On Alien Physiology

A human, cleverly disguised as an alien.

A human, cleverly disguised as an alien.

It’s taken as a given by many people that that the entertainment industry makes aliens look fairly human because of budgetary reasons. There is truth in this. There’s also the fact that since humans have two arms and two legs it’s tough to make them look anything other than essentially human. But “true” sci-fi fans know that aliens would likely look nothing like us! They’d probably be so alien we couldn’t even conceive of how bizarre they look, we’re told. They could be so alien we’d never even recognize them as intelligent life!


I contend that there’s a few basic things that every life form capable of rising to at least our level of technological progress has to have. Without those things, you can’t have a viable species that’s capable of reaching even the most basic technological level, much less getting to our own level or beyond. When you consider these basic things, you’re left with a species that must, by logical reason, look at least somewhat like we do. Let’s get started.


Humans have five basic senses; touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight. There’re others, too, like time sense, but we’ll leave those aside for the moment and concentrate on the traditional five.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to create a species called the Vlorps. The Vlorps, from Vlorpia, naturally, evolved on a planet with other species and competed for space and resources with those other species. In order to do so, the Vlorps had to have ways of experiencing sensory input. Unless Vlorpia is a night world, they likely have predator species that can see. Ergo, it’s probable that the Vlorps could see, otherwise how would they evade their sighted enemies or hunt down prey?

It is likely that the Vlorps would have sight, and would have only two eyes. Two eyes gives you stereoscopic vision, which is very useful when trying to evade predators. More than two eyes serve no useful purpose and require more brain power, so two make evolutionary sense. It is possible two have two eyes positioned in a way that doesn’t allow for stereoscopic sight, like with horses and cows, but meat-eating species tend to have forward-facing eyes that allow for stereoscopic vision. I would imagine that the Vlorps would likely originate from a meat-eating species, since we know that at least with humans, access to proteins from meat helped us to evolve. Stereoscopic eyes are also necessary for other advances that we’ll see later, such as blacksmithing, so I think, at least at this point, it’s reasonable to assume the Vlorps would have such a thing.

Moving on, unless Vlorpia has no atmosphere, which doesn’t make any sense at all, sounds exist. Any species that can exploit those sounds has an advantage over species that can’t. Therefore it’s likely that the Vlorps would have the ability to hear.

Now it is possible that a species could exist with “sonar” type hearing that would render sight unnecessary, but I think that’s unlikely in a sentient species. It’s also very likely that the Vlorps would have stereo hearing. That provides an advantage when eluding predators, since you can pinpoint where noises are coming from. Having more than two ears is excessive and requires more brain power for processing the input with no real advantage, so it is likely that the Vlorps can hear and have two ears positioned at different points that allow them to do so.

So at this point we’ve established that the Vlorps have two eyes facing forward and two ears positioned at opposite sides of their bodies. These could be located at waist level, I suppose, but I imagine that putting them near the brain makes more sense, so they’re likely located on the head, as are the eyes, since that minimizes the potential for problems with the optic nerves.

Please note that I’m not saying that the Vlorps see in the same light spectrum we do. Let’s assume their species evolved in a place with a different kind of sun, so perhaps they see further into the red range than we do. We can assume that their eyes can adapt, at least somewhat, to different levels of light and darkness, as well.

Now, then. Taste and smell are both very connected. At least in humans, you can’t really have one without the other. If you doubt this, try to eat something flavorful when you have a very stuffed-up nose. A sense of smell is very useful. With it, you can tell if something might be spoiled. You can sense if a predator might be in the area. You can sense if prey might be in the area. I don’t know that it’s as required for a highly-evolved species, but we’ll give the Vlorps a nose, with two nostrils (since redundancy in your breathing systems is a good thing), in the middle of their faces, right below the eyes. Why there? Because that gives us an easy place to put the sinus cavity, and again, it means a shorter path for input to reach the brain.

And if you’re reading carefully, you’ll notice a pattern here. All the sensory organs so far are located near the brain. That makes sense, if you think about it. All the input they provide goes to the brain, and having them near it makes that journey faster. Putting ears down on the feet and eyes in the palms of the hands might look interesting, but it doesn’t serve any real purpose. So since we need a container for the brain, which I’ll think of as a head, we put the ears, eyes and nose on the head as well.

