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Series / Walking with Dinosaurs

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"But for a brief moment in time, reptiles ruled, and dinosaurs walked the Earth..."

"Imagine you could travel back in time, to a time long before man."
Kenneth Branagh, the show's narrator.

Walking with Dinosaurs is a 1999 BBC/Discovery Channel Speculative Documentary series focusing on... well... dinosaurs, using state-of-the-art CGI and animatronics to recreate Mesozoic life. It was narrated by Kenneth Branagh, and is the first entry in the Walking with… franchise.

Six episodes present six different parts of the reign of the dinosaurs - from their birth in the Triassic Period, to their extinction. These episodes are:

  • New Blood: (220 MYA, Arizona) The age of the mammal-like reptiles such as Placerias and Paleozoic reptiles like Postosuchus is coming to an end. In their place, the dinosaurs have evolved. The episode focuses on a female Coelophysis who must endure a severe drought that tests who will remain to claim the Earth.
  • Time of the Titans: (152 MYA, Colorado) The Jurassic plains of Colorado are teeming with giant sauropods and theropod dinosaurs. A female Diplodocus must struggle to survive the many dangers that plague her and her siblings as they mature to adulthood, where they are destined to join a herd of their own kind.
  • Cruel Sea: (149 MYA, Oxfordshire) In the Jurassic Period, much of Europe was reduced to an ocean with scattered islands, where the few dinosaurs scavenge a living. A new brood of Opthalmosaurus take refuge in a coral reef after their birth, but they must remain cautious, because a gigantic Liopleurodon is preying on predator and prey alike.
  • Giant of the Skies: (127 MYA, the Americas and Europe) At the dawn of the Cretaceous Period, an elderly Ornithocheirus embarks on a world-spanning journey to his old breeding grounds in Europe for the annual courtship. On his way, he encounters massive herds of Iguanodon, hungry packs of Utahraptor, and an unforeseen adversary that is an omen of the all-too-rapidly approaching future.
  • Spirits of the Ice Forest: (106 MYA, Antarctica) In the mid-Cretaceous, Antarctica was not the frozen hellhole we know it as today; dinosaurs survived there year-round. A clan of Leallynasaura spends the spring and summer breeding, until an unforeseen tragedy cripples them on the eve of the approaching Antarctic winter.
  • Death of a Dynasty: (65 MYA, Montana) It is the end of the Cretaceous Period, and while the dinosaurs are still around, they find themselves in decline as their planet begins to suffocate them to extinction. As their world is on the brink of collapse, a female Tyrannosaurus attempts to start a new clutch of eggs, but even her ferocity is no match for the dinosaurs' nemesis that arrives from space.

For the series' initial U.S. run on the Discovery Channel, the program was abridged to play in a 3-hour timeslot as a continuous two hour-long special, and was largely rewritten, the new narration handled by Avery Brooks. This version has remained exclusive to television and sporadic appearances on streaming services. In addition, a Lighter and Softer cut aimed at children was released in 2002, ironically named Prehistoric Planet, not to be confused with the dinosaur documentary series of the same name released 20 years later (although that series is widely considered an updated Spiritual Successor to WWD).

See also:

For the 2013 film that shares its name with this series but is otherwise only loosely based on it, please look here.

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Tropes present include:

