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Thoughts about the character changes from S1 to S2 with reference to Connor's techie skills

Recently I've been having some quite intersting discussions with Munchkinofdoom re the change between S1 and S2 with Connor, and the sudden appearance of his techie computer and engineering skills. Leaving aside how much you take canon at face value for the use of these skills (which myself and Munchkin do entirely disagree about), I've been thinking about the reasons behind the changes, and why they were so radical.

In S1 Connor was largely just a dino-geek, and with his database he was clearly set up to be the character that provided information about the creatures and the time periods. However, I have a feeling that the writers dropped a bit of a clanger, because that role, to a great extent, was already taken by Cutter, who is clearly the star of the show, and Connor's knowledge merely duplicates Cutter's, and Cutter is also better at it.  See, for example, 1.2, where Cutter got trapped in the underground and without him the others had to resort to consulting Connor and his database to identify the arthropleurid. On emerging from the underground, Cutter himself then demonstates that he has come to exactly the same conclusions re the identification, without any reference to Connor or his database - he simply knew it. It could be taken as bad editing, or if you chose to take canon at face value it can also be taken as an example that Cutter is simply better and knows more than Connor - not surprising considering one is a professor and the other his student.

The problem here is that in ensemble shows, it generally works better if each team member has something different to bring to the mix. Okay, certain things, such as action and fighting, tend to be across the board to some extent (although there are usually a couple of specialist characters in the actions roles - see Ryan and Stephen), but in terms of skills and knowledge there's usually a bit more of a distribution, with very little overlap or duplication. This then gives the opportunity for episodes where each individual member of the team can shine in their own unique area. Hence the problem with Connor. In S1 he had nothing unique to bring to the team. Anything he could do, Cutter could do better, so Connor was fequently just used as the comic relief character.

It has been said in interviews that the writers to some extent used the timeline shift in S2 to re-work the characters a little, and to rectify where things didn't quite work in S1. I suspect they realised what they had done with the duplication of skills, and that was why they made such a radical change to Connor. They expanded and extraploated from the database that we saw in S1, and gave him previously unseen computer/electronics/enginering skills, and at the same time they subtly shuffled the dino-geekery to one side. This kills two birds with one stone - it gives Connor a skill set that is unique to him, and it stops him stealing any of the limelight from Cutter, the star of the show, when it comes to palaeontological info-dumping.

It will be interesting to see what they do in S3, given the rumours of the potential... absence... of Cutter in S3 and beyond, and whether or not they quietly shuffle Connor back in to the role of dino-geek, should the position become vacant.

Now all they need to do is give Abby some decent opportunities to use her animal skills and we will all be happy.
These are just my thoughts, and I thought it would be interesting to throw them out for discussion. What do you guys think?

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entangled_now From: entangled_now Date: February 24th, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I completely agree with you, they had the wrong sort of geek in season one and I think they spotted it and were given the perfect opportunity with the shifting timelines to fix it for good. Which, if it's true, seems to be proof that we will probably never actually get back to the timeline/universe the show started it.

If does Cutter disappear I suspect they'll bring in another expert rather than adjust Connor any more.

And like you I really want Abby to get the chance to use some of her animal skills. She knows living animals and their instincts far better than Cutter ever should.
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: February 24th, 2009 06:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think it was Andrew-Lee in an interview who commented about thw writers taking the opportunity to change the things that didn't work from S1. Now you mention it, I suspect you're right about it meaning they never intend to go back to the Claudia timeline.

I'd love to see Abby have more to do in S3. In S1 she was obviously there as the animal expert, but in S2 pretty much all the creatures were big nasty predators, so it was a case of shooting them from a long way off rather than handling them, so Abby had sod all to do really apart from those nice scenes wirh the mammoth towards the end.
missyvortexdv From: missyvortexdv Date: February 24th, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I wouldn't call it a radical change myself. Tech skills may not have been at the forefront but by the existence of what looked like a potentially custom coded database application in S1 still speaks of vastly more computer skills than any other characters show. Not to mention if I recall correctly there were some videos on there too and whilst Connor may have collated info including the videos from other sources, but he may also have animated them himself possibly based on the other info he'd got...

