Hello, reader. My name is Jacquelyn. If you are here, then you must have taken at least some interest in the Dinosaur Train unaired episode. If you are unfamiliar with Dinosaur Train, then just let me give you the lowdown. It is a kids' programming that airs on PBS Kids that features intelligent, talking dinosaurs using a train to travel through time to meet other dinosaur species.
Sounds like a neat gimmick eh? Using this method, they could have any species they want and not conflict with actual chronology of the Mesozoic Era. Far as I know, Dinosaur Train is the only dinosaur show that uses this idea. But such a gimmick can have its darker side.
For instance, have you ever thought about the train itself? When you watch the show, you will notice that there are no signs of actual civilization or technology except for the troodons' Dinosaur Train. There is something unsettling about that. It makes you wonder if there's more to these troodons than they were willing to let on. Out of all the dinosaur species, only the troodons wear any type of clothing and they make up the entirety of the train's crew.
And just how was the Dinosaur Train built? This had to have been a massive project. The train goes from the Triassic to the Cretaceous. That is over a hundred million years. It is almost as if the troodons had help, if you know what I mean. Like, something wanted them to build this train. Maybe there is some kind of untold purpose of the Dinosaur Train. Yes, it is used for education amongst the species themselves, but to spend all that time building a track to last millions of years, somehow knowing when and where to put a track to avoid it being destroyed, something tells me that the Dinosaur Train serves some other unknown purpose.
Think about that as I continue my tale.
Each episode involves traveling to different time periods using the Dinosaur Train. I don't think there has been a single episode where this hasn't been used. But don't you ever get the feeling, if you watched the show, something could go horribly wrong? Well that is exactly what happened, or what would have, if this particular episode had aired. It dealt with a topic that, well, the show would normally never delve into because it is too unsettling.
The unaired episode is called Beyond The End. A weird title, but nothing that seems too conspicuous to first time viewers. I know about the episode because a friend of mine, Ellen, happens to work on the show. She invited me over for a screening. This was not something normally allowed, but Ellen was able to twist a few arms to let me in. She was pretty excited to show me the episode, but she wouldn't tell me why. She would just say “You'll see.”
When we arrived at the building in Arlington, Virginia, she escorted me to the screening room. It was a few floors up, located in a huge room with plenty of seats. Entering the room, I was surprised at how few people were in there. Other than me and Ellen, there were only three other people, all men. They were situated in the front row, a pen and paper on clipboards in their hands.
“Where is everyone?” I asked Ellen.
“There were about four other people here earlier, but they said they had to leave.” Ellen said. She narrowed her eyes slightly. “They left after they took a glimpse at one of the clips from the latest episode, the one you're about to see.”
I should have realized something was off right then and there, but at the time, I didn't think anything of it. I had said, “Well I'm sure they had their reasons. Maybe they just had something they needed to do.”
“Yeah, you're right. It was close to the end of their shift anyway.” Ellen said. “They don't get paid overtime, so it's understandable they wouldn't stick around for much longer.” She motioned for me to follow her. “Now come along. You'll be sitting with me.”
We walked down the pathway between two sets of many rows of chairs. We reached the front of the first row and walked out in front of it. The three guys looked up and saw us. They nodded their heads slowly to acknowledge our presence. We sat down a few seats away from them. The screen itself was huge. I didn't think screening rooms were this big, or if this was just an exception. It was almost like I was sitting in a movie theatre. Even the seats in this room resembled movie goer seats.
“What time is the screening going to start?” One of the men asked in a low voice.
“We had to wait for Ellen and her friend here to arrive.” Another man said.
The third man nodded. “It should be starting any second now.”
Ellen smiled at this and she turned to me and said, “So are you excited? This isn't an opportunity you'll get very often.”
“I would be more excited if you told me what is in this episode you think I'll love.” I told her. She just chuckled and looked away. I knew I wasn't going to get a response from her. I sighed and shook my head. I looked back up at the screen as it started to darken.
The screen was suddenly splashed with color and life and animation. The PBS logo came up and it went straight to the episode. As usual, it opened up with Mr. Conductor, the loveable troodon that appears in almost all the episodes. He would greet the viewer and tell them what to expect in today's episode. He was just as chipper as usual, just as I expected.
