It’s back! Already! This year, I don’t quite have the time to squeeze out a blog post after the release of every episode, but I’m still determined to mark the occasion in suitable fashion. So, I’ll post once today, having seen the first two episodes, and again on Friday. Can you believe that another season is already upon us? I guess that’s what Apple’s endless pit of money will buy you. That, and Darren Naish’s increasingly snazzy shirts.
I’ll admit that I had mixed feelings about the show being set, once again, in the very latest Cretaceous. Given the first series’ highly impressive treatment of Maastrichtian animals, I was keen to see the same artistry applied to creatures of other eras. I mean – imagine a Prehistoric Planet take on the Morrison Formation fauna, for example. There was still plenty more to explore 66 million years ago, but there’s the inherent risk of it all becoming rather same-again. Watching the first episode (Islands), I must admit that I did feel that just a twinge.
Before you all accuse me of pissing all over things again, do understand that it was still all immensely pretty, and plenty of new and intriguing animals were introduced. Perhaps best of all was the crocodylomorph Simosuchus, an excellent creature to raise viewer awareness of crocodylomorph diversity in deep time. It was also wonderful to see Majungasaurus, as designed by Gabriel Ugueto, especially as the animators were forced to consider how such an absurd dachshund of a theropod could possibly turn around more successfully than the Ever Given. The scene in which the former was seen standing up to the latter, in spite of the vast difference in size, was quite wonderful, although I do wish the Majungasaurus had just watched the display nonplussed, blinked, and then snapped up the little bugger anyway. Like Indiana Jones with his revolver.
All that said, I wasn’t as enraptured by it as I have been by some other episodes (and indeed by episode 2, but I’ll get to that). We’d seen terrestrially stalking Hatzegopteryx before, albeit more briefly, and we’d also seen slightly silly mating displays clearly inspired by specific modern animals. Of course, it could just be that pterosaurs don’t quite do it for me (sorry Mark), but watching two CGI lank-o-terrors nuzzle each other as the music swelled made me suddenly feel rather self-conscious. I was watching two CG animals about to do the deed, and someone was very keen for me to feel awestruck.
It was the second episode, Badlands, that sucked me right back in. Anyone who knows me will be well aware that I’m really a theropods ‘n’ sauropods (the more traditional Saurischia) sort of person, and that episode shovels them down your neck like nasty cocktails at a student club night. I do maintain that there is no other animated representation of sauropods that comes remotely close to Prehistoric Planet‘s, and that includes the Jurassic movies, thank you very much. The combination of carefully selected camera angles and framing, superlative attention to detail and masterful animation lends the creatures an awesome presence and tangible heft that makes one forget their CG nature.
When the mixed sauropod herd began to make its way ponderously through a maze of canyons, stalked by Tarbosaurus and with dromaeosaurs watching from the hills (waiting for attendant Prenocephale to move to higher ground), I was enthralled. It’s the very best palaeoart brought to life, and it’s gorgeous.
Badlands also dealt with the travails of Isisaurus as it struggled through the Deccan traps to its favoured nesting grounds, and then, later, the babies as they co-ordinated their hatching (crocodile stylee) and made their way out into the world. For them, it’s eat shit or die, at least at first. A number of them were, of course, opportunistically snapped up by theropods, in this case the abelisaur Rajasaurus. It’s great to see a few more successful theropod hunts in this show, although I’m still waiting on such a scene featuring a giant tyrannosaur. (Come on – we all know they’d do it really, really well.)
Naturally, there are more returning characters here, including Velociraptor (which is perhaps a little iffy for the time period, but never mind) and Corythoraptor. Velociraptor babies feature this time, which have surely already been turned into the cutest little merchandising opportunities. However, we’re also introduced to the wandering ankylosaur Tarchia, an animal quite accurately portrayed as being almost as wide as it is long, with an equally true-to-life hideous face and highly intimidating body armour. A stand-0ff between multiple Tarchia is another highlight, although I do wish they’d at least traded some glancing blows. (Can it really be that I’m just a horrible sadist? Look, the animals aren’t real…)
It’s got off to a very good start. I’m itching for more.