There’s a derelict craft hurtling toward Earth on a collision course, and the Doctor (Matt Smith) has a limited time to sort things out before Earth defense destroys it. Deciding he needs a gang, the intrepid Time Lord zips around history, collecting Victorian era big game hunter John Riddell (Rupert Graves), Queen Nefertiti (Riann Steele), along with Amy (Karen Gillan), Rory (Arthur Darville), and unintentionally, Rory’s dad, Brian (Mark Williams). The team eventually finds a nefarious black market trader and killer robots on a seemingly otherwise abandoned Silurian cargo vessel. But the big draw here is that there are Dinosaurs on a Spaceship!
Once in a while, the Doctor Who production team cook up a crazy, fun, bonkers story that really manages to stretch the imagination, and really just go for broke. In this particular case, the SFX crew, The Mill, was campaigning for dinosaurs to be on the show, so current showrunner Steven Moffat assigned the idea to future showrunner Chris Chibnall. Chibnall had provided the script for The Hungry Earth/ Cold Blood two part story in Series 5, and there was a pre-existing reptilian connection between the Eocene and the ancient inhabitants of Earth. Chibnall actually had the intriguing idea of bringing in colourful characters from history to compliment the Doctor’s gang, while also giving us a little peek into Rory’s family life by bringing in Brian. Together, Moffat, Chibnall, and The Mill crafted a wildly fun story.
But even more than the dinosaurs, I was intrigued by the gang, and the possibilities that opened up. Honestly, that story was why I was initially excited about Chibnall taking over the show. I seriously thought that cherry-picking assorted figures from history would take the show to a whole new level, and that we might have seen a preview of what was to come under Chibnall. A dazzling array of fascinating historical figures parading through the TARDIS, be they actual or fictional people from history. It really seemed like we might see one of, if not the most eclectic TARDIS crews ever! (So yes, I was disappointed when all we ultimately got was Graham, Yaz, and Ryan…)
But the nice thing about Doctor Who is what’s possible in the future. Having already established The Gang as a precedent, there’s no reason why they can’t do it in the future. But who would they pick?
Let’s just consider this for a minute. All of time and space… and everyone who ever lived, being snatched up by the Doctor to travel around the universe. Perhaps directly before what was recorded as their historical deaths? Think about how easily Moffat would have worked that out. Almost anything goes.
The Doctor in a different incarnation coming back and spiriting away Madame De Pompadore before her untimely death. How about letting Nikola Tesla join the crew? Maybe there’s a series where the Doctor welcomes Strax, Jenny, and Vastra aboard for a quest? Heck, if Brian Blessed were still a young man, I’d petition to bring King Yrcanos aboard, with his lovely queen Peri — just to see what would happen. VAROONIK!
Hey, what about Teddy Roosevelt in his young Rough Rider days? Wild Bill Hickok? Abraham Lincoln? Maybe someone like Bruce Lee?
Even breaking down the barriers of fictional realities is not necessarily a hurdle, if one was to bring certain characters into the mix. Dr. Jekyll? James Bond? Sherlock Holmes? Diabolik? Or maybe characters simply based on them?
In the classic era, Doctor Who brought in time-displaced characters in the past, such as Vicki, Steven, Katarina, Jamie, Victoria, and Zoe, to varying levels of success. The producers seemed to shift to contemporary characters ever since Jon Pertwee got exiled to present day Earth. They more or less stuck with that formula for the rest of the classic era. With the new era, it was all about relatability between the companions and the audience once again, us seeing through their eyes.
Maybe that’s why the diverse gang in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship was so interesting. People complain you shouldn’t have too many companions with the Doctor, and I maintain it’s all down to the writer. Moffat enjoyed giving us The Impossible Astronaut/ Day of the Moon, where he deftly handled the Doctor, River, Amy, Rory, and Canton Everett Delaware III. And thanks to the well written interaction between all the characters in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, we can gather that Moffat sunk his teeth into that script as well. Good writing will always win out.
So assuming we’ll eventually get a new showrunner, new Doctor, new era, unlimited possibilities — and that there’s a choice of any character, any person from anywhere in time and space, to be a part of the Doctor’s Gang…
Who would YOU choose?