“Invasion of the Dinosaurs” is an adventure of the eleventh season of “Doctor Who” classic series, which aired in 1974. It follows “The Time Warrior” and it’s a six parts adventure written by Malcolm Hulke and directed by Paddy Russell.
The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) brings Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) back to London but when they arrive they discover that the city is apparently deserted. While they try to understand what is happening, they run into some looters who are stealing anything of value they can find.
After escaping the attack of strange animals, the Doctor and Sarah Jane are stopped by a group of soldiers. At last, they discover that London has been evacuated and placed under martial law in response to a not very clear emergency but they’re mistaken for looters and their requests to contact UNIT and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart are ignored. They’re then subjected to a very quick trial and sentenced but what’s really going on in the city?
This double DVD is rich extras. There are typical contents such as production subtitles, the Radio Times Listings, a promo of the “Doctor Who” DVD to be published soon and a gallery of pictures from this adventure.
There are various comments in the adventure alternative audio track by actors Richard Franklin, Peter Miles, Terence Wilton and Richard Morris, script editor Terrance Dicks and director Paddy Russell moderated by Toby Hadoke.
Colour-recovered version of Part One. The option to watch the first episode in its new colorized version instead of the black and white which is the only one recovered.
Commentary on 10 minutes of Part Five. A short commentary by John Levene to a part of this adventure in which his character has the opportunity to be a protagonist.
People, Power and Puppetry. A documentary about the production of this adventure.
Deleted Scenes. Some scenes cut during the final editing.
Now and Then. Some places used for filming seen as they are today and as they were at the time.
Billy Smart’s Circus. Jon Pertwee brings his “Whomobile” to the circus.
Doctor Who Stories: Elisabeth Sladen Part 1. Actress Elisabeth Sladen talks about her role in the show in this 2003 interview.
“Invasion of the Dinosaurs” is the result of various ideas of writer Malcolm Hulke, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks put together. The construction of the dinosaurs puppets was entrusted to a company outside the BBC because of their size but the results were below expectations.
The budget for the classic “Doctor Who” series certainly didn’t allow to have extraordinary special effects but in this case the level turned out even below the standard of the show. Also for the fact that the dinosaurs are the protagonists of some cliffhangers, “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” is often remembered as the adventure with the ridiculous dinosaurs and it’s a shame because the story is very good.
“Invasion of the Dinosaurs” starts with the evocative images of a deserted London. Director Paddy Russell went to the city streets at dawn along with a cameraman to shoot them. Given the length of this adventure it was necessary that the Doctor and Sarah Jane spent a long time just to figure out what was going on but the eerie atmosphere cleverly produced creates the correct tension for a strong beginning of the story.
When at last the Doctor, along with Sarah Jane, is reunited with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, the real story begins. The dinosaurs have attracted the attention of the authorities and the audience too but behind them there’s much more. In the course of the episodes we see the gradual discovery of a complex plan carried out on various levels involving many people, sometimes unexpected.
“Doctor Who” had already addressed environmental issues but in “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” a group of well-meaning people, who are often the worst, intend to solve the problem in a radical way. This is the kind of people who arrogates to themselves the right to decide for others because they believe they know what’s best for everyone. They don’t hesitate to deceive even their allies and to use violence.
In “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” what’s supposed to be best for everybody is actually the pathetic delusion that in the good old days – when the prices were fair, politicians honest and young people had respect for their elders to be clear – the world was a better place so somehow they must go back to them.
The leaders of the conspiracy deceive the majority of their supporters, who have a very different idea about the new world they should go to and live in. At least some of them, however, although they’re not as radical as their leaders still seem willing to use violence to achieve their goals, of course with the excuse that this is necessary for the greater good.
The characters are generally well defined and most of the cast provide good performances giving them extra depth. Sometimes UNIT looked like a parody of a military organization, instead in “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” Lethbridge-Stewart, Benton and Yates have the opportunity to be protagonists in a very serious way.
Jon Pertwee also managed to put in some scenes his Whomobile, a car he had built after Barry Letts had rejected the idea of financing it because of its costs. Considering the use of hovercraft and other pecualiar vehicles in the Third Doctor era it’s an appropriate appearance.
Despite the dinosaurs, “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” has a good reputation among “Doctor Who” fans and with some further improvement it might have become a classic making everybody forget the poor special effects. For example, adding a few more elements concerning how the conspiracy was developed in secret instead of the padding existing in a few episodes would’ve been interesting. Keeping the mystery on the starship in which Sarah Jane wakes up after being kidnapped for a longer time in my opinion would’ve strengthened the subsequent twists.
Despite its flaws, I think “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” is overall a high level adventure. For the DVD edition the first episode, recovered only in a black and white version, is available in a colorized version. The result isn’t that great because sometimes the colors are far from perfect but maybe the budget wasn’t high enough to have more sophisticated types od processing. The second DVD contains interesting extra that contribute to the quality of a really good product I recomment to the people interested in “Doctor Who”.
In Region 2 nations, this double DVD is part of the “U.N.I.T Files” box set – available on Amazon U.K. – so a global judgement of that box set must necessarily be given only at the end of the reviews of the adventures it contains.