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Invasion of the Dinosaurs

Production Code: WWW

First Transmitted

1 - 12/01/1974 17:30

2 - 19/01/1974 17:30

3 - 26/01/1974 17:30

4 - 02/02/1974 17:30

5 - 09/02/1974 17:30

6 - 16/02/1974 17:30

Plot

The Doctor and Sarah return to 20th Century London to find it deserted. Initially arrested as looters, they are soon back with UNIT. The Brigadier explains that central London has been evacuated due to the unexplained and random appearance of prehistoric monsters. The Doctor and Sarah discover that the monsters are being brought through time by two scientists, Whitaker and his henchman Butler, as part of a conspiracy to clear London of people.

The Doctor's investigations are deliberately hindered first by Captain Yates and then by the Army's General Finch, both of whom are involved in the conspiracy. Sarah visits Sir Charles Grover, the Government Minister in charge during the emergency, but discovers that he too is involved.

Captured and hypnotised, she revives to find herself apparently on board a spaceship en route to colonise another world. She soon realises that the ship is just a mock-up and those on board, led by a number of elders, have been duped.

The conspirators in fact intend to use a time machine to return London to a 'Golden Age' before the Earth became polluted, so that they and the would-be colonists can start civilisation afresh.

The Doctor and the Brigadier mount a raid on their underground headquarters. Grover makes a last-ditch attempt to operate the time machine, but the Doctor has changed the settings and he succeeds only in sending himself and Whitaker back to the era of the dinosaurs. The Brigadier arranges for the misguided Yates to be given a chance to resign quietly from UNIT.

Episode Endings

The Doctor and Sarah are being taken to a detention centre in a Land Rover. The vehicle suddenly screeches to a halt and the Doctor looks out of the back to see a tyrannosaurus rex looming over them.

The Doctor goes to capture a brontosaurus using a gun he has built for the purpose. Yates, under instruction from Whitaker, has disabled the gun and it does not work. The brontosaurus vanishes and, as the Doctor turns, a tyrannosaurus rex appears. UNIT troops start firing at it.

Sarah goes to see Sir Charles Grover in the hope that he may help her to discover the location of Whitaker's base. Grover takes her captive and she is placed in a room where she is sent to sleep with flashing lights. When she wakes she is told that she is on board a spaceship heading for 'New Earth'.

Whitaker telephones the Doctor and asks the Time Lord to meet him. When the Doctor arrives at the rendezvous, there is no sign of Whitaker, but suddenly a stegosaurus appears. General Finch bursts in with the Brigadier and accuses the Doctor of being responsible for the dinosaur invasion.

Trying to make his way back to Whitaker's London base, the Doctor finds himself facing a final wave of dinosaurs. He is suddenly confronted by a tyrannosaurus rex.

The Doctor tries to persuade Sarah to take another trip in the TARDIS, this time to the planet Florana.

Roots

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.

Day of the Triffids.

The Avengers ('The Morning After').

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : "Look, I understand your ideals. In many ways I sympathise with them. But this is not the way to go about it, you know. You've got no right to take away the existence of generations of people."

Captain Yates : "There's no alternative."

The Doctor : "Yes there is. Take the world that you've got and try and make something of it. It's not too late."

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart : "We've got company."

The Doctor : [In the process of planting a bomb in the lift leading to the conspirators' base.] "Good grief, it's a triceratops! Look Brigadier, try and keep it occupied while I'm finishing this off, will you?"

The Doctor : "It's not the oil and the filth and the poisonous chemicals that are the real cause of pollution, Brigadier. It's simply greed."

Dialogue Disasters

The Doctor : [The Doctor's hilarious cockney] "You're the nark, aren't you? It was you wot grassed on us."

Continuity

The Doctor takes at least four sugars in his coffee. He says that the Blinovitch Limitation Effect (see Day of the Daleks) tends to hold back research into time travel. The Doctor is largely immune to the effects of Whitaker's machine because he is a Time Lord. (The Doctor also seemed unaffected by the time disturbance in The Time Monster. See also City of Death.) He offers to take Sarah to Florana, 'probably one of the most beautiful planets in the universe' (see Death to the Daleks).

QV

Earth and Time-Travel

UNIT Call-Signs

Location

London, [c. October 1972, as much as a month or two after Sarah's departure in The Time Warrior].