I'd definitely concede that at the very least they have considerably emphasised his hardware tech skills. S1 was more about knowledge, both explicitly pointed out dino-geekery and more implicit software/coding and research skills.
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: February 24th, 2009 06:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd quite like to think that the computer skills were there all along in S1, and it is possible to argue that it was merely a case that they were never relevant to any plotlines, so were never obviously used. Certainly the database was impressive, and maybe hinted at more techie skills than we ever actually saw in S1, but to me it just felt like a big jump away from what we had previously seen of the character.

I suppose there isn't enough evidence in canon to be certain either way, but I defintiely feel that the writers deliberately went in a different direction with Connor in S2, and made far more of an effort to give him something that was 'his' area of expertise.
munchkinofdoom From: munchkinofdoom Date: February 24th, 2009 02:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think there is more than enough evidence from season 1 to point to Connor being a bit of a software geek in addition to their baby dino geek. *g* I suspect he'd pretty much built that database from scratch. It was just the sudden hardware/tech skills that strained my credibility.

Someone, in one of the previous chats, mentioned that it is entirely possible that the season 2 Connor has a different past to season 1 Connor. It looks like he's either finished his education or dropped out by season 2 - so it is entirely possible that his education has some differences, including a more tech basis rather than natural sciences.

*shrugs* Personally, although I love my little dinosaur show, the Powers That Be are sloppy writers. *g*
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: February 24th, 2009 06:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
I suppose it can be argued that things may have happened differently for the character background in the S2 timeline, but I tend to work on the basis that it was largely the same as what we saw in S1, with the obvious exceptions of Claudia and moving to the ARC at an early stage. If you argue that Connor did a different degree, then how did any of them ever get involved, since it was Connor coming to Cutter and Stephen that sparked off the entire thing for the team. If Connor doesn't have that academic link with Cutter then the whole thing falls apart.

True, all of this can be explained away by 'sloppy writing', which is a real shame. I'd like to think that the writers did put more thought into it than that.
telperion_15 From: telperion_15 Date: February 24th, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think if they want to shuffle Connor back towards dino-geek in S3, there is still some precedence for doing that. I don't think that aspect of his character was completely absent in S2 - didn't Stephen and/or Cutter ask him about what they could expect to see in the Silurian in 2.05 (although admittedly he was wrong about the 'bug sized' bugs!)? So there's still some aspect of the dino database there.

In some ways I was a bit sad that Connor lost his dino-geekiness in S2. You make a good point about the duplication of skills/knowledge with Cutter in S1, but I liked Connor as dino geek character! *g* And actually, now that I think about it, I'm not sure I ever really saw it as duplication of skills. Connor's database seems to have info about all sorts of prehistoric creatures in - an amount of data that Cutter could never carry round in his head. I always saw Connor as more backup to Cutter in the knowledge stakes, rather than a competitor. Cutter would have his theory about what the creature/era was, and Connor would confirm it with more details from the database.
joereaves From: joereaves Date: February 24th, 2009 06:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Plus while Cutter did know about the millipedes, it should be remembered that he *isn't* a palaeontologist. He's an evolutionary zoologist. His expertise shouldn't be confined to prehistoric creatures and because of that he shouldn't know everything there is to know about them. His specific area of expertise is evolution and specifically the things that don't fit Darwinian theories. Like that fish in the first ep.

So Connor's dinogeekiness isn't a direct duplication.
lukadreaming From: lukadreaming Date: February 24th, 2009 02:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
One of the things we don't know yet is how much of S2 was iffy writing and how much is stuff that will be explained in S3.

One of the annoying things about TFWIC playing fast and loose with the timelines is that we don't know what the situation with Connor is. Did he get his degree? Did he drop out?

I've always seen him as a software geek. I'm sure he fiddles around with hardware and I always have an image of lots of dismantled computers all over the bedroom floor *g*. But I've assumed he would need help with complex hardware projects. He'd know what he wanted, but might need an expert to work with him.

deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: February 24th, 2009 07:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm sure he fiddles around with hardware and I always have an image of lots of dismantled computers all over the bedroom floor *g*. But I've assumed he would need help with complex hardware projects. He'd know what he wanted, but might need an expert to work with him.

