Sunday, 11 September 2011

Planet Dinosaur Arrives

A Cau-inspired Spinosaurus head.
It cannot have escaped your attention that the two biggest dinosaur documentary series of the year are both airing in September. The first two parts of Dinosaur Revolution have aired in the US to the usual mixed reaction but my general feeling (at the moment) is that the positive reviews are edging it over the negative side.

I have seen the first two episodes of Dinosaur Revolution and will save the review for a later post when the series is complete. Suffice to say that I too have mixed feelings so far. I wasn’t too impressed with the first part but did enjoy the second part despite the usual technicalities and obvious poetic licence.

And now comes Planet Dinosaur from the BBC, airing in the UK for the first time this Wednesday at 8.30 on BBC1. This is now ten years after the original Walking with Dinosaurs (WWD) hit our screens and is seen as the natural successor to that series since so much has happened in the world of dinosaur palaeontology during that time that the BBC deemed it was time for a new series and are hoping that it will be as successful as its predecessor.

This time the narrator is John Hurt and the series is in six 30 minute instalments and there are other differences as well. WWD placed CGI dinosaurs in locations that were filmed all over the world, and very effective it was too, but this series recreates, in its entirety, both the prehistoric landscapes and animals that lived in them. The primary thinking behind this was that it gave the film makers much more freedom and the camera could be placed anywhere they wanted and this, they hope, will make it seem much more real to the watching audience.

Because CGI has improved so much over the last decade, the producers were keen to exploit the plethora of new discoveries for the series but the older established animals are also well represented. For example, the first episode entitled Lost World, features both Spinosaurus and Carcharodontosaurus but, alas, there is also a big battle scene between the two with more than a hint of Jurassic Fight Club.

The producers deny this and say that despite the inevitable dinosaurian battles, there will be plenty of cutting edge science including how forensic science of fossils is providing lots of new data and how computer analysis of fossils is doing the same.

To be fair, we will have to wait and reserve judgement until we see how the series pans out but, worryingly, one of the producers, Andrew Cohen, has stated (and I quote) “Planet Dinosaur is more like an action film than a natural history film”. We can only hope that this a little tongue-in-cheek and hope that there is, indeed, some science in there. That isn’t too much to ask is it?

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