“Hello folks! It's me, the Conductor! Today, we are going to visit Troodon Town for a special surprise! So come along with me on the Dinosaur Train! All aboard!”
It ended with the usual transition and now the opening played. I smirked. I always found the opening to be amusing. I can't really explain why. It just felt really off to me. Like, do the children really hatch out of their eggs already talking and walking? But all in all, it is a really cute opening and it is a great introduction to the kinds of lessons the show was going to teach. I had to wonder to myself what lesson would be taught this time. The title may give some kind of clue.
But when the title did come up, I couldn't make heads or tails of it. It was 'Beyond The End'. I tilted my head. I looked over at Ellen. She was still smiling. She turned her head over at me and nodded her head. That confirmed the title was right. But what could it mean? Was the train going to go beyond Troodon Town? That was impossible. There was a roundhouse there. That would block any attempt at moving any further.
But maybe this was the surprise Ellen wanted to show me. I had commented to her one time, casually, that it would be interesting if there was a Dinosaur Train episode where they go past Troodon Town. I was just joking of course. I never thought that Ellen would convince the production team to actually make the episode. Well she was right. This was making me excited.
The episode opened up with Buddy and Don playing with some rocks. There appeared to be some kind of formation drawn in the dirt with a stick. I immediately recognized it as tic-tac-toe. Buddy tossed a rock and Don began to jump on the spaces, avoiding the one with the rock. When he reached the end, he spread out his wings and cheered and did a very Don-like cheer.
About ten seconds later, Mr. and Mrs. Pteranodon showed up. Behind them came Shiny and Tiny. They all looked extra excited for some big event. Mr. Pteranodon spread his wings and said that the Conductor had a big surprise for them waiting on the train. Buddy and Don were obviously excited and they made comments that they have been waiting days for this. I guessed that between episodes, Mr. Conductor had revealed he was planning some kind of surprise. I wondered what it could be.
In the next scene, the Pteranodon family had arrived at the station. They grabbed their tickets and they went on board the train. They had each found a seat and sat down. Mr. Conductor came and greeted them. Buddy and his siblings tried to pry the surprise out of the troodon, but to no avail. Their parents laughed and told them to sit down. They were very disappointed but they obediently returned to their seats. Sometimes I wish real kids would behave like this more often.
“Oh don't worry.” Mr. Conductor said. He grabbed each ticket. “You will find out. It won't take us long to get to Troodon Town. Now just let me clip these for you and we can be on our way.” He used his small sickle claw to puncture the tickets. He handed them back to the Pterandon family.
“I wonder what the Conductor has in store for us.” Tiny said.
“I bet he is going to give us a party! We're, like, some of his closest friends!” Shiny said. As she stopped speaking, her skin made a glean like it normally did.
Buddy turned over to Don. “Well whatever it is, I'm sure it'll be well worth the wait.”
Don nodded his head. “Yeah. Maybe it'll be a new rock for my collection!”
“You have enough rocks, Don.” Shiny said, narrowing her eyes a little further than she normally did.
“Nuh uh!” Don shook his head. “I don't have one more rock to add. I have to take every opportunity.” Shiny groaned and shook her head. She calmed down when Tiny nudged her.
Tiny said, “When do you think we will arrive?”
Mrs. Pteranodon said, “Heheheh oh relax kids. We are just about to leave.”
Mr. Pteranodon put a wing around his wife. “That's right. So just relax. This is a special day for us.”
The kids sat in their seats but they were still talkative and excited. This made me more eager to watch more of the episode. I wanted it to speed up already so we could see what was going to happen. But if I had known what was about to take place, I would have tried to leave before it was too late.
Mr. Conductor took out his watch and shouted, “Time Tunnel! Time Tunnel approaching!”
The train was fast approaching a Time Tunnel, a tunnel through a cave that traveled through time. The train entered and vanished completely. The train traveled through a black void with random colors streaking across. The sensation was enough to unnerve some smaller, less experienced riders. But luckily they didn't have to suffer for too long. The time tunnel quickly ended and the train exited the other side.