And speaking of the nose, we’ll give them a basic sense of taste to go along with the smell, since that’s also useful on an evolutionary level. The sense of taste must, of course, go with the mouth, and I think, again, it needs to be near the brain. Our sense of taste works in conjunction with our sense of smell, so putting it near the sinus cavity makes sense.

While we’re in the mouth area, let me point out that the Vlorps would almost certainly have a spoken language. Why wouldn’t they? Speech is very efficient and a good way to communicate information (well, unless it’s based entirely on metaphors and mythology, because come on). It’s better than something like a color based language, or something that involves nothing but non-verbal communications. I can’t really see that an alien species would be able to build a civilization without such a language. How else would they communicate? Telepathy? Show me any scientific way that would be possible and I might give in there.

Moving on. We have a Vlorp with a recognizable head containing the brain, two forward-facing eyes, two ears on either side of the head, a nose between the eyes and a mouth below that. This is a mostly human pattern so far, and that makes sense, I think. I’m also putting the head on the top of the body, since if it’s up high, it takes the ears and eyes up with it, and that’s an advantage since it provides a wider range for hearing and seeing.

Then we get to the sense of touch. Again, this is something that helps in the tracking of prey and the evading of predators. Being able to sense subtle changes in the wind, for example, could alert a Vlorp that the dreadful predator species, poetica creatura is nearby. Having nerve endings spread out over the body and processed by the brain makes sense, but it doesn’t create any visible change to our little Vlorp.

So that’s the senses covered. What’s next?

Basic anatomy

Humans, and most other large land species, have four limbs. In our case, and in the case of a few others, that’s two for locomotion and two for manipulation. Vlorps will likely be the same. Having more than four limbs requires more brain power that can be better used for other things, like learning to make fire (more on this later). Vlorps would likely need to stand upright to avoid predators and to do other things that we need them to do later on to reach our level of tech. So let’s assume they have two legs that end in feet. We’ll assume that they can use these legs to run as well as walk, because otherwise hunting prey and/or escaping predators would be very difficult.

Likewise we’ll assume that they have two arms that end in something at least approximating a hand that has digits capable of moving independently. I don’t think that more than, say, six fingers (counting a thumb, which isn’t necessary if the fingers are positioned right), on each hand are needed. I also think that less than four on each hand would be too limiting. So I’m going to go off the human design slightly and say that the Vlorps have four fingers and no thumb. The fingers are positioned across from each other in groups of two. This allows for gripping and manipulation of items.

Now, on to sex. The Vlorps will need to have a basic method of reproduction, and here is some room for creativity. There’s no reason to assume the Vlorps evolved from a mammalian-type species. I’m going to say they evolved from something similar to, but not quite the same, as dinosaurs. I’m going to give them warm blood, but I’ll have them lay eggs. This means that the female and males alike have cloacas. I’ll further assume that like many reptile eggs, the shells are soft, so the parents have a motivation to remain and watch over them until they hatch.

I’m not going to give the Vlorps scales, since I don’t think they need them, but I will give them very roughly textured skin and some very minor level of feathers on their heads and down their spine. No tails, since that’s an extra limb that isn’t really needed and, like an extra arm or leg, would require more brain power to process.

Now we move on to why some of these things are necessary for a species to evolve even to our own level of advancement.

Why these things?

This is where I come to what I call the Caveman Theory of Alien Design. I want you to picture a human caveman trying to survive in the dawn of time. One day he’s climbing a rock face and one bit of rock detaches, falls, and strikes another bit causing a spark. This caveman is very fascinated by this, and learns that, as the newsreader says, the secret is to bang the rocks together, guys. This he does, causing more sparks, and before you know it, he’s mastered fire.

Now I want you to imagine a proto-Klingon doing this same sort of thing. Pretty easy, right? Now picture a proto-Ferengi doing it, and charging you in beads for the lesson. What about a cave-Wookie? What about some long lost Cardasian precursor race? How about…well, I was going to throw in a Doctor Who race, but since they mostly look like Time Lords, and the ones that don’t (Daleks, for example), are usually engineered that way, there isn’t much point.

