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Series / Clash of the Dinosaurs

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Clash of the Dinosaurs (2009) is one of Discovery Channel's many dinosaur-related documentaries. It was presented in a Mini Series format, and contained a grand total of four hour-long episodes. Each concentrated on different aspects of the dinosaur lifestyle, such as how they coped with environmental changes, how they hunted and defended themselves, and how they reproduced.

The show received notoriety even before its TV debut, thanks to the heavy advertising campaign the TV station gave it. When it finally aired, it quickly gained a bad reputation due to the several serious problems that plagued it. Besides its use of Stock Footage, Clash of the Dinosaurs infamously quote-mined paleontology expert Mathew Wedel who appeared on it, and presented wild (and sometimes even disproven) theories as solid facts. Thanks to these shortcomings, the program is nowadays considered by dinosaur fanatics to be one of the worst, if not the worst, dino-documentaries of recent times, and the offended scientist actually encouraged his fellow paleontologists to boycott the now-defunct production company.


The series was followed by a special titled The Last Day of the Dinosaurs. This time, the producers told us their story of how these majestic creatures went extinct. This one had fewer problems.

A list of tropes that appear in the series:

  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: While the criticism for the UV-seeing Quetzalcoatlus is warranted (as there's no evidence of such a thing in the fossil record), some less science-minded folks tend to write it off as some fanciful, if not supernatural, creation of the writers with no basis in fact. In actuality, many birds can indeed see in ultraviolet and many raptorial birds like kestrels employ this as a hunting strategy in much the same way the Quetzalcoatlus is depicted as doing.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: The Deinonychus is mostly blue, with a white face and a red snout.
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  • Anachronism Stew: Easily avoided, since not that many animals appear, and the ones that do were contemporaries in Real Life. And yet the program implies that Deinonychus fed on juvenile tyrannosaurs, while there was a 30-million year gap between the two.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Poor Mathew Wedel. He wasn't only quote-mined on national TV, his helpful emails explaining dinosaur science was dismissed by the creators which nearly made him a fool in the eyes of his colleagues... the bastards even misspelled his name on screen! Oh, and they also misspell Sauroposeidon.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The Earth that we see in Last Day of the Dinosaurs is clearly just a slightly modified version of modern Earth. This creates a few problems.
    • The western interior seaway is completely missing.
    • Florida is visible even though it was underwater during the Cretaceous.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology:
    • One or a pair of wolf-sized raptors easily killing elephant-sized hadrosaurs and adolescent sauropods. Self-explanatory.
    • Wedel was trying to clear up the misconception that large dinosaurs had two brains (one in their head, one in their hip-region). The editors made it sound like he was confirming the notion (luckily they fixed this on the DVD release). He clearly said that sauropods most likely covered their eggs with vegetation. The CGI clip shows a sauropod leaving its eggs out in the open.
    • When their eggs hatch, the young sauropods look exactly the same as the adults. "Sauropodlets" actually had way different body proportions.
    • Their duck-billed dinosaurs have fleshy lips.
    • Parasaurolophus is said to be able to make sounds that could knock down predators even though their is no evidence for it.
    • While the raptors were nice and feathered, they still weren't quite feathered enough. Also, the broken wrists.
    • Recycling of animation models meant that the lean troodontid Saurornithoides looked the same as the relatively robust dromaeosaurid Deinonychus.
    • Quetzalcoatlus being depicted as an aerial hunter that searches for prey using UV-seeking vision like a kestrel. While Quetzalcoatlus most likely did have very keen eyesight and the flight abilities for giant azhdarchids are looking better than they ever have before, it's highly unlikely that any azhdarchid did most of its hunting in flight nor had UV-seeking vision. Instead, it more likely hunted on the ground like a stork. Additionally, it's depicted as being covered in scales rather than the fuzz it was covered with in life.
    • There is no evidence that Tyrannosaurus had a infectious bite or that it could smell in stereo or dislocate it's jaw like a snake. It is also said to be 18 feet tall which is 5 feet taller than the largest specimens.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: To paraphrase one talking head, using his hands to represent dinosaurs:
    (in high voice) "Hi, I'm a Deinonychus!"
    (in low voice) "Hi, I'm a Sauroposeidon!"
    (squishing motion)
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: While the Triceratops and Ankylosaurus in “Last Day of the Dinosaurs” are too weak from starvation to stand much of a chance against the Tyrannosaurus, the trike still manages to poke out one of his eyes with its horns and the Ankylosaurus still gets a bash in with its tail club and ultimately winds up killing him even while drowning in its own blood.
  • Death of a Child: The Quetzalcoatlus preys on T. rex babies.
