Dinopaws on a Spaceship

Dinopaws sits on the CBeebies morning schedule like one of those towns you see in the distance on the 7:30 commute – the briefest, most tantalising of glimpses into another place. A light-hearted romp set ostensibly in Earth’s distant past but actually located (I have on good authority) on the shores of an alien world, it comes across as a curious hybrid of Q-Pootle 5 and Moschops. Three anthropomorphic lizards explore familiar and unfamiliar terrain, delighting in the strange and unusual things they discover with a caveman’s evolutionary curiosity and the wonder and enthusiasm of a child. Charming and warm without straying into kitsch, it’s accessible enough to be enjoyed by small people, and wistful and silly enough for adults to find plenty to keep them amused. I need not tell you, I suspect, that it’s a hit in our house.

The regular cast of Dinopaws totals three: assertive, confident Gwen (Amanda Abbington), solid, reliable Bob (Bob Golding), and the excitable Tony (Keith Wickham), who speaks mostly in squeaks and unusual noises and who refuses to sit still for more than thirty seconds. It’s the brainchild of writer Alan Gilbey (What’s The Big Idea?) in conjunction with Melanie Stokes and Cosgrove Hall veteran Jon Doyle, who worked on ‘Scream of the Shalka’, amongst other things. The show has been met with general acclaim, although some people have missed the point a bit, asking whether two-headed dinosaur has any historical validity (no, it doesn’t – it’s extraterrestrial) and complaining about Gwen’s tendency to make up words, ignoring the fact that she’s supposed to be a small child, and that this is the sort of thing that small children do all the time. Perhaps the most amusing comment has been from the woman who maintains that “My daughter loves Dinopaws. But for some reason it makes me feel uneasy. I feel there’s an underlying sense of doom in every episode.”

It rather reminds me of the last episode of Dinosaurs, a Henson animatronic production that ended years of slapstick and social commentary with an incredibly morbid finale, which sees the dinosaurs facing extinction after tinkering with their climate. The man-made global warming subtext couldn’t be clearer, and is the sort of thing that would incense the likes of Fox News, but even without the obvious allegory the closing images – Earl and his family sitting in their home as the darkness settles in and the snow falls thicker and thicker – are tremendously powerful. Part of the problem is that it’s difficult to do a series about the terrible lizards without acknowledging on some level or another that at some point they were all wiped out. You either pop back for short trips, as in Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures (a show that succeeds because it’s rooted very much in the present), or make it so mysterious and enigmatic that you’re too busy thinking about other things to really give the extinction level threat more than a passing glance (Moschops). Setting it on an alien world is one thing that makes Dinopaws work, but I do think it’s interesting that I’m writing this while Thomas and I are halfway through ‘Earthshock‘.

Still. That may be where I got the idea for this, at least on some levels. Or perhaps it’s the trinity of characters, and the realisation that between them they could easily double for Amy, the Doctor and Rory. At their best, these three were wonderful to watch (unless saddled with a turkey like ‘A Town Called Mercy’, but we don’t talk about that), with Amy and Rory either playing long-suffering parents to an ADHD-afflicted Eleventh Doctor, or the grounded teenagers to his exuberant youth group leader, depending on the episode. In other words, he led and they followed, either because he was taking them somewhere interesting, or because he was simply running about like a mad thing.

The trickiest part of assembling this was finding enough usable footage of Tony. For obvious reasons he had to be the Doctor – his manic body language and excitable nature lends him to no other character – but I wanted the lip sync to match properly, and there is comparatively little in the way of the long, rambling monologues that you’d associate with the Doctor. Easier to do were Gwen and Bob – matching the latter with Rory, in particular, was an absolute joy. What took the time was actually shaping the thing, although I eventually hit on the idea (partly through consistency, part laziness) of using three key episodes and shaping the loosest of narrative structures around them. I do not pretend that the resulting story makes any sense, or is even a story at all, but it still works. Just about.

For ease of reference, dialogue was ripped from (in order of appearance ):

‘The Vampires of Venice’
‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’
‘The Eleventh Hour’
‘The Wedding of River Song’
‘The Rebel Flesh’
‘Asylum of the Daleks’
‘The Hungry Earth’
‘The Time of Angels’
‘The Power of Three’
‘The Doctor’s Wife’
‘Amy’s Choice’
‘A Town Called Mercy’
‘The End of Time’ (part two)
‘The Impossible Astronaut’
‘A Good Man Goes To War’
‘A Christmas Carol’

Oh, and that sneeze? Believe it or not, it’s Morgan Freeman. Amazing what you can find on the internet.

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Categories: Crossovers, Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Dinopaws on a Spaceship

  1. kk

    05 11 04.
    I know,I know, it’s brilliant and we love it.
    This small but so important animated story of naive development that ask’s questions and importantly answers them in the same moment is on the cusp of being one of the all time greats up there with
    Tigger and Pooh,Bill and Ben and Ringo and his trains.
    Do not say Gwaaa any more ., Amanda .Lovely.Thank you all so much.the new episodes are just right not OTTop as some would have had it.
    Keep it coming.

    Regards
    K and little O.

    • reverend61

      I’m so glad that other people feel the same way about Dinopaws that I do! You sign off as ‘K and little O’, which says it all – it’s ostensibly a children’s show, but there’s so much in there for adults to enjoy as well.

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