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This week's Doctor Who totally wasted its chance to make feathered dinosaurs cool

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We're obviously big Doctor Who fans, and it's no secret that we've got a thing for dinosaurs. But you know what else we love? Pedantry. Over on Dinosaur Tracking, Smithsonian's Brian Switek serves up all three in a light-hearted critique of Saturday's episode of Doctor Who, which featured dinosaurs quite prominently. (And in space, no less.)


Writes Switek:

I'm not going to say much about the plot of the show itself. When you have dinosaurs, Queen Nefertiti and a pair of insecure sentry robots voiced by David Mitchell and Robert Webb on the same ship — among other things — it's better to simply let the program speak for itself. All you need to know is that an alien ark is harboring a number of dinosaurs rescued from earth before the non-avian varieties perished around 66 million years ago. I will say this, though: the dinosaurs in this episode of Doctor Who look infinitely better than the wonky puppets in the "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" episode of the original series. (Worst. Dinosaurs. Ever.)

Let's start with the non-dinosaurian aspect of the alien ship's prehistoric bestiary first. At one point, the Doctor and companions are attacked by a flock of Pteranodon. (Because where you find dinosaurs, flying monsters are never far behind.) The experts behind are better qualified to comment on these flying, non-dinosaurian archosaurs than I, but, my apologies to the Doctor, "pterodactyl" isn't the proper term for these animals. The proper general term for these flapping archosaurs is "pterosaur." "Pterodactyl" is an outdated term derived from the genus name of the first pterosaur recognized by science, but the term isn't used by specialists anymore. It's time to put "pterodactyl" to rest.


Switek proceeds to point out a number of other Cretaceous-era inaccuracies from the episode. You can read them all here, but one that really resonated with us was the observation that the episode suffered from "insufficient feathery coats."

There's been some debate around these parts as of late over the awesomeness (or non-awesomeness) of dinosaur plumage. I'm on team feathers, so I sympathize with Switek. Matt Smith has already brought back bow ties in a big way; if we're ever going to convince the public that feathered dinosaurs are cool, The Doctor's help sure would be nice: