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New Series Episode 94:
Dinosaurs On A Spaceship

Plot

In 2367, Earth's security forces are on high alert as an unidentified spaceship hurtles towards the planet. The Doctor assembles a team to investigate, including the legendary Queen Nefertiti, a big game hunter named Riddell, Amy, Rory... and, inadvertently, Rory's father Brian. Materialising aboard the mystery ship, they're surprised to find it populated by dinosaurs. With time running out before the ship is blasted out of the sky, the Doctor must confront a vicious criminal named Solomon, as the lives of his companions and the dinosaurs hang in the balance.

Production

The starting point for Dinosaurs On A Spaceship was its title. Inspired by the shamelessly direct moniker of the 2006 thriller Snakes On A Plane, Moffat offered it to writer Chris Chibnall when they met on July 8th, 2011; Chibnall had last contributed The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood for Matt Smith's first season. In addition to the title and the basic concept of a spaceship full of dinosaurs hurtling towards the Earth, Moffat also suggested that Chibnall incorporate two impressive robot costumes which had originally been designed by Millennium FX for the CBBC game show Mission: 2110 which was broadcast the year before. Millennium's Neill Gorton felt that these costumes, dubbed the “Roboidz”, had been underutilised on Mission: 2110 and could easily be retooled for use on Doctor Who.

Another important facet of Dinosaurs On A Spaceship would be its place in the character arc of the Doctor's companions, Amy and Rory. Whereas most previous companions had filled the same role throughout their time on the programme, Moffat had conceived Amy and Rory as evolving through three distinct stages. In Season Thirty-One, Amy was the primary companion who only occasionally travelled with Rory -- a fairly traditional role which echoed Rose Tyler and Mickey Smith during Seasons Twenty-Seven and Twenty-Eight. In Season Thirty-Two, they ventured into unexplored territory as the first married companions to journey in the TARDIS.

For Season Thirty-Three, Moffat wanted to explore what happened to companions after their travels with the Doctor had finished, and to this end, Amy and Rory had ostensibly left the TARDIS at the conclusion of The God Complex. Moffat felt that it was inconsistent that the Doctor would never visit them again, and so the first part of Season Thirty-Three -- initially four episodes long and later extended to five -- would chronicle the times that they are reunited, culminating in the departure of the characters from Doctor Who for good. This was a plan developed by Moffat in discussion with Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill, who had approached him in 2011 to indicate that they felt they should wind down their time on the show.

Chibnall submitted an outline for Dinosaurs On A Spaceship on October 10th. For his villain, Solomon, Chibnall thought in terms of a futuristic version of a Somali pirate, of the type that had been terrorising ships in and around the Gulf of Aden since 2005. Meanwhile, Chibnall had obtained Moffat's blessing to develop the character of Brian Williams, father to Rory. The writer knew that his episode would be one of the last to feature Amy and Rory, and so he wanted to explore the Williams family while he had the chance.

Beyond Amy, Rory and Brian, Chibnall was keen to show the Doctor adventuring with a “gang”. Originally, the other two members of the Doctor's “gang” were both to have been historical figures. The Egyptian Queen Nefertiti reigned alongside her husband, the Pharoah Akhenaten, in the mid-fourteenth century BC. In addition to her traditional depiction as a strong woman, Nefertiti was appealing to Chibnall because she -- debatably -- disappears from the historical record, with no clear evidence of the manner of her death. As such, Chibnall felt that Nefertiti could have plausibly gone off travelling with the Doctor, ending her days elsewhere in space and time.

Chibnall also wanted to incorporate frontiersman Charles “Buffalo” Jones (1844-1919), who helped save the American bison from extinction. However, Moffat was concerned that this character was too similar to the cowboys of A Town Called Mercy, the story which would follow Dinosaurs On A Spaceship in the season schedule. As such, Chibnall instead devised the fictional big game hunter John Riddell, inspired by characters such as Allan Quatermain (created by H Rider Haggard in his 1885 adventure novel King Solomon's Mines). Chibnall intended Riddell to have once saved the life of the Doctor, who was now doing him a favour because Riddell was fated to die the day after he was collected from the African plains. (Both of these references were eventually deleted during editing.)

