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Series / Planet Dinosaur

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In the wake of the dinosaur documentary craze of 2011, the BBC has released their contribution to the phenomenon, a TV show titled Planet Dinosaur. Following in the footsteps of the BBC's very own Walking with Dinosaurs, this docu-show is also broadcast as a six-episode Mini Series, but unlike its famous predecessor, it doesn't merely tell six half hour-long stories, but a whopping 24, putting onto the screen 50 (that's fifty!) different types of prehistoric monsters, from dinosaurs to pterosaurs and marine reptiles. The lack of talking heads means the narration, provided by John Hurt, plays a crucial role in bringing the prehistoric stories to life.

Scientific accuracy based on the very latest palaeontological finds and spectacular visual effects have been a priority in creating the series. The entire imagery is CGI, including the environments, and the animals show painstakingly crafted details on their bodies. At various times during the show, the stories take a break for the narration to explain the scientific evidence behind each scene.


Not to be confused with the very similarly titled Dinosaur Planet, which is a Discovery Channel production, nor with Planet of Dinosaurs, an Italian series made in The '90s, also broadcast in English-speaking countries.

The work provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Wimp: Downplayed. The Hatzegopteryx shown in the program is much lankier and weaker than the one in real life, but it's still formidable and deadly all the same.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: For a given definition of "villain", we get two noteworthy examples from the first and last episodes:
    • Spinosaurus meets a rather grisly end in episode one, when a Carcharodontosaurus breaks off the tip of one of its neural spines and it slowly bleeds out.
    • After the K/Pg Extinction event, Hatzegopteryx goes from a feared and mighty predator to a desperate, starving scrounger.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Sinraptor pulls this on one of the Epidexipteryx, Gigantoraptor on Saurornithoides, Sinornithosaurus on Microraptor, Pliosaurus on Kimmerosaurus and Saurophaganax on Allosaurus.
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  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Spinosaurus, Ouranosaurus, Sinornithosaurus and Hatzegopteryx in particular.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Ouranosaurus and Sarcosuchus in the first and fifth episodes. Microraptor in the second episode. Though one of the creators partially justified Ouranosaurus based on some trackways that apparently belonged to a similar dinosaur.
    • Also, Xianglong is on late Cretaceous Romania and New Mexico in episode 6, being severely displaced in time and space. It is likely, however, that the model was simply reused for small nondescript lizards.
    • Sinraptor was younger than Epidexipteryx (although only by a few million years).
  • Animal Jingoism:
    • Carcharodontosaurus and Spinosaurus, both ultra-large carnivores that shared the same habitat, though only one of them is a "true" hunting predator, the other an overgrown fish-eater. Another docu, Monsters Resurrected, toyed with the idea of pitting them against each other, but their scenario just made dino-fans cry.
    • The third episode details the predator-prey relationship between tyrannosauroids and ceratopsians.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Averted with the cannibalistic Majungasaurus. To a lesser extent, the Daspletosaurus and Carcharodontosaurus are not remotely shy about fighting each other with vicious gusto, and Hurt mentions that the "Zunityrannus" will eat one of their own "whether they've killed it or not".
  • Artistic License – Paleontology:
    • As accurate as the dromaeosaurids are, their primary feathers inexplicably attach to the third finger instead of the second as they did in Real Life.
    • Although most of the theropods in the show don't have pronated hands most of the time, the Spinosaurus and Epidexipteryx do in many shots.
    • The "venomous Sinornithosaurus" idea is brought up, even though this study was debunked online as soon as it was published and later officially debunked in a rebuttal paper (the accompanying book gets this right). note 
    • In another note, the Sinornithosaurus is shown having an advantage over Microraptor on the ground due to its lack of leg-wing feathers that enabled it to run more easily. Except that wasn't the case: as a microraptorid itself, Sinornithosaurus would have also possessed leg-wing feathers, so both would have been equally disadvantaged on the ground.
