We continue with Jon Pertwee’s final season with another 6 part story, Invasion of the Dinosaurs. And let us acknowledge the proverbial elephant (or should that be Tyrannosaurus) in the room – the dinosaurs are pretty naff. And unless you allow yourself to see past the dodgy special effects you won’t be able to appreciate the story in any way, shape or form. Do I wish they offered a version with upgraded effects when they released the DVD? Maybe just a little … but then we can’t have everything!
But when you resolve to accept that the effects were probably as good as you would get for the era and budget, and ensure that they do not interfere in your enjoyment of the story, there is quite an entertaining and imaginative story to be told, and it doesn’t suffer quite as much as other Season 11 six-part stories for its length. Having smuggled herself into the TARDIS during the previous adventure, Sarah-Jane is brought back by the Doctor to 20th Century London to discover the city deserted. Unfortunately for the BBC, the big reveal at the end of episode one of the dinosaur threat, meant to be disguised by calling the first episode simply ‘Invasion’ was spoiled by the Radio Times – something they would also do with Peter Davison episode Earthshock.
If I have a regret when watching this episode, it is knowing what the plot was in advance. I hesitate to say that the plot would not have been guessable at the time, but a lot of the shocks like long-term UNIT member Captain Yates betraying his former friends lost a lot of their impact when you knew they were coming. For all that, you still enjoy the Doctor trying to track down the ‘Golden Dawn’ environmental group committed to returning the Earth back to an earlier ‘unspoiled’ state and the degrees of deception and duplicity involved. The story also manages to address a theme returned to in Season 12 opener Robot – namely, how far one should go to protect planet earth from the impact of environmental harm. Indeed there is something very chilling in the fact that talks by the Golden Dawn about killing off Sarah-Jane simply because she does not share their view of the world pre-empt a similar strangling of free-speech in modern Britain.
I think the biggest credit to Invasion of the Dinosaurs however is that it gave the opportunity for Mike Yates to explore personal redemption in the season closing Planet of the Spiders. As I earlier commented, the story as a whole is largely atrocious, but the journey Mike went on is exactly the kind of character development I would love to see explored in the current series of Doctor Who.