This is really where Munchkin and I disagree. I have no problem seeing him having the hardware skills to back up the software skills, and I have always imagined from what we saw in S2, that he really did build the ADD himself. Okay, he almost certainly had a team assisting him, but I think he was personally the driving force behind designing it, and that he was very hands-on with the building of it as well. In 2.3 when it first goes online, he takes it very personally when people believe that the ADD has failed to work. This doesn't strike me as the reaction of someone who just told a team of designers and engineers what he wanted, and then let them get on with it. This is the reaction of someone who was intimately invloved in creating it, it's his 'baby', that's why he takes it personally.
alyse From: alyse Date: February 24th, 2009 07:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
It never really bothered me, to be honest. I agree that he had advanced software skills at least, because of the database he'd built from what looked like scratch. Also, he did say he'd been building it since he was 14, which does suggest a certain precociousness when it comes to tech.

Plus, Connor is someone who obviously loves to figure things out, and I can't see him being satisfied with just building the software side of his database. It's clear that his two friends in Season 1 - Tom and Duncan - have some engineering skills, because they managed to build both a reasonable facsimile of a pleiosaur and hide and use a tracking device on Connor (fitted into something that would appeal to him), which does suggest at least some technical competence. Given that they all seem to share some interests in common, I don't think it's a stretch to say that Connor has some skills in that department, even if he doesn't demonstrate them in the same way in Season 1.

It's also worth noting that it was Connor who was experimenting with the magnetic field, and noticing the magnetic field weakening very early in season 1, putting those things together to conclude that the anomaly was weakening as well, which suggests that he has some grasp of physics as well as biology, and the ability to apply what he knows in a potentially exciting, stressful situation.

So that was a long winded, not particularly coherent (long day ::g::) version of 'Don't mind, really. Can we just have more Connor generally?' ::g::
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: February 24th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Precocious is certainly one word for him. In the S1 behind the scenes extra, Andrew-Lee said that the producers/writers told him that Connor was supposed to be a genius, so that would go well with him actually developing all these skills, even from a young age.

I hadn't actually thought of those points about the physics of the anomalies and such with the magnetic field, but you're right. In some ad-hoc way he's already testing and analysing the anomalies right from the start, without all the scientific might of the ARC behind him (and I really wish they would actually show the team analysing the hell out of the bloody anomalies rather than just reacting to the creatures - they're rips in the fabric of time, for gods' sake! Analyse them and find out what they are and how they work!!!! Sorry, mini-rant over).

I personally have no trouble believing the character had those skills all along, I'm just not certain that the writers of the show knew he had them! Not until the did the time shift into S2 and they decided to make a few changes. Does that make sense?

And of course I'm completely with you about wanting more of Connor generally.
lsellersfic From: lsellersfic Date: February 24th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think you are spot on about all of this.

It might not be realistic but there isn't time in a 50 minute action show to properly differentiate the subtleties of "who knows what" at the level of academic specialisms and that essentially duplicated well, Cutter, Abby, Connor and Stephen in S1. Stephen they got away with by making him the "action" character who sympathised with the scientists.

So both Connor and Abby got retooled in S2, Connor as computer-geek (which was certainly implicit before) and Abby... well I think they still don't quite know what to do with Abby but they were clearly angling for a more action-woman take on the character with the kick-boxing and so forth. I personally rather disliked that (if only because of the inevitable Abby/Caroline cat fight) and the fact that they still didn't really appear to know what to do with her.

I think, with a clearer focus, and less emphasis on purely dangerous critters they could split the animal honours between Cutter - identifies fossils and Abby - understands behaviour but it would need a strong editorial lead, I think, to prevent it being Cutter knows everything. It may be, with the loss of Stephen, they can move Abby into the "sympathetic action person role", but I'm not sure that the writers have that much confidence in "strong" women (if you see what I mean).

