The third and final show of Wednesday’s hat-trick of dinosaur shows was an odd Horizon special. For those who don’t know, Horizon, is, (or sadly, rather was) the UK’s flagship science show on the BBC, with really detailed explanations of properly cutting edge science. It has rather fallen away in the last 10 years or so and become a bit more about flashy graphics and controversy though it’s still important. (Oddly enough I managed to chat with a former producer of the show a couple of years back and he lamented how far he felt it had fallen, so this is not me just whinging).
This show was an odd conglomeration of various Horizon shows over the last 30 some years to show how our impression and understanding of dinosaurs has changed. As a result this was for me almost the opposite arc of ‘How to build a dinosaur’ in that it would have probably been more interest to an expert than perhaps the general public. The clips themselves were fascinating and it was genuinely great to hear from people like John Ostrom and Luis Alvarez talking about their then brand new discoveries and see the reaction this brought from their contemporaries as well as looking at how this was presented to the public and the style in which this was brought forward and explained.
However, in order to cram in a fair bit of this kind of stuff there was a noticeable lack of real background to each clip and the whole thing was a bit disjointed. That’s no surprise really, Horizon generally does a great job of building the story and giving the audience the background and showing why the experts are at the heart of things and how they go there. Shorn of that then you’re left with little more than a series of talking heads and quick exposition on a long and complex subject and of course one that was novel perhaps decades ago.
As such I found it fascinating as I knew the history and the science and the people involved so it all fitted together fine for me. However, I do wonder if the casual viewer was not a bit lost being somewhat bombarded with three decades of developments in dinosaur science and dotting around through bird origins, the KT extinction, homeothermy and others all in an hour. Still, it was great from a scientific and historical perspective and i at least enjoyed it thoroughly.