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Re: The (ugh!) "Voyager" dino-show...

Tuck wrote:

> How many viewers had ever heard of _Eryops_ before this, much less seen a
>> reconstruction on a television programme? How many might be curious
>enough to > look up some information on the beast for themselves?
>Actually, they          > characterized _Eryops_ as "a last common
>ancestor" of reptiles and mammals.


> "Voyager" is meant to be entertainment, not a documentary.

While the last sentence is certainly true (indisputable, in fact), it must
be noted that VOYAGER (like THE NEXT GENERATION and DEEPSPACE 90210 before
it) has a full-time science consultant on staff (listed in the closing
credits) by the name of Andre Bormanis. So what's the excuse for sloppy
science? You can pick up *any children's book* about dinosaurs or
prehistoric life and easily correct the glaring errors found in the script
for VOYAGER. Here's a list; let me know if I missed any: The starship's
computer placed _Eryops_ in the Devonian Era (which, of course, should be
Devonian *Period*, not Era) when in fact it lived in the Permian (which
explains the following scripted statement that the animal lived 400 million
years ago, not 300 million years ago when it really did exist). The most
glaring error, however was in the visual: the last I checked, _Eryops_ was
a temnospondyl labyrinthodont; the animal displayed on the Holodeck and
called "Eryops" was clearly a gorgonopsid, not a labyrinthodont. Add to all
this the statement that the genus "Hadrosaur" was the most advanced
cold-blooded life- form to evolve from Eryops, the discussion of
"Hadrosaur"'s bipedal stance and grasping hands, the mention of the
Cretaceous "Era", and the ridiculous notion that _Parasaurolophus_ (you
know they picked _Parasaurolophus_ so that they could do the cool alien
make-up) outlived the KT extinction and spent sufficient time to evolve not
only intelligence but *interstellar capabilities* without leaving *any*
trace of its existence in the fossil record (forget the nonsense about
"Lost Continents"...). The aliens also had *clawed* three-digit hands, a
far cry from "Hadrosaurs" five-fingered, mitten-like hoof (which is what
they displayed on the Holodeck). All this raises the question, "How hard
would it have been to pick up a book and correct at least most of this
nonsense?" Several paleontological terms were used in the script: "Eryops",
"Devonian", "Hadrosaur", "Cretaceous"... these words didn't pop into the
writers' minds out of thin air; they must have done *some* modicum of
research (they knew the Devonian was 400 million years ago... is that
common knowledge?) So if they did enough research to glean some tiny
tidbits of fact from some unknown source, why couldn't they have gone all
the way and gotten their facts straight across the board? Would it have
mattered to the drama of the episode if _Eryops_ had lived 300 mya in the
Permian rather than 400 mya in the Devonian? Would it have lessened the
emotional impact of the story's denouement to use a real image of _Eryops_
instead of a gorgonopsid? Hardly. None of this was integral to the plot or
drama. This was just one more in a long line of instances of people trying
to cash in on the popularity of dinosaurs without really giving a damn
whether the depiction they're creating and the ideas they're putting into
people's minds are accurate. It has always been my contention that it is
just as easy to get it right than get it wrong. Apparently, VOYAGER's
writers and producers didn't really seem to think that it mattered that
much one way or the other.

Brian (franczak@ntplx.net)