sheer stupidity of the apatosaurus headbutting the tyrannosaurus.

Fortunately, Letts took his dinosaur idea and inserted it into a Malcolm Hulke storyline called Bridgehead from Space (perhaps because Hulke had a history of writing reptilian monsters), which had the Doctor land in an evacuated London (see Doctor Who Magazine #273, The Third Man). Not only are the scenes of the deserted London under martial law very powerful, they make the Earth seem an alien, frightening environment for the first time in some years. But giving this idea to Hulke was fortunate in another way. Hulke was the most political Doctor Who writer in this period and, incredible as it seems, Invasion of the Dinosaurs is one of the most political stories in this era.

Most obviously, this is a post-Watergate story. Hulke had been dealing with government conspiracies and incompetence since his rewrites on The Ambassadors of Death, but here the conspiracy is expanded to include not just senior politicians and soldiers, but even a member of UNIT. This was a long-overdue challenge to the cosiness of the UNIT "family", but it is handled strangely as there is no suspense about who the traitor in UNIT is, even though the identity of the other conspirators is concealed for longer. Nevertheless, it must have been a truly shocking twist for the original audience, in its own way as important as the first regeneration, the introduction of the Time Lords or the death of Adric. Even having seen Invasion of the Dinosaurs before, after watching seasons eight to ten in order, it was shocking to see Yates pull a gun on the Brigadier.

Yet the political subtext of the story goes a lot further than a Watergate cash-in. Some fans have expressed surprise that Hulke, one of the most left-wing writers on Doctor Who, wrote this story, where the villains are a bunch of eco-terrorists. The key is that Bridgehead from Space, was an anti-appeasement allegory; not an obvious topic for debate in December 1972, when Hulke submitted it. Perhaps not, but to a democratic Marxist like Hulke, the political climate might have seemed a lot like that of the late thirties, when the extreme left was increasingly urging accommodation with Nazi Germany, culminating in the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939. The argument at that time went that there was little difference between the capitalist democracies of Britain, France and the USA, and Nazi Germany, or even that Germany was closer to Communism, by virtue of having such a powerful state.

The "left" of Hulke's earlier scripts, the colonists of Colony in Space and the Peace Party of Frontier in Space, are primarily a bunch of middle-aged, middle-class do-gooders. Professor Dale of the Peace Party is probably loosely based on Bertrand Russell, pacifist, opponent of both Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism and first president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. But, by 1972, a "New Left" had emerged, primarily from the anti-Vietnam-War movement. This was younger, more radical and openly more sympathetic to violence, whether apologising for state tyranny in Maoist China and other Communist states, backing the violent "resistance" of the IRA and the PLO or carrying out left-wing terrorist attacks in Europe (e.g. the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany, the Red Brigades in Italy). Even among those members of the New Left not openly supporting violence, their anti-American and anti-Zionist beliefs often brought them into alliance with ultra-nationalistic, anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi groups. Hulke might well have thought (correctly) that the border between the extreme left and the extreme right had become more porous than at any time since the late thirties. Suddenly a story about an alliance between eco-terrorists and the political and military establishment seems less improbable.

How aware would Hulke have been of all this? This is impossible to answer with any degree of certainty, but he would have had to have been very apathetic not to realise what was going. In 1972 alone, the year the Bridgehead from Space proposal was submitted, there were more than enough events to prompt soul-searching from any moderate left-winger. That year, the IRA killed 100 British soldiers and wounded 500 more, as well as carrying out numerous bombings against civilians, notably "Bloody Friday" in July, when twenty-two bombs were detonated in Belfast city centre, killing nine people and injuring more than a hundred. (The next year, when Hulke would have been writing Invasion of the Dinosaurs in earnest, the IRA started their bombings on the British mainland.) On the continent, June 1972 saw the ringleaders of the Baader-Meinhof Gang arrested after a large manhunt. September saw the Munich Olympics, and the murder of eleven Israeli athletes and a German policeman by Black September, an organisation linked to Fatah. 1972 was also the year US President Nixon visited China, giving an air of legitimacy to the Maoist Chinese government's annexation of Tibet, a matter of considerable concern to people with an interest in Buddhism, like Doctor Who's producer, Barry Letts, who knew at least one Tibetan exile (and named K'anpo Rimpoche after him, in Planet of the Spiders). Put that way, it seems almost impossible that Hulke was not thinking along these lines.