    • They still can't get the number of claws on archosaur forelimbs right. The maximum number should be three, on the inner digits, while the rest don't have actual claws.
    • Ornithopods chewing like some mammals do, by moving their lower jaws from side to side. This would have been impossible.
    • Onchopristis was probably an entirely freshwater species, not one that occasionally swam upriver from the seas.
    • Dinosaurs and birds are regarded as two separate, distinct groups by the schematics at the end of the last episode, and the narrator doesn't even mention that not all dinosaurs are gone, in spite of the fact that a certain other BBC documentary made more than ten years ago points this out. (Particularly strange because Planet Dinosaur does get this right at the end of the second episode.)
    • The oviraptorids are shown digging with their forelimbs, even though using their feet would be more likely (especially given that they had large wing feathers attached to their hands).
    • Rugops is claimed to be an obligate scavenger, but studies on energy efficiency show that only large soaring animals can be obligate scavengers. At the same time, however, this may actually be based on an unpublished study showing that Rugops was at least well built for scavenging, rather than just wild speculation.
    • The pterosaurs all lack pteroid bones.
    • The titanosaurs are depicted with diplodocid-like bodies, which was disputed years ago.
  • Audible Sharpness: When the Nothronychus claws are first shown.
  • Author Vocabulary Calendar: The word "killer" is used as many times as possible. Even if an animal isn't a killer, it's described as "no killer".
  • Big Eater: Sauropods, the biggest prehistoric feeding-machines of all. At their best, according to the narration, a growing Argentinosaurus packed 40 kilos a day.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Stegosaurus and Camptosaurus. Of course, "little" is relative.
  • Bigger Is Better:
    • A regular-sized oviraptorid is easy to frighten off. But no one messes with Gigantoraptor.
    • Saurophaganax frightens away Allosaurus from its kill purely because it's bigger.
  • Butt-Monkey: If an ornithopod shows up, expect at least one member of its species to get killed, even by other herbivores.
  • Camera Abuse: The BBC paleo-shows love this. This one has blood squirting and mud splattering on the lens.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Why Spinosaurus dies out.
  • Death by Irony: The Gigantoraptor dies because his own paternal instincts worked against him; he's buried alive by a sandstorm because he couldn't willingly leave his eggs unprotected.
  • Downer Ending: The first and last episode. And within the latter, the story of Gigantoraptor in particular.
  • Eats Babies: Pterosaurs, Skorpiovenator, the generic oviraptorid, and Troodon. Sarcosuchus and Carcharodontosaurus try, but don't succeed.
  • Everybody Lives: The Paralititan montage.
  • Eye Scream: The Hatzegopteryx eating the eye of a (dead) Magyarosaurus.
  • Feathered Fiend: The generic oviraptorid (likely Nemegtomaia, though the companion book identifies it as Oviraptor), Gigantoraptor, Microraptor, Troodon, Sinornithosaurus and Nothronychus. Some of these are perhaps among the most accurate reconstructions ever to be put on TV screens. Other feathered dinosaurs include Epidexipteryx, Rahonavis, Saurornithoides and Bradycneme, though none of these are portrayed as being particularly fiendish.
  • Feet-First Introduction: The intimidating kind. Some predators tend to make an entry by dramatically stomping in front of the camera.
  • Giant Flyer: Hatzegopteryx, although this program showcases just how terrifyingly good it was at being a "Giant Strider" on ground (and in Real Life it was even worse). Lampshaded a lot by the narrator:
    "This is the largest flying vertebrate ever known. A pterosaur with a ten meter wingspan. It's as tall as a giraffe, standing over five-and-a-half meters. Discovered in 2002, its skull alone is three meters long."
    "Able to fly from island to island, this is their kingdom."
  • Goomba Stomp: "Attacking a creature 10 times your own weight carries risks." Mapusaurus, meet Argentinosaurus feet.