  • Documentary of Lies: Presenting not-demonstrated hypotheses as truths, like ultrasounds or UV-sight, but also many other argumentations.
  • Dumb Dinos: The chosen sauropod, Sauroposeidon, matches this to an extreme.
  • Eats Babies: Quetzalcoatlus and Deinonychus.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Goes without saying.
  • Eye Scream: The Triceratops stabs the Tyrannosaurus in the eye.
  • Feathered Fiend: Deinonychus. And it's actually shown feathered.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous happens.
  • Gentle Giant Sauropod: Sauroposeidon. It's killed easily by two predators that are far smaller.
  • Giant Flyer: Quetzalcoatlus.
  • Gorn: The Deinonychus pack attacking the young Sauroposeidon.
  • King of the Dinosaurs: A dinosaur documentary wouldn't be complete without a Tyrannosaurus rex. It's described as the biggest meat-eating dinosaur ever, despite the fact that Spinosaurus and Giganotosaurus were already known to be bigger at the time of the program.
  • Mexican Standoff: This is what the Narrator calls the situation the Saurornithoides and Charonosaurus find themselves in. The former is trying to steal the latter's egg.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: The narration suggests that Tyrannosaurus lived in Asia, when it was strictly North American. To be fair, some include the Asian Tarbosaurus in the genus, but most (both then & now) consider them distinct.
  • Mutual Kill: A Tyrannosaurus rex kills both a Triceratops and an Ankylosaurus in Last Day of the Dinosaurs only to trip over the tail of the dying Ankylosaurus and get impaled through the neck on the remaining brow horn of the dead Triceratops.
  • Outrun the Fireball: The dinosaurs attempt this. Emphasis on "attempt".
  • Palette Swap: The extinction special has this with any new species they show. They don't even change the color.
    • Sauroposiedon gets cast as Alamosaurus
    • Deinonychus gets cast as Saurornithoides despite the latter being more closely related to Troodon.
    • Parasaurolophus gets cast as Charonosaurus.
  • Prehistoric Monster: Pretty much averted in the original miniseries, but played straight in The Last Day, when food sources became scarce.
  • Ptero Soarer: A scaly, UV-seeing Quetzalcoatlus.
    • At least they got the quadrupedal launch right. That's about it, unfortunately.
  • Quote Mine: Poor, poor Mathew Wedel.
  • Raptor Attack:
    • The Deinonychus at least have feathers, but are shown killing a Sauroposeidon with ridiculous ease. Also, raptors didn't use their sickle-claws for slashing (although Science Marches On may have something to do with it), but for grasping their prey and pinning it down under its weight, after which they began to eat it alive.
    • The Saurornithoides use the same model as Deinonychus, despite being a troodontid instead of a dromaeosaur and thus, having different proportions and smaller sickle-claws and teeth. They also kill an adult Charonosaurus with equally ridiculous ease, which is even more inaccurate since troodontids were likely not specialized to take down larger prey.
  • Rule of Cool: Hadrosaurs using a sonic weapon against theropods? A pair of small raptors attacking a sub-adult sauropod? Do note, when the talking head note  said "juvenile sauropod" and "pack of raptors", he meant tiny babies and a huge pack, but the animators instead used the largest animal that would still qualify as a "non-adult" specimen getting mauled by a pair of raptors.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: Sauroposeidon, Charonosaurus, Saurornithoides and Alamosaurus.
  • Shown Their Work: Most of the talking head segments. (They did get actual paleontologists, after all.) The key word being most.
    • Feathered deinonychosaurs. One would be surprised as to how rare they are in media.
    • An entire segment is dedicated to the mechanics of Quetzalcoatlus' launching technique. Additionally, while its method of doing so is most likely wrong, the portrayal of it feeding on baby dinosaurs is definitely accurate.
    • The T. rex model is also one of the better ones among other recent CGI'ed reconstructions of the animal. For such a well-known and popular dinosaur, you'd be surprised how often computer modelers mess up its anatomy, especially the shape of the head. That said, there's no excuse for the crocodylian jowls of the show's model.
  • Small Taxonomy Pools: You only get six dinosaurs and a Ptero Soarer. The special throws in three more dinos.
  • Speculative Documentary: Maybe a bit too speculative.
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Almost all of the animals are these: Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, Ankylosaurus, Parasaurolophus, Deinonychus (which is stock in all but name) and Quetzalcoatlus. The only exception is Sauroposeidon, the token sauropod.
  • Stock Footage: It drives a man nuts! The same clips being replayed constantly, over and over and over again!
  • Temper-Ceratops: Triceratops being described by one palaeontologist as "the most dangerous animal ever". And one of them featured in this documentary does manage to put up a decent enough fight against a t. rex to gouge out one of the mighty carnivore's eyes.
  • Viewers Are Goldfish: To quote the quote-mined paleontologist:
    "[The program] is incredibly repetitive, to the point that I found it hard to watch for any length of time without my attention wandering. Not just the CGI clips, but the narration as well. You’ll learn in 30 seconds why females tend to be choosier about mates than males (eggs are more expensive than sperm), and spend the next 15 minutes having that slowly beaten in your brain using as much empty verbiage as possible. Ditto every other fact on the show."

Alternative Title(s): Last Day Of The Dinosaurs, The Last Day Of The Dinosaurs