So Invasion of the Dinosaurs is very worthy, but is it any good? Yes and no. The plot is rather contrived. How exactly did the eco-cult advertise for members without anyone in authority hearing about it (except for those already in the conspiracy)? There is some talk of selection, but this is still unclear. The would-be colonists are very naive to think that travel to another solar system and suspended animation are possible with twentieth century technology, even given that the Doctor Who universe has already had manned trips to Mars. How did they go into "suspended animation" without realising that they were in a bunker in London, not a spaceship? How did they eat (etc.) while in "suspended animation"? Were they really in suspended animation after all? Did they really believe that a whole fleet of spaceships could be built without the rest of the world noticing? And this is all assuming that their scheme is actually viable and would not result in a Day of the Daleks-style time paradox where they wipe out their ancestors. Mind you, cults do believe in strange things, and in targeting celebrities, this one has a lot in common with Scientology.

One might also asks why Finch is able to frame the Doctor just because he was in the hangar when a dinosaur appeared in it. The hangar was not even secret, and UNIT installed the Doctor's equipment long after the dinosaurs had appeared. In any case, UNIT already know that the appearance of the dinosaurs has no relation to the location of the villains. No wonder Benton and the Brigadier clearly do not believe the Doctor is guilty. As an aside, it is rather charming that Benton lets the Doctor render him unconscious, and that the Brigadier assumes that the Doctor's arrest for looting in the first episode is (a) a mistake and (b) "typical" of him.

While I am nit-picking, how did Benton and the Brigadier recognise Sarah as "that journalist"? Even if we assume Benton was around unseen in the first part of The Time Warrior, surely they should think of her as Lavinia Smith, virologist?

Even ignoring such plot-holes, there is a lot of padding here, mainly in the form of capture-escape-runaround-recapture sequences. Barely fifteen minutes have elapsed before the Doctor and Sarah are arrested and by the end of part one they have already escaped and been recaptured once; the Doctor is arrested by the army again later on. Part five is almost entirely dedicated to the Doctor and Sarah attempting to evade (re)capture. The script also goes out of its way to undercut any potential for suspense. As mentioned above, the identity of the traitor in UNIT is revealed immediately, without any suspense. Likewise, the excellent shock cliffhanger at the end of part three is undercut by moving back to the characters on the surface right after the reprise in part four, showing that three months have not elapsed and so making it clear that Sarah is not on a real spaceship.

Nevertheless, the core of the story works. As I said, this is a worthy story, and that counts for a lot to me. This is one of very few Doctor Who stories to note that "the end never justifies the means" applies to the left as well as to the right. After several years of stories like Colony in Space and The Green Death, this adds some welcome subtlety. Yates' treachery is also a very bold move for the programme, even if it could have been handled better. Most television programmes of time, particularly with a large child audience, would have hit a reset button of some kind at the end of the story, but not here. Yates has to leave UNIT and is lucky to avoid jail. The direction (by Paddy Russell) is also very good, at least in scenes without dinosaurs or CSO. The deserted London is very atmospheric, and all the actors and extras playing soldiers act like real soldiers, something that rarely happened after season seven. Yes, Invasion of the Dinosaurs is a bit disappointing - but only because it is trying to achieve more than the series has done in years, and only partially succeeds.


The Seduction of Sarah Jane by Yeaton Clifton 13/2/12

Two obvious aspects of Invasion of the Dinosaurs are the special effects (bad dinosaur models) and the length (the padding). If you only saw this story once, those aspects might be what you noticed. If you watch the story several times, you will find fascinating character evolution. Mike Yates' transformation into a villain is interesting because we last saw him in The Green Death, where he learned how an evil corporation could be a threat to the earth. In Invasion of the Dinosaurs, Yates is allied with a group trying to send the entire earth back to stone age, to solve the world's environmental and social problems, showing Yates had derived the wrong kind of message from previous stories. Sarah Jane's transformation into the Doctor's traveling companion is subtler, and one of the most interesting events in Doctor Who history. She had snuck into the TARDIS, to investigate the Doctor in The Time Warrior, but at the beginning of Invasion of the Dinosaurs she claims no interest in further adventures. Yet, she would be persuaded to travel in the TARDIS until her expulsion in Hand of Fear.

In Invasion of the Dinosaurs, Sarah Jane first accepts the title of the Doctor's assistant, when the Doctor claims her as such to excuse her presence in a UNIT facility. This is significant because she would eagerly work as his assistant when he acted as member of UNIT in Seeds of Doom, and because she would later shock Rose by referring to Ms. Tyler as the Doctor's current assistant (School Reunion).