  • Gorn: Can't go without it. One marine plesiosaur gets chopped up pretty badly. The dinos inflict all kinds of wounds on each other too, one Mapusaurus gets gruesomely squashed by an Argentinosaurus, and there is a huge focus on blood splattering.
  • The Great Flood: Such a flood washes away a herd of Centrosaurus.
  • The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: Microraptor is chasing Xianglong, until a nearby Sinornithosaurus sets its sight on it.
  • Jitter Cam: A virtual variant. Sadly, it's quite irritating for the eyes.
  • King of the Dinosaurs: Subverted. T. rex itself is frequently mentioned but never actually shows up. It is, however, used as essentially a measuring stick for how tough all the other animals are, showing that its legendary reputation still precedes it.
  • Made of Iron: In "New Giants", it's mentioned that Argeninosaurus can survive having huge chunks of flesh ripped off and eaten by Mapusaurus and make a full recovery.
  • Mama Bear/Papa Wolf:
    • The Saurornithoides pulls this on an oviraptorid, but is then eaten by the much larger Gigantoraptor. The Jeholosaurus also tries to defend its young, but is overwhelmed by three Sinornithosaurus.
    • Played straight by the Paralititan. The Edmontosaurus is also successful, but the juvenile it saves still succumbs to its injuries. Also played straight by the Gigantoraptor, ironically enough.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Rugops is from the Echkar, not the Kem Kem (which is not to say it didn't live with the other animals featured alongside it, as Spinosaurus and Carcharodontosaurus are also known from the Echkar).
  • Monstrous Cannibalism: Exaggerated with the Majungasaurus. Direct evidence of cannibalism has been found in the species, and inevitably comes up whenever Majungasaurus is brought up in media, but instead of showing the more realistic scenario of them scavenging carcasses of their fellows that have died, the mother Majungasaurus is shown actively hunting, attacking, and killing an adult male Majungasaurus her own size as prey to feed herself and her babies!
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • First the Spinosaurus defeats the Carcharodontosaurus in an epic battle. The next scene discusses reasons why Spinosaurus might have gone extinct...
    • You may also count the final episode, The Great Survivors. It deals with, as the title suggests, survival tactics, but then suddenly, the Gigantoraptor who's been fighting hard for its nest gets suffocated and buried in a sandstorm, and then the remainder of the episode discusses the great extinction event.
    • In that same episode there is a double: Bradycneme is seemingly built up as a threat to the dwarf sauropods...then kills a lizard instead because it is too small. Then the real top predator of the island, Hatzegopteryx, shows up......
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Gigantoraptor, Sinraptor (at least, how Hurt pronounces it), and "Predator X"note .
  • Narrator: John Hurt
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile:
    • The gigantic Sarcosuchus makes an appearance. To emphasize its size, there are regular-sized crocodilians strolling along in the foreground, and they are tiny.
    • The gigantic Deinosuchus attacks one of the Centrosaurus when they are swimming. It's presumably meant as a Red Herring, as Hurt pauses during this segment after delivering the enigmatic line "there's an even more deadly killer at work here".
  • Noisy Nature: Averted during most of the hunting scenes. For instance, the Spinosaurus, Carcharodontosaurus, Sinornithosaurus, Daspletosaurus, Allosaurus, and "Zunityrannus" make virtually no noise when stalking prey, save for the occasional breath. Played straight in other scenarios, however, as the dinosaurs will seemingly roar, moan, screech, grunt, bellow, hiss, and even snort at every opportunity.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: Mr. Hurt admittedly struggled with a few of the fancier dinosaur names, and this is at times evident in the finished product. One example is Sinraptor, which is pronounced in the show as "SIN-raptor" note .
    • He also muddles his nouns with Daspletosaurus, frequently referring to it as "Desplatosaurus", which rolls off the tongue more easily.
  • Off with His Head!: This befalls a Kimmerosaurus, courtesy of Predator X.