The train suddenly wobbled slightly to the side. Passengers were shocked and looked very concerned. Some of them started murmuring to themselves what happened. The wobbling occurred one more time and this time there was a screech as the wheels temporarily went off the rail. I held my breath at this. It wasn't something that was supposed to happen in the show. I watched as the poor dinosaurs started to panic a little over the mishap. Even Mrs. Pteranodon, who was one of the most cool-headed characters on the show, looked worried.
The wobbling stopped thankfully and the train resumed normal function. Mr. Conductor walked into the cart and said, “Sorry about that folks. Just some minor trouble. Don't worry. It was taken care of!” He put on his best smile and tipped his hat to the passengers. “Now please enjoy the rest of the trip. We are almost at Troodon Town. We will be there in a couple of minutes.”
“Yay!” Don cheered, having quickly recovered from his earlier fear.
Tiny, on the other hand, still looked worried. “How can you think about that when the train almost...”
“Tiny, the Conductor said the problem was fixed.” Buddy said. He put his two fingered hand on her shoulder to console her. “Don't worry about it too much.”
“I suppose you're right...but I cannot shake this feeling.”
That sounded a little too foreboding to me. I've often seen that, when characters say stuff like that, something does actually happen. But when I looked at Ellen, she was still smiling, so the episode must be what she had in mind. I don't think she would be smiling if something really bad was going to happen. I continued watching the episode.
In the next scene, the train was arriving at Troodon Town. They had to stop in the roundabout first. Normally the passengers would all get off for this, but Buddy and his siblings wanted to stay in the train while it was being rotated. Mr. Conductor didn't seem to like the idea at first, but he didn't see any harm in it. The train pulled up in the roundabout house, coming to a full stop in the center.
He let off everyone else on the train, but remained on himself. He told them to hang on for the short ride. But just as the platform started to turn, something did go wrong. Loud sparks shot from the tracks. Tiny screamed when one got too close to her. Mr. Conductor looked genuinely horrified, and he rarely looks scared. He looked out the window and down at the tracks.
The tracks were glowing brightly, and they had stopped turning altogether. Electricity was coursing through the wheels and the tracks, creating a lot of loud sparking and bright flashes. The train wobbled again. Dinosaurs outside the train looked very worried. Some started to approach, but random arcs of lightning held them back.
“Now don't worry...don't panic...” Mr. Conductor said in an unusually serious voice. He gestured for the family to lay flat on the ground. He joined them, spreading out his arms as if to hug the ground. “Do not touch any of the seats. Wait until the shaking stops.”
“Mr. Conductor...” Mr. Pteranodon said in a cautious voice. “What is going on?”
“We are experiencing a serious malfunction.” Mr. Conductor said. “But don't you worry, it should be over soon. We sometimes get these in the roundabout house, but it's never anything serious.”
“Phew...” Shiny said. “Well that is a relief!”
Suddenly, the train began moving right off the tracks. Some carts wobbled onto their sides and broke off. The cart that the Pteranodon family was on remained attached, as it was connected right to the front portion, where the engine was. The family screamed and was thrown to the side as the train began to ride along the concrete floor. It tore through the stone wall and began to spin as it skidded through a troodon settlement. A pack of troodons ran off as the sparking train headed their way. Some had to pick up their eggs fast and move or risk getting them crushed.
“I just knew something was about to happen!” Tiny cried. “I just knew it!”
“Mr. Conductor! Can't you stop the train?” Buddy called out.
Mr. Conductor dug his claws into the carpet as the train moved faster. It was picking up speed because it was going downhill now. The troodon opened up one eye and looked at the baby tyrannosaurus. “I can't stop the train, Buddy. We will either have to jump, which I do not recommend trying, or we wait until the train comes to a complete stop. We will then assess the damage and repair what we can.”
“How will we get home?” Don asked.
“You're more than welcome to stay at my place for the time being. We will get you home as soon as we can.” Mr. Conductor offered, causing small smiles to spread on the Pteranodon family's faces.
