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Preview: SyFy's Beast Legends

A column article, Shot For Shot by: Charles Webb
Beast Legends (2010): “The Kraken”
Starring: Stephen Leonard, Kathryn Denning, Francis Manpaul, Scott Edwards
Air Date: September 9, 2010 10:00PM, SyFy



The folks over at SyFy were nice enough to send over the pilot episode of their upcoming series, Beast Legends which premiers next Thursday. The show mixes anthropology, crytozoology, and creature design to ask what if creatures of myth and legend really existed. It’s a something of a sci-fi spin on the typical Discovery Channel reconstruction of dinosaurs and mummies.

The cast of the show is comprised of Stephen Leonard (helpfully described as “The Adventurer” in the opening credits), Kathryn Denning (The Anthropologist), Scott Edwards (The Biologist) and Francis Manpaul (The Comic Artist). Many of you who visit this site regularly may remember Manpaul’s work from Superman/Batman, Adventure Comics, and Legion of Super Heroes. Here, he’s tasked with creating a visual profile of each week’s creatures, going so far as to travel the world to see “related” species in order to better visualize the beast.



Veterinary surgeon Leonard is effectively the “star” of the show, however, being the point man for the deep-sea dives here and providing a first-person account of the cast’s search for the beast of the week. Paul tags along during a jaunt to New Zealand while Denning and Edwards hang at home base. The show’s talent appears to be taking the concept seriously (not to the point of dryness) and walk the viewer through their methodology of ultimately visualizing their creature. Leonard observes a large octopus and travels with Manpaul to see an intact (but dead) colossal squid while Denning and Edwards argue about the finer points (and biological efficacy) of armor plating on their Kraken. This week they employ the efforts of a 3DFX artist to ultimately bring their Kraken “to life.”

While the show’s scholars talk a bit about some of the legends and literary inspirations for their creatures, they don’t get into too much detail about the stories that led to these monsters entering the popular consciousness. It would be interesting if later episodes looked at the “legendary” aspects of the beasts and not just the physiological elements.

Still, the show is of a piece with recent series like Ghost Hunters and Destination Truth, or what I like to think of as “credulous science” programs. That is, shows that presume that the incredible doesn’t exist but continues to ask “what if” in a social and/or (pseudo-)scientific context. They’re neat programs that explore neat nooks and crannies of history, belief, and myth. The only drawback I see is the 10PM timeslot which threatens to keep it from some of the younger viewers who might get a kick out of what’s on display.



Below is the trailer for the show as well as a couple of images from upcoming episodes.








If you liked this review, be sure to check out more of Charles Webb's work at his blog Monster In Your Veins.

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