I think they also have to be really careful about explicitly stating that all these people are subtley different from the ones Cutter originally knew. The problem with alternate timelines, classically, is that the audience rapidly ceases to care about any character because they "aren't real" and there will be another one along in a minute.
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: February 24th, 2009 11:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really do wish they would sort out what they were doing with Abby. She's a great character, and in S1 they did seem to be setting her up with the animal skills, which is fair enough - they're dealing with real animals, they'd want an animal expert around. Then in S2 they just utterly failed to use those skills at all, so Abby just ended up being relegated to, as you say, a second rank combat character. I don't mind her being a combat type, but she obviously has a brain as well, so I'd like to see her using it a bit in her area of expertise. Again, as you point out, they need to have less emphasis on dangerous creatures for her to have the opportunity to do 'her thing'.

As I mentioned to someone else, I don't think that the S2 characters really are 'different' to the S1 versions. True, there is a slightly different emphasis in skill areas, and cosmetic changes such as clothes and hair, but I still believe that for the most part they are the same characters with more or less the same background experiences as we saw them having in S1.
fredbassett From: fredbassett Date: February 24th, 2009 08:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Speaking personally, I never really saw any problem with the original geeky S1 Connor at all. Howver, I liked what I first thought was going to be a harder-edged S2 Connor (and I preferred the make-over he got), but then TFWIC kept turning him into the comic-relief again and making him do really fucking daft stuff, like abandoning, then shooting Abby.

Like Munchkin, I attribute quite a lot of sloppy writing to the series and I'm not really sure TFWIC know the difference between a palaeontologist and an evolutionary zoologist, in the same way that distinctions like lad assistant or research assistant have clearly passed them by.

The trouble with Primeval is that at times the difference between sloppy writing and deliberate plot-laying can be difficult to spot eg the disappearance of the dead Cleaner and his subsequent reappearance. We all thought it was sloppy writing at first, which indicates that we've become used to sloppy writing to some extent.

I find Connor difficult to write, because I can't get easily into the geek mind-set, and I worry about getting his dialogue right, but I do like the character.

I agree with Louise about disliking using the time-line change to presume a different background, as that does disengage one somewhat from the characters.

Abby is another character that TFWIC really can't seem to make up their minds what to do with. And another female team-member may mean that they never get their heads round Abby, which would be a shame. With some more practice (Silk and Steel, and the Ghost series), I think I could quite get to like writing her. It would just be good to have more to work with.
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: February 24th, 2009 11:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
It really is a shame about the sloppy writing on the show. As you say, it leaves the viewer wondering if they *meant* for there to be that subtle change in behaviour, or if they just cocked up the character continuity again and we should just ignore it.

I liked S1 Connor, but I prefer S2 Connor. In S2 there was more of a defined role, and like you I loved the harder, more confident edge, but they just couldn't resist turning him into the comic relief whenever they wanted a comedy moment, which led to some shockingly out-of-character behaviour in some places - the abandoning Abby and accidentally shooting her being prime examples. He's *in love* with her, for gods sake, he wouldn't just abandon her when she's unconscious and there are dangerous predators around. Sorry, mini-rant over.

steamshovelmama From: steamshovelmama Date: February 24th, 2009 09:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I absolutely agree about the retooling of the character - and I miss Connor the dino-geek, too. I don't have a problem with Connor-the-software expert - I always assumed that Connor was the ideas man behind *how* to create the ADD with assistance from experts in hardware. The point with Coonor is that I think he's supposed to have be one of these super smart people who can turn their hands to anything given a bit of time to study.
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: February 24th, 2009 11:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
The point with Coonor is that I think he's supposed to have be one of these super smart people who can turn their hands to anything given a bit of time to study.

Exactly. That's exactly my take on the character, especially after the comment in the S1 behind the scenes about him supposedly being a genius. It isn't necessarily realistic for him to be better or more knowledgeable than Cutter in an area that Cutter has been working in for years, but it *is* realistic for him to be extremely talented in a specific area, or in a related set of skills, which is very much how I see the computer/engineering stuff.