The major change that affected Dinosaurs On A Spaceship during the drafting stage involved its climax. Originally, Nefertiti knocked out the Doctor and gave her own life to destroy Solomon's ship. When this was felt to be too similar to other self-sacrificial moments in the final cycle of Amy-Rory episodes, Moffat instead suggested that the Doctor and Nefertiti could be saved by having the TARDIS materialise around them as the missiles strike Solomon's pod. Subsequently, however, Moffat decided that this lacked drama. He also wanted to explore what happens to the Doctor when he doesn't have regular travelling companions, and so the Time Lord would now leave Solomon to his death.

Although the realisation of the dinosaurs would be partly accomplished through practical creations, a substantial amount of computer animation would also be required. To give VFX house The Mill sufficient time to complete all of the CGI, it was decided that Dinosaurs On A Spaceship would form part of the first production block for Season Thirty-Three. Made alongside A Town Called Mercy, it would be directed by Saul Metzstein. Metzstein had helmed films such as Late Night Shopping and Guy X, while earning television credits including the revival of Upstairs Downstairs; he had also been a second unit director on the movie Dredd.

A key part of the casting for Dinosaurs On A Spaceship was the role of Brian. Drawing upon suggestions from Arthur Darvill, the part went to Mark Williams. Williams had numerous credits on television and in film, most notably all three seasons of the sketch comedy The Fast Show, and as Arthur Weasley in the last seven Harry Potter movies. Williams' other appearances included the first season of Red Dwarf, The Strangerers and Carrie & Barry, as well as the movies Shakespeare In Love, Stardust and Albert Nobbs.

Recording for Dinosaurs On A Spaceship began on February 17th, 2012 with Bleytal's message recorded at Upper Boat Studios. Richard Hope, who had played the Silurian Malohkeh in Cold Blood and The Wedding Of River Song, portrayed this new character (who was named for Barry Letts, Doctor Who's producer during the Jon Pertwee era). Filming then resumed on the 20th, when work started with a dwelling on Church Road in Penarth posing as Amy and Rory's house. Cast and crew then adjourned to Upper Boat, for the material in the cave plus the effects shot of Brian looking down on the Earth. Recording at Upper Boat continued the next day, with scenes in Solomon's pod. On the 22nd, the engine room sequences were shot at Southerndown Beach near Bridgend, although the work was curtailed by a rainstorm.

Metzstein's team then returned to Upper Boat for the rest of the shoot, starting with scenes in the Bio-Lab on February 23rd. From the 24th to March 1st -- omitting only February 26th -- filming took place on the episode's main set which represented the massive spaceship corridor. This included work involving “Tricey” the triceratops, which was partly realised as an animatronic prop with a head designed by Gary Pollard. Pollard, an alumnus of the Jim Henson Workshop, stayed true to modern theories about the appearance of the triceratops, although some license was taken to enlarge the dinosaur's eyes in order to make Tricey more endearing. Part of March 1st was also spent recording TARDIS scenes, as well as various inserts.

March 2nd saw filming move to the set for the control deck, followed by the remaining material in Solomon's pod on the 5th. On March 19th, a second unit run by Nick Hurran -- who was preparing to shoot Block Two, consisting of Asylum Of The Daleks and The Angels Take Manhattan -- completed the 1902 sequences as well as additional footage aboard the pod. Finally, Metzstein filmed the scene in Ancient Egypt together with those at the Indian Space Agency monitoring headquarters on the 23rd.

Like Season Thirty-Two, it was decided to divide Doctor Who's thirty-third season into two parts separated by a substantial gap in transmission. The first part of Season Thirty-Three would air in the autumn of 2012, and consist of the final five episodes to feature Amy and Rory. Eager to avoid the impression that any installment of Doctor Who was dispensable, Moffat sought to paint each of these five episodes as being like a mini-blockbuster movie. At the suggestion of his fellow executive producer, Caroline Skinner, it was agreed that each of these episodes would sport a specially-designed variant of the Doctor Who logo. As such, Dinosaurs On A Spaceship gained a version with a scaly, reptilian texture.

Sources
  • Doctor Who News.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #33, Spring 2013, “Dinosaurs On A Spaceship” by Andrew Pixley, Panini UK Ltd.