  • Accidental Murder: The Stegosaurus accidentally kills one of the juvenile Diplodocus while swinging its spiked tail to ward off a pair of Allosaurus because it had the misfortune to be right behind the tail as it swung.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The accompanying book Walking with Dinosaurs: A Natural History contains a lot of additional information about geography of the world dinosaurs lived in, elaborates on some speculative concepts only briefly mentioned in the TV series, and introduces new ones. The book even introduced some creatures that weren't shown in the TV series.
  • Adapted Out:
    • For obvious reasons, a lot of animals had to be adapted out of the arena spectacular, but it's noteworthy in that it cuts four of the eight protagonist animals out of the story: Coelophysis, Diplodocus, Liopleurodon and Leallynasaura. Coelophysis actually gets replaced by Liliensternus.
    • The pilot short, which eventually got adapted into the episode "Cruel Sea", had the sauropod Cetiosaurus in it. For reasons unknownnote , it was omitted in the full program, as too were sauropods with high arched, swan-like necks.
  • All There in the Manual: More than a few species not named in the TV show appear in the aforementioned book.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Happens on several occasions.
    • In "Cruel Sea", the huge marine reptile Liopleurodon snatches the medium-sized carnivorous dinosaur Eustreptospondylus from the shore.
    • In the companion book, a lungfish eats a crayfish, only to be caught by a Coelophysis.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • In "New Blood", the Plateosaurus is not only geographically displaced, but temporally as well, although minor, as it is known only from the late Norian while the episode is set during the mid Norian. The unnamed cynodont is identified in supplementary material as Thrinaxodon, but this genus is only known from the Early Triassic (of South Africa and Antarctica).
    • In "Cruel Sea", Liopleurodon, Eustreptospondylus, Cryptoclidus, and Ophthalmosaurus had already become extinct by the time the episode is set (most of them lived during the Middle Jurassic or the very beginning of the Late Jurassic, while the episode is set near the end of the Late Jurassic).
    • In "Giant of the Skies", both Ornithocheirus and Tapejara (or more accurately Tropeognathus and Tupandactylus) lived several million years after the episode is set (the episode is set near the end of the Barremian stage, while the pterosaurs are known from the beginning of the Albian, about fifteen million years apart). The pliosaur that makes a cameo is also identified on the website as Plesiopleurodon, a genus which lived even later, during the start of the Late Cretaceous.
    • In "Spirits of the Ice Forest", both Leaellynasaura and Koolasuchus lived before the episode is set. In the case of Leaellynasaura this is relatively minor, but for Koolasuchus this is a more major error, as by this time in Australia's history, crocodilians had arrived on the continent and probably driven them to extinction as is stated in the episode.
    • In "Death of a Dynasty", the "one-ton crocodile" is identified as Deinosuchus, the unnamed snake as Dinilysia, and the unnamed dromaeosaurid as Dromaeosaurus in supplementary material, all of which had become extinct several million years before the end of the Cretaceous. In the case of the dromaeosaurid, it became Accidentally Correct Zoology with the later discovery of Dakotaraptor, a very similar raptor to the one in the episode (but which had feathers) that did live at the end of the Cretaceous in that region.
  • Animated Actors: During the behind the scenes segment, the dinosaurs are shown with Medium Awareness, with one short clip showing the T. rex having its colours painted on with mock paint buckets and "spare parts", another with an animator sculpting a raptor from the living animal and asking it to stand still.
    Utahraptor: Hmm... Who did I find it most difficult to work with? Animators, definitely animators. You know, chase this dinosaur, chase that dinosaur, you'd swear we couldn't act. It's so degrading!
  • Apocalypse Wow: The meteor impact scene in "Death of a Dynasty" is pretty awesome, and much more realistically shown than most other portraits in other documentaries, with the correct sequence of events: first the light, then the earth tremor, then the dust cloud and wind-storms, finally the melted rocks from the sky.