Future History

At some point in the future a Chinese scientist, Chung Sen, experiments with time travel. (See The Ark, Planet of the Spiders, The Talons of Weng Chiang and City of Death for some possibilities).

Links

Untelevised

The Doctor says that the Vandals were 'quite decent chaps'.

Trivia

Well-known actor Martin Jarvis plays Butler. Jarvis had previously portrayed Hilio in the season two story The Web Planet, and went on to make one further Doctor Who appearance, as the Governor in the season twenty-two story Vengeance on Varos.

There is the first appearance of the Doctor's futuristic new car, named the Alien by its makers but referred to generally (although never on-screen) as the Whomobile. It had still to be fully completed by the time the filming for this story took place, and so is seen with no roof and only a makeshift windscreen.

Myth

Robert Holmes, who on this story made his uncredited debut as a script editor, accepted the post only reluctantly and after some persuasion. (He actually telephoned the production office to put himself forward as a candidate for the post, and was delighted to find that he was already under consideration for it.)

The master tape of the first episode of this story was mistakenly wiped when it was confused with season six's The Invasion. (There is no evidence to suggest that this is why the tape was wiped; all the tapes for The Invasion were wiped in 1972, more than two years before Invasion of the Dinosaurs was transmitted.)

Goofs

The Tyrannosaurus Rex has too many fingers on each hand (cf Doctor Who and the Silurians), but is clearly named as such.

It doesn't roar, but says 'roar!'

Most of the dinosaurs seem to float when CSOed onto film sequences.

In episode two, Yates' disabling disk appears on the Doctor's gun lying in the Jeep before he has placed it there.

Martin Jarvis appears to bang his head getting into the lift at the tube station.

In episode four there's a very wobbly zoom towards the security camera.

The metal shutters coming down in the underground base make the walls wobble.

The scenes with Sarah on the 'ship' are intercut with Earth scenes, thus giving the game away that she hasn't been there for several weeks.

Fashion Victim

Mark plans to colonise a new planet wearing flares.

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Jon Pertwee

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart - Nicholas Courtney

Captain Mike Yates - Richard Franklin

Sarah Jane Smith - Elisabeth Sladen

Sergeant Benton - John Levene

Adam - Brian Badcoe

Butler - Martin Jarvis

Charles Grover M.P. - Noel Johnson

Corporal Norton - Martin Taylor

General Finch - John Bennett

Lieutenant Shears - Ben Aris

Lodge - Trevor Lawrence

Mark - Terence Wilton

Peasant - James Marcus

Phillips - Gordon Reid

Private Bryson - Colin Bell

Private Ogden - George Bryson

Professor Whitaker - Peter Miles

R/T Soldier - John Caesar

Robinson - Timothy Craven

Ruth - Carmen Silvera

Sergeant Duffy - Dave Carter

UNIT Corporal - Pat Gorman

Warehouse Looter - Terry Walsh

Crew

Director - Paddy Russell

Assistant Floor Manager - John Wilcox

Costumes - Barbara Kidd

Designer - Richard Morris

Film Cameraman - Keith Hopper

Film Editor - Bob Rymer

Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson

Make-Up - Jean McMillan

Producer - Barry Letts

Production Assistant - George Gallaccio

Script Editor - Terrance Dicks

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Alan Horne

Studio Sound - Trevor Webster

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - Clifford Culley

Writer - Malcolm Hulke

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'There never was a 'Golden Age', Mike. It's all an illusion.' Given the task of writing a story featuring dinosaurs, Malcolm Hulke puts the creatures very much in the background. This is a good move: the special effects are woeful. However, Invasion of the Dinosaurs has many redeeming features, most notably the sombre location footage in the first episode. Like all six parters there is padding, and things get obvious when it seems that almost everybody's a traitor. As UK Gold said, '20 Years before Jurassic Park.'

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

Given that the production team decided to commission a story about dinosaurs only because they had been approached by a freelance effects designer, Clifford Culley of Westbury Design and Optical Ltd, who assured them that he could produce highly realistic models of such creatures, it is rather ironic that there is just one major respect in which Invasion of the Dinosaurs fails in its on-screen realisation: the dinosaurs!

