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Series / Prehistoric Park

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Extinction doesn't have to be forever...

There's something missing from our world
Opening Intro of each episode

Prehistoric Park (2006) is a 6 episode Science Fiction 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 video game Prehistoric Kingdom, although not directly based on the show, is something of a spiritual adaptation, with Nigel Marven as the narrator.

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. That said, several other taxa of microraptorians did live at Yixian.
    • Nyctosaurus went extinct before Deinosuchus, which in turn went extinct before Albertosaurus; however, nyctosaurids as a whole were doing really fine in the Late Cretaceous, so at least the former is not inconceivable. While Albertosaurus sarcophagus was not a contemporary of Deinosuchus, the one in the show is likely meant to be Albertosaurus libratus, more commonly known as Gorgosaurus libratus.
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    • The last giant terror birds died out 2 million years ago, a million years after its appearance in "Saving the Sabretooth".
    • A rather egregious example, Pulmonoscorpius and Crassigyrinus lived in the Middle Carboniferous, while Meganeura is only known from the very end Carboniferous, separated by over 25 million years. Just for comparison, that would be the equivalent of entelodonts rubbing shoulders with modern humans.
  • Artistic License – Animal Care:
    • Every enclosure in the park (with the sole exception of the bug house) is made up of flimsy, wood post fences that wouldn't even be able to hold back an elephant in real life, and yet the show portrays them as being strong enough to contain enormous dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops. The Titanosaurs are the only animals in the show that are consistently able to knock the fences down.
    • Downplayed in regards to the bug house, which Nigel explicitly says needs to be an enclosed space to give the Carboniferous animals the proper oxygen levels. Even then, however, the building itself is mostly comprised of bricks. Points for trying, at least.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: Inevitably, there some examples.
    • The show's Deinosuchus is at least a third larger than the largest known real life specimen, and appears even bigger than that in the scene where it eats a Nyctosaurus. 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. Like Walking with Beasts, this is based a minority scientific opinion that its close relative Titanis lived until 10 thousand years ago and is the same creature. From the same episode, Toxodon are shown as hippo-like water-dwellers instead of terrestrial rhino-like animals. This was once considered true, but that theory had been discarded by the time of the series.
    • And let's not forget the scaly troodonts and Ornithomimus and the insinuation that dinosaurs were cold blooded.
  • 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 that immediately chases Nigel just after the latter enters 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.
  • Bookends: 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.
  • Closest Thing We Got: With only three minutes until the blast wave from the K-T meteor impact reaches their location, Nigel needs something meaty to try and lure the infant Tyrannosaurus through the time portal. He's next seen trying to entice them with what looks like a ham sandwich. Surprisingly it works (though he does note the hatchlings could be more interested in eating him than the sandwich).
  • 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 (however this is also fortunate for any animal-lovers who can enjoy the spectacle without seeing either creature get hurt).
  • 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?
  • Death of a Child: A juvenile Ornithomimus is killed by a Tyrannosaurus and a juvenile Parasaurolophus is killed by a Deinosuchus.
    • There was also the Smilodon Cub that Nigel and Saba were unable to save.
  • Don't Ask, Just Run: A stampede crashes through a wall, releasing the animals as Nigel watches from the control room:
    Nigel: Bob, do you read, over? Matilda's behind you. Don't look, just run!
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The K-T asteroid impact 65 million years, which hits earth with an explosive force a billion times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. A literal example too, as Nigel is forced to cover his ears from the sonic boom (noted by the narrator to have been one of the loudest noises the world has ever known) created as the asteroid enters Earth's atmosphere.
  • 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).
  • Exact Time to Failure: In the first episode, Nigel has precisely three minutes to get the Tyrannosaurus hatchlings back to the present day before the blast wave from the Chicxulub meteor impact reaches their location.
