Welcome back to Popcorn Biology, where I try to analyze sci-fi movies (old or new, awesome or silly) and their often bizarre and of course not entirely correct take on the world of biology. This time, we have a low budget tv movie called Ferocious Planet; and while maybe it isn’t Alien, it certainly is a lot more fun and surprisingly much more well done than the average SharkacondaCroctopus mess regoularly dropped by SyFy. Hell, sometimes it’s even quite smart, when it’s not too busy being silly. But enough with the review, let’s dig into the science.
An experiment gone awfully wrong transports a group of people in a parallel dimension that was being studied because it was very similar to Earth. And boy… it is similar. Like, the plants are totally Earth plants. The miracle of convergent evolution, I guess: organisms that doesn’t have a common ancestor (or aren’t even from the same dimension) look completely identical to our gymnosperms and ferns. Yeah, I call “bullshit” on that. Not even convergent organisms from the same planet and with a common ancestor look completely identical – how could organisms that evolved in separate dimensions? There’s even a polypore mushroom on the bark of a tree, and a woman that is supposedly the scientist of the group manages to make like 3 mistakes in the same sentence: first she identifies it as an Amanita muscaria, a species that doesn’t even remotely resemble a polypore mushroom, then she says that the common name for A. muscaria is “mushroom” (yeah, whatever), and last but not least, she assumes that this is indeed a mushroom, while we’ve already made clear that, since we’re in a separate dimension, this must be a completely different organism that look like a mushroom because of extreme convergent evolution.
One would assume that animal-like creatures too would be so incredibly similar to Earth animals, but the film needs an antagonist and so, while they certainly are vertebrates and share traits with the tetrapods, the inhabitants of this “ferocious planet” are huge, scary monsters bent on devouring every single human. There’s quite a lot of these things (unusual for this kind of cheap tv movie – hats off to the creators), and the design is not bad at all, except the puzzling presence of what appears to be a huge sack full of testicles on the tail of the animal. It’s quite bizarre that this is the only and one animal species we see in the movie: they’re clearly superpredators, they’re very common – where the fuck is their food? Where are are herbivores and small carnivores? How can a gigantic predator be so common and its preys so scarce? It’s kind of an inverted trophic pyramid.
The beast lays eggs of different sizes – why? Different castes? We see only two kinds of monster in the film, the young and the adult, and this doesn’t seem to be an eusocial animal anyway, so there’s no reason to think it has castes. Also I don’t remember of any terrestrial animal, castes or not, that lays eggs of wildly different sizes, but I may be mistaken – and let’s not forget we’re talking about aliens, after all. But I digress. Do the eggs grow during their development? That would be ridiculous, and even more ridiculous considering that they have an extremely rigid shell. That’s another mistery. The beast also have ammonia in its blood, which for some reason is said to be an acid by another scientist (it’s a weak base). WTF?
Anyway, give this little movie a shot. It’s obviously stupid, and yet much better than one would expect.