The train was fast approaching a Time Tunnel, which had a couple thin wooden planks to discourage visitors. I was confused. I thought there were no Time Tunnels after Troodon Town. It would seem the characters were confused as well. They asked the Conductor why there was a Time Tunnel, but the only response they got from the troodon was that it was a forbidden tunnel that no one was supposed to cross, although he doesn't have the details as to why that was.
Understandably, the kids were getting really scared. The idea of approaching a forbidden Time Tunnel was nerve wracking for them. They didn't know where it led, or if they would even get out of it. This was rather dark for a Dinosaur Train episode and I don't understand its appeal for kids. But so far, nothing too violent had happened, so I thought it wouldn't be too bad. But I would be proven wrong oh so quickly.
As the train approached the Time Tunnel, something seemed very odd about it. The tunnel was a little wider than usual. The color flashes, normally present in the Time Tunnel, deeper inside specifically, were now visible at the entrance. The front seemed to warp sporadically and looked very foreboding. The Pteranodon family and the Conductor held on tightly to each other as the train crashed through the wood and plummeted through the forbidden Time Tunnel.
They got up and looked around. They were in the black void like they should be when traveling through time, but the flashes of color were gone completely. Instead, crimson red lightning flashed at both sides. They weren't loud or anything and it wasn't close enough to hurt the family. But it was still scary to look at. It was a signal that they really had gone through the wrong Time Tunnel, that this tunnel really was dangerous and understood why it was closed off to the public.
All around them, there was a deep moaning. It sounded like a bunch of their friends, only distorted and almost lifeless. The moaning would get louder, then softer, then louder, then softer, and this would repeat over and over. The children huddled close to their parents. I heard them begin to cry. I felt sorry for them. I was starting to get scared myself. Mr. Conductor was trying his best to keep his composure, but I could tell, by the look in his eyes, the moans were getting to him, too.
The train finally exited out of the dreaded forbidden Time Tunnel. The train came to a halt against a large, jetted up rock. Smoke pillowed out from underneath as if friction really tore it up. Mr. Conductor asked if the family was all right. They said they were, but Mr. Conductor looked at them as if he knew they were lying. The family got up from the ground and brushed themselves off. Mr. Conductor grabbed the door and yanked it open. They stepped out.
Nothing looked familiar. The ground they stood one was gray mixed in with streaks of black. There were some trees, but they were all dead. Some were uprooted, laying on the ground, but others remained up. The trees looked worse than in the episode about forest fires. The sight of so many dead trees was clearly upsetting to the group. Even Mr. Conductor was unnerved at the sight.
The landscape had dull gray smoke rising from it. It was as if this was a forest fire, but it was far, far worse than anything they had seen. The sky was totally dark, gray and black. The sun was nowhere to be seen, even though they were certain it was daytime when they left. And worst of all, there didn't seem to be any signs of life anywhere. They looked around, but they could see nothing. The place was completely deserted.
“What..happened here?” Tiny said. “Where is everyone?”
Mr. Conductor bit his lip. His composure was shaken. “I...I really don't know Tiny.” He looked at his surroundings. “This place isn't on my map...”
By now, I was getting even more nervous. I wanted to leave. I looked over at Ellen. She wasn't smiling anymore, but she didn't look scared. I couldn't tell if this is what she had planned or what. If so, then she was some sick person and I was going to have a serious talk to her after this. But if she wasn't behind this, then who made this episode?
That was when something appeared in the distance. The thick black fog made it hard to see, but a familiar shape was forming on a small pathway not far from them. An orange blue-striped body gave away who it was.
“It's Annie's mother! Come on, let's catch up to her!” Buddy shouted.
“Slow down, Buddy!” Shiny said as she ran to catch up. Everyone else followed in tow, not wanting to be left behind.
Buddy looked excited. I can see why. Annie's mom would be the first sign of normality, or at least this show's version of normality, since the train crash. As the kid tyrannosaurus got closer, the shape became sharper and sharper. And then Buddy stopped in his tracks. He stared in horror, his mouth open. The others tried to talk with him, but he could do nothing but stare blankly.
The dinosaur was Annie's mom, alright, but she looked very sick. Her stomach had receded up into her rib cage. Her ribs were visible, deep indentions in her sides. Her body was covered in hardened scars. She was walking painfully slow. Her breathing was eratic and heavy. Her eyes were partway closed and she looked like she was going to fall any second.