  • Feathered Fiend:
  • Fix Fic: In a sense, the premiere can be understood as the Walking with Dinosaurs crew going back in time to rescue the pair of Tyrannosaurus rex chicks that were killed by the meteor strike in the finale of that series. It also allows them to portray animals that were left out from that series and the follow up Walking with Beasts, like Triceratops and Ornithomimus in late Cretaceous North America. "A Mammoth Undertaking" features mammoths in Pleistocene Eurasia, of course, but also mammoth-hunting Homo sapiens (only Neanderthals hunted mammoths in Walking With Cavemen and Beasts), wolves and hyenas (which were alluded to in Beasts but not featured, or were reduced to a cameo), and cave bears and Elasmotherium (which didn't appear at all).
  • 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.
  • From Bad to Worse: Nigel's hope of rescuing a Tyrannosaurus family gets dashed when the female gets killed by a male in a fight over a kill... and then the sky darkens as the K-T asteroid enters the atmosphere and passes overhead.
  • Gentle Giant Sauropod: Subverted with the titanosaurs. They're never shown as the least bit malicious and the staff deem them inoffensive enough to be allowed free roam of the park, but they can be unwittingly dangerous purely on account of their sheer size and strength (a panicked individual causes a mass breakout in the final episode by toppling every barrier in its path).
  • 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).
  • Green Aesop: The main story of the series is Nigel time traveling so he can rescue prehistoric species on the edge of extinction in the past in order to give them a second chance at Prehistoric Park.
  • Hospital Hottie: Head-vet Suzanne.
  • King of the Dinosaurs: Tyrannosaurus rex have a significant role in the series and are the species focused on in the first episode, but their smaller cousin, Albertosaurus also makes an appearance in the sixth episode living alongside the Deinosuchus.
  • Mammoths Mean Ice Age: The second episode — "A Mammoth Undertaking" — sees Nigel Marven travel back to the Ice Age to rescue its megafauna. His original intent is specifically to rescue a mammoth, and it is on these creatures, their lifestyle, their diet, their impact on their environment and the causes for their extinction that most of the segment is spent, with other animals largely restricted to very brief one-off appearances. The one exception to this is Elasmotherium, a one-horned woolly rhino the size of an elephant, that Nigel runs into by accident and also brings to the future.
  • 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.
  • Mundane Utility: Have a titanosaur you can bribe with grindstones? Have it tow your stalled truck through the time portal. After all, who needs a tow truck when you have a dinosaur?
  • Non-Malicious Monster: The show features a few carnivorous species including a pair of Tyrannosaurus rex and a Deinosuchus which are portrayed as animals that are simply hunting to survive.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: While watching over the injured mammoth, Nigel notes that he can spot two possible attackers — hyenas and wolves — by the shine of their eyes. The third and most dangerous attacker has no eye shine at all — humans.
  • Not So Extinct: Nigel is so surprised to find a cave bear alive 10,000 years ago that he apologizes to the camera crewman it chased, reassuring that he thought they were extinct by then.
  • 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.
  • Rule of Cool:
    • The purpose of the keepers was just to "resurrect" the coolest animals. One of the most remembered scenes 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!")
  • Rule of Scary: Both Mei long and Troodon are depicted exclusively as aggressive carnivores. Being 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.
  • 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.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: One way of looking at the relationship between head keeper Bob and the Titanosaurs. It probably is not an exaggeration to say that they cause half of his stress, even if they are generally not dangerous.
  • 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).
    • There are also some well-known Stock Pleistocene Megafauna in the show (A Woolly Mammoth, A pair of Smilodon, and a Woolly Rhino)
  • Spiritual Successor: The whole concept of Prehistoric Park is a spiritual successor to a particular movie with dinosaurs in a park...
  • Too Unhappy to Be Hungry: Martha the mammoth loses her appetite after she's brought to the park. The zookeepers first assume they're feeding her the wrong kind of plants, but then they realize she's sad because she's a herd animal kept in solitary confinement. They introduce her to a herd of African elephants, which brings her appetite back.
  • 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.)
  • 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.