  • Aquatic Hadrosaurs: Briefly mentioned in "Death of a Dynasty", when it's stated that hadrosaurs evolved in lush swamps, subtly suggesting the idea that hadrosaurs were semi-aquatic. The Anatotitan in the episode itself are only ever shown on land, however.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: There are plenty of mess-ups.
    • Some paleontologists strongly criticized the scene from the first episode where Postosuchus is shown urinating in a way more similar to that of mammals than that of the reptiles and birds it's more closely related to — so strongly in fact, that one of the series' scientific consultants, Prof. Michael Benton, decided to address their criticism. The relevant bit: "Another category of WWD-haters, the fact checkers, began compiling lists of errors in the first week. These were gleefully circulated on the e-mail lists. For example, in the first programme, Postosuchus urinates copiously. There is no doubt that it does so in the programme, and this was a moment that my children relished. However, of course, birds and crocodiles, the closest living relatives of the dinosaurs, do not urinate; they shed their waste chemicals as more solid uric acid.
      • Equally, though, we can't prove that Postosuchus did not urinate like this: copious urination is the primitive state for tetrapods (seen in fishes, amphibians, turtles, and mammals), and it might have been retained by some basal archosaurs.
      • Some birds and crocodilians are known to sometimes urinate a clear or yellowish fluid like urine so a urinating Postosuchus isn't entirely impossible.
    • Also, Dr. Darren Naish is known to strongly dislike the WWD reconstruction of Tyrannosaurus due to its very wonky-looking anatomical proportions, such as its bizarrely shaped skull and hoof-like feet.
    • Scaly raptors weren't to the paleontologists' liking even back then.
    • Reusing models meant that some correct anatomical details that got carried over from one animal to the other suddenly turned erroneous. Case in point: the thumbs on hadrosaurs. The Quetzalcoatlus has has teeth (although they're not easily visible) due to being recycled from the Ornithocheirus model.
    • The book accompanying the series implies that birds are no more related to theropods than ceratopsians are to pachycephalosaurs.
    • The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life claims that megalosaurs are carnosaurs, when they're more likely a more primitive branch.
    • Coelophysis and Plateosaurus never existed at the same time, but in this case it was truly an artistic decision, just to show how the former grew into the giant beast later in the Triassic.
    • The Liopleurodon is five times larger than it actually was.
    • Steropodon is portrayed as a scavenging raccoon-like mammal (played by a real-life coatimundi) when in actuality, it was a relative of the platypus. Posterior studies would latter show that Mesozoic monotremes lacked a beak like that of its living relatives, so at least it would have looked a bit like a "normal" mammal, though still probably not like a coati.
    • As noted in Misplaced Wildlife and Anachronism Stew, nearly every episode has at least one animal which is unknown from the time or place in which the story is supposed to be set.
    • The cynodonts in "New Blood" were based on two teeth found in the Chinle Formation that were (at the time) believed to belong to cynodonts (the teeth are now named Kraterokheirodon and it is unknown what type of animal they are). However, even at the time, the depiction in the episode is purely speculative, because the teeth were believed to belong to a large traversodont cynodont, which the cynodonts in the episode do not resemble. Why? Well, for one, they're depicted as predators, but traversodonts were herbivores.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The opening for "Cruel Sea" is a particularly infamous one. The shot focuses on a Eustreptospondylus on a rocky shoreline while the narrator states that a fearsome predator is watching its prey through the water. The audience is obviously led to believe the predator specified is the dinosaur, only for a gigantic Liopleurodon to lunge from the surf and drag it into the water.
