When faced with the dilemma of either syndicating only five parts of Invasion of the Dinosaurs or leaving it out of the syndication package entirely, for years the BBC decided to just skip part one and show the five remaining episode. I'm not sure which this speaks volumes about more--the BBC's desire to make as much money as possible off Who sales and dump the first episode or the Pertwee era itself in which you can leave out an entire episode of a story and still not lose the audience. I do imagine had this been a four-part story, this would be a bit more of a dilemma, but maybe not really.
It speaks volumes of the story telling of the era when you've got two stories that can skip an entire episode in the syndication package for years on end and the audience can still follow what's going on. It's a bit more obvious in Planet of the Daleks when the Doctor jumps from being held prisoner by the Daleks to suddenly roaming around free. But here with Invasion of the Dinosaurs, we can easily skip the first 25 minutes of this adventure and not be any better or worse off. Sure, you miss an episode that's right out the Hartnell years--full of a mystery situation and atmosphere, but in terms of the overall impact on the story, you miss part one and you're not going to be hurting too much. We know that dinosaurs are appearing and that London has been evacuated--something that is summed up by the dialogue early in episode two.
Now imagine missing an episode of anything in the JN-T years....you miss one episode and you're lost. You may never quite recover and figure out what's going on.
It's not intended to be a criticism so much as an observation about the era from which this story came. It was full of six-parters and a lot of them were padded like an over-stuffed couch.
Such is the case with Invasion of the Dinosaurs.
It's not that it's a bad story concept, per se. It certainly fits in with the overall theme of the Pertwee era that humanity is its own worst enemy. The big problem with Invasion of the Dinosaurs is that we know all the players and the situation by the end of episode three and the start of episode four, but it takes another three episodes before it all comes to any kind of resolution. Invasion of the Dinosaurs is a story that's very repetitive--from the recycling of the Doctor in danger from a rampaging T. Rex for three cliffhangers to the fact that Sarah wanders on and off the alleged space craft for what seems like forever in the final two episodes.
It's interesting to see Invasion of Dinosaurs as sort of sequel to The Green Death. It follows a similar theme of taking care of the environment, though this time instead of fighting those who choose to destroy it, the Doctor and company fight against those who take protecting the environment a bit too far. It's full of the shades of gray villains that made most of Malcolm Hulke's other Pertwee era stories work so well, though I will admit the characters are under-realized. Compare what we find out about General Finch and Minister Grover to the hints we find out about characters in the Silurians and it pales by comparison. And that may be part of the problem--in The Silurians or Frontier in Space or even The Sea Devils we could work up some sympathy or understanding of why people were taking the actions they did. Here we just get some scientists who want to roll back time and create a new Golden Age. We're never sure what their motive is or why they even appeal to their followers so. Why does Mike Yates suddenly turn on UNIT and his friends as he does here? Its' a nice twist but not one that is particularly motivated by anything.
I'll give Hulke some credit--he does at least try to connect the dots a bit in his novelization of the story, which I read long before I saw this one on screen.
Which may have been a problem. When you read about raging dinosaur battles on the printed page, the only budget is your imagination. On screen from the 70s, it's a bit more limited. With the budget of Doctor Who, it's very limited, though you've got to give them credit for at least trying. In a day and age when we see such dynamic effects as Jurassic Park, this story pales by comparison. But then again, it's not about the special effects--it's about the stories.
And that's where Dinosaurs lets us down the most. Visually, it is what it is. I will admit I laugh a bit at the dinosaurs who can't move three inches and are obviously badly done model shots. But if you have a good story, you can redeem a lot of visual faults. And sadly, Invasion of the Dinosaurs isn't a good story. It starts out well, but it's a diminishing returns kind of thing. The longer it goes on, the less story there is, until the final episode when it should be full of suspense and drama as the Doctor works to stop the Golden Age plan and instead it's just your standard ho-hum, I guess the Doctor will save everyone cause that's what happens on the show. Again, part of is this there are few, if any, surprises to the final three or so episodes since we, the audience, know all the players and their roles in the drama unfolding by episode three.
And don't even get me started on the protracted chase that pads out episode five....
It's a shame really. Malcolm Hulke wrote some great stories in his time. But he ended his Who writing career on a downnote with this one. But then again, even Robert Holmes had the occasional lackluster story as well.
But he got chances again in the 80s. Sadly, Hulke did not. It's too bad..he deserved to go out on a higher note than this one.