“Prehistoric assassins” rant

The gag reflex still won’t subside: I accidentally zapped into the German version of Discovery’s “Prehistoric Assassins” yesterday (D.’s press page). Must have been fun for my wife, I repeatedly heard her chuckle when I yelled at the screen for the umpteenth time!

Note: I tried contacting Discovery to get permission to use some of the pics from their website. The procedure is so annoying that I gave up.

What got me so irate?

First of all, the dubbing! Yeah, that’s not that relevant for an English-language blog, but still: how can they consistently mis-pronounce so many taxa?

Hyaen-A-don, Majung-O-saurus, Ther-A-pode?

I can only explain this by the German narrator not reading the text from paper, but listening to the EN version and misunderstanding it. ‘Ther-A-pode’? S’rsly? Who’s the original narrator? Must have been a redneck….

But OK, it is common knowledge that TV narrator texts are shitty anyway. However, if they are downright false, that’s another matter.

Which brings me to the second gripe: the constant, complete misrepresentation of evolution! The way they tell it, some animal “invented” some killing device, and that very same device was then taken over by some other animal from a far removed clade, and improved. That’s about as close to creationism as you can get! Shame on you, Discovery!

Third gripe: The CGI animals are abysmally bad, too. Even something as simple as Megalania – a giant Komodo dragon – looks bad. How hard is it to just FILM a Varanus komodensis and digitally scale that footage? Why does the fossil varanid have to have shiny scales? Tightly stretched skin? no dripping saliva at all at any time?

And then, motions….. OK, I may be a bit tough on the whole animation crowd, but why does the hardosaur or what it was supposed to be have to move like it is a toy made from rubber and springs? The Deinonychus looked like someone had attempted electrocution just before, but what really pissed my off was the totally unrealistic B-movie (scratch that, it’s at best and F, not a B) karate jumping they did. GARGH!

Behaviour – not much better! The sauropod conveniently moves its neck down so the theropod can grab it. Yeah, right – next time my neighbours cat comes into our garden to shit into the sandbox I’m sure it will hold its tail out for me to grab, too (wish it did – airborne cat to follow). GARGH again!

All in all, I watched five minutes. Just five minutes in bits and pieces spread out through the whole program – and it already told me that this was one of the worst “documentaries” I have ever seen.

Sadly, there’s more nonsense from Discovery, a whole shitload of nonsense including a program suggesting the AquaticApe idea may hold water (it doesn’t, see here, and a takedown of the BBC/Discovery program on it here), or ‘Voyage to The Planets and Beyond’, where they show humans walking on Venus…. yeah, right! and much much more, including obvious pandering to the religious nutcases about the family tomb of Jesus or finding Noah’s Ark. Gargh!

What can we do about it?

There’s only two things I really can do, and so can you:

– whenever this shit comes on, watch it. That prepares you for telling people how BAD and WRONG it is. Be prepared to point out the nonsense!

– do not work with Discovery. If they want you input, tell them to go to hell. And make it known to them that you refuse because they spread misinformation and nonsense. And tell everybody else, too.

 

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About Heinrich Mallison

I'm a dinosaur biomech guy working at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.
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12 Responses to “Prehistoric assassins” rant

  1. And they never told any of the talking heads (or at least, me…) when it was going to be on over hear. Despite having filmed my Daspletosaurus segment more than half a decade ago, I have yet to see this show!

    • What *expletive deleted*!

      I also got the distinct feeling that the translations of what the talking heads said was not really that accurate. Knowing how my dear colleagues talk, I suspect that additionally they cut OUT the substance, and IN the let’s-bring-this-down-to-kindergarten-level-so-you-will-understand injections only 😦

  2. Herman Diaz says:

    Sorry if this is a triple-post, but my comment didn’t show up the 1st 2 times I tried posting it.

    “Even something as simple as Megalania – a giant Komodo dragon – looks bad.”

    More like a giant lace monitor, but your point stills stands.

    “And then, motions…..”

    I too was taken aback by how bad PA’s animation was compared to that of previous DC paleo docs (I usually don’t make a big deal about the animation unless it’s really good/bad), especially the Deinonychus, which seemed to flail about. Put another way, DC did the equivalent of going from Czerkas-quality art ( http://www.dinosaur-museum.org/featheredinosaurs/pics/26_side.jpg ) to Groves-quality art ( http://ohnoa.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/raptor-leap1.jpg ); I think this analogy is especially fitting b/c of the striking resemblance btwn PA’s leaping Deinonychus & Groves’ leaping Sinornithosaurus.

    This may be a minor point, but I also find it funny that DC apparently needs “edgy” paleo doc names like Prehistoric Assassins (As opposed to dignified ones like Prehistoric Predators; PP is 1 of my favorites & I recommend watching it if you haven’t already, especially the Terror Raptor episode).

    P.S. Did you get my most recent review-related email? Just making sure b/c that was a while ago (I figured you were busy, but just in case).

  3. A while ago, our nationalist fundamentalist network (yes, we have one, although they might not see themselves that way) broadcast a dubbed (unusual for the Netherlands, we usually subtitle) documentary in which dinosaurs played a minor role.

    Among the critters was one ‘Leguanendont’. No idea? Well, consider that ‘Leguaan’ is the literal Dutch translation for ‘iguana’ and you know where this came from. The ‘t’ at the end was clearly just added for fun. We also had a ‘Teerex’ (no idea what that was, but apparently it bit the Leguanendont).

    At least they were being consistent: the rest of the science in it was just as atrocious.

  4. David Marjanović says:

    Hyaen-A-don, Majung-O-saurus, Ther-A-pode‘?

    *epic slow-motion headdesk, wood splinters flying about and all*

    We also had a ‘Teerex’ (no idea what that was

    King of the Tea!

  5. Herman Diaz says:

    In reference to my previous comment, you can see the TR episode of PP in 5 parts in this link: http://beta.umelook.com/t.php?search=terror%20raptor

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