  • Beware My Stinger Tail: Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus. Much focus is given on their respective tail weapons, which are shown being used to fatal results in both cases.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In Walking with Dinosaurs, the young Diplodocus is attacked by an Allosaurus and is saved when another Diplodocus knocks the Allosaurus down with its tail.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • "Time of the Titans": The female Diplodocus has survived to maturity and is well on her way to growing too large to be preyed upon. However, only one of her many siblings has survived from birth alongside her, and the narrator notes that life on Earth will never again be as large as the sauropods once they go extinct.
    • "Cruel Sea": The young Opthalmosaurus survive the odds and venture off into the ocean, but the old Liopleurodon has died a slow painful death from being beached.
    • "Spirits of the Ice Forest": The Leallynasaura clan has survived the brutal winter and is finding a new alpha to replace the one that perished. The narrator notes that soon, Antarctica will become the icy hell it's known as year-round, dooming the local dinosaurs.
    • Ultimately the ending to the series with the K-Pg Extinction event—the prehistoric dinosaurs are gone for good, but their lineage lives on in the birds and their extinction paved the way for the mammals (and by extension humans) to take over in their stead.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Several scenes of mild or implied violence and death from the TV series were described in rather graphic detail in the accompanying book Walking with Dinosaurs: A Natural History. Compare, for example, the scene of fight between female Tyrannosaurus and the armoured herbivore Ankylosaurus from the TV series with their fight in the book. Meanwhile, the poor Ornithocheirus—as if he hadn't suffered enough—dies not just of exhaustion, but of more or less getting torn apart by the rival males!
  • Book Ends:
    • The ending to the last episode of Walking With Monsters, the last series entry in the franchise (since by now, all the major eras of Earth's history have been covered, so there's nothing left to tell) echoes the end of the first episode of Walking With Dinosaurs. It even has the same music.
    • The first dinosaur we see (during the scenes in the first episode which outline what the series is going to be about) is a Tyrannosaurus. The last dinosaurs to be shown (unless you count the shots of modern birds at the end) are two juvenile Tyrannosaurus, who get swept away by the blast wave from the comet strike.
  • The Cretaceous Is Always Doomed: "Death of a Dynasty" ends with the impact of the Chicxulub bolide and the K-Pg extinction.
  • Darker and Edgier: The book is far more brutal than the television series.
  • Death of a Child: Applied on a grand scale.
    • New Blood contained the deaths of all the cynodont young (one by being eaten by the Coelophysis, the rest eaten by their own parents in the uncut UK Broadcast/DVD). The Coelophysis themselves are also cannibals.
    • "Time of the Titans", obviously, with all the Diplodocus youngsters (called "sauropodlets" in the show), very few of whom reach adulthood, the rest having either fallen victim to other dinosaurs (mostly predators, though one is killed when it gets in the way of a Stegosaurus's spiked tail) or died in a forest fire. Even more so in the book, where only one survives.
    • "Cruel Sea" focuses on a generation of young Opthalmosaurus, a fish-like marine reptile belonging to the ichthyosaur group. The one we mostly follow manages to avoid death by storms, sharks, and drowning, but it's implied that most of his fellows aren't so lucky. There's also the very, very graphic instance of Death by Childbirth, in which neither mother nor baby Opthalmosaurus are left alive.
    • "Spirits of the Ice Forest". Although many of the Leaellynasaura clan mate and lay eggs, the only ones that survive long enough to hatch are those laid by the dominant female. Even then, two out of the three hatchlings are killed (offscreen) by predators.
    • "Death of a Dynasty" has, (besides the orphaned Tyrannosaurus young killed by the meteor at the end) the Triceratops-like Torosaurus young killed by dromaeosaurids (commonly known as "raptors") and an implied death of a picked on Tyrannosaurus. And if it counts: the small mammal Didelphodon eating the eggs.
  • Dying Alone: Poor Ornithocheirus.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Tupandactylus navigans (the pterosaur that the Tapejara was based on) was not formally described until several years after the series aired (it was described as a species of Tapejara in 2003 and moved to its own genus in 2007). The large Ornithocheirus (now Tropeognathus) specimen that provided the basis for the (still exaggerated) giant size stated in the show wasn't described until 2012.