I turned my head away from this disturbing sight. I found myself whirling over to Ellen. I grabbed her by the arm and said “What the hell is this? What did you do?!”
Ellen glared at me and pulled her arm away. “I didn't do this!” Her expression softened as she seemed to sense the weight of the situation. She slowly looked back up towards the screen. “...I didn't do this..This isn't the episode that....”
My eyes widened at this. I couldn't think of a response. We just stared at each other in silence. We then continued watching the episode. I wanted to know how far this episode was going to go.
Buddy's lower lip was quivering ever so slightly. I never seen him look so horrified. The other dinosaurs had, by now, caught up with him. Tiny went up to him and tried to shake him. She looked over at Annie's mother and she let out a loud squawk. This caused the others to look and they too realized who was standing there. Shock shot through their bodies visibly.
“Mrs...Mrs...Tyrannosaurus...?” Mr. Conductor said, his voice shaking. The female tyrannosaurus hadn't seen him yet and didn't respond. The troodon decided to try again. He called out her name, this time louder, using his hands against his face to amplify the sound.
This got her attention. She turned her head slowly towards the group. From my perspective, she was looking at the screen. Being an up close shot, I could see more detail on her face. Her head had lost so much meat that her head looked like a colored tyrannosaurus skull. She had bits of dried blood on her teeth. Her eyes were partially glazed over. They didn't look like they had much intelligence to them, like she was some wild beast.
The thin tyrannosaurus loomed over the conductor. A little bit of saliva dribbled from her mouth and onto the ground. She let out a few soft growls before she started to move towards him. The conductor seemed to understand what was going to happen and made a dash towards the side was Mrs. Tyrannosaurus snapped her jaws where he once stood.
Instead of flesh, she only got a mouthful of dirt. She shook her head, spitting out the dirt, and swung her head in Mr. Conductor's direction again. She let out a weak roar before she fell to the ground. The ground was so dry that a cloud of dust easily rose from the ground from the impact of her fall. She let out moans. Her eyelids lowered even more.
The group stared on in horror. They couldn't believe what they saw. Mrs. Tyrannosaurus actually tried to kill Mr. Conductor. Chatter broke out amongst them. Soft, almost whispers, shaken even, they talked amongst themselves what happened. The longer they spoke of it, the worse they felt.
“Why did she do that?” Shiny said. She was pressing herself against her father. “I-I thought she was...”
“I don't know, Shiny.” Mr. Pteranodon said. Visibly, he was trying to be strong, but he was having a hard time remaining that way. His bottom beak shook a few times as he was trying to keep a calm composure to talk to his daughter. “Maybe she is just feeling sick.”
“This is worse than being sick.” Mrs. Pteranodon said solemnly. She took a few steps towards the fallen tyrannosaurus. “She's starving.”
“How could she starve?” Buddy asked, sounding very afraid.
Tiny wrapped her wings around her brother and hugged him. She looked up at her parents. “Yeah...there's plenty of prey around here for her to eat. Isn't there?”
She took another look around. No, there wasn't any prey around here, she and the others realized. The place was devoid of life not just in the immediate area, but it stretched on forever. With the exception of the thin and sickly tyrannosaurus and themselves, there was no life around. Tiny seemed to realize this and broke down crying.
“H...H...Help....help me......” Mrs. Tyrannosaurus croaked, some sense of reality awakening inside her brain.
Buddy gulped loudly and moved cautiously over to the female tyrannosaurus. He kept a good distance from her in case she tried to attack again. He moved to the side of her head so she could see him more easily.
Dull eyes looked down at the young dinosaur.
“B-Buddy..is that you?” Mrs. Tyrannosaurus asked. She gave a dry cough.
Buddy took a step towards her. He gave the best smile he could. “Yeah. It's me.”
“I thought..I thought I'd never see you again.” Mrs. Tyrannosaurus was clearly struggling with every word. Her labored breathing was having a hard time letting her speak. “It's been...so long...years...”
“Mrs. Tyrannosaurus...” Mrs. Pteranodon asked as she approached. “Tell me, how far did we travel from Troodon Town?”
