Invasion of the Dinosaurs is the much maligned second story of Season 11, written by Malcolm Hulke and directed by Paddy Russell.* Now, I’m sure you’re all laughing and wondering how the hell I can be serious about this. And thinking mainly of the totally unconvincing effects used to create the dinosaurs (such as they were). Okay, I concede, maybe it doesn’t look so brilliant. I could bang on about remembering when it was made, or how much time and budget they had to work with, etc. But I won’t. You know all of that.
What I’m thinking of is this prompt, which questions out of ALL the Doctor’s adventures between 1963-1989, which was the MOST impossible to escape. There are many that seemed as though there would be no way out and that the Doctor couldn’t possibly go on from. Loads of them. Situations where literally everything was against him. But honestly, I have a hard time thinking any of them having odds more ridiculously against him than in Invasion of the Dinosaurs.
Stuffy bureaucrats trying to cover things up, a cult that thinks they’re traveling to a new and unpolluted planet, mad scientists that want to turn back the clock on Earth and only let the “chosen” survive to repopulate the planet and start over, and a traitor in our midst. And, you know, that whole dinosaurs wandering around London thing was sort of an issue as well. The drama comes right down to the wire in this and there are moments where you genuinely have to wonder how the hell the Doctor can possibly save the day.
Aside from all that, and rather more importantly, this story has all the hallmarks of a Malcolm Hulke classic. Particularly the fact that the theme is right there in front with big flashing lights all around it. Sarah Jane is perhaps not always at her best in this, and the Brig’s hair is, frankly, unacceptable. We see the last of Mike Yates in this, but the upside is that Benton gets to punch a General. And the Whomobile is in it, so that’s something.
If you’ve not seen it, I urge you to seek this story out and give it a chance. No, it doesn’t look like Jurassic Park. How could it have? But if you can get past the comical rubber dinosaurs, there is something there.
What would you rate as the Doctor’s most impossible situation? There certainly isn’t a shortage of options. Do you think the conflict in Invasion of the Dinosaurs is as seemingly hopeless as I do? Let us know in the comments!
* One of Doctor Who’s very few female directors. Paddy directed four stories for William Hartnell, Jon Pertwee, and Tom Baker: The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve (1966), Invasion of the Dinosaurs (1974), Pyramids of Mars (1975), and Horror of Fang Rock (1977).