Thursday, October 1, 2009
Invasion of the Dinosaurs was the final story written by Malcolm Hulke, who was and is one of my favourite Doctor Who writers. It's been pointed out by many (along with myself) that Hulke's stories often didn't feature "good" and "bad" guys, just two or more factions that each had good and noble reasons for what they were doing; those reasons just happened to clash with others, thus creating conflict.
This story is perhaps the most notable example of Hulke's approach. While Butler seems more vindictive than the rest of his conspirators, Grover, who is the main thrust behind the cause for a new Earth, almost makes a good case for what he's trying to do. So much so that The Doctor not only agrees with the cause, but sympathizes with it. It does lead to a bit of rather heavy handed moralizing at the end of the episode, but the main message of this story is a worthy one.
The character arc for Mike Yates is still, in my mind, a brave one, and a rarity for the classic series. In fact, even using the relatively recent term of "character arc" for a show from the early 1970s seems odd to me, but such is the case with Yates. From seeing the light (literally) in The Green Death, to getting suckered into doing something about it here (and with more to follow), Yates fared better than most of his other companion/regulars of the classic era, perhaps even having his character develop more than that of the Doctors themselves. Certainly, the character of The Doctor developed over the course of the various regenerations and during each incarnation, but these developments were mainly due to how the actor playing the part changed himself. The path of Yates's progression can be directly found at the scripting level with the talents of Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks. They already wrote Jo Grant out with considerable aplomb, and their treatment if Yates was equally well handled.
The climax of this episode really rolls along, as two parties (the inhabitants of the fake spaceship and The Doctor and The Brigadier) converge on the main control room to try and stop Whitaker from rolling back time and erasing thousands of generations of people. It's tense and exciting, and almost entirely devoid of dinosaurs. Unfortunately, the thought of scientists in basements couldn't sell this story to the general public and entice them to want to watch. Dinosaurs, it was thought, would be a much more attention-grabbing draw, but the effects of the day just couldn't hope to match what the marketing of the show promised.
If Invasion of the Dinosaurs would have been named Operation Golden Age (which was mooted at one point) and truncated to four parts, it may have been one of the better stories of the Jon Pertwee era. As such, it's still much, much better than its reputation deserves, but was just one or two tweaks away from being a really great story.
Posted by Steven at 3:20 PM