  • Eats Babies: The Coelophysis, cynodonts, Allosaurus, Didelphodon, and Hell Creek dromaeosaurids all get to feed on babies and juveniles. In some cases, those of their own kind. (Or even their own.)
    • Inverted with Ornithocheirus. The final scene in "Giant of the Skies" shows a juvenile Ornithocheirus eating one of the adult males which died during the mating rituals.
      But nature is seldom wasteful. They have become food for the next generation.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: The series ends with the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event, killing 75% of life on Earth.
  • Evil Egg Eater: The six-part series depicts the various hazards that the dinosaurs faced during the Mesozoic era. One of the most common dangers are egg eaters.
    • In "Time of the Titans", an Ornitholestes raids a nest full of Diplodocus eggs to feast, even snatching up a newborn Diplodocus just as it was about to hatch. The Ornitholestes species are depicted as the go-to sinister antagonist for baby dinosaurs, only losing their relevance and intimidation when the babies soon grow into giants.
    • In "Spirit of the Ice Forest" and "Death of the Dynasty", small mammals like Steropodon and Didelphodon are depicted as shrewd scavengers seizing every chance they got to raid dinosaur nests, only to be driven off by the angry mothers.
    • In addition to the Didelphodon in "Death of the Dynasty", a dromeosaur is seen sneaking up to a T. rex nest in the hopes of snatching an egg, only to be scared off by the mother who is resting nearby. The dromeosaurs are later seen trying to kill and eat a baby Torosaurus.
  • Eye Scream: The dead Ornithichierus's eyes are plucked out by a juvenile of the same species.
  • Feathered Fiend: The primitive bird Iberomesornis in Giant of the Skies fit the Zerg Rush type of this.
  • Foreshadowing: Near the beginning of "Giant of the Skies", we see the courtship of a colony of Tapejara', with one male unable to get a good courting spot and unlikely to attract any mates as a result. This same fate ultimately befalls the Ornithocheirus'' protagonist when he finally reaches the mating grounds at the end, resulting in his death, as his instincts drive him to continue his courtship dance, to the detriment of his health, until he mates.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The dinosaurs did go extinct and the episode is called "Death of a Dynasty" after all.
    • The death of the old Ornithocheirus. The first thing we see is his body, and rest of the episode shows his last journey before he died.
    • At the end of "Spirits of the Ice Forest" the narrator states that inevitably, Antarctica drifted south and froze over, destroying the unique ecosystem and wildlife which had thrived there for millions of years.
  • Gasshole: One of the Diplodocus is heard farting during the digestion of plant matter, while the narrator says "The activity in its gut produces a lot of excess gas".note 
  • Giant Equals Invincible: On several occasions, the narration remarks that an animal is so big that nothing else in its ecosystem can threaten it. Examples include the four-ton Plateosaurus, full-grown Diplodocus, Liopleurodon, and Muttaburrasaurus. The Liopleurodon ends up being a subversion however; although presented as the ultimate apex predator, it is killed at the end of the episode by a force more powerful than itself, a powerful tropical storm stranding it ashore.
  • Giant Flyer: Several giant pterosaurs (the correct name instead of "pterodactyl"). Ornithocheirus is the protagonist for one episode, portrayed as having a forty foot wingspan (nowadays, the specific Ornithocheirus species is known as Tropeognathus, and it is believed to have a much smaller maximum wingspan of under thirty feet), and Quetzalcoatlus makes a small appearance in the last episode, portrayed with a thirteen metre wingspan (modern estimates put it at around eleven to ten metres in wingspan).
  • Graceful in Their Element:
  • The Great Fire: In Time of the Titans, a massive forest fire forces the young Diplodocus to leave the (relative) safety of the forest permanently and face a new life out on the dangerous plains.
  • Grim Up North: Inverted in Spirits of the Ice Forest, where the dinosaurs of the Early Cretaceous struggle to survive the polar winters of the south pole.

  • Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure: The meteor at the end of the Cretaceous. It explodes with a power of 300 000 000 Hiroshima bombs.
  • Hourglass Plot: In the first episode, stem-mammals are portrayed as relics from the previous mass extinction, and dinosaurs are portrayed as baby-eating menaces who are taking over. In the last episode, dinosaurs are portrayed as relics who are about to die in the next mass extinction, and mammals are portrayed as baby-eating menaces who are about to take over.
  • How We Got Here: "Giant of the Skies" opens on the corpse of the Ornithocheirus, and the rest of the episode shows us his last few weeks of life.
  • Humans Are Special: Although obviously no humans actually appear, in two episodes, two mammalian or near-mammalian species have supporting roles in the program, and they're treated with greater detail than something so minor should otherwise warrant (in one case, they were based on only two, at the time unnamed, teeth). The cynodonts are treated with the greatest sympathy in the Triassic episode, showing their close familial bonds, absent in all the other animals, while the small Didelphodon's great success and growing numbers in the face of the other dinosaurs struggling to survive the volcanic environment is shown, as though mammals were already usurping dinosaurs even before their extinction.
  • Just Before the End: The final episode begins a few months before the meteor arrives, but the narration makes clear that even without it, dinosaurs and their ilk are on the decline. The environment, turning sparse and poisonous, is killing them faster than they can reproduce.
  • Leitmotif: The Utahraptor pack is accompanied by tribal drums during their ambush on the Iguanodon herd.
  • Mama Bear: The female Tyrannosaurus. Deconstructed, as her valiant attempt to scare an Ankylosaurus away from her infants ends up killing her, and it's implied that her babies would have starved to death without her to protect them. Only implied, because they're soon killed by the meteorite anyway.
    • The female Tyrannosaurus also displays the trait in the live arena show, when she scares away a Torosaurus and an Ankylosaurus that are harassing her baby.
  • Meek Mesozoic Mammal:
    • The cynodonts from "New Blood" are stem-mammals, and while they put up more of a fight than their descendants in the series, they ultimately have to abandon their burrows to escape the predations of the Coelophysis (note this is a world where dinosaurs aren't yet the rulers of the land).
    • The unnamed mammal in "Spirits of the Ice Forest" (identified as Steropodon in the book and live-acted by a coati) is wimpy enough that a dinosaur the size of a small child scares it off by throwing debris at it.
    • Didelphodon is the representative of the mammals in "Death of a Dynasty", and is invariably shown as either a nest raider or a scavenger, with several individuals getting eaten by a female Tyrannosaurus after trying to raid her nest. Here, though, the mammals are actually doing fairly well, as the age of the dinosaurs is about to close out.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: European dinosaurs Plateosaurus, and Polacanthus and the equally European pterosaurs Peteinosaurus and Anurognathus, all placed in North America in the show, not to mention Utahraptor, of all things, in Europe. The Peteinosaurus and Plateosaurus examples may be justified, since they lived at the time of Pangaea. They could easily have migrated from Europe into North America or vice versa, although no fossil evidence of this has been found. Polacanthus in North America may be based on the genus Hoplitosaurus, an ankylosaur often referred to by the European genus. The American narration refers to the ankylosaur as Gastonia, a similar animal from the proper time and place.
  • Monstrous Cannibalism: Several creatures throughout the series are either seen eating their own kind or are mentioned to do so.
    • When their burrow is besieged by the Coelophysis, the cynodonts, having already lost one pup to the dinosaurs, are forced to eat the remaining two in order to both cheat the Coelophysis of their meal and give themselves the chance to escape. This is Truth in Television to many small modern-day mammals, most infamously hamsters.
    • The Coelophysis themselves also turn to cannibalism when the going gets tough, though the fossil evidence which inspired this scene was later found to have been misinterpreted.
    • The narration mentions that adult Opthalmosaurus will sometimes eat the offspring of others to increase their own young's chances of survival.
    • At the end of the Ornithocheirus mating season, the bodies of males who have "lost out in the struggle to reproduce" are eaten by juvenile Ornithocheirus.
    • The mother Tyrannosaurus in the final episode will, according to the narration, quickly come to view her offspring as "food"note , though this turns out to be a moot point as she is fatally injured by an Ankylosaurus's club-like tail. It is also implied that the weakest of the Tyrannosaurus babies was killed and eaten by its siblings.
  • Mood Whiplash: In the arena show, the mother Tyrannosaurus scares away the Torosaurus and Ankylosaurus harassing her baby. The mother and her baby then share a cute little moment where she goes around roaring at the audience and he tries to mimic her, with underwhelming results. They nuzzle a bit, and then the comet hits.
