Doctor Who
Invasion of the Dinosaurs

Starring: Jon Pertwee
BBC Video
RRP 12.99
BBCV 7333
Certificate: PG
Available now

Returning to present-day Earth, the Doctor and Sarah discover London to be deserted and under martial law. Having been mistaken for looters by the militia, they soon realise why the capital has been evacuated - dinosaurs are materialising out of thin air...

The main disadvantage of Invasion of the Dinosaurs, the final complete Doctor Who story to be released on video, is the prehistoric creatures themselves.

Quite apart from the fact that the dinosaur puppets aren't sufficiently detailed or articulated, we experience the usual problems that arise when CSO, a video-based technology, is mixed with filmed footage of location work and model shots. Ironically, the very first CSO effect in Doctor Who was a dinosaur effect, in The Silurians, but that was achieved entirely on videotape. When video and film footage are combined in the same shot, the "wobble" that is inherent in film becomes very noticeable, as do the different visual qualities of the two media. Producer Barry Letts would eventually overcome these problems in Robot, the first Tom Baker story, which made use of outside broadcast video cameras for its location recording.

However, not even videotape could have made the pitiful tyrannosaurus rex in Invasion of the Dinosaurs look terrifying. As it leans over to attack a brontosaurus outside a tube station while the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) looks on, you almost expect to see the hands of a small boy, playing with his plastic toys, intruding into the shot. Jurassic Park it isn't. We've used to seeing naff monsters in Doctor Who, but the trouble with dinosaurs is that the audience already have a clear idea of what they should be seeing.

Not all the effects are risible, though. The stegosaurus in part two and the triceratops in the final episode aren't too bad, but then they don't have to move about much.

Fortunately, the monsters are on screen for only a limited time. There are hardly any of them in parts four and five. Elsewhere, Malcolm Hulke's moralistic script comes into its own. The only cliffhanger that does not involve dinosaurs is a masterstroke of surprise. With its eerie deserted London streets, which recall the classic Troughton tale, The Web of Fear, and the military power struggle that takes place between the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) and General Finch (John Bennett), this is actually the second-strongest story of the eleventh season (after The Time Warrior).

Mike Yates' (Richard Franklin) role in the conspiracy is introduced with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, but consider how shocking the betrayal of this recurring character must have been back in 1974. This was long-term character development, the seeds of which had been sown in the previous season's The Green Death, and which would resonate into the season finale, Planet of the Spiders, long before "story arcs" were the in-thing in telefantasy.

The first episode, which is simply entitled Invasion, exists only in black and white. This is because the colour tapes were accidentally wiped when the Troughton story The Invasion was due to be junked - d'oh!

Despite its monochrome opening and its dodgy dinosaurs, there's plenty of fun to be had watching this story.

Richard McGinlay

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