Dinosaur Wars vs Terra Nova

Old Skool DinoAs I complete the writing of my second Dinosaur Wars book and dream someday of seeing it on the big screen, the arrival of Steven Spielberg’s dino series Terra Nova has had me on the edge of my seat (well, couch). Thankfully for my Dinosaur Wars ambitions, I see HUGE differences between Spielberg’s effort and mine. It would seem there is room for my story even in the presence of the eminent director’s latest foray into the realm of extinct species.

Here’s why. First, the dinosaurs of Terra Nova seem incredibly old-hat to me. They’re still the leather-skinned, scaly stompers we’ve seen for years. Where’s the feather coating we now know covered the meat-eaters like the feathers on hawks? What about the fur coatings the plant eaters had? Hasn’t anyone updated Steven on these matters? Click the slasher image to read the Smithsonian Museum’s disapproving review if you think I’m the only one with issues here.

Gar the KraCheck out my feathery, extremely bird-like Kra (right) for a look at a much more up-to-date theropod dinosaur. By the way, did Spielberg’s animators use my Gar, the Kra for inspiration when developing their crested meat eating “slasher” dinosaur (above)? I think maybe so. Mine came first, Steve, so nyah-nyah! Click Gar’s image for a more detailed look at his feathers and weapons.

Second, who’s that gray-bearded dude running the show on Terra Nova? Do we really need to escape to a new world where old men are constantly telling us what to do? I’ll hold up my young heroes, Chase Armstrong and Kit Daniels to that old buzzard any day. Chase and Kit are very young and very central to my plots, much like Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. Sure, there are young people on Terra Nova but the show just isn’t ABOUT them the way Star Wars was about Luke and Leia, and the way Dinosaur Wars is about Chase and Kit.

Third and finally (for now), what’s all that about an apocalyptical future earth and a time-travel escape to the past? Sorry, but I just HATE both of those dramatic tricks. Sure, we all worry about a possible apocalypse some day but right now we don’t live in one. And sure, time travel would be cool but it doesn’t exist–now or ever–otherwise we’d have future people stopping by to visit us all the time. I much prefer the world of Dinosaur Wars, namely THIS WORLD, the one we currently live in.

Even though my choice of having dinosaurs return to earth in a space invasion is a stretch of credibility, the end result is easy to relate to: dinosaurs roaming the present-day plains and mountains of Montana and other parts of the world, and a war against the leaders of the invasion using current-day tanks, helicopters, and guns.

Placing dinosaurs on a tropical island as Jurassic Park did, or in a distant time-travel future or past as Terra Nova does, is a poor choice if you want folks to relate to the creatures and people in the stories. I’m confident that Kit and Chase and their present-day, up close and personal predicaments with dinosaurs, are the best means to present not only an adventure story but a solid romance tale as well.

And I’m convinced Dinosaur Wars will someday be seen as the best dramatic incarnation of dinosaurs, eclipsing Jurassic Park, Terra Nova, and all the others by dint of my having conceptualized the story with all the elements that make up a good tale. I’ll keep writing with the expectation that someday a major motion picture or two or three will result. Check out my books if you haven’t yet, and keep your fingers crossed about the movies.

About Tom Hopp

Thomas P Hopp is a scientist and author living in Seattle. He writes medical thrillers, natural disaster novels, and the Dinosaur Wars science fiction series.
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7 Responses to Dinosaur Wars vs Terra Nova

  1. Inferdramon says:

    I’ve seen Terra Nova recently. I did enjoy it. I had a feeling I would as I do love apocalyptic scenario ideas (such as Dust, in which insects go extinct), and time travel stories (particularly those involving the prehistoric past). Stories about dinosaurs tend to be my favorite, though they’re, at least for me, hard to come by.

    The Quintaglio Ascension trilogy is the most recent dinosaur story I have read, having gotten it after I finished reading Dinosaur Wars: Counterattack. The approach to intelligent dinos is done very differently, and the quintaglios are slightly more humanoid in appearance, with a somewhat upright posture and five fingers on each hand. The book series was written in the early 90s, so the dinosaurs in the story, by comparison to now, are very outdated. Despite their outdated appearance and the fact that I’m not fond of the tripod stance in dinos, the quintaglios are one of my favorite fictional dinosaurs in media, with only the kra ahead of them (I like the kra’s appearance more because I feel it is more unique and less human-like).

    I did find it strange that there was a lack of feathery dinos in Terra Nova despite it being made in 2011. I chalk it up to multiple scenarios: Spielberg might not like feathery dinos (some people do deem feathery dinos too stupid looking to be scary), it was too costly for Terra Nova animators, for a TV show, to animate feathers accurately maybe, or, since it takes place in an alternate dimension (it is mentioned that they’re in a new timestream, so I take that as alternate dimension), the dinos in this dimension never evolved feathers.