I think you’ll agree that picturing those various species muddling about in the…well, mud…learning how to make fire seems plausible. Now to pick on Doctor Who for a moment, can you picture a Rutan making fire? What about a cave Macra, trying his best to not end up as crab-cakes in the process? What about a more basic form of a Horta? Or how about a Hooloovoo trying to make…well, really anything. It just doesn’t work. Come to that, can anyone picture primitive cave elves?

Exactly how does something someone sneezed up build a civilization?

Exactly how does something someone sneezed up build a civilization?

That’s the thing, really. If you can’t picture a very basic, proto-version of your alien species mastering fire, then your species does not work. Fire provides light, heat and a way of cooking food. In its more advanced form, it provides a way of making tools and weapons, and even now it’s the basis of much of what we do. If you can’t picture an alien making fire, then that alien is a design failure.

The Vlorps come from a fairly warm world, so they don’t really need fire for heat. But they do need it for light and they discover that cooking meat makes it taste about a billion times better. It also releases certain enzymes and makes proteins easier to break down and digest.

Now picture Vlorps a million years after fire. Now they’ve developed agriculture and started forging metals. Doing these things, especially forging, requires as body that is capable of beating and heating metal. I think it’s also pretty easy to picture a Vlorp rancher, tending to his flock of herbivore animals known as prandium in cruribus. Moving further down the line, one can imagine, with relative ease, a Vlorp mastering gunpowder, operating an early computer, developing an airplane, and eventually traveling into space to visit one of Vlorpia’s two moons.

These things are all imaginable, and all doable by a Vlorp, because they have a physiology that allows for them to do so. One arm wouldn’t allow them to advance as a species. Three arms would take up too much brain power. Some sort of sentient, land-dwelling squid with eight limbs would be a nightmare, since all they could do would be to move about. Their brains wouldn’t be able to process much other than controlling their arms. And as for something like an intelligent ooze, well, exactly how would that work in the real world?

It’s possible, I submit, that alien life might develop their technology along completely different lines from our own, and do so in a way that doesn’t require them to look even remotely humanoid. But I think I’ve shown here that if you have to get from developing fire to having spaceflight, you really do need something that’s a basically humanoid body.

So remember this the next time you watch some sci-fi film set on a far distant world and feel tempted to roll your eyes at how human the CGI aliens look. Ask yourself, how else should they appear?

Book Review – Year Zero by Rob Reid

You say you want your comedy sci-fi leavened with a massive dose of copyright law? Oh, do I have a book for you.

Year Zero: A Novel tells us what happens when alien societies discover Earth music; specifically the theme to “Welcome Back, Kotter”. Apparently we’re the only species in the known universe who can make decent music. Soon everyone in the universe (or at least those parts that matter), are pirating Earth music, with the minor side effect that under their laws they now owe Earth something like eleventy billion dollars, which exceeds the entire wealth of the universe. That sort of money causes all sorts of issues, and it isn’t long before one group is formulating a plan to destroy the Earth, and thus eliminate the debt.

Into this comes Nick Carter. No, not that Nick Carter. This one is a lawyer who specializes in copyright law. It’s up to him, his neighbor and a couple lip-synching aliens to put a stop to the fiendish plans of an alien parrot and a sentient vacuum cleaner.

Yes, it’s that kind of book.

For what it is, it’s decent enough. Reid is no Douglas Adams, despite what I assume are his publisher’s efforts to make us think that he is. He’s got a decent sense of humor and though I didn’t laugh out loud at any point in the book, I did chuckle a bit. The idea of alien societies getting so obsessed with Earth music is entertaining, and some of the ways they use it, like having an element named vanhaylium, is pretty funny.

Ultimately, this is decent summer-time reading fare, and I’m sure that anyone who likes copyright laws will find this to be an interesting read. For the rest of us, eh. It’s enjoyable enough.

Book Review – The Long Earth, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

I consider Terry Prachett to be one of the finest English-language writers working today. I’ve never read anything by Stephen Baxter. So now we all know where I stand coming into this.