The opening episode starts very promisingly but ends terribly, as Keith Miller described in DWFC Monthly Number 19 - Special Review Edition, in the spring of 1974: 'The deserted London streets created a brilliant atmosphere, and set the scene for what I thought was going to be the Malcolm Hulke version of The Dalek Invasion of Earth but with dinosaurs. The scenes that followed were very good, what with the public telephone being out of order and the streets being devoid of any bus service. The looter in the jewellery shop was brought to a quick and mysterious end when his car crashed some distance down the road. Very good, I thought, the mystery deepens. Then came the pterodactyl, which was quite well done, [although] its wings didn't flap enough. The Doctor and Sarah being arrested was a novel twist... After escaping they came up against the first dinosaur and, oh dear, shades of Basil Brush! A glove puppet nervously skiing about London streets didn't exactly fill me with fright...'

The model dinosaurs were not in fact glove puppets, but there is undeniably a resemblance to the popular children's character Basil Brush in the way that they move, and not for one moment do they look convincing. What's more, it is painfully obvious that only a small number were created for the story; the Doctor seems to encounter a tyrannosaurus rex every time he turns a corner. The CSO by way of which the creatures are combined with the live action is not wonderful, either, and the scenes in question actually look much better if viewed in black and white. The effects team have obviously tried hard to make the miniature sets in which the dinosaurs appear match their live action counterparts, but ultimately the creatures - in whatever setting - are laughable rather than frightening.

The great pity is that the awfulness of the dinosaur scenes tends to overshadow the excellence of Paddy Russell's direction of the rest of the story and the high quality of the performances by the assembled cast - particularly Noel Johnson as Grover and John Bennett as Finch, although Martin Jarvis is rather wasted as the one-dimensional Butler. Craig Hinton recognised this dichotomy in a review in A Voyage Through 25 Years of Doctor Who, dated December 1988: 'Marred by terrible special effects, enriched by superb acting and character development by all concerned, the story seemed... to exist [solely] to fill up six episodes.'

It is perhaps fortunate that Malcolm Hulke's scripts use the dinosaurs really only as window dressing to what is, in essence, another moralistic tale about the problems of pollution and the lengths to which mankind might go to try to solve them. In a neat about-turn from The Green Death, where the ecologists were the good guys and the 'establishment' most definitely at fault, here the ecologists are unreasonable fanatics and the 'establishment', as represented by the Doctor and the Brigadier, are the saviours of humanity. John Peel, writing in Fantasy Empire Issue 11, dated May 1984, highlighted the story's strong plot and characterisation: 'Once again, we were treated to another of Malcolm Hulke's complex and believable plots. The villains genuinely believed that what they were doing was for the ultimate good of the human race, and tried to justify their beliefs. None of them [was a] sadistic [killer], and all were sorry for the deaths incurred in the project, but they felt that it was worth it to achieve a Golden Age. The revelation of Mike Yates as a traitor was quite a shock to the viewers, as for the previous [three] seasons he had been one of the staunchest of allies for the UNIT crew. It was an unexpected and clever plot move, and seemed to mark the end of Yates in the show.'

This is not to suggest that Hulke's scripts are perfect, however. On the downside, the story is poorly paced and contains a tremendous amount of padding, most particularly in Part Five which seems to be almost entirely taken up with the Doctor driving about Wimbledon Common being chased by helicopters and Land Rovers. The subplot concerning the people supposedly en route to 'New Earth', although one of the story's most effective elements, is also superfluous and could easily have been cut, perhaps leaving this as a rather tighter four-part adventure. There is, moreover, a big credibility problem in the idea that Sir Charles Grover and his chums were able to construct a spaceship mock-up in the basement of a Government building and then recruit notable (and newsworthy) sportsmen and writers supposedly to fly off to another planet, all without anyone else noticing. It is impossible to imagine something of this magnitude happening without the newspapers getting wind of it, and yet it comes as a complete surprise to Sarah. Still, at least Sarah has a chance to use her journalistic skills in this story - an aspect of her character that would later be somewhat neglected - and is given lots to do while the Doctor faffs about trying to capture a dinosaur.

Miller summed up things well: 'After the battle of the bendy toys with Basil and Bronty, the Doctor guides UNIT down to the Underground station where he combines forces with the elders and brings about the ironic ending of all the baddies being transported back to the time they wanted to bring forwards. The story, on the whole, was well written, but the effects let it down badly, I'm sorry to say.'

Unfortunately, Invasion of the Dinosaurs is destined to be remembered as 'the one with the awful dinosaurs'.

< The Time WarriorThird DoctorDeath to the Daleks >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.



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