The Case for…Invasion of the Dinosaurs

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Guest contributor William Atkinson defends Doctor Who’s 70s dino-drama.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs is thought of as a bit of a joke by some Doctor Who fans. I first encountered it through the VHS (it was the last story to be released on the format) which I got for my birthday (first who story I ever owned, fact fans). To quote from a prolific website:

” …rather than being analogous to the last little fat boy to be picked for the school football team, I think that this six-parter is more like an unfit-but nonetheless skilful- forty cigs a day Sunday League footballer.”

Or, in simpler terms, good actors, good scripts, bad effects. However, I stand here to challenge the common belief that this isn’t any good. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Firstly, the acting is first rate. Jon Pertwee and Elisabeth Sladen are on fine form, trading quips and comments perfectly. There is also an excellent guest cast, including Peter Miles (Genesis of the Daleks) and Martin Jarvis (Vengeance on Varos) as a pair of scheming scientists. In addition to this, UNIT is used well with excellent performances from Nicholas Courtney, John Levene and, especially, Richard Franklin as Mike Yates. Yates goes through a phenomenal character development in this story as he goes from hero to traitor -- decidedly shocking for children’s tea-time Saturday telly in the seventies.

As Alan Partridge might say, ”Jurassic Park!”

Carrying on from that, this story is blessed with an excellent script that, unlike many of Doctor Who’s, stands up as a good piece of science-fiction in its own right. I mean you’ve got to love it -- scientists and politicians are bringing dinosaurs back from the past to guard their plan to revert the world to its pre-K2 event stage for a group of environmentally celebs. As the ninth doctor might have said, “Fantastic!”

Finally, I must praise the first episode. At times I thought it must have been written by Terry “I created the Daleks and you didn’t!” Nation as the regulars wander around a deserted city (to be fair this was Earth, not Skaro) before a great monster reveal at the end of it. Even the Dinosaurs aren’t that bad. For what was achievable at the time you could almost say they were quite good, though they do let the side down when a 10-foot tall prehistoric killing lizard of doom/hyperbole looks like my Aunt’s puppy.

To conclude, Invasion of the Dinosaurs isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. So sit down and watch it and revel in Whomobiles, dodgy CSO and an “an extwodinawy spwecimen of a stwegosawus, Sawah Jane!”