This book tells the tale of humanity discovering the ability to travel between dimensions. They can visit various alternate versions of Earth by going “East” or “West” from the home Earth. There they find the same geography (mostly), the same animals (mostly), and no sign of humans whatsoever. It appears that the original Earth is the only one with humanity but not, perhaps, the only one with sentient beings.

Some people view this as an opportunity to get rich fast. One of them decides to go to Sutter’s Mill in our world, then move a few worlds over, all the better to get the gold there. He arrives only to find that he’s far from the first person to think of this, and very soon the value of gold decreases dramatically.

Others view this as a chance to get away from the world; to start new lives in a new land. The Green family is one of these, moving to a world over 100,000 Earths away from ours to set up a new life. In doing so they leave behind their thirteen-year-old son, who is one of the 20% or so who cannot travel between worlds.

And others view this as a great chance for science and exploration. These include Joshua, a man who can travel between worlds naturally, without the machine that most people require. He and a sentient computer named Lobsang (he claims to be the reincarnation of a Tibetan man), travel across over a million worlds, dropping science probes as they go, and trying to learn about this strange new phenomenon.

I really like that the travel between worlds is done with a device so simple you can build it with parts from Radio Shack and power it with a potato. I also love that the authors explore the real-world ramifications of what would happen if people could travel like this. For example, within a day of the technology appearing, there’s an assassination attempt on the American President, and a bombing at the House of Commons in the UK. Then the cities start rapidly depopulating as people begin to leave for the new worlds. Some places end up as virtual ghost towns.

I was also pleased that they addressed the possible legal issues (ie: do America and other countries have jurisdictions over these new worlds?), dealt with the issues of those left behind and I found it interesting that they decided iron would not be able to travel between worlds. There’s no real explanation for this (except possibly a Celtic one), but I liked it.

What I liked less, frankly, was much of the story execution. The Green family is entirely unsympathetic. I can understand their desire to go out and start a new life, but the parents should have been arrested for child abandonment. You don’t leave your thirteen-year-old son behind so you can go colonize. That’s just not right. I’m not sure why they couldn’t have just waited a few years. It’s not like there was a massive land and/or resource shortage on the first Earth. I’m also not at all clear on why they couldn’t take him with them. It’s established that people who can’t travel between worlds can, in fact, do so if someone carries them. It could just be me, but if I wanted to go colonize and keep my family intact, I would have been happy to tote my son between 100,000+ worlds if that is what it took.

I also got a little bored of the travelogue between Joshua and Lobsang. The conversations and the various worlds they were visiting were interesting, but it just kept going and going and going, and the little cut-aways to what was happening with the Green family or what was happening back home were more distracting than anything else, and not always in a useful way. I also found the ending very abrupt and an event that happens in Madison just before the end to be really unnecessary.

So why the positive review with those complaints? Because while the conversations do go on and on and on, they ARE interesting, as is the travel. I also liked the various almost-humans and the possible dinosaurian civilization that are encountered. I like that some of the various problems these new worlds create with the old one are addressed. I also really liked the characters of Joshua and Lobsang, and Lobsang’s very human nature. He seems the most “Pratchettian” character. I also liked the general concept overall. It’s just interesting to think that there could be well over two-million alternate Earths, and possibly a lot more, that are out there, and of those, ours is the only one with humans.

But my favorite part of the book comes near the very end, when we learn what has been driving various non-human intelligences “Westward” over the last few years. It leads to something which reminded me very heavily of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, 2001 and various episodes of Doctor Who, and I mean all of that in the best possible way.

While this book is not perfect, and is very different from what I’ve come to expect of Prachett, it is ultimately quite good and the flaws and complaints I have with it are minor indeed. I’m not sure if this book is meant to be the start of a new series, but if it is, sign me up for all the following installments!

Big Finish Review – Doctor Who – The Fourth Doctor Adventures 1.1 – “Destination: Nerva”

(special thanks to Big Finish for providing me with a review copy!)