    The hand bit you mentioned reminded me of a short debate I had with a friend of mine. She finds the palms facing towards each other is strange and inefficient, and that a hands down position would have been more aerodynamic. At the time I didn’t know why scientists said the hands couldn’t rotate, but I did eventually find out that the arm bones were fused or something, which made rotation impossible. As for the hands down being more efficient, I can’t really say I agree with that statement. For instance, when we humans job, we tend to have palms facing towards each other as we move our arms up and down (at least to my knowledge). If such a posture was inefficient for moving faster, then it would seem strange that people jog with their hands in that position.

    I didn’t find it surprising that Terra Nova uses this outdated hand posture, though. When I see dinosaur documentaries, such as Jurassic Fight Club, the outdated posture is often used. I think it might be for familiarity, or perhaps it’s easier for them to animate certain things with the hands facing down instead of towards each other.

    That reminds me, have you seen Dinosaur Revolution? I have seen all but the third episode. While the dinosaurs do feel a little too anthropomorphic, I did enjoy the series, and they look much more up to date than in Terra Nova, including feather coverings for small dinos like eoraptor and troodon, and the palms facing towards each other instead of the incorrect downwards position.

    I have been working on a dinosaur story myself, in the event National Writing Month in November. I’ve wrote the story twice so far, with the second time being completed. It’s still in the working stage, and I’m still world building and trying to develop the characters. The story itself takes place in a modern time, but in an alternate dimension where humans and dinosaurs live side by side. While I know this was done before, I’m doing it in a way that I hope is more original.

  2. Inferdramon says:

    Oh and I forgot to add. That “old buzzard” you talked about, the guy in charge of Terra Nova, personally I don’t trust him. He just gives me bad vibes, like he’s hiding something big, and the ending of Genesis only confirmed my suspicions. As for why he’s the leader, I think that originally he wasn’t the leader, but because he was the first person to make it to Terra Nova and was by himself and able to survive for a long time before anyone else had come, that he just either put himself in charge due to experience or that other people followed him due to his knowledge of the area.

    I don’t think old age (well not that old, but gray-haired) is really a requirement for someone to be leader on Terra Nova. If you look at the Sixers, by contrast, they’re led by a young woman (well implied she’s the leader anyway). She might be a bit older, but it’s clear, at least to me, that she’s a lot younger, and just as capable of leadership.

  3. Tom Hopp says:

    Thanks Inferdrammon, for your opinions. We’ll see how Terra Nova develops as time goes by. It seems to me that Hollywood’s understanding of dinosaurs is evolving just like the dinos did. Maybe Spielberg’s critters will sprout more feathers someday!

  4. Inferdramon says:

    You’re welcome.

    Yeah, only time will tell how good Terra Nova will actually be. I don’t think it’s spectacular, but not bad, at least so far. I’ll watch a few more episodes and see how it develops before I decide whether or not it’s worth my time to continue watching it.

  5. Randall Karstetter says:

    Terra Nova is old school. Someone should give Spielberg and his writers a subscription to Nature! If you’re going to mix humans and dinosaurs, I don’t think you can do it any better than to put young Chase and Kit face-to-face with a utahraptor. And I think it takes a scientist to do it right. Keep up the fascinating fiction.

    (P.s. Thanks for telling me dinosaurs did indeed have opposable thumbs which would have made them capable of building and controlling the technology necessary for space travel.)

    • Tom Hopp says:

      That’s right Randall, the Kra have opposable thumbs. They’re typical of maniraptoran dinosaurs in that respect. The word maniraptor is Greek for “grabber-hand,” a hallmark of the line of carnivores that developed into velociraptor, utahraptor and birds. One of the predominant theories about the lives of maniraptors, is that they came from a line of tree-dwelling dinosaurs that needed to grab tree trunks or branches in order to get around. If you think about it, that makes them a lot like us. Last time I checked the Darwinian tree, we came from a line of mammals that did the same thing. So, the arboreal lifestyle leads to opposable thumbs. I wonder, does that mean that opposable thumbs lead to intelligence? Don’t know.
      Actually, I spend more time wondering, if the Kra only have three digits, which one do they flip someone off with?

  6. Inferdramon says:

    I just recently heard about an upcoming comic/movie called Dinosaurs Vs Aliens, and the dinos are to be portrayed more intelligent than they have been traditionally in media. I wonder if it’ll be any better than Terra Nova.

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