  • Palette Swap: This series is a rather heavy offender in this category: Rugops and Skorpiovenator; Saurornithoides, Troodon and Bradycneme; Sinornithosaurus and Rahonavis; Jeholosaurus and the small ornithopods in The New Giants (likely Gasparinisaura); all of the generic pterosaurs, with the exception of Hatzegopteryx; Allosaurus and Saurophaganax.
  • Prehistoric Monster: Being a Spiritual Successor of Walking with Dinosaurs, it comes to no surprise that Planet Dinosaur takes similar pains to avert this trope. It is a little Darker and Edgier, however, and contains some scenes that are quite violent. Furthermore, since the environments were created entirely with CGI, they got the chance to look more...ominous: many of them being choked with dark cloudy skies and erupting volcanoes. There are also parts where they play it straight by referring to carnivores as "killers" on several occasions. Played straight with the Hatzegopteryx. Every scene with them involves a Scare Chord and "Psycho" Strings, their hunting scene plays out like something out of a horror movie and the narrator even refers to them as "monsters".
  • Ptero Soarer:
    • Hatzegopteryx is depicted as having the same lifestyle as all other azhdarchids, when it was a specialist in killing the dwarf sauropod adults and other large prey. Granted, this is mostly due to science marching on, seeing as the portrayal was more accurate at the time the program was made.
    • Episode one has undescribed chaoyangopterygids acting as "om nom nom" material for spinosaurs, and in episode five, they appear as nest robbers and scavengers; while the shown vulture like habits may not be accurate, otherwise they are fairly realistic, except for the really pointy wings (real pterosaurs had rounded wing tips).
    • They all suffer from one noticeable flaw though: the lack of a pteroid bone.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Near the end of "Lost World", a Spinosaurus challenges a Carcharodontosaurus for an Ouranosaurus carcass. The Spinosaurus wins the battle, but the wounds dealt by its opponent ultimately prove fatal.
  • Raptor Attack: Averted by the dromaeosaurids. (However, they do have one major blunder: their primary feathers attach to the third finger, not the second as they should.) The troodonts play this straight (i.e.: not feathered enough) though.
    • There's also the issue of Bradycneme being depicted as a troodontid (see the Science Marches On section), when it was recently reclassified as an alvarezsaurid. Though due to the fragmentary nature of its fossils, exactly what this animal was is still being debated. invoked
  • Re-Cut: The series was released as a drastic recut of the original in various countries. This version edited down the six episodes into three parts. In practice, almost an entire episode's worth of footage ended up getting deleted.
  • Rule of Cool:
    • The venomous Sinornithosaurus.
    • Bradycneme simultaneously plays this straight & averts it. As noted under the Science Marches On entry, Bradycneme may simply be a harmless alvarezsaurid instead of a deinonychosaur. As far as Hateg deinonychosaurs go, it would be rather weak, and the contemporary Balaur (which may have had two killing claws per foot) could've been used instead. In any case it never proved a threat to the local herbivores.
    • Inverted with Hatzegopteryx. While the terrestrial stalker lifestyle would be accurate for other azhdarchid pterosaurs (like its rival Quetzalcoatlus), Hatzegopteryx took it to the next level, developing a much shorter, thicker neck and robust build to take down the largest prey available, namely the adult dwarf sauropods. If you thought stabbing babies to death was scary, the Real Life version would be among the most fearsome predators ever.
  • Scare Chord: Used with great effect to enhance the beak attacks of the genuinely terrifying Hatzegopteryx.
  • Sea Monster:
    • Pliosaurus and Onchopristis, although Onchopristis, being a sawfish, is largely just a menace to small fish and is the favourite prey of the semi-aquatic Spinosaurus. Also, it's more of a "River Monster" as it is a freshwater species. Amusingly enough, Spinosaurus died out because it failed to be a sea monster.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: Gigantoraptor, Daspletosaurus, Sinornithosaurus, Saurornithoides, Epidexipteryx, Majungasaurus, Rugops, Sinraptor, Magyarosaurus, Centrosaurus, Chasmosaurus, Ouranosaurus, Jeholosaurus, Rahonavis, Saurophaganaxnote , Skorpiovenator, Mapusaurus, Bradycneme, Alectrosaurus, "Zunityrannus" (an undescribed tyrannosauroid), Nothronychus, the sawfish Onchopristis, the gliding lizard Xianglong, the gigantic pterosaur Hatzegopteryx (the chaoyangopterid pterosaurs being even more of an example), the angelshark Squatina, and the plesiosaur Kimmerosaurus. Note that a few of these may already be on their way to becoming Stock Dinosaurs, having appeared in recent media a handful of times.