Back in 1999, the first Big Finish Doctor Who audio was released. It was called “Sirens of Time,” and featured the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors. Then in 2001, “Storm Warning” was released with the Eighth Doctor. Everyone who followed the various releases knew that Big Finish had a licence to do audios with what were, at the time, all the Doctors, and so we eagerly waited for something with the Fourth Doctor.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Finally along comes 2009, and Tom Baker, who had been rather vocal over the years in his lack of desire to return to the series, did a set of talking books for the BBC, reprising the role of the Doctor alongside Richard Franklin as Captain Mike Yates. These were well received and apparently whetted his appetite, because it wasn’t long before it was announced he would be doing a series of proper audios with Big Finish, alongside such actresses as Elisabeth Sladen, Mary Tamm and Louise Jameson. Sadly, Sladen died before recording, and Tamm’s audios haven’t been released yet, but we do now have the first new adventure with the Fourth Doctor and Leela. It’s been a long time waiting. Does it live up to expectations?

The story begins where fan-favorite “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” left off. A few references are made to that story (something which I’m sure isn’t a coincidence, as Big Finish also have a series of audios centering on the characters of Jago and Litefoot from that story. I’ve not heard any of them, but I hope to soon), and the Doctor (Tom Baker), and Leela (Louise Jameson), then find themselves in 1895, picking up an alien distress signal.

They go to investigate, where they find a dying alien. It turns out that his ship had landed and been taken over by a group of humans who stole it. After the alien dies, the Doctor and Leela head off in pursuit, only to find themselves, somewhat unexpectedly, in the future aboard the Nerva station, previously seen in “The Ark In Space” and “Revenge of the Cybermen“.

At the same time, an unexpected spaceship docks with the station carrying a sinister sergeant (Sam Graham), who insists on shaking hands with the woman who greets him (Tilly Gaunt), causing her personality to change. Soon he gains access to the control center, arriving at roughly the same time as the Doctor and Leela, the latter of whom knows that something is wrong about the man. Things get even more wrong from there when he transforms into a weird alien creature and begins attacking. Everyone flees, and the Doctor knows he needs to get a quarantine message to Earth before it’s too late…

This was an excellent way to start up the Fourth Doctor audio adventures! Picking up from the extremely popular “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” and having the action take place on the Nerva station builds a nice sense of continuity with the 1977 era of the series, a sense that’s enhanced by background music that seems almost as though it were lifted directly out of those old episodes.

Baker and Jameson are every bit as excellent as one remembers them being, though both their voices sound a little “off”, particularly Baker who doesn’t sound nearly as deep and commanding as he used to. Given that thirty+ years have gone by since they were in these roles with any regularity, that’s understandable, and I’m sure as time goes on, they’ll start sounding more “correct”.

The writing by Nicholas Briggs is, as usual, quite good. He did a great job of capturing the feel of the era, and an especially good job with the interplay between Leela and the Doctor. The story itself is compelling and interesting, and my only complaint is that it’s surprisingly short. This first release for the Fourth Doctor is only 60 minutes in two parts, which is different from the usual Big Finish standard of 120 minutes in four parts. The upside of that, though, is that you can buy it for only $9, which isn’t bad at all.

I really cannot recommend this story highly enough. It’s a great reintroduction to someone who is regarded by many as the Doctor, and it’s wonderful to have Baker and Jameson back together again. I’m really looking forward to more of these!

(for the curious, this and all future Big Finish reviews will no longer be published on whatculture.com, though you can read my existing ones and all my other articles on that site at this link, and make sure you check in later this week for my review of the Tom Baker lost stories, and next week for the “On the Sofa” big Big Finish special!)

Possibly Not the Worst Idea Ever

There are plans afoot. Possibly sinister plans, but just possibly…just maybe…good plans.

A new Doctor Who theatrical film is in the works. This would be the spiritual successor to the Peter Cushing films I spoke of recently. David Yates, who did a bunch of the Harry Potter movies, is planning to direct.

I must say that I don’t entirely disapprove here. I think there’s some real potential, and here’s how I would approach this were I the powers the be.

1. The Doctor must be played by a British actor. Please keep Johnny Depp far away from this project. I’ll admit to being curious as to what someone like Robert Downey, Jr, or Russell Crowe could do with the role, but overall, no. The Doctor should be British.

