Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Prehistoric Park

I am being accused of over thinking things again - I wonder why.

There is a show on Watch right now called Prehistoric Park. I have to say that ,from a technical point of view, it is very well done. The plot is that they have a park/zoo that has a time portal device and they are going on safari to the past to collect animals from pre-history and bringing them to the park to preserve these extinct species. They have very well done CGI integrated with live action making it very convincing. It really is well done.

I have a slight issue with something that is total fiction being done as a documentary. The style of the show is exactly like the documentaries of real zoos, with ongoing updates on animals from the previous episodes, and the challenges they face with these animals, and so on. I can't help feeling that lots of kids, and probably even some adults, will assume it is real and that time portals exist! Maybe I am underestimating people. I have no problem with fiction, but making fiction in a style of a factual programme seems odd. Although War Of The Worlds original broadcast had the same issue :-)

But then I wondered about the plot. If you have a time portal then that changes the rules rather - you no longer have to consider any species as being extinct. It exists in the past, and the past is suddenly a place you can visit if you want. The past existence of these extinct species is not in threat (well, unless there are a lot of people with the time portals causing problems, but that becomes a slightly more fun plot line). So there really is no reason to preserve these extinct animals as they are already preserved in time. Indeed, taking them out of their normal environment is somewhat cruel and unnecessary.

But even if, somehow, it made sense to have samples of extinct creatures in a zoo, which may simply be a valid commercial venture in itself (if you had a time portal!), they had some odd ideas. They were deliberately getting animals from a time when they were close to extinction. Why? Why not go to a time when they were in their height when it would be easy to collect a couple of young specimens. In one episode they brought back a wounded wooly mammoth, depriving some hunters of their dinner. They had problems moving it as it was wounded, and then had to treat it. That is crazy, with all of time to choose from, make life easy for everyone by collecting young healthy animals that are more easily able to adapt to the change, easier to transport, and more likely to survive.

I suspect the answer is for me to avoid daytime TV.

Update: I see that even real documentaries can be works of fiction, from the BBC! (private eye).

5 comments:

  1. Easier to go back and get eggs, or (for mammals) babies. They fight back a lot less.

    Some kinds of fake documentary I don't mind.. saw one over christmas about a martian invasion in 1913.. done as a history channel documentary and using real war footage mixed in with CGI. No danger of anyone really thinking that martians invaded london and we beat them (well, you never know, but I hope not anyway).

    Other kinds.. 'Finding Bigfoot', 'Amish Mafia' - fiction dressed up as documentary for entertainment purposes I really dislike, because they fool people into thinking they have truth in them. Then there's the 'Mermaids: The new evidence' documentary - loads of people *still* think that is real even though at the end of the programme itself it stated it was fiction!

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    1. Good point on the eggs!

      In some ways it is because it is done too well :-)

      I suppose we then get in to mediums and ghost hunter territory. There are people that believe that stuff.

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  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Sound_of_Thunder

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  3. I've been thinking for the past few years that the trend for showing photo-realistic CGI along side real photographs on science programmes is a bad idea. I'm thinking programmes that are showing artist's-impressions of black holes one minute and then real Hubble photos of astronomical objects the next - they really need to stick some text saying "artist's impression" on the CGI bits because it really isn't always that easy for the audiance to tell which is real and which isn't.

    (Ok, so I will admit that Hubble photos are frequently augmented with made up data, such as false colour, to make them more "public friendly", but still there's a big difference between real data that has been prettied up and pure CGI based on conjecture!)

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  4. Actually, the "War of the Worlds" panic is a myth:
    http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/history/2013/10/orson_welles_war_of_the_worlds_panic_myth_the_infamous_radio_broadcast_did.html
    (Basically, it was newspapers trying to sabotage radio because they saw it as competition.)

    As for fictional documentaries, I think they can work well, as long as it's clear (somewhere) about what's real. "World War Z" (the book) is written as a series of interviews with people; I haven't seen the film, but in theory they could have used the same approach there. I'm pretty sure that there have been a couple of episodes of sci-fi TV series which were presented as documentaries too, e.g. "Stargate SG-1" and "Babylon 5".

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