From the January 2012 issue of Panic Moon. Slightly edited.
There’s no 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.
Are these 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.…