2. The actor who plays the Doctor should also be in his late 40s to early 50s. Having a younger Doctor that audiences would want to swoon over is all well and good, but really that’s what the Companions are for.

3. Make your Companions younger and sexier. Have one male, one female. Not a couple yet, but they could grow into it, perhaps. Someone like Daniel Radcliffe could work really well as the male Companion.

4. Remember that the story is never to be told from the Doctor’s point of view. The Doctor is a weird alien. We aren’t always supposed to be able to relate to him as a character. That’s what the Companions are for.

5. Daleks in the first movie. I hate to have to say it, but they are one of the truly iconic villains in sci-fi in general, and they symbolize the series as much as the Doctor or the TARDIS. They are also unique to the series. Do a retelling of “Genesis of the Daleks”, perhaps.

6. Keep the police box exterior for the TARDIS and keep the basic structure of the theme music. The first part is vital, the second somewhat less so, though still important.

7. Do this first one right and you can have many, many more. The best part is, you can do what the Bond series has done and replace the actors every few films, though with an official, on-screen explanation for how this happens.

8. Try to have it in theaters in time for the 50th anniversary in 2013. This is just a goal, and it would be a nice one, but not required. Still, release it in November of 2013, and you can get a good holiday crowd who wants to see a family-friendly sci-fi action film.

They’ve so far announced that this would be outside the TV continuity, and that’s a step in the right direction. These other steps will help as well. Here’s to hoping this gets off the ground and goes well.

Some Thoughts on Terra Nova

I watched the pilot episode “Genesis” the other night and wrote about it for whatculture.com. You can see the review here. In the review I mention that I was annoyed by the future as presented in the show. I figured I’d take a few minutes to expand on that.

The future that we see in Terra Nova is a bleak, dark place, with heavily polluted skies, a totalitarian government, massive overpopulation, and people who look, act, dress, etc, exactly like we do despite being from 140 plus years into the future. I’d like to address those four things.

Pollution – Apparently the skies of Earth are so polluted that now, when viewed from space, the planet looks yellowish rather than blueish. When we see people out on the streets, they wear breathing masks. Everyone in the main character’s family is astonished when he brings home an orange, when they go through the portal to the past, they’re told that their eyes will likely hurt because of the brightness of the non-polluted sun (why they weren’t given sunglasses is anyone’s guess), and the youngest daughter doesn’t know what the moon is because apparently it’s no longer visible.

I call bullshit on all of this.

First, pollution is a serious problem and one that needs to be addressed, and it is. We have environmental regulations and while they’ve been weakened somewhat, it’s worth noting that even in Los Angeles the air is cleaner than it used to be. It used to be so bad, that one day during 1943 people in the city thought there was a chemical attack and tried to drive to safety, crashing into other cars because no one could see. But the fact is that in LA, and in other places in the country, the concerted effort that we’ve put forth has made a huge difference and the air is simply cleaner than it used to be. (see here and here)

Second, oranges are that rare? Really? In fact it’s implied heavily that all “real” food is pretty rare. That’s also very unlikely. We’ve learned how to grow foods in places we couldn’t even imagine before. Hell, there’s massive areas near Phoenix (which is a desert region), that grow things like cotton and oranges. They do this through a mix of irrigation, fertilizers and other scientific techniques. There is no reason to assume that our food productivity will decrease anytime soon. Sure, you can cite global warming, but one little known benefit to it is that it will open up areas to farming that haven’t been practical before.

And last, when we see the future we see huge billowing smokestacks pumping toxins into the air. You know, the kind that seldom really see anymore because they aren’t very common? It’s unlikely they’re going to become more common as time goes on. It’s also very unlikely that by 2149 we’ll still be burning fossil fuels. It’s more likely we’d have things like fusion power, but even if we don’t have that, we’ll at least still have nuclear power which, while not perfect, doesn’t create that kind of air pollution.

Totalitarian Government – Now this is a bit of an assumption on my part. It’s never stated that there’s a totalitarian government running what I assume is the United States (it’s never explicitly stated to be the USA, but it seems likely, and according to Wikipedia’s article on the show, it starts off in Chicago), but from the evidence it’s pretty clear. We have police officers doing a search of a home without any apparent warrant, we have a man put into, essentially, a dungeon (which is very poorly lit, has no air filtration and would be clearly illegal even by today’s standards), and evidence of corruption on a fairly large level.