Mrs. Tyrannosaurus coughed again. She raised her head off the ground. She oriented her head in the mother pteranodon's direction. “I...I think a few years...” She coughed and wheezed. “I..I cannot be sure.”
I really wished I could turn this episode off. Everyone in the room, even myself, was getting more and more upset by what was happening. This had no appeal to children. This was not a kid-friendly version of a sick dinosaur. No, this would be nightmarish to children, seeing their beloved characters suffer, even die on screen, in a horrific manner.
There was nothing I could do to stop the episode, though. It would continue to play, no matter what I did. I had no choice but to continue watching it. I checked the time and saw that the episode was more than halfway over. There wasn't too much left.
Mr. Conductor was the only one brave enough to ask one important question. “Mrs. Tyrannosaurus, what happened here?”
This question caused the dying tyrannosaurus's eyes to widen, her pupils shrinking. “...too horrible...a flash of light in the sky, then a loud bang...then so much death....” She paused only to wheeze loudly. She looked at the group, small tears forming in her eyes. “It happened so fast....Many didn't make it in time...others perished slowly....so much death...so much death....still more to come...There's no end in sight. Even I will come to end...”
The children screamed at this and ran back to their parents. They wrapped their arms around their parents and started to cry. Mr. and Mrs. Pteranodon tried what they could to settle their kids down, but nothing worked.
Mr. Conductor walked up to the grieving family. He held out his arms in a compassionate manner. He wrapped them around the group. He wore a weak smile. “Hey..hey now...it'll be all right...” He said soothingly. “We just need to find a working Time Tunnel and we can go back...”
It wasn't like going back was going to erase what they saw. But being around their friends and family again, back when things were right, would help ease their minds. I had hoped that this would be it, that they would return home and everything would be happy again. A cop out, but still something, I mean the episode was nearly over. They had to return home now, right?
I was wrong.
Mrs. Tyrannosaurus croaked out, “..None...none of the Time Tunnels work anymore...”
“...what?” Mr. Conductor whispered.
“All the ones around here were destroyed....”
This was a punch in the face. Mr. Conductor just stood there, staring blankly at Mrs. Tyrannosaurus. His eyes had a far away look in them. The camera zoomed in slowly on them. It didn't stop until it was so close up that all you could see was the eye itself, and some scaly skin around. A tear rolled down the eye, then everything faded to black. All the while, crying and sobbing could be heard in the background.
When the screen faded back in, Dr. Scott, the palaeontologist, stood there. Normally he was a happy fellow with a bunch of kids around him and he would talk about facts learned in the episode. Here, the background, normally white, was now a faded black. Dr. Scott had a sad expression on his face and his head was bowed down low. There were no children around him, though the sound of child cries could be heard faintly.
“...approximately sixty-five million years ago, an asteroid struck the earth. It blotted out the sun, caused forest fires, and plunged the earth into a freezing global winter. Buddy and his family and all his friends didn't make it.” He looked up at the screen. He said, “...that is all...” Then he disappeared and the episode ended.
Relieved that it was over, I got up out of my seat. I turned to Ellen. She was a little pale and her eyes were still on the screen. I shook her gently on the shoulders and told her it was over and there was nothing to worry about. She got up slowly and started to walk with me.
The next day, we found out the episode was destroyed in an accident. I smiled at this, happy that the episode would not be seen by any child. After a few weeks, I had recovered, mostly, from the incident. Ellen took a little longer, but she came around. She had changed though and became more easily disturbed by unsettling content.
I went into the video section at my local Walmart. I wanted to find the latest Dinosaur Train episode for a friends' son, who happened to love the show. I came across the DVD and picked it up. I smiled faintly. Seeing such a normal cover made me happy. Despite the horrible incident, I hadn't lost too much interest in Dinosaur Train, though I haven't gone to another episode screening.
I noticed something odd about the box. It was supposed to have ten episodes on it, but the time mentioned on the box indicated there was another episode on here. Curious, I looked at the other side and read the information on the back. That's when I saw it. I held my breath at the sight.
On the list of episodes on the back, at the very bottom, was the episode “Beyond The End.”