It’s been over ten years since the BBC invited us to walk with dinosaurs and it seems somebody has decided that now is the time to revisit the idea of a dino documentary – using a different name. Planet Dinosaur isn’t bad, but this first episode isn’t much better than Walking with Dinosaurs. Apparently this first episode is essentially a warm-up for the more impressive content to come, which begs the question: Why start a series with your weakest material.
The dinosaurs themselves are impressive, as CGI beasts go, the folds and flaws of each creature’s skin have been painstakingly crafted and their snuffles and roars seem realistic enough. But in all honesty, TV based CGI does not seem to have moved on that much since 1999 and I was not as awestruck as I expected to be.
Tonight’s opener concerns itself with introducing the two biggest dinosaurs to ever have roamed the earth and we are offered a sufficiently gnarly claw to shake hands with. The attention to detail on these CGI giants is great but, again, not really a vast improvement on the previous BBC offering.
The build-up to our first encounter with the Spinosaurus (a relatively new discovery) is a five minute long, suspense-filled extravaganza. The beast is 17 metres long – wow! 11 tonnes – blimey! Has individual backbones the length of an average human – cor! He is first seen leering around a group of dumpy looking dinos who are causally munching grass and I’m ready for some serious blood and bones to go flying.
But this vicious fiend walks straight past these tasty morsels, plucks a fish from the river, twizzels it round and slips it straight down.
I’m not saying the producers should lie about the diet of the Spino but they could have chosen a more dramatic first encounter than a sedate pescatarian gulping down breakfast. We saw the thing scoff a T-Rex without breaking sweat in the utterly awful Jurassic Park III.
The disappointing fight scenes continue as the Spinosaurus encounters the formidable Carcharodontosaurus and they square up to fight to the death over a rotting carcass. This other dinosaur, nicknamed the shark-tooth lizard, was a meat-eating monster who needed 60kg of meat every day just to keep going. That’s what I’m talking about.
But the fight contains awkward, twirly camera angles which prevent the audience from seeing any gashes too closely and ends with one contender slinking away with an anti-climatic snarl.
Don’t get me wrong. It is interesting to hear the new developments and discoveries made about our prehistoric past but this series, with its clean wounds and sedate smash-ups, feels a little too family friendly to be entertaining and a little too starved of factual information to be an informative documentary.
The result is something that will no doubt be recorded by primary school teachers everywhere ready for next term’s dinosaur project.