I miss dino-geek Connor as well, he always seemed so bouncy and enthusiastic about creatures, and while I love the harder edge that he seemed to have in S2, I also love the fun that he brings to the show as well, and there was less of that in S2. But then, the whole of S2 had a much less fun atmosphere and character dynamics, so possibly it would have been out of keeping with the effect they were trying to create to have everyone else being angsty and serious, and Connor still bouncing around like a wide-eyed school kid.
reggietate From: reggietate Date: February 24th, 2009 10:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think to an extent his being a dino-geek made sense in series 1, because after all, he was Cutter's student, and presumably studying/interested in such things. So it would be logical for him to know a fair bit about them, and for him to show off these skills - Cutter is teaching him; he may know everything Connor knows and more, but he'll let Connor have some of that limelight in order to help in learn/refine his skills.

In series two he's presumably no longer a student, and they've toned down the geekery a little, though not entirely eliminated it - Cutter will still expect Connor to make a suggestion as to waht a creature or a habitat might be, still maintaining a certain amount of teacher-student relationship with him.
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: February 24th, 2009 11:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's interesting that to some extent we saw more of the student/teacher dynamic in S2 when they were no longer at university than we did in S1 when they were. In S1 Cutter almost seems to see Connor as an annoyance, at least until 1.4 when he persuades him to stay after Tom dies. In S2 there seemed to be a lot more instances of Cutter directly encouraging Connor to think and work things out, such as when they first discover the radio interference in the shopping centre, and when Connor introduces the ADD in 2.3 Cutter is the one telling him to calm down and showing confidence while the others (Leek and Jenny) make jokes at Connor's expense.

It's a dynamic that I absolutely love between the two of them, but I wonder how much we'll see of it in S3, and as they move further and further away from the university days of S1. Whether Connor will still look to Cutter as a mentor and seek his approval, and whether Cutter will still see Connor as his protege almost, and continue to encourage him professionally, if not academically. It may depend a lot on how Stephen's death affects Cutter's relationships with the remaining members of the team.
(Deleted comment)
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: February 24th, 2009 11:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Connor the dino-geek was such fun, it's a shame they toned that down to some extent because it was one of his more endearing character traits in S1. I wonder how much use they will make of his techie skills in S3, or whether they were a plot device to make the whole thing with Leek work in S2. Maybe the techie skills will also fade into the background in S3 if they realise they need him to be able to do something different, although it will stretch credulity to breaking point to have yet another character skill shift.

More teacher/student monent between Cutter and Connor would be lovely, but as I said to Reggie, I expect it depends very much on how the team dynamics change without Stephen around in S3.
From: sandyleepotts Date: July 15th, 2012 08:42 am (UTC) (Link)
I seem to have missed a lot of your early work.

This is simply super!

Totally with you on this one. Must say I enjoyed seeing Connor change more in series two, I didn't really like him in series one - too geeky.

Series two brought out a sexier Connor, the hair changed, waistcoats appeared, and he was much more central to the role of Connor. I'm glad they kept the hats from series one, I think people identified with the hats, and they were so Connor.
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: July 15th, 2012 02:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, I didn't really start to love Connor until series 2, as you say, he was just too much of a stereotype geek in series 1. In series 2 he got a slightly harder edge, and a new wardrobe which actually demonstrated the fact that he's a good looking bloke, rather than hiding him under about ten layers!
reggietate From: reggietate Date: July 15th, 2012 06:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's interesting to read this again, having seen S3 - all our innocent speculation about the relationships in the show and who was going to interact with whom. Oh how little did we know! ;-O
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: July 18th, 2012 12:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
lol, yes, we had no idea all the team upheavals that were on the way. It's rather nice to see that I wasn't far off the mark with my predictions about Connor and his dino-knowledge, though!
knitekat From: knitekat Date: July 15th, 2012 08:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting to read your thoughts, it makes sense really as Connor was always going to be out-shone by Cutter when it came to dinos.
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: July 18th, 2012 12:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
He was, and with Primeval being the kind of show that it is, the 'hero' always has to be right, and always has to be 'better' than the others at certain things, so series 1 Connor was really onto a loser from the start. It wasn't until series 2 that he really started contributing anything significant to the team with all the ADD and techie stuff.
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