This was a superb serial that moved at a fast pace, had a good story, and some nice twists that made sure things never got boring.
The Doctor and Sarah make it back to London only to find it seemingly devoid of life aside from some looters. As they investigate they are attacked by dinosaurs and discover that the prehistoric creatures have been appearing and disappearing for some time now, which has prompted an evacuation of London. They eventually reunite with the Brig and UNIT to try and solve the problem, but are unaware that some of their allies are actually their enemies and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.
Let’s get this out of the way first: The dinosaurs do not look good here. In fact, they are pretty bad. The show just did not have the budget to pull off convincing dinosaurs but bless them they tried. However, I felt that the dinosaurs had a certain charm which offset just how bad they were.
I think they worked best in part 1, which is in black and white. From what I’ve read the original color master tape of part 1 was erased and it wasn’t until 1983 that a black and white recording was found. On the DVD release of this serial episode 1 has been restored to color but the Amazon Prime version is the black and white one. While I do want to see the episode in color one day, I kind of liked the black and white version. It gave episode 1 a different vibe to the rest of the serial and the dinosaurs came off looking better without color.
I liked the scene where the T-rex is starting to wake up in the garage and Sarah is in there alone with it. Not only that, but she has been locked in. The combination of the acting, directing, and music score creates a tense scene where Sarah does appear to be in mortal peril from an obviously rubber suit dinosaur.
I’ve found most of the 3rd Doctor’s six or seven part serials lacking so far. Most of them simply don’t have a story that really needs that many episodes to tell, and so the writers usually have the Doctor get captured and escape a few times to pad out the length. That doesn’t happen here. It feels like each episode offers a new twist to move the story forward in a different direction, with a big twist coming at the end of part 3.
For what is the last major UNIT story for the 3rd Doctor, they come off as rather ineffectual here. That is by design, since several high ranking officers and politicians are actually the bad guys and are making sure UNIT can’t uncover their plans until it is too late. While I’d rather this story see UNIT rushing into action I like the extra tension and drama that is added at seeing them be outmaneuvered for most of the story.
I did not like Yates being revealed as a traitor and a member of the Golden Age cabal. Nothing we have seen from his character in the past few seasons would suggest he would go along with such a radical plan nor does this serial ever truly justify his actions. He gets one or two lines talking about how peaceful London is without all the people there but that’s hardly justification for wiping out the human race. I was hoping we would see him turn against his conspirators but that doesn’t happen. He at least is allowed to resign at the end and go on sabbatical so that’s something.
This is why I wish we had Jo during this season. Sarah doesn’t know Mike. She meets him for the first time in this serial. His betrayal lacks the emotional punch it could have contained if Jo was the companion since she had a good relationship with Mike.
Honestly, I wouldn’t even call Sarah a companion yet. It is only at the end of this serial that she agrees to travel with the Doctor and she spends a good amount of time in this serial away from the Doctor.
This serial does give her a lot more to do, and shows off her tenacious reporter side. Sarah tracks down some good leads and does get to the bottom of what’s going on. Unfortunately that also means she ends up getting kidnapped by the villains about half way through the serial. I feel like this serial gives us a much better look at Sarah and what makes her tick than the last one did.
The Doctor gets a new car here, the Whomobile. Why he doesn’t use Bessie is never explained but I guess if Batman can have the Batmobile then the Doctor can have a Whomobile.
The 3rd Doctor era has placed a heavy emphasis on environmental issues and several of the stories have talked about the evils of pollution and what damage is being done to the planet. This serial takes that a step further and has the villains be environmentalists who have decided that humans won’t change and that the planet needs a re-do. Their plan is to reverse time, wipe out humanity, and re-start with a chosen few who will take better care of the planet.
It is pretty audacious to have environmentalists, who have been shown to be more or less the good guys so far during this era, be the villains. The Doctor does acknowledge that Golden Age had good intentions and that the environment does need to be protected but wiping out the human race is a tad extreme.
There are some good comedic moments in this serial that made me laugh out loud. I loved the scene where the Doctor is working on the gadget that will knock out a dinosaur and he keeps getting interrupted and is getting more annoyed. Oh, and the Doctor’s mug shots were pretty funny as well.
Invasion of the Dinosaurs is that rare six-parter that never feels like it is spinning wheels just to pad the time. The story is engaging with plenty of twists and decent cliff hangers to keep viewers entertained. Sarah is fleshed out more here and proves to be a capable companion. The villains posed a real threat since they operated within the UNIT and government hierarchy and stymied the heroes at almost every turn. I highly recommend this serial.