While she accepts the role of the Doctor's number two in Invasion of the Dinosaurs, Sarah Jane fights the Doctor's active efforts to seduce her with stories about the joys and beauty of TARDIS travel. To what extent Sarah Jane really wanted to be seduced is open to interpretation. But Sarah's seduction is seen in her behavior later in season 11. Sarah Jane was certainly thrilled to be able to talk about giant spiders from the planet Metabilis 3 as if they were ordinary occurrences, by the time of the season finally (Planet of Spiders). This thrill about knowing about other planets was very desirable to the Doctor after Jo Grant had lost interest in planets other than "home" (see Planet of the Daleks episode 6, and the The Green Death episode 1). In Robot, Sarah Jane would be aggressive in arguing that the Doctor needed to stay, when he proposed abandoning her and the Brigadier after his regeneration, implying she had become dependant on the Doctor emotionally.

The surreal setting of Invasion of the Dinosaurs does play well with the dynamics between Pertwee and Sladen. The story's monsters bear little resemblance to dinosaurs. Yet, they are strange threatening things to inhabit an abandoned city. The threat of people willing to destroy the earth, in order to achieve their warped sense of an ideal world, contributes to the sense of horror that the heroes must deal with. Sladen is able show that Sarah has already developed a strong sense of trust in the Doctor and his willingness to risk his life for others. Further, Sladen is able to show her own courage risking her life to save the earth herself, along with occasional losses of courage: remarkable complexity for a TV series from the 70s.

Showing Sarah Jane develop emotional dependence on the Doctor and letting her resist his efforts to intrigue her with travel through the stars, while she caved in, was remarkable acting on Sladen's part, and good writing by Hulke. Television writers rarely show interest in the kind of seduction that does not aim to create romance. Yet, the type of seduction in Invasion of the Dinosaurs is, in some ways, more interesting than what is commonly on television. Granted, the victim of this seduction might have found the results more satisfying had matters been consummated in the end.

8/10 (I would give a higher grade if had decent looking dinosaurs).


Dino Crisis by Joe Briggs-Ritchie 8/3/13

I would like to dedicate this review to the memory of Elisabeth Sladen

Invasion of the Dinosaurs is and always has been damned by its dinosaur effects. This is somewhat strange considering that the dinosaurs appear in it very little. The problem is the story's title. If it had been called something else which didn't involve the word 'dinosaurs', I genuinely believe that this story's reputation wouldn't be quite so much in question. You see, the title 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' places far too much emphasis on the reptilian members of the cast, the problem with this being that their onscreen realisation is dire. People look back on this story and remember the dinosaurs when they should be remembering the rest of it, the decent parts of it. Yes the dinosaurs are spectacularly awful, but the rest of it is superb and I don't use that word lightly.

In many ways, Invasion of the Dinosaurs represents a summation of the environmental themes running through the Pertwee years. We've seen this touched on in a big way in Inferno and The Green Death, though there are references to it in many more stories, the Doctor's description of 30th century Earth in The Mutants being a particularly noteworthy example. One of the Third Doctor's constant struggles seemed to be to make humans appreciate the world around them instead of trying to destroy it. The irony in Invasion of the Dinosaurs is that some people have had the same ideas about the environment as the Doctor, but they have taken them down a much more extreme avenue. I'm sure there's a subtle moral in there somewhere about the dangers of what you preach to others... It's also quite prophetic in its depiction of environmentally motivated terrorism, which is essentially what we see here. This is also a significant story because it shows the continuing dismantling of the cosy UNIT 'family', a process that began in The Green Death with the departure of Jo Grant. The next one to go is Mike Yates, dismissed from the army as a punishment for turning traitor which must have come as something of a shock for viewers back in 1974. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to see where all this is leading: the series is gradually beginning to reshape itself in order to make way for the Tom Baker years, a period in which this safe domesticity will be very much a thing of the past. The final scene with the Doctor trying to convince Sarah to come along to Florana with him also marks the point at which she fully becomes a companion, as opposed to a returned stowaway.

Despite all this significant baggage, it still remains probably the most overlooked story of Season 11 and when it does receive attention it's usually to slate it for its effects. I first saw Invasion of the Dinosaurs eight years ago and I didn't really know what to expect, so it came as a very pleasant surprise to discover that it was extremely entertaining with some clever ideas and a nice conspiracy-type setup. I'd already prepared myself for the dinosaurs and even they couldn't spoil my enjoyment of it.