This all strikes me as unlikely. The trend historically has been for more freedoms and more democracy and I have a tough time believing that in the year 2149 we’ll be living in a dictatorship. It just does not seem plausible to me.

OverpopulationI’ve addressed this before. What I’ve said then remains valid. I just don’t see any trend worldwide to overpopulation. In most of Europe as well as Japan, there’s a net population decrease because people are having fewer children. As birth control becomes more widely available, and technology and economics continue to dictate that having less children is the wiser course of action, I’m sure even developing nations will start to see a leveling-off of their populations. In fact, most experts predict that we’ll peak sometime mid-century. So this is really nothing to worry about.

On the other hand, even if it were something to worry about, having a two-child per family policy, like what they show in Terra Nova, makes absolutely no sense. Surely the more logical course would be what they have in China, where it’s one child per family?

Future people = just like us! – This one always pisses me off, and to be fair, Terra Nova isn’t the only show guilty of this. Star Trek: Enterprise did the same, and Doctor Who, at least the new series of the show, is a regular offender in this category.

Ask yourself this: how similar are you to someone from 140 years ago? That would place you in 1871. Do you dress the same as someone from back then? Do you act the same? Do you talk the same? Especially if you are a woman, you have almost nothing in common with the women of 1871.

Hell, let’s just go back 40 years to 1971, the year before I was born. Watch any episode of The Brady Bunch and you’ll see that we most emphatically do not dress the same as people did then. We still act relatively similar (though again, if you’re a woman or a member of any minority group, there’s things you can do now that you couldn’t do then), and still talk similarly, though our slang has changed. But the fashions at the very least are extremely different. Heck, they’re even very different now from what they were in 1991. So do you really think that in 2149 we’re going to be basically the exact same as we are now? No, and it’s very lazy on the part of the show’s producers to try and say that we will be.

In summation – The good news is that, at least in theory, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see this future again, at least if the show plays by its own rules (so I give it about 6 episodes before we see it again). In theory it’s gone and we shan’t have to deal with it.

But here’s the other thing: they could have avoided all this entirely if all they’d done was set the future part of the show here and now. It’s made clear that the time travel method they have is a “natural” one and not one invented by scientists. Given that, there’s no reason to put the show into the future at all. Why not just set it in 2011, or 2012? Heck, if you wanna be real fancy, just put it twenty minutes into the future, or in 2021 or something. Make it close enough to our time and most of these complaints of mine go away. Actually, all of them go away. It fixes everything, and you can bet that if you offered people from here and now the chance to go live 85 million years ago, to play pioneer and have their own land and everything else, they’d jump at the chance.

One last thing. The first episode of the show wasn’t all that great. It was ok, but not great. The only character I actually liked was Commander Taylor. Everyone else was basically just there. If I didn’t need to watch the show in order to review it, I likely wouldn’t watch any more of it.

I’m willing to be that I’m not alone, and I’m further going to make this prediction: the show will last all of this season and part of next before being quietly cancelled. It’s a very expensive show, and unless the ratings are really stellar, it’s not going to last.

And that’s a pity, because the basic premise has potential, but with what they’ve shown on screen so far, I just don’t see it pulling in the audience it will need in order to stay afloat.

Surprising Doctor Who News

Well, it sounds like some of the odd scheduling rumors are at least vaguely true. It looks like we’ll have a Christmas special in December of this year and then… nothing. Nothing at all until October of 2012. So ten months without anything new, unless they do an Easter special or something. Then in October of 2012, they’ll run a few episodes, do a Christmas special, then finish off their series in early 2013.

I must say this is terribly bizarre, and I’m surprised the BBC are allowing it. You don’t want to go ten months without one of your highest rated shows. Only an insane network would do that.

I hope this winds up being a good move and works out well for them. At the very least I hope the extra time gives them something really special to do for the 50th anniversary in November of 2013. But, man, those ten months are going to be a bit of a bitch, eh?