Tuesday, February 8, 2011

OK, let's talk about that "Terra Nova" trailer.

I didn't want to, but all the cool kids are doing it. Be aware that it is late and I may be running on a few glasses of White Zinfandel, so I hope this doesn't end up too incoherent. Link goes to the article at /Film.com:

OMG "Terra Nova" trailer!

So... It looks like "Lost". But with dinosaurs. Yeah.

OK, ok, I have made that joke before and I am going to try and cut it out. It will be very, very hard though.

The Paleochick's Digs has a pretty good analysis of the trailer and some information about the show I hadn't heard before. Apparently John Horner is a consultant, much as he was during "Jurassic Park". And he originally tried to convince the showrunners to set the show *after* the Mesozoic, in the Paleocene (but probably not the immediately post-apocalyptic part of the Paleocene). A world ruled by giant tyrannosaur-like birds and weirder things. I would watch the hell out of that, but less paleo-geeky heads ruled. Wah.

Comments at /Film have noted that there is some confusion as to when "Terra Nova" takes place exactly. Some plot descriptions put them 150 million years ago, others put them 80 million years ago. This is probably a case of Writers Have No Sense of Scale, because hell, what's 70 million years?

Fun fact: A LOT of major sh*t can happen in 70 million years.

150 million years puts them in the Tithonian Age (very, very late Jurassic), which would explain the Brachiosaurus who appears in the trailer.

80 million years puts them in the Coniacian Age, round about the middle of the Cretaceous. Fewer big sauropods, more giant crocodiles and birds, hadrosaurs, and unpopular theropods. No T. rex, but plenty of big toothy guys and also wonderfully awkward-looking Therizinosaurs and oviraptors. Not sure about that Carnotaurus.

And if this didn't make you twitch, producer Brannon Braga has been quoted as saying, "we have dinosaurs we know existed from the fossil record but you get to make up your own dinosaurs as well."

Important Edit: Traumador has helpfully noted that this is the same Brannon Braga who blessed the "Star Trek" universe with a little brain-tulip called "Threshold". "Threshold" is the ONLY episode of "Star Trek" out of all of them that is officially out of continuity; it's the only one that never happened as far as future "Star Trek" writers are concerned.

If you haven't had the pleasure of watching "Threshold", it was essentially Braga's answer to the question, "Why can't the Voyager crew just travel faster than Warp Nine to get back home?" It was teased with a trailer similar to this one:

So, anyway, this guy says he can make up fictional species to populate "Terra Nova".

God. Dammit. So. Much.

OK, look. I'm just a young picture-drawer. The idea that I could possibly have any influence on a big television series is the most wishful of wishful thinking. But I am well aware of the power of high-profile productions involving dinosaurs. Hell, look at some of the comments I have had on this piece. People are STILL fixated on "Jurassic Park" all these years later.

So on the offhand chance that anyone in charge of the show is reading this, here are a few modest suggestions for "Terra Nova":

1) Don't just make stuff up. Seriously, you can't do that. Especially since I'm willing to bet that the animals you're planning on just making up are a dozen different variations on the Killingyoubeeste. On that note...

2) Take a look around and you may notice that pacifistic little omnivores outnumber big, violent monstrous man-eaters by several orders of magnitude. The same was true in the Mesozoic, with one major difference I'll get to next. In short, don't turn the dinosaurs into the "monster of the week". We already have "Primeval" for that.

3) Humans should be a bigger threat to the big, violent predators than vice-versa. Because history tells us that this was and is the case in real life. Like it or not, we've done a capital job of killing off everything that can kill us; it's only been in recent years that we've realized maybe we shouldn't.
And because this is starting to turn into the old Humans Are Bastards trope, let's play with it a little. Explore the issue of whether it's okay to hunt dinosaurs. Heck, let's go all "Sound of Thunder" and explore the issue of whether sending humans back to pre-human times is safe - not for the humans in question, but for the ecological stability of the world.

4) You don't realize it, but you are in a very, very powerful position. Listen, more people -of all ages, mind- will watch your show than will ever pick up a natural history book and read it. Or go to a museum. Or listen to teachers and scientists. You had better treat your position with some responsibility
Showcase a wide variety of prehistoric animals. Don't feel you have to shoehorn in Triceratops and tyrannosaurs because you feel you have to when ankylosaurs, therizinosaurs, and carcharodontosaurs are clamoring for attention. Hell, don't just stick to dinosaurs either; depending on the time period the series is set, you've got weird crocodilians, toothy birds, multituberculate mammals, mososaurs, a vast variety of giant fliers and swimmers, and other, stranger animals. Make them as accurate as possible. And let's see some feathers on those theropods and little ornithopods, dammit!

Think of this: I will have to wear a tutu if you don't.

Addendum: Further thoughts from our friend Albertonychus.


Other Person's Art of the Day!

David Maas shared this amazing little comic yesterday and it begs to be shared. Here it is at ArtEvolved.


Sketch of the Day!

Have a Carnotaurus! The snout's a little off, but I think I got the "Gonk of the Theropod World" thing down.

Carnotaurus for Draw a Dinosaur Day 2011


Albertonykus said...

For the record, the La Colonia Formation (where Carnotaurus was discovered) appears to have been Maastrichtian (instead of extending to Campanian as once thought), so a "little" later than 80 million years ago.

Agreed on all points. I think, if followed, those suggestions would allow for some originality. Alas, I wouldn't push our luck.

traumador said...

Terra Nova was doomed the instant they hired Brannon Brega...

This is the man responsible for Star Trek's "enlightened" episodes about evolution. He thinks things can be de-evolved or hyper-evolved for starters (and I won't be surprised if that is a twist explored in the new show for some of our time travellers)... Of course evolution is a generation to generation phenomenon, NOT something an individual can experience...

So in his Next Gen ep we get a guy de-evolve into a spider?!? In a Voyager we get two people hyper evolving into salamanders (because as he puts it "evolution" isn't always forward... WTF... Evolution doesn't have a direction. It also isn't predestined as this episode tries desperately to imply! This instance of him trying to be clever is what has me personally really worried about him being involved in making up Dinosaurs)...

Yeah I won't hold your breath. Seriously. Not only does Brega have NO grip on science, but he is a pretty bad story teller too (he and Rick Berman single handedly sank the Trek Franchise)

davor said...

I'll give it a shot. My idea for a funny twist ending: humans end up responsible for the end-Cretaceous extinction. D'oh!

Anonymous said...

Well, Brachiosaurs ARE known from the early Cretaceous (Sauroposeidon) and according to the most recent trailer to the show, the "Slashers" actually do have feathers.

Trish said...

^^ From here on out, I'm reserving judgment on the show until it actually premiers.