Doctor Who #364: Invasion of the Dinosaurs Part 3

"She said to tell you she'd gone out to play!"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.26 1974.

IN THIS ONE... The T Rex and Sarah Jane both take a long nap. Except when she wakes up, she's been on a spaceship for three months.

REVIEW: Just as the T Rex is about to devour the Doctor, Yates jumps in heroically, subtly undoes his sabotage of the stungun and downs the anatomical nightmare of a beast. Later, he's rather cross with the scientists orchestrating the whole thing for trying to kill the Doctor, his divided loyalties causing him obvious anxiety. And though once burnt, he still goes off to do their dirty work again on the same assurance that no one will be harmed. So I'm taking it as given that he wasn't the one who cut the T Rex's chains or locked the door behind Sarah Jane. Had he been in the episode more, this might have proven one of Mike Yates' best. He isn't. This is really Sarah Jane's show.

Despite the Doctor giving her assistant status, Sarah Jane Smith only sees herself as a recurring character (so to speak), as a journalist with a job to do, a job these fussy older men won't let her do. She wants pictures of the monster, and she'll get them. Close-ups too, almost walking into the T Rex's maw to get them. Even with a nasty cut on her forehead (for once, the falling beam trick looks like it could have hurt), she wants to be out investigating. It's like she doesn't know she's in the Doctor's show. It's not even UNIT's, where all the protagonists look dead tired (which is surprisingly well-observed and realistic, mind you). She's already the star of her own show, decades before it's made official on BBC Kids. She works things out, she crafts theories, she puts them to the test, she's not above roping in poor Benton into her plans or afraid of visiting an M.P. during a crisis. Like other companions, she gets into trouble, but she does so by being COMPETENT. After three years of Jo Grant, bless her, it's quite a change of pace. If only the men around her would listen, she wouldn't have to go it alone and find herself on a spaceship three months hence (not that we believe that for a second... do we?).

In another round of revealed treason, Minister Grover turns out to have access to a hidden bunker from which the time experiments are being conducted. He's such a friendly sort of fellow, but his private agenda was just too in line with those of the villains to be much of a surprise. Though a whole room that acts as a lift? Pretty cool. General Finch also seems to have an agenda - he helps Sarah get her pictures and gives the fourth wall a knowing look - but it's really not clear WHAT he's doing. All I know, is that he's got "evil make-up". If he's a straight goodie, maybe he just appreciates Sarah's gumption. I still don't know. And the actual monsters? The T Rex features heavily and yes, the puppet is pretty terrible and largely inflexible, and yes, the CSO is at times even worse, but there are some nice moments too. When it crashes to the ground, it looks like it has some weight, and when it sleeps, you see it breathing and it's kind of sad and/or adorable. Hey, it's a rubber dinosaur, I'll take what I can get.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - It's just too damn fun to watch Sarah Jane Smith already in it to win it so early in her career, I can't be bothered to complain about the plastic critters.

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