Prehistoric Park (2006) is a 6 episode MockumentaryMini Series from ITV, created by the same Impossible Pictures Ltd. that produced the famous Walking With Dinosaurs franchise, to which this show can either be seen as a Spiritual Successor or a Spin-Off. In turn, the hit Science Fiction series Primeval can be viewed as a very loose successor to Prehistoric Park.The basic premise is simple: Real Life zoologist and adventurer Nigel Marven travels back in time to bring back various creatures from prehistoric eras, whom he and his team then place in the titular park. While episodic in nature, the series did have an overarching plot, as the issues of many animals took several episodes to resolve.Although the show was filmed as if it told the story of a real park, it contained many obviously sci-fi inspired elements, such as the mysterious time portal, the workings of which were never explained.The show is, in essence, similar to Discovery Channel's much less famous Dino Lab.
The work provides examples of:
Anachronism Stew: A common mistake: including the Chinese dino-bird Microraptor among the Yixian fauna when it was really from the slightly later Jiufotang Formation: however, both faunas were from the Early Cretaceous, only separated by few million years.
Big Creepy-Crawlies: Arthropleura. But unlike most examples of the trope, this one managed to win the sympathy of the Park workers, simply because it was just that big that it lost its creepy factor.
Big Damn Heroes: Happens several times in the last episode. Martha the mammoth saves the young elephant from Matilda the T. rex. Nigel leads Matilda away before the fight escalates. Then, just as Matilda is about to catch up with Nigel, the Deinosuchus lunges out of the water at Matilda, barely missing, giving Nigel enough time to reach safety and lock Matilda into a paddock.
Carnivore Confusion: Averted, as this being a zoo, even the most ferocious carnivores are taken care of.
The Cretaceous Is Always Doomed: In the first episode Nigel goes back 65 million years to collect two Tyrannosaurs, hours before the asteroid hits. It's true that he collects animals that are about to die anyway to avoid altering history too much, but would it have hurt to have gone at least a month before the asteroid hit?
Everything's Worse with Wolves: In the same episode as the cave bear incident, when Nigel tries to keep the weakened mammoth Martha alive, a pack of wolves turn up out of freaking nowhere in the night, with Green Eyes of doom, shouting and barking, hoping to kill her. Nigel chases them away.
Averted by Microraptor and Ornithomimus, which are portrayed as being quite harmless and are safely transported and kept at the park.
From the true birds' side, Phorusrhacos.
Giant Flyer: Pterosaurs, though these aren't technically of the giant variant. Despite this, the show didn't miss the opportunity to play out the classic scene of a sea monster lunging out of the water and dragging one down. This paleoart-trope is played straight and subverted at the same time in the Supercroc episode: the giant sea reptile is not the classic ichthyosaur/elasmosaur/mosasaur/pliosaur but the giant alligator Deinosuchus (note that this may be Truth in Television, since modern saltwater crocodiles do live in the sea as well).
Infant Immortality: Averted. A juvenile Ornithomimus is killed by a Tyrannosaurus and a juvenile Parasaurolophus is killed by a Deinosuchus.
Meanwhile, in the Future: The format of the episodes. While Nigel are millions of years in the past trying to catch a prehistoric creature, the park crews in the present are trying to put together and suitable habitat for the creatures he had captured.
My Car Hates Me: Averted, barely. A couple of occasions have required Nigel to get his truck out of the way of some charging beast. Each time the vehicle only starts at the last minute because Rule of Drama.
Plot Hole: When Nigel and Saba arrive in prehistoric times too late to save the Smilodon cubs, they just mourn. Hello, time machine, anyone? This applies to other episodes too, like the first, when Nigel has to act really quick to avoid getting killed by the asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous. He could easily have gone back in time to a few days/weeks/months earlier.
Rule of Cool: The purpose of the keepers was just to "resurrect" the coolest animals. One of the most remembered scene is, obviously, the two most iconic prehistoric giants (T. rex and the woolly mammoth) fighting each other. This time It Makes Sense in Context...
A woolly mammoth that was recovered from near the time of its extinction, but was somehow coexisting with a cave bear which was extinct way before mammoths; however this is lampshaded/handwaved by Nigel who says to the cameraman "I'm sorry, I believed cave bears were already extinct...this is an exciting discovery!)
The main example had to be, however, the Triceratops vs. Tyrannosaurus fight in the first episode.
Science Marches On: Ornithomimus were not duck-like filter-feeders "more similar to Daffy Duck than emus" as portrayed in the program. This theory was made in the middle 2000's from the putative discover of a sort of "lamellae" on the horny beak of some ornithomimosaurs, similar to those seen in duck and flamingos (both filter-feeders). This theory become quite popular at the time among paleo-fans, and the show, incidentally, was produced just in those years: hence the duck-feeding thing seen in the program. But just a few years later, this hypothesis has been discarded: those lamellae are arguably simple "wrinkles" on the beak like those seen in other non-filter feeding birds. Anyway, the rest of Ornithomimus's anatomy doesn't show any specializazion for a flamingo way-of-life. It was more like modern running birds: ostrichs, rheas and emus.
Young Triceratops did not look like miniature versions of the adults. The youngest individuals had little stubs for horns and a scalloped frill, while the horns pointed upwards in subadults. Forward-pointing horns and smooth frill edges only appeared in the adults.
Seldom Seen Species: Nyctosaurus, Elasmotherium (instead of the "classic" woolly rhino, Coelodonta), Eosipterus (the pterosaur from episode 3), Incisivosaurus, Mei, Toxodon, Crassigyrinus, Pulmonoscorpius.
Shout-Out: Aside from being the name for the young Triceratops, Theo is also the name of Nigel's Real Life son.
Tyrannosaurus, the "main" dinosaurs of the show, named Terence and Matilda.
Triceratops, named Theo.
Parasaurolophus appears in the sixth episode, in the classic "main prey" role (but this time the duckbill is food for the giant alligator Deinosuchus). Many more hadrosaurs lived in the same habitat in Real Life (Corythosaurus and Maiasaura, to name merely two examples), but they were probably judged "not as cool".
Ornithomimus: They have a major role in the story, and are portrayed in a non-conventional way: as duck-like filter feeders (this was a popular theory at the time among scientists, but now is largely discredited). The genus chosen is Ornithomimus (again they did the research, since it was the only ostrich-mimic dino which really lived alongside T. rex).
Fluffy the Terrible: The park's T.rex twins have the truly terrifying names of...Terrence and Matilda!
To Serve Man: The T. reximmediately choose to chase Nigel just after seeing him, despite all the Ornithomimus available in that moment... (To be fair, Nigel would've been easier to catch than an Ornithomimus, although a Tyrannosaurus probably wouldn't know that and, in any case, he wouldn't have provided as substantial a meal.)
Tyrannosaurus rex: The man himself, but his smaller cousin, Albertosaurus also makes an appearance.
Time Travel: Is done with a pair of poles that create a portal between them. The animal is then lured into the portal.
What Could Have Been: The ill-fated movie. The plot would have been slightly different to the series, with the park under the ownership of a rich American and opened to the public.The film would have been a Human-Focused Adaptation in every sense of the word, with the focus on an American man struggling with his family, who would have been in the park when the dinosaurs break out. There would have been a scene in which the protagonist is chased down a corridor by Matilda.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Nigel has a whole team and base camp with him back in the Cretaceous, but we only see his last-minute rescue of the T. rex chicks. We can only assume everyone else got back safely off-camera.