In fact, let's get the dinosaurs out of the way. They aren't really central to the story and they actually receive relatively little screen time. As the Doctor says, they are "a side issue". The criticisms that absolutely everyone makes about them are entirely justified. It's true that Doctor Who isn't about special effects. It's also true that a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is sometimes required. However... the dinosaurs are up there with the very worst special effects in the entire history of the show. Possibly THE worst. No amount of suspension of disbelief is going to make them any more acceptable. I'm crossing my fingers that the eventual DVD release will attempt to address the issue with some of that nice, shiny CGI.

It's such a shame that an otherwise great story should be saddled with such unbelievably awful dinosaurs. I mean if it was The Time Monster that had been lumbered with the dinosaurs, I wouldn't care. Best place for them, actually. But no, here they are bringing down Season 11 and soiling its name. I know that times were different then, but did the production team honestly think they were fooling anyone? There are some things that just aren't feasible on a 1974 BBC budget and realistic dinosaurs are right near the top of the list. Shoddy creature effects can be pleasantly laughable if the story around them is silly enough; the psychotic shrimp, erm sorry I mean the Nucleus from The Invisible Enemy being a prime example. The Invisible Enemy is horrendously silly and it swaggers through all four of its episodes with an undeniable cockiness so therefore it doesn't matter that the Nucleus looks like a prawn satay with an attitude problem. Invasion of the Dinosaurs isn't a silly story. It's serious. Incorporating prehistoric reptiles into the palette was a mistake and I can't help feeling that the story would have been much more successful without them. They only seem to be there because it's Doctor Who and monsters are a prerequisite, at least as far as the general public are concerned, proof that appealing to the masses is not always a good thing. Who knows, without the dinosaurs this might now be one of the highest regarded Pertwee stories...?

The T-Rex is the most cringe-inducing, due to greater screen time than the other dinos and a more concerted attempt at mobility. It doesn't actually look much like a T-Rex to me, as if the designers went out of their way to make it look as fearsome and sinister a possible. Its roar is extremely annoying, sounding as it does like someone going "raaarrrggghhh". I'm not joking. It sounds like someone taking the piss. Using it for the majority of the cliffhangers was not a very clever or imaginative move either. As a model/prop/glove puppet, it just doesn't have the credibility needed to generate the requisite tension of a cliffhanger. The models of London against which the T-Rex is placed only compound the matter. They don't give the creature a sense of proportion or scale, they simply make it look like what it is; an unconvincing model against an unconvincing backdrop. It also seems to be impervious to bullets and bombs. Hordes of Autons or Axons may not be stopped by UNIT's best efforts, but these are simple Earth reptiles.

The pterodactyl looks like a crusty handkerchief on a string. After making a nuisance of itself in the garage in episode one, it later returns to bother the Doctor in a Tube station, an occurrence which results in him attempting to fend it off with a mop. Oh dear, I hear you cry. The close up shots of its head really are a glove puppet. The brontosaurus doesn't look too bad but, as with the T-Rex, it all goes to pot whenever it has to start moving around. It's practically foaming at the mouth to shove its head in the T-Rex's jaws in episode 6. The stegosaurus and the triceratops don't look too bad and they have the saving grace of not moving around too much, although I actually quite liked it when the Stegosaurus started backing off from the Brigadier's grenade. The CSO effects for them materialising are risible.

Episode one works a treat with the scenes of deserted London. The whole story is very effective in establishing an impression of an empty city wherein things are amiss. To begin with, the presence of the dinosaurs is only suggested with far-off noises and Dudley Simpson's music making the most of things. The sense of mystery is palpable and I'd go as far as to say the opening 15 minutes are superb. Death to the Daleks also makes superb use of its first episode with highly skilful use of light and dark, fog and silhouettes. I think that Elisabeth Sladen's chemistry with Jon Pertwee is sometimes forgotten in light of her legendary relationship with Tom Baker, but if there are any doubters out there then just look at how easily they orbit around one another here. His relationship with Sarah is very different to his relationship with Jo Grant: he likes her and protects her but doesn't patronise her, so it's a much more even relationship.

I do like Jo's character, but she just doesn't compare to Sarah. Elisabeth Sladen was firing on all cylinders right from the word go and I'm sure that I speak for many when I say that her recent death came as a great shock. She brought a great deal to Doctor Who and even though I was born many years after she left the show, she was part of my childhood, as were Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker. She's clever, resourceful and brave here. She reminds us that she is very much a journalist by bringing Whitaker to the Doctor's attention and attempting to track him down; when the Brigadier doesn't give her the attention she deserves, she goes off on her own to try and find him. It doesn't take her very long to start questioning whether she's really three months into a spaceship journey either. She knows that they couldn't reach a habitable planet anytime soon and with this in mind she quickly sets about being a disruptive influence. I think it displays great courage on her part that she challenges these people and then goes strolling through the airlock knowing full well what will happen if she's wrong. It's a nice touch how when realising that she's been duped by General Finch she exclaims "I know how to choose my friends don't I"? It's almost ironic in a way. She's just been snared in the Doctor Who staple of capture-escape-recapture, but by acknowledging it she's almost letting us know that the writers are aware of this well-trodden path.