  • Myth Arc: Thanks to the narrative of the series, the Mezozoic era is this. The evolution, success and decline of dinosaurs can be tracked throughout the series, as is the changing of things to become more modern such as the emergence of plants, grasses, small background mammals, and the continents.
  • Narrative-Driven Nature Documentary:
    • Prehistoric Planet, a Lighter and Softer cut of Walking with Dinosaurs aimed at children, did this. The main series is more traditional.
    • Walking with Dinosaurs is predominantly a traditional documentary (insofar as a series about dinosaurs can be considered such) but even it uses narrative tropes, such as Scavengers Are Scum, and following the lives of specific animals.
  • Narrator: Kenneth Branagh. He was dubbed over for some releases. In the American dub, Avery Brooks takes over.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: In "Death of a Dynasty", a large crocodile eagerly eyes a Quetzalcoatlus that comes to take a drink, but the pterosaur leaves well before he gets into any real danger.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The fight between female Tyrannosaurus and Ankylosaurus ends up this way in the book that accompanied the TV series.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted in "Time of the Titans". Not only do they show a full view of a Diplodocus defecating twice, but they also show the pile of dung and the dung beetles crawling all over it.
  • Offing the Offspring: In "New Blood", the cynodonts eat their last two babies so they can relocate to a new burrow and deprive the predatory Coelophysis of another easy meal.
  • Obscured Special Effects: Whenever two CG models had to interact or a CG model had to interact with a physical prop, they would almost always be shot in a way that the points of contact would not be visible to the audience. Examples including the Postosuchus biting the Placerias, the Allosaurus pouncing on the Diplodocus, the Eustreptospondylus feeding on the Liopleurodon, or the Tyrannosaurus killing the Anatotitan. They didn't do this for the Utahraptor grappling with the Iguanodon and in several shots you can see the raptors clipping into the Iguanodon's model.
  • Outside-Context Villain: Almost every episode features a natural disaster that puts at risk both prey and predator - a drought in "New Blood", a forest fire in "Time of the Titans", a tropical storm in "Cruel Sea", the polar winter in "Spirits of the Ice Forest", and the volcanic activity and meteor strike in "Death of a Dynasty". Only "Giant of the Skies" did not have a natural disaster.
  • Palette Swap: Similar looking animals (like Utahraptor and Dromaeosaurus, Allosaurus and Australovenator, various ornithopods) were just these. Certain animals (like large theropods and ornithopods) only got new heads. You can tell, because many creatures have the exact same folds and blood vessels on their skin. Then, there is Plesiopleurodon, which is just Stock Footage of Liopleurodon from the previous episode, only tinted lighter.
    • Quetzalcoatlus is the worst offender, as in its case it's obvious that the animators didn't have much time; it's just the Ornithocheirus from "Giant of the Skies" with a few minor tweaks. They didn't even edit out the teeth!
  • Papa Wolf: The male cynodont. Until the Coelophysis discover the burrow and he decides that the young aren't worth defending anymore, at least...
  • Please Wake Up: The baby T-Rexes continue to hang around their dead mother, waiting for the corpse to get up. Averted in the book, where they begin to feed on the body, showing that they are aware that their mother has died.
  • Raptor Attack: Scaly, pack-hunting raptors appear.
  • Red Herring: Eustreptospondylus being shown during the opening narration of Cruel Sea, with Kenneth Branagh talking about "the most fearsome predator of the Jurassic" that "is watching his prey". Only a few moments later it becomes obvious that this narration wasn't about Eustreptospondylus, but instead about Liopleurodon
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: Modern day animals are used in a few episodes to represent their prehistoric equivalents, such as horseshoe crabs, dung beetles, and a boa. A coati being used to represent the prehistoric platypus relative Steropodon is a little more questionable however...
  • Sea Monster: The entire third episode, Cruel Sea, which features all manner of prehistoric marine reptiles, though a giant Plesiopleurodon also appears in Giant of the Skies for one shot.
  • Secondary Sexual Characteristics: A few examples occur here and there. For instance:
    • Female T. rexes are portrayed as being larger and more aggressive than their male counterparts. It was a popular idea at the time, but there's very little support for this nowadays.
    • Female Ornithocheirus are depicted as lacking the keel-like crests that the males have on their beaks, while female Tapejaras have smaller head crests than their male counterparts (both cases are purely speculative, although it is known in the distantly related Pteranodon).
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog:
