The Dinotopia TV movie is not identical to the books, so I suppose it's not surprising that the TV series is also different. However I think that the world envisioned in Dinotopia is so unique to TV that it deserved to be developed, rather than undermined. Perhaps it's inevitable that ideas get dumbed-down for TV. However it's sad to see the concept of a pacifistic, diverse society communing with nature and emphasizing cooperation turned into a show about a backwards society that is wowed by such innovations as boxing, motorcars, and rock-and-roll. It has to be said that the movie's plot, the idea that pacifists must be rescued by rogues who are willing to break the rules, is equally disappointing, and the show simply follows the line of emphasizing conflict and roguery over cooperation and development. All in all the video treatments are a waste of a great possibility to do something really different with an adventure series.
The TV series begins by introducing "the Outsiders," rebels against the Dinotopian codes who eat meat and use weapons. In the two-part series opener (MAROONED, MAKING GOOD) they discover a magic amulet that enables them to control tyrannosaurs, and brothers Karl and David Scott (Erik von Detten and Shiloh Strong) must stop them from conquering all of Dinotopia. The Outsiders piratical nature apparently made them more interesting to the writers than the 'boring' pacifists of Dinotopia, so they tend to dominate the series plots: particularly sexy pirate queen LeSage (Lisa Zane.) In the third episode, HANDFUL OF DUST, a dinosaur-killing alchemist makes the young LeSage even younger; roguish Karl once again saves the day. However in the 4th episode, CONTACT, Karl must choose whether to use a radio to escape Dinotopia or to rescue the dying survivors of a shipwreck. Episode 5, THE MATRIARCH, contemplates the challenging issue of a pacifist mother whose children disappear in a tyrannosaur attack, but fudges the ending dishonestly. The last episode of the series to air in the U.S., BIG FIGHT, has semi-pacifistic David agreeing to box an Outsider bully, a situation quickly exploited both by his father Frank (Michael Brandon) and LeSage. NIGHT OF THE WARTOSA is actually fun and at last something consistent with the Dinotopian ideal (although it does indeed involve some sexual innuendo); it's ironic the show was cancelled before it aired. In Episode 8 LESAGE hijacks a dinosaur-load of medicine; Karl's roguery in getting it back is almost too much for Marion (Georgina Rylance). In CAR WARS Frank invents a motorcar and ousts Waldo (Jonathan Hyde) from office on a pro-progress platform(!?!) In LOST AND FOUND Karl's attempt to sneak a ride on a skybax leads a vengeful Frank and a courageous Waldo to the discovery of a lost city of cowboys. In the two-part THE CURE, Karl's illness leads Rosemary (Sophie Ward) to use magic to send David and LeSage to Budapest. Finally in CROSSROADS the brothers have yet another opportunity to leave Dinotopia forever; however it is not a conclusion to the series.
The acting is mostly good, although Rylance cannot compare to the movie's Katie Carr as Marion and Hyde makes for a VERY different Waldo than Jim Carter. I also vastly preferred the movie's Lee Evans to the series' Omid Djalili as "Zipeau." The SFX are OK. There are some clever ideas in the series but they tend to get lost in largely formulaic plots, and the tension between the brothers that really MADE the movie has completely disappeared, as Marion now seems to be "Karl's girl." The dialogue is pedestrian and characterization tends to be pretty broad.
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