From the January 2012 issue of Panic Moon. Slightly edited.
ambiguity about the dinosaurs in 'Invasion
of the Dinosaurs'. They’re rubbish. In other
respects, however, this is a deeply ambiguous tale. The ambiguity allows the
script to make some scathingly ironic political observations, but ultimately
leads us to a very bleak and bitter place.
In this story,
contrasting with other scripts from the period, the eco-activists are the
‘baddies’. It’s like Malcolm Hulke, influenced by the decline of the radicalism
of the 60s and early 70s, was reacting against the whole idea of changing the
world. It’s possible to read the people on the (space)ship of fools as a jaundiced
parody of the left: a tiny, closed-off, self-appointed vanguard who plan to
“guide” others while ruthlessly policing their own internal orthodoxy. But they’re
also like Daily Mail readers, with
their “pure bread”, their plaintive cries of “I sold my house!” and their TV
room where they can go to tut at the modern world. The film in the Reminder
Room blames protestors even as it shows them being truncheoned. Ruth seems more
worried by “moral degradation” and “permissiveness” than she is by the mercury
in the fish.
The script is
full of such queasy ironies. For instance, the conspirators oppose and blame technology,
but their plans depend upon it. Whitaker’s Time Scoop is high-tech stuff, powered
by a nuclear reactor. We need hardly comment on the absurdity of a man sitting in
a spaceship (as he thinks), waggling hand-made
wooden kitchenware as proof of his non-technological simplicity! Such idealising
of the pre-industrial is undermined by the medieval peasant accidentally caught
in the Time Scoop. He speaks of getting his priest to burn a ‘witch’. Meanwhile
his king is off sacking the Holy Land. Some Golden
Age! But then feudal standards of law and order would probably be quite
convivial to General Finch, a man eager to use live rounds on looters.
people radicals or reactionaries? Seemingly, they’re both. However, the leaders of the conspiracy can be summed up by
their prefixes. Rt Hon, General, Professor, Captain. They hide in a bunker
designed to protect the government during a nuclear war. They will emerge
safely after they have obliterated the world, just as the politicians of the
Cold War planned to. They are the establishment,
the powerful, the privileged. This is the brontosaurus in the room. Even the
fake spaceship is run by ‘Elders’, one of whom is a peer.
Moreover, the plan of the ship-people sounds like colonialism. In the
novelisation, Sarah even compares them to the Pilgrim Fathers. They
will, so they think, “guide” the “simple, pastoral people” of “New
Earth”. These refugees from civilisation will bring civilisation to the
natives. They assume that right. They despise the ‘evils’ of modernity,
yet take it for granted that they won’t replicate them because – and
this is the unspoken basis of their whole plan – those evils are somebody else’s fault.
Looters, meanwhile, can be shot for their “greed”, the abstract
original sin (in others) that the conspirators seem to blame for
This story doesn’t counterpose establishment reactionaries with
middle-to-upper class hippydom; it depicts them as intertwined, as
equally cynical or deluded. A disillusioned ex-Communist might’ve come
to see a similar deluded cynicism in his own political background. This,
I think, is why the ship-people are simultaneously vulgar Leninists, Puritans
(complete with Biblical names), Mary Whitehouse types and ringers for that couple in The Good Life.
A spectrum of ideologies – blue, red, Green - are tacitly implicated as
lumbering dinosaurs: outdated, ungainly, but deadly. One dinosaur might
fight another, but they’re all essentially monsters (deeply
unconvincing ones at that), and people get squashed under their scaly
feet as they rampage through the world.
This is Hulke’s darkest, most nihilistic story. It contrasts sharply
with 'The War Games', which he co-wrote during a high point of worldwide
protest. Hulke’s last Who script reeks of disappointment. In
it, the Doctor proclaims (as tritely as the conspirators) that the real problem is “greed”.
However, the script seems to say that the real real problem is belief. Belief in anything.