Friday, June 19, 2009

Dinosaurs, and time travel…

Because one thing Jurassic Park lacked, was time machines. And hence, to bridge that gap, we have the British sci-fi drama, Primeval (BBC Site).

83726679lw9 Prof. Nick Cutter is a Professor of Palaeontology, who is more interested in the mysteries which cannot be explained by Darwin than conventional studies. His student, Connor Temple, tells him about a giant predator sighted near the Forest of Dean. What Connor is unaware of is that Cutter’s wife, Helen Cutter went missing 8 years ago in the same area, where she was investigating another creature sighting.

Cutter, followed by his lab assistant Stephan Hart and Connor, quickly establish that the animal is really unknown, really huge, and apparently, really bad-tempered, with muscles and talons to match. On the other hand, a reptile specialist Abby Metland is searching the forest for the origin of an entirely new gliding reptile species. And Claudia Brown, a Home Office agent is looking for Cutter to debunk the rumours of giant predator in the forest.

What they all chance upon is something they haven’t imagined: a temporal anomaly, which temporarily connects the modern day Forest to late Permian era. And while the impromptu team manages to send back the creature that came through this anomaly, that is just the beginning. And the things which will come through next are a whole lot worse.

The nature of the show almost begs comparison with the other BBC sci-fi shows: Torchwood and the touchstone of all sci-fi, Doctor Who. While it’s to each his/her own in most other areas, Primeval does score over both in terms of special effects. Although some creatures do seem to move jerkily, I am not sure whether it was the animation or the actual gait of the creature.

I can go on about the traditional team composition in the show, how you don’t need Doctor Who absence as excuse to see this, and so on. But the meat of this series to me is:

The time-travel nature of the show makes it much closer to the Doctor Who, and raises similar questions about the concept, e.g. what we the insiders call Grandfather paradox. Doctor Who solves this problem of meddling in a divine fashion1. Primeval has a more mundane, or more twisted (depending on your view) solution for this.

(Kinda, sorta, maybe Spoilers Ahead)

I once read somewhere (has to be some sci-fi story), that impact of any ordinary event on the timeline is smoothed over within 400 years2.

Which is why when some changes in the ancient past erase a character from timeline, the person reappears although with a different name, different personality, but same face. Although, it might be that they didn’t want two very similar characters in the team, and add more conventional diversity, but the logic behind the change goes a lot deeper than the traditional evil twin or “hit his head and got amnesia”3.

On the same lines, if you watch closely, any change or impact on timeline ends up in a. for a single possible timeline, “been there, done that” b. for those who believe in multiverse, the forks taken for the current reality. So, the attempts of a character to change the future make that future more plausible, and attempts to change the past are already part of the history.

Yes, once you figure it out, many “Big!” plot points are intuitive, which is why I put up the spoiler warning. But believe me, that doesn’t take away one bit from the enjoying the show.

(End of Spoilers)

Oh yeah, you would probably want to watch the series before you watch the upcoming movie.

Watching this show, many will once again wonder why British sci-fi series tend to be more intense and dramatic than their mainly action-oriented American counterparts (even counting occasional Eureka and Sanctuary).

But my question is, can we expect good science fiction shows on Indian television any time soon, or should we just give up and go back to our routine of soaps, comedy/reality and cricket?


- The Great Eagle has spoken

P.S. Previously, I wrote about "Brainiac: Science abuse", and "Yes, Minister/Yes, Prime Minister".


1. The Doctor, as a Time Lord, has complete knowledge of proper timeline, past and future, and only intervenes in case of any deviations.

2. Or possibly 40 generations. Forgot the exact figure. Help welcome. Of course, this doesn’t count catastrophes or events such as say, premature death of all dinosaurs, or of the first Homo Sapien. We will see what happens to our timeline re: Dodo.

3. Which is another thing I like about British serials. e.g. how wonderfully changing the main actor in Doctor Who is explained, without affecting the storyline or the show.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

And the Knobale prize goes to…

Welcome my friends, to the Knobale Prize – Nostalgia Edition. Brought to you this year by “Ol’ Faithful Bicycles”.

Ol’ Faithful Bicycles… where everything except the bell jangles. Ol’ Faithful – you don’t need no bell!

Let’s get directly into it, shall we?

This Year’s Knobale prize for Physics goes to the man who made Physics relevant to the real life. He gave us gems like

He is mooning over her, but she is attracted towards an altogether different person.

No, my friends. That was a class on “Gravity”. The first “he” is the moon, “she” is the the earth… you do the physics.


The Knobale Prize for Chemistry is shared between three worthy winners. One winner is recognized for his dedication, as shown when he tried to suck concentrated HCl up a mouth pipette during an experiment.

The other two winners share the prize for discovering the must-have ingredient in any experiment – fun. The discovery occurred when they intentionally used their test-tubes for “cheers”. Unfortunately, they test-tubes were being heated on the burner at the time. Fortunately, the ruined tubes meant they couldn’t follow it up with “bottoms up”.


The Knobale Prize for Physiology is won by “Species transformation by DNA manipulation”.

Picture this: 10th standard class. We are learning about types of plants, types of flowers (and types of cows and buffalos for some reason, by that’s neither here or there). The types of plants part includes flower plants like tuberose, which we have just finished learning about.

Teacher walks in for the next class, and asks, “Where were we last time?” Comes the confident and sincere reply, from the last row, “tarbooj”.


The Knobale Prize for Literature goes to the masterful treatise, “Affairs are never fair”.

Scene: 8th std class (may even be 9th std). The students are learning English for 3+ years, but still haven’t successfully navigated the tricky terrain called “Antonyms”. Teacher asks, “Antonym of ‘fair’ is…”

“…Affair” pat comes the reply, from this courteous guy.


And, last but not the least, Knobale Peace Prize goes to… Yeah, I don’t think I have thought this through. And now I am short a winner. So let’s do what any self-respecting committee would do in such situation…

…and share the prize. I win for keeping the peace on the blog for last 2 weeks. And you, the readers, win for tolerating that peace and/or reading this crazy post in peace. Happy?


Till next time, then. Meanwhile, got any nominations/winners of your own?


- The Great Eagle has spoken