The Paradise of Death
Invasion of the Dinosaurs
|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.|
There Never Was a Golden Age by Jason A. Miller 17/12/19
A high-level politician, in concert with a simpatico general and a government scientist, conspires to bring about a new "golden age" by rolling back history, undoing generations' worth of historical progress and trying to start over again and rebuilding Earth society along his own personal guidelines. But enough about the United States under Donald Trump. Let's talk about Doctor Who instead.
One of my five random episodes to re-watch for Doctor Who's 55th anniversary weekend was Part Five of Invasion of the Dinosaurs. My immediate thought when this result popped up, courtesy of the random number generator, was to groan -- this was the episode given over in large part to a chase sequence highlighting Jon Pertwee on location, in a number of different vehicles, and I didn't think that was going to be very engaging to watch. Certainly not the strongest of this story's six parts. In the novelization, adapted by Hulke from his original scripts rather than from the final televised product, Part Five took up only a scant few pages and omitted almost all of that chase sequence.
That said, there's a ton of engaging material within this installment's almost 25 minutes. The revelation that Captain Yates had betrayed UNIT comes early in Part Five. You can't really overstate how important this moment is for the series; it's Doctor Who's first true character arc, with a beloved regular turning traitor (and then being redeemed in his next appearance). Following Yates' outing is the nice little moment where Sergeant Benton allows the Doctor to escape by knocking him unconscious, and following that is an even nicer little moment where the Brigadier disobeys a direct order from his commanding officer and tells Benton to go arrest himself.
And, oh boy, Sarah Jane is a force of nature here. I've already written elsewhere on this site about how her previous story, The Time Warrior, which was also her debut story, was marvelous because she got to outwit and capture the Doctor. Following on from that, just in Part Five of Dinosaurs alone, she exposes the ruse that is the Operation Golden Age spaceship, overpowers a male athlete, browbeats a hapless UNIT private, leads General Finch around by the nose (until she learns, too late, that he's in on the conspiracy as well), and verbally fences with a Minister of Parliament. Sarah Jane Smith and Elisabeth Sladen, you are two of my greatest loves.
But, of course, there is all that padding. I mentally tuned out during a lot of the Pertwee action/chase sequence, and the Sarah Jane/General Finch subplot is a big capture/escape/capture loop that eats up minutes in the story but doesn't advance the plot one millimeter.
Also missing are the character touches from Hulke's novelization that soften the characters' villainy. Finch on TV is a one-dimensional bad guy; John Bennett is terrific with the material, and he would later get to play a slightly more nuanced bad guy in The Talons of Weng-Chiang. But in the book, Finch is given an extra line, after he draws a gun on Sarah Jane and she laments about picking the wrong friends: "Perhaps we're not as unfriendly as you think." That line would have put Finch in a whole new light on TV, but it's just not there.
My dream project one day is to write a six-part treatise on how much Malcolm Hulke's novelization, Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion, differs from, and is in just about every way superior to, the resulting TV story. We know Hulke wasn't happy with the way his scripts got translated to the screen, because this wound up being his final TV serial (but certainly, and fortunately for us, not his final novelization). However, with 45 years' hindsight, there's really much to appreciate in Invasion of the Dinosaurs. I had sentimental love for the story already, as it's my birthday episode -- Part One was videotaped on the day I was born. But, for the little character moments I've mentioned above, Part Five of this story was a more than pleasant way to spend a part of the anniversary day.
Except for those dinosaur special effects. I just don't know how they ever expected to get away with that.
A Haiku by Finn Clark 20/12/20
Earnest and worthy
But a bit dull, except for