  • Shell-Shock Silence: A variation of this is used. There is no explosion or loud noises of any kind involved (unless you count one less-than-Mighty Roar), but the bulk of the Carcharodontosaurus fight has no sound effects or narration, only music and low-frequency grumbles. It's a very effective scene until jerky animation kicks in.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Gigantoraptor's story. It fights so hard to protect its nest...only for both it and its eggs to die after being suffocated by a sandstorm.
    • The Edmontosaurus herd attempts to save one of their young from a pack of Troodon, but when they finally manage to drive the predators away, it’s only after the Troodons have already fatally wounded the juvenile.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Taken to extreme levels: every minute or so, the story stops for the narrator to meticulously explain what evidence supports the scene we have just watched. Well, most of the time, that is. Some stuff is presented as pure (but generally educated) speculation. This is probably in response to criticism of the original Walking with Dinosaurs.
    • Many of the feathered theropods are (almost) properly feathered, and most don't have pronated hands.
    • While not particularly recent discoveries, this show gets the abelisaurid, sauropod and hadrosaur hands right when most other depictions do not.
    • The show uses Camptosaurus' actual skull, while even recent works will use that of Theiophytalia, which has been distinct since 2006.
  • Speculative Documentary: Following in the footsteps of Walking with Dinosaurs, this documentary naturally has some fun with this trope. The creators tend to be a bit more cautious with their speculations than the aforementioned series, however.
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Camptosaurus, Spinosaurus, Argentinosaurus, Edmontosaurus, Microraptor, and Troodon.
    • There is an interesting subversion of this trope in the last episode. Whereas in most documentaries Hell Creek has been the location commonly used to represent the K-Pg extinction due to the large number of stock dinosaurs that lived there during the final years of the Cretaceous (Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, Edmontosaurus, Ankylosaurus, Pachycephalosaurus, Troodon, dromaeosaurids, Ornithomimus/Struthiomimus), this series instead uses Hateg Island, which is home to many more obscure dinosaur genera.
  • Stock Sound Effect: There are very few animal sounds for the program, and each giant theropod, small theropod and mid-sized herbivore seems to be using the same ones. For example, the herbivores tend to make pig screeches. And this doesn't make much sense, considering how important hearing was in identifying their fellow species. Additionally, Hatzegopteryx's voice was clearly made from samples of vultures screeching.
  • Threatening Shark: Subverted. Squatina only serves as prey for Kimmerosaurus, and fellow cartilaginous fish Onchopristis is the main prey of Spinosaurus.
  • Undercrank: Many fight scenes are filmed this way, but unfortunately, it backfires, and just makes the animation look like bad Stop Motion.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Two large Alectrosaurus lunge themselves at a Gigantoraptor, but it fights back and kicks one straight to the ground. It doesn't take long for both to run away. A group of American tyrannosaurs also attempt to kill a pair of Nothronychus, but they drive them off quickly with their huge claws.
  • Use Your Head: The Carcharodontosaurus use it for head-butting each other.
  • What Happened to the Lizard?: The last we see of it, it jumps off a branch as the Sinornithosaurus attacks the Microraptor. Did it fall to its death or did it glide away?
  • Zerg Rush: Daspletosaurus against a lone Chasmosaurus first, then against a whole herd of Centrosaurus. Giant troodonts also attempt this maneuver, but even an Edmontosaurus calf is too tough to take down when adults are nearby.