Invasion of the Dinosaurs

Invasion of the Dinosaurs
Invasion of the Dinosaurs.jpg
Season: Season 11
Episode: 2
Vital statistics
Air date 12 January - 16 February 1974
Written by Malcolm Hulke
Directed by Paddy Russell
Episode guide
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The Time Warrior Death to the Daleks
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Invasion of the Dinosaurs VHS.jpg

Invasion (of the Dinosaurs) is an episode of Doctor Whomobile starring the Whomobile, with guest appearances by Doctor John Smith III, Esq., Sally Mae, and UNIT. It's about how greens (including most of Malc's fellow writers) are not actually natural allies of the people's movement and are in fact just as likely to be a threat. It's also about how dinosaurs are brill, but that part doesn't come off as well to people who've seen Jurassic Park, are watching on a screen larger than 7", and/or aren't 8 years old.

Plot

The Doctor and Sarah Jane return from dinner at Medieval Times to find London deserted except for small bands of looters, under martial law, because that's what happens when Labour abandons its socialist principles and joins a coalition with the Liberal Party.

Also, pterodactyls.

So, instead of being arrested by UNIT for sneaking onto their base with forged credentials, SJ gets arrested by UNIT for violating curfew and probably being a looter. She and the Doctor escape and get recaptured again within only half an episode, but they escape again when a T-Rex (not the glam rock band) attacks.

Meanwhile, Eddy's in the time stream, so a peasant transplanted in time from 1983's The King's Demons appears and attacks the Doctor with a knife for being a witch, but the Brig shows up and saves him. Also, time is running forward and backward so nobody remembers what they see and all eras of time happen at once but for some reason Churchill doesn't ride by on a mammoth.

The Doctor suspects someone is deliberately bringing dinosaurs to London, and then we see that someone is deliberately bringing dinosaurs to London, and that somebody is two mad scientists, an ecologist MP, the general in charge of London, and Mike Yates, who's turned traitor because pollution causes giant maggots. Yates thinks the Doctor will work with them, because he foolishly thinks all left-wing movements are the same, but he can't convince his partners, who know better, so they try to first sabotage the Doctor's efforts and then frame him.

There are a few more T-rex attack cliffhangers, and more captures and escapes, and more Yates secretly sabotaging UNIT from inside like a 1970s Turlough.

Eventually Sarah Jane is shanghaied and we learn the bad guys' plot: They've taken a bunch of celebrities and put them on spaceships to go populate New Earth, but actually they're going to erase humanity from history and then release the celebrities to repopulate the original Earth. Why celebrities? I don't know. But it turns out that trying to reprogram Sarah Jane to help repopulate the Earth—which would, admittedly, seem like a good plan to any heterosexual male—was a bad idea, because she convinces the celebrities that they're not actually on a spaceship and they break out.

Meanwhile, the Doctor has figured out that Yates is up to something fishy, so Yates holds all of UNIT at gunpoint and reveals the plot again. Then Benton takes him down.

The Doctor foils the plan by reversing the polarity so when the bad guys flip the switch it'll undo everything they did and send them back to the dinosaur era, where they can't repopulate the Earth because they forgot to have any women in their conspiracy.

The Brig puts Yates on "permanent sick leave" instead of court-martialing him, which causes him to turn gay and Buddhist.

The Doctor gives a speech about how ecofanatics have a good heart but these ones accidentally endangered all of human civilisation with their plan to intentionally eradicate all of human civilisation.

London is a mess, with large numbers of dead people, and the government's probably going to collapse, but, whatever, good enough ending for the Doctor, so he offers to take Sarah Jane on a holiday.

Reception

This story was famous at the time for its visual effects, with model dinosaurs CSO'd into the story. It's famous now for its crap visual effects, which are even more ridiculous than you're imagining after reading that sentence—and putting that together with the wobbliest sets in the history of the program and Pertwee's worst ever action sequences ever doesn't help. Oh, and the first episode only exists in low-quality black-and-white.

But what about the story? It's decent. Hulke handles the heavy-handed moral message without feeling like he's beating you over the head, partly because the "bad guys" are all idealists who think they're the good guys, and partly because even if Yates-turns-traitor isn't as shocking as it was at the time it still works. And the spaceship twist was one of the cleverest ways they ever broke a 6-parter into 4+2 (pity they ruined that by giving the Doctor a bunch of unnecessary padding while rushing through scenes for the characters who actually have things going on…). And seeing the Brig have to turn rebel is always fun.

Trivia

  • To keep the big dino surprise secret, Radio Times listed the first episode as just Invasion, and accompanied it with an illustration of the Doctor being attacked by a pterodactyl, which kind of defeated the purpose.
  • You know how RTD talks about how Classic Who never explored how alien invasions would affect politics they way he brilliantly did in NuWho? Say hello to Liberal PM Jeremy Thorpe, who apparently beat Labour by promising to do something about the Cybermen and Yeti attacks, although that last bit didn't make it into the televised episodes.