Thursday, March 8, 2012
Thunder Lizard Love
I have no topic today and I’m in a silly mood, so I’m going to riff off the news that Terra Nova, Steven Spielberg’s big-budget dinosaur show, has been cancelled. Frankly, I’m not at all surprised. Sure, the SFX were neato, but the plots were same old same old (one was a retelling of Hitchcock’s The Birds, with crow-sized pterosaurs) and the characters weren’t all that interesting. In too many cases, they weren’t very bright, either. Episode after episode, I found myself rooting for the dinos.
Because that’s what we want to see. When your premise is “people travel back in time to colonize Earth in the dinosaur age,” we don’t give two hoots in Helsinki about the lead’s marital problems, the daughter’s crush on that cute security guard, or who is or isn’t a secret spy for the Evil Other Colony. We want to see frikkin’ DINOSAURS. Sure, there were glimpses here and there, but not enough to plug up the plot holes. Maybe they should have used some of that reported $20 million per episode budget to hire better writers.
Anyhoo, being a romance writer with a twisted sense of humor, I know what I would have liked to see on the show. Picture this scene: the teenage girl and her boyfriend sneak out of the compound for a little alone time. (Characters did this a lot on the show, especially the younger ones. Kids, there are dinosaurs out there, not to mention poisonous snakes, disease-carrying insects, and microbes that don’t exist in the future and which people from the future would have no defense against. In real life, Darwinism would have knocked these twits off the roster real quick. But never mind.) They’re sharing chaste kisses (the show aired during family hour) when suddenly—
“Omigod, that’s a Tyrannosaurus!”
“Look! There’s another one over there! We’ve got to get out of here!”
“No, wait. They’re not coming after us. They’re attacking each other.”
“Uhhh … I don’t think they’re attacking … ”
“What do you mean—oh. OH! EWWW! ICKKK! That is so gross!”
(A sniff from the boyfriend.) “Mine’s bigger.”
Bet that would have shot ratings through the roof. Especially if they showed it.
Or they could have showed some of the lesser-known consequences of living in a dinosaur’s world. Like rutting season in a brontosaurus herd. Two bull brontos have at it right outside the gates. There goes the fine china. Then the winning bull goes off to claim his cows. All. Night. Long.
“Jesus, don’t they every shut up?”
“Relax, honey. The mating season only lasts another couple of weeks.”
“Mommy, what’s that noise?”
“That’s thunder, sweetie. Really happy thunder.”
How many tons does a brontosaurus weigh? Talk about the earth moving.
And what happens when the herd takes a dump, and the wind changes? The show never said if the compound had a cleanup detail, and who got stuck with it. Hope they shipped a couple Caterpillars back in time with them.
You’d think the powers that be would have thought about these things before they sent untrained civilians several million years into the past. All dinosaurs do is eat and make baby dinos. What else are they going to do? They don’t have the brain power for philosophical discussion or calculus. They don’t give a woof in a wind tunnel about the squeaky little mammals who just set up a den next door, unless the den is on their mating grounds. Well, maybe the predators care, but I doubt if their interest extends much farther than wondering how we taste.
Props go to Jurassic Park III for utilizing dino poop as a plot device. Terra Nova could have used a few touches of that kind of sardonic humor. And more original plots. And better-developed characters. And story logic that didn’t leave us scratching our heads and going wha? And some hard and fast, rollicking dinosaur sex. Maybe another time.