16 January 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 381: Invasion of the Dinosaurs, Episode Three

Dear diary,

It can’t have escaped your attention that – until now – I’ve made barely any mention of the key selling point in this story: the dinosaurs themselves. Invasion of the Dinosaurs received quite a late release on DVD, not appearing until early 2012. For years, therefore, people assumed that when it did finally see release, it would have some shiny new CGI dinosaurs to replace the effects created in the 1970s. It was a fair bet – several stories over the years had seen optional CGI enhancements, and in the later years of the range we were seeing more and more elaborate examples of this, with some stories seeing entire re-edits, and Kinda receiving a fantastic new CGI Mara.

When it was announced that the story wouldn’t be getting this kind of feature, some people almost took it as something of a personal slight against them. There were cries that they could have ‘simply’ used the CGI models from Primeval, or Walking With Dinosaurs, and the fact that it hadn’t been done was lazy. It was pointed out that for a number of reasons, it wouldn’t have been a simple task, and that they wouldn’t have been able to create a finished product that was good enough.

So, we’re left with the original dinosaurs. For as long as I can remember, fandom has considered them one of the worst special effects in the programme’s history, and it has to be said that they are a mixed bag. Early on in today’s episode, we get a shot face-on of the T-Rex, and it’s far from being the most effective image in the world. But then, barely a minute later, we get another shot of the creature shot from another angle and as – what appears to be – a different model. It’s suddenly far less plastic-looking, the eyes blink, and it’s not half bad.

Sadly, a minute or so after that, UNIT succeed in bringing down the creature, and we watch on as the model is simply left to drop to the floor. It almost works, but then it might just be me being charitable. We’re caught in this same situation for the rest of the episode – sometimes the dinosaur looks quite good (when it’s ‘sleeping’ in the warehouse, it moves slightly in the background of the shots giving the effect that it’s breathing), but then other times, such as when it’s forced to smash through a brick wall and wobble out of the hole, it’s far less effective, and actually takes away from the story.

I’ve never thought of the models as being that bad, so I’d obviously chosen to remember the more effective examples of the creatures. I can’t remember how much of an impact they make on the rest of the story (Indeed, the T-Rex in the warehouse was the only big dinosaur sequence that I could clearly recall from first viewing), but I don’t recall anything standing out as particularly awful.

I think what bothers me more in this episode is the dodgy use of CSO scattered throughout. When people head into the warehouse to interact with the dinosaur, you don’t have much of a chance to think about how the model looks, because you’re too busy focussing on the fact that this person is missing some of their face or body! The yellow fringing is also an issue when the warehouse is superimposed behind the windows of the Doctor’s make-shift lab, and sometimes is hugely distracting!

In some ways, this is probably one of the worst examples of CSO that we’ve seen in the programme, and it’s a shame, because it only emphasises some of the less impressive shots.

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