Original Transmission
Date 8th Sep 2012
Time 7.35pm
Duration 45'13"
Viewers (more) 7.6m (9th)
· BBC1/HD 7.6m
· iPlayer 1.8m
Appreciation 87%


Cast
The Doctor
Matt Smith
Amy Pond
Karen Gillan
Rory Williams
Arthur Darvill
(more)
Riddell
Rupert Graves
Brian Williams
Mark Williams
Solomon
David Bradley
Queen Nefertiti
Riann Steele
Indira
Sunetra Sarker
Robot 1
Noel Byrne
Robot 2
Richard Garaghty
Bleytal
Richard Hope
ISA Worker
Rudi Dharmalingam
Robot 1 Voice
David Mitchell
Robot 2 Voice
Robert Webb


Crew
Written by
Chris Chibnall
Directed by
Saul Metzstein
Produced by
Marcus Wilson
(more)

Stunt Coordinators
Crispin Layfield
Gordon Seed
Stunt Performers
Will Willoughby
Rob Cooper
Mike Lambert
First Assistant Director
Nick Brown
Second Assistant Director
James DeHaviland
Third Assistant Director
Heddi-Joy Taylor-Welch
Assistant Director
Danielle Richards
Location Manager
Iwan Roberts
Unit Manager
Geraint Williams
Production Manager
Phillipa Cole
Production Coordinator
Claire Hildred
Asst Production Coordinator
Gabriella Ricci
Production Secretary
Sandra Cosfeld
Production Assistants
Rachel Vipond
Samantha Price
Asst Production Accountant
Rhys Evans
Script Supervisor
Lindsay Grant
Camera Operator
Joe Russell
Focus Pullers
Steve Rees
James Scott
Grip
Gary Norman
Camera Assistants
Meg de Koning
Sam Smithard
Cai Thompson
Assistant Grip
Owen Charnley
Sound Maintenance Engineers
Jeff Welch
Chris Goding
Gaffer
Mark Hutchings
Best Boy
Stephen Slocombe
Electricians
Bob Milton
Gareth Sheldon
Matt Wilson
Supervising Art Director
Paul Spriggs
Set Decorator
Adrian Anscombe
Production Buyer
Charlie Lynam
Art Director
Amy Pickwoad
Assistant Art Director
Richard Hardy
Art Department Coordinator
Donna Shakesheff
Prop Master
Paul Smith
Prop Chargehand
Bernie Davies
Set Dresser
Jayne Davies
Prop Hand
Austin J Curtis
Standby Props
Phill Shellard
Helen Atherton
Dressing Props
Mike Elkins
Ian Griffin
Tom Belton
Graphic Artist
Christina Tom
Graphic Designer
Chris J Lees
Petty Cash Buyer
Helen O'Leary
Standby Carpenter
Will Pope
Standby Rigger
Bryan Griffiths
Props Makers
Penny Howarth
Alan Hardy
Jamie Thomas
Props Driver
Gareth Fox
Construction Manager
Terry Horle
Construction Chargehand
Dean Tucker
Assistant Costume Designer
Fraser Purfit
Costume Supervisor
Carly Griffith
Costume Assistants
Katarina Cappellazzi
Gemma Evans
Make-Up Artists
Sara Angharad
Vivienne Simpson
Allison Sing
Casting Associate
Alice Purser
Assistant Editor
Becky Trotman
VFX Editor
Joel Skinner
Dubbing Mixer
Tim Ricketts
ADR Editor
Matthew Cox
Dialogue Editor
Darran Clement
Sound Effects Editor
Paul Jefferies
Foley Editor
Jamie Talbutt
Graphics
Peter Anderson Studio
Online Conform
Mark Bright
Online Editor
Geraint Pari Huws
Colourist
Mick Vincent
Original Theme Music
Ron Grainer
Casting Director
Andy Pryor CDG
Production Executive
Julie Scott
Post Production Supervisor
Nerys Davies
Production Accountant
Jeff Dunn
Sound Recordist
Deian Llŷr Humphreys
Costume Designer
Howard Burden
Make-Up Designer
Barbara Southcott
Music
Murray Gold
Visual Effects
The Mill
Special Effects
Real SFX
Prosthetics
Millennium FX
Editor
Tim Porter
Production Designer
Michael Pickwoad
Director Of Photography
Stephan Pehrsson
Associate Producer
Denise Paul
Line Producer
Diana Barton
Executive Producers
Steven Moffat
Caroline Skinner


Media
DVD Release
Doctor Who: Series 7 Part 1 (double disc; 2012)
Buy: Canada · UK · USA
Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series (2013; boxed set)
Buy: Canada · UK · USA
Blu-ray Release
Doctor Who: Series 7 Part 1 (double disc; 2012)
Buy: Canada · UK · USA
Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series (2013; boxed set)
Buy: Canada · UK · USA

Updated 11th August 2014