Introducing: Invasion of the Dinosaurs

This month saw the release of Invasion of the Dinosaurs, accompanied by The Android Invasion, in The UNIT Files boxset. The 1974 six-parter saw the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane land in an eerily deserted London and at the mercy of… some glove puppet-esque dinosaurs.

Okay, so it’s no use hiding it: the story will always be remembered as ‘the one with those terrible dinosaurs,’ but the scale is brilliantly ambitious, and shows the courage of the writer and the production team. Oh, and the cliffhanger at the end of episode three is jaw-dropping.


Invasion of the Dinosaurs debuted on 12th January 1974 to an audience of 11 million. The following episodes hovered between 9 and 11 million, until its conclusion gained a slightly disappointing (but still pretty impressive) 7.5 million viewers.

The second story in Season 11 saw the return of the UNIT family, who were mostly absent during the previous storyline, The Time Warrior, in which Sarah Jane joined the TARDIS. It’s hinted at that some time has passed between the two tales in the opening minutes (actually because actress Elisabeth Sladen had cut her hair between serials for a photoshoot!)

The 11th Season was the last with Jon Pertwee as the Doctor, while Invasion of the Dinosaurs is the penultimate tale featuring Richard Franklin as Captain Mike Yates. Yates returns in Planet of the Spiders and has since appeared opposite Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor in AudioGo’s original audio series set at Nest Cottage.

Peter Miles, who plays Professor Whitaker, previously appeared in the Malcolm Hulke-penned Doctor Who and the Silurians, but is best-known for portraying Nyder in Genesis of the Daleks. His associate, Butler, was played by Martin Jarvis, who also starred in The Web Planet and Vengeance on Varos, and read the TARGET novel audio adaptation in 2007. The original TARGET novelisation was first printed in 1976.

Trying to conceal the revelation at its end, episode one was titled on-screen as ‘Invasion’ by script editor, Terrance Dicks; however, the surprise was ruined by the Radio Times (who’d’ve thought it?) when they printed its real title.

Dicks later reflected that this was a mistake, though also that RT “are a law unto themselves.” Writer, Malcolm Hulke also has issues with its title, concluding that its working name, TimeScoop, was better…

Invasion of the Dinosaurs - classic Doctor Who, poor SFXThe Incredible Hulke

Invasion of the Dinosaurs is the last story written by Malcolm Hulke before his death in 1979, at the age of 54. Though he is best known for creating the Silurians and Sea Devils, he also wrote Colony in Space, Frontier in Space and did uncredited re-writes on The Ambassadors of Death, as well as the TARGET novels to six stories, expanding upon the backgrounds of several minor characters.

He first contributed to Doctor Who with a storyline called The Hidden Planet (or Behind the Sun) for Season 1, but it ultimately went unused. Hulke eventually got his on-screen credit alongside David Ellis in The Faceless Ones, then co-wrote the Second Doctor’s final tale, The War Games with Terrance Dicks.

Malcolm Hulke also wrote the recently-discovered pilot script for a Doctor Who radio series, Journey into Time, featuring Peter Cushing’s alternate Doctor and his granddaughter arriving amidst the American Revolution. The story was never broadcast, but was known to exist when promotional material surfaced in 1989.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs continued the writer’s fascination with environmentalism, with the promise of a ‘New Earth.’ Though Sarah Jane is horrified by the thought, and the environmentalists are – on the whole – cast as the antagonists, there’s a focus on how the human race have damaged the world – reminiscent of Doctor Who and the Silurians – and their vision is nicely portrayed by a ‘traitor’ in UNIT.

Perhaps the moral of the tale is that we can all have ideals, but it’s not always worth the means.

Or in other words: it’s not that easy being green. (Sorry.)

It’s Always Greener on the Other Side

The DVD release of Invasion of the Dinosaurs features a black-and-white version of part one on default, as the episode hasn’t been seen in colour since transmission. However, the Restoration Team has included a partly-recovered colour episode as a special feature, which, although not to the same standard as Day of the Daleks, for instance, gives the viewer a good impression of how the original would have looked.

There is a myth that episode one was erased from the archives due to the edited title – ‘Invasion’ – and was confused with 1968’s The Invasion, which saw the Second Doctor, Zoe and Jamie battle the Cybermen. However, The Invasion was wiped two years before Invasion of the Dinosaurs was transmitted; it is, in fact, unknown why the latter was deleted.

The 16mm black-and-white print version was included on the video release, back in 2003, when the serial concluded the BBC’s video range.

Ignore the critics, who get sidelined by some occasional dodgy CSO. Go into Invasion of the Dinosaurs with the open-mindedness, imagination and appreciative nature of Hulke, director, Paddy Russell, and the whole production team.

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  1. Rick Lundeen says:

    Back in the day, Letts and company were assured by their production team that they had the dinosaur model issue nailed. Letts bought it and we all saw the final result. Although it’s a bit of a mystery why these professionals let things go off the rails so badly, maybe even a bigger question is, *why didn’t the restoration team at least give us a better CGI option? The new snake in Kinda was fatastic, as was the new battle scene in day of the Daleks and even the new Dalek saucers in Dalek Invasion of Earth. The other dinosaurs could have been given a facelift and even the T-rex, even though a total redo, surely couldn’t have taxed them too much. There haven’t been many DVD’s coming out in the last 6 months so I’m not sure what the team is spending their time on but I think this was a missing opportunity. I hope they’re not taking this opportunity to try and do a special edition later for this as that would seem a bit tacky. Although, now that I think about it, since they obviously didn’t go to the trouble of giving a proper recoloring with their new technique to episode one, I’m getting the sinking feeling we might be in for a new solicitation down the line. Hope not. A shame they couldn’t have done the right thing here.

  2. CastellanSpandrel says:

    This is a very good overview of IotD, thanks, even for the initiated. Makes me want to rewatch it now.

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