I don't agree with criticisms that Jon Pertwee is phoning his part in by this point. I don't think he ever just went through the motions with the possible exception of The Mutants where he was obviously bored out of his skull. His portrayal by this point is generally more laid back than in in his earlier years which makes sense considering his exile is over. But he's still the man of action we all know and love, leaping to protect Sarah in the garage without a second thought. His karate on Butler is cool and that scene with Benton and the "Venusian ouja" is a lovely touch. I do think it was rather gullible of him to go marching into Whitaker's trap purely on his say so, but nobody's perfect I suppose. His blue-lined, checked cloak gets its only outing here although I have to say I prefer the black cloaks. Likes his sugar too...

Civil servants were not particularly well-represented during the Pertwee years. In fact, this is the era of the Insufferable Gits from the Ministry when 'civil servant' usually meant 'bureaucratic, borderline-dangerous buffoon'. This is also an era when scientists were frequently single-minded, genocidal crackpots. Invasion of the Dinosaurs takes the extremes of both of these character types and then throws them together as part of its narrative drive. Sir Charles Grover is all smiles and softly spoken words, a seemingly kind and human face on the world of British bureaucracy. It's a sensitive portrayal and he's a genuinely likeable character, so it may come as something of a surprise to discover that he's actually barking mad. Whitaker is very much the single-minded scientist. Peter Miles is always very watchable and his performance here is no exception. He essentially plays Whitaker as an extension of Dr. Lawrence from The Silurians but with a calmer, less neurotic exterior. It'd be interesting to find out how long they lasted in their Golden Age before probably starving to death. Martin Jarvis completes the villainous trio as Whitaker's assistant Butler. He doesn't get to do very much but Martin Jarvis is always great to watch. I particularly like his delivery of the line "Someone's using the blue lift" as if he's just discovered that one of his housemates has been using his butter without permission. Of course, what we have here is two extremely misguided people. This is not genocide or domination for the sake of it, this is a seriously misguided attempt at doing the worst thing for the right reasons, not entirely dissimilar from General Carrington in The Ambassadors of Death. Even Sarah admits to feeling sympathy for Grover in the final episode despite the fact he had her imprisoned.

The spaceship idea is an interesting deception in theory but I'm not really that fond of how it is executed. It just never really convinces me that these people would have been duped into believing they were on an interplanetary journey. Carmen Silvera is earnest and believable, but I don't think the rest of it works that well.

It's an interesting story all round for UNIT also. Mike Yates finally bows out as Captain and it's done in a way which is surely more memorable and also bittersweet than having him just leave. I think it would've served the story's dramatic purposes better if his identity as the traitor had been kept secret for longer, it could have led to some well played out intrigued. Benton is as charming as ever in his "yes sir, sorry sir" routine when he's scrapping with Finch and later boasting to the Doctor and Sarah about it. The Brigadier comes off much better than in many of his other appearances during this period, he seems to have regained his drive and determination here. I think in some ways he's a very sympathetic character in this. His organisation is being gradually reduced, his closest staff are turning traitor and his scientific advisor is now free to come and go as he pleases. These are the twilight days of the UNIT era.

The Whomobile is a functional addition to the story, though I'm glad it only appeared in one more story after this. It seems just a bit too much like a deliberate effort at being 'alien'. Quite honestly, what was wrong with Bessie I don't know. I do like the helicopter work in episode 5. It may be relatively short, but I was struck by just how good it looks. For those who can only see the reptilian aspect of the production values, have a look at this. It might make you think... I should also like to give a mention to Dudley Simpson who continues to be at the top of his game, particularly in the first episode.

It's difficult to watch this now without feeling bittersweet that both Jon Pertwee and Elisabeth Sladen are no longer with us. They both sparkle here, they complement each other wonderfully and there is obviously much affection between them. Forget the crappy dinosaurs, there is so much more here to enjoy and cherish. This is an effective conspiracy thriller which bears up to repeated viewings over the years.

An undiscovered gem. Easily one of the finest stories of the Pertwee era.