    • The episode "Giant of the Skies" was about an Ornithocheirus traveling halfway across the globe enduring various hardships in order to reach the mating grounds only to have it driven away and eventually dying from starvation and exhaustion, and it never got to mate a single time. However, the narrator does state that it managed to mate in previous mating cycles many times before, and some of its own young were among those in the mating rounds.
    • The Mother Tyrannosaurus rex in "Death Of A Dynasty". After a nest she built prior to the start of the episode fails, she mates again and lays a fresh clutch of eggs. Unfortunately, however, out of the twelve eggs that she lays, nine of them fail to hatch, of the three that do, the youngest one doesn't last long and is implied to have been killed by its own siblings. Shortly afterwards, the mother herself is fatally injured while defending her last two young from an Ankylosaurus and suffers a slow agonizing death shortly afterwards. And, the very next day, the asteroid impact that caused the K-T Mass Extinction kills both of her only surviving offspring. As the book puts it, "Her long struggle to reproduce has come to nothing."
  • Shown Their Work: The production team went on great lengths to avoid grasses during the shooting of Walking with Dinosaurs. Then we found out it first appeared in the Cretaceous (although we don't know if it was present in Hell Creek).
  • Social Ornithopod: Among the featured ornithopods are Iguanodon, Leaellynasaurus, Muttaburrasaurus, Dryosaurus, Othnielia and Anatotitan, all of whom are shown to be living in herds for social support and safety in numbers.
  • Sterility Plague: In "Death of a Dynasty", the atmospheric pollution caused by the increase in volcanic activity at the end of the Cretaceous means dinosaur eggs are not forming properly, leading to clutches either failing completely or producing only a handful of viable eggs. This, along with everything else that was going on in the world, is taken to imply that, even if the comet strike hadn't happened, the dinosaurs were dying out anyway (this was because of the prevailing view at the time that dinosaurs were declining at the end of the Cretaceous, but the idea has been refuted many times since and has far fewer adherents now).
  • Stock Footage: Episodes occasionally seem to use clips from other sources, which can be spotted when the episode look noticeably grainier than usual. The forest fire from "Time of the Titans" and a brief moment of an Ophthalmosaurus bursting out of the water in "Cruel Sea" are some obvious examples.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: When the Coelophysis discover the cynodonts' nest, they work away at it for several days, gradually digging into the entrance to expose the vulnerable young. In this case, it's justified, because of a drought, the Coelophysis are getting desperately hungry, and managing to catch one of the young earlier entices them further. This persistence ultimately proves to be their detriment when the cynodonts flee the nest in the night, and they spend several hours the next day trying to dig them out not knowing they've already left.
  • Tail Slap: An adult Diplodocus saves a younger one from an Allosaurus this way.
    • A young Diplodocus is collateral damage to a Stegosaurus thagomizer.
  • Taxonomic Term Confusion: Branagh refers to the sauropods as "a great family of dinosaurs" in the original WWD. "Infraorder" would be more appropriate.
    • Still better than in some of the dubbed versions, which call sauropods a species.
  • Terrifying Tyrannosaur: A mother Tyrannosaurus rex is the main character of the final episode. In the outro for "Spirits of the Ice Forest", the narrator describes T. rex as "the most terrifying predator that has ever walked the Earth."
  • Thirsty Desert: In the episode New Blood, much of the world is reduced to this, due to being a supercontinent. In the episode, it's mentioned the drought is particularly bad this year.
  • We Win, Because You Didn't: The cynodonts in "New Blood" realize they won't be able to fend off the Coelophysis from their nest much longer and eat their own offspring to deprive the dinosaurs of their goal before fleeing. When the Coelophysis return the next day, they don't realize the cynodonts are gone already and waste another several hours continuing to dig into the nest.
  • The Worf Effect:
    • A good way to show that an animal is a badass is have it drive off, beat up, or kill the top predator of the episode, as was the case with Stegosaurus (to Allosaurus) and Ankylosaurus (to Tyrannosaurus).
    • If the animal is another predator, another way is to have it prey on or scare away another stereotypically dangerous predator such as a theropod or shark. Most famously done with Liopleurodon; and then the several Threatening Shark examples in many "Walking With" sequels.
  • Zerg Rush:
    • The Coelophysis against the dying Postosuchus.
    • The Utahraptor attack the Iguanodon in mobs.
    • A defensive variant is used by Iberomesornis on the old Ornithocheirus.


Video Example(s):


Cruel Sea

The most fearsome predator of the Jurassic is watching his prey... and it's not the dinosaur, but the massive pliosaur hunting it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (23 votes)

Example of:

Main / AlwaysABiggerFish

Media sources: