How to build a dinosaur

As I noted yesterday, the latest Planet Dinosaur was just one of a whole suite of shows on the BBC that ran on Wednesday. The second was a one-shot on BBC 4 with the above title and it was basically a behind-the-scenes of putting together an exhibition (the new one at the LA County Museum) backed by various little side routes about the issues of reconstructing dinosaurs based on incomplete remains from the ground to the museum hall.

Now I must confess I have a big bias towards this show as it was hosted by a friend of mine and featured a number of friends and colleagues including Darren Naish and John Hutchinson. Still, trying to be impartial, I did like it and I think it brought forward a number of things that I’ve never really seen before on a dinosaur show – the decisions that go into posting mounts, reconstructing missing bones, and so on.It was a bit simple in places, but that’s really to be expected for something aimed at a very general audience. Certainly I suspect it made people think about issues they had probably never really considered before.

My one real criticism would be that it was a bit disjointed. Everything covered was relevant, but there was no really clear thrust of how it all fitted together. A minute at the beginning and end laying out what we were about to see and how it fitted into the big picture.

While obviously not his fault, Darren’s piece about Xenoposeidon was rather odd, and makes this point. Certainly it’s nice to show how things can be rediscovered in basements and newly recognised in the light of new research and people seeing things with fresh eyes. it makes the point about keeping collections and documenting them properly, the difficulties of taxonomy and working from incomplete material. But it doesn’t really tell you anything about building a dinosaur and so doesn’t really fit the rest of the show, regardless of how good it was.

In short though it was a good quick round of various aspects of the public face of palaeontology and how researchers get there. A little light perhaps, but well rounded and certainly containing some nice, rarely seen aspects that would certainly inform many a casual viewer.


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