Series / Prehistoric Park

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Prehistoric Park (2006) is a 6 episode Mockumentary Mini Series from ITV, created by the same company (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.
    • Nyctosaurus went extinct before Deinosuchus, which in turn went extinct before Albertosaurus. Speaking of which, Albertosaurus did not live 75 million years ago; that was Gorgosaurus.
    • Phorusrhacos was already extinct 1 million years ago.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Averted, as a male Tyrannosaurus fights and kills a female Tyrannosaurus.
  • Artistic License Paleontology: The shows Deinosuchus is at least a third larger than the largest known real life specimen. On the flipside, the Tyrannosaurus are significantly more slender than they were in real life. Likewise terror birds were extinct by the time Smilodon entered South America, Phorusrhacos in particular died out 13 million years ago. And let's not forget the scaly troodonts and Ornithomimus and the insinuation that dinosaurs were cold blooded...
  • Badass Bookworm: Zoologist Nigel Marven.
  • Bait-and-Switch Credits: In the opening sequence, a flock of Nyctosaurus are seen in the titular park. While Nigel does encounter the strange looking pterosaurs on his travels, he never brings them back to the park.
  • Bears are Bad News: The Cave Bear in immediately chase Nigel just after the latter entered in his refuge.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The creatures. More sinister vibes. 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.
  • Butt-Monkey: Head-keeper Bob.
  • Book Ends: The first mission shown was in the United States during the cretaceous, as was the last. Just separated by 10 million years.
  • Cain and Abel: A fight between the T. rex siblings ends with Matilda nearly killing Terrance. Nigel separates them afterward.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Averted, as this being a zoo, even the most ferocious carnivores are taken care of.
  • Cool vs. Awesome: In the series finale we have a standoff between a Tyrannosaurus and a woolly mammoth. Unfortunately it's cut short before any actually fighting happens.
  • Cool Gate: The time portal.
  • 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?
  • Eats Babies: Tyrannosaurus and Deinosuchus.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: The show has been described as the Crocodile Hunter with dinosaurs (and a whole lot of other creatures).
  • Feathered Fiend:
  • Fluffy the Terrible:
    • The park's T.rex twins have the truly terrifying names of...Terrence and Matilda!
    • Supplementary material suggests they named the female Smilodon Samantha.
  • 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).
  • Hospital Hottie: Head-vet Suzanne.
  • 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 is 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.
  • Meaningful Name: A meta example. Theo the Triceratops was named after Nigel Marven's Real Life son.
  • Mega Neko: Smilodon.
  • 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.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Deinosuchus.
  • 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. Maybe Nigel and Saba were worried that, if they used the time machine to "try again," they'd run into themselves from the original timeline. Also possible that the time portal isn't that accurate and they've no guarantee that they could pinpoint that time/space again.
  • Prehistoric Monster: Averted, though many large predators do appear to be quite nasty they are not treated as evil. At the worst, like Troodon, they are just treated as pests.
  • Ptero Soarer: Largely averted by the Nyctosaurus, which is fairly accurate for its time (it is never really shown doing anything other than flying however).
  • Rhino Rampage: Elasmotherium.
  • 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.
  • Rule of Scary: Both Mei long and Troodon are depicted exclusively as aggressive carnivores. Bein troodontids, both should be omnivores and would not see humans as prey, especially in the former's case, as it was absolutely tiny.
  • Savage 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.
  • Scary Scorpions: Pulmonoscorpius.
  • Science Marches On: The show claims that Elasmotherium died out 150,000 years ago. Never evidence suggests that it actually survived as recently as 50,000 years ago. Also Microraptor would have had all black plumage like a corvid.
    • Additionally, Troodon's validity had been called into question, as it is only known from teeth.
  • Seldom-Seen Species:
    • Nyctosaurus, Elasmotherium (instead of the "classic" woolly rhino, Coelodonta), Eosipterus (the pterosaur from episode 3), Incisivosaurus, Mei, Toxodon, Crassigyrinus, Pulmonoscorpius.
    • While sauropods are fairly well seen in media, they tend to be Jurassic ones. The Cretaceous native ones, like the titanosaurs, are rarely seen.
  • Shout-Out: Aside from being the name for the young Triceratops, Theo is also the name of Nigel's Real Life son.
  • Stock Dinosaurs:
    • 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 other than Struthiomimus which really lived alongside T. rex).
  • To Serve Man: The T. rex immediately 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.
  • The Magic Comes Back: The whole point of the series.
  • Time Travel: Is done with a pair of poles that create a portal between them. The animal is then lured into the portal, or carried if it's small enough or knocked out.
  • 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.

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