Follow TV Tropes

Following

Series / Walking with Dinosaurs

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/walkingwithdinosdvdcover_3187.jpg

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

Walking with Dinosaurs (1999) is a BBC Speculative Documentary series focusing on... well... dinosaurs, using state-of-the-art CGI to recreate Mesozoic life. It was narrated by Kenneth Branagh, and is the first entry in the Walking with Dinosaurs 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 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.
  • Advertisement:
  • Cruel Sea: (149 MYA, Oxfordshire) In the Jurassic Period, much of Europe was reduced to an ocean with scattered islands. 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.
  • Advertisement:
  • 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.

See also:

For the 2013 film that shares its' name with this series, please look here.


Tropes present include:

  • 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.
  • 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. Perhaps the most memorable of which was the huge marine reptile Liopleurodon snatching the medium-sized carnivorous dinosaur Eustreptospondylus from the shore. Also an example of another trope since Liopleurodon was probably closer to 4.5-6.5 meters rather than the absurd 25 meters noted in the episode.
    • 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 Seas", 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!
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Averted, quite a few species kill members of their own kind. The small carnivorous dinosaur Coelophysis is an excellent example. The cynodonts (the ancestors of mammals) make another example.
    • The Coelophysis example is due to the classic (but now mostly discredited) interpretation of what appeared to be remains of young Coelophysis in the ribcage of some adults of the same species; it's not an invention of the show, while the Cynodont one is invented.
  • 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.
  • Art Evolution: If you count the two shows as being related, then compare the T. rex in the original series and the ones in Prehistoric Park (the same thing about the "sabretooth cat").
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: There are plenty of mess-ups.
    • Apparently some paleontologists strongly criticized the scene from the first episode of Walking with Dinosaurs where Postosuchus was shown urinating in a way more similar to that of mammals than that of reptiles and birds, despite it was an ancient relative of both crocs and dinos - 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."
    • Also, Dr. Darren Naish is known to strongly dislike the WWD reconstruction of Tyrannosaurus.
    • 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 book accompanying the series implies that birds are no more related to theropods than ceratopsians are to pachycephalosaurs.
    • The Complete Guide to Prehistoris 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.
  • Beware My Stinger Tail: Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus.
  • 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.
  • Colony Drop: At the end of "Death of a Dynasty," naturally.
  • Darker and Edgier: The book is far more brutal than the television series.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The Ballad of Big Al serves as this for Allosaurus, which originally only featured as an "antagonist" in "Time of the Titans".
  • 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, andcHell 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.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: The developers originally wanted to do a show about prehistoric mammals. They only got money for one about dinosaurs. Once the dinosaurs series was finished (and a success) they could accomplish their original goal.
  • Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods: The ammonites from Cruel Sea.
  • Feathered Fiend: The primitive bird Iberomesornis in Giant of the Skies fit the Zerg Rush type of this.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The dinosaurs did go extinct and the episode is called "Death of a Dynasty" after all.
  • 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".
  • Giant Flyer: Several giant pterosaurs (the correct name instead of "pterodactyl"). From the first series, both Ornithocheirus (oversized) and Quetzalcoatlus (not oversized) had a wingspan of 45 feet.
  • Graceful in Their Element:
    • The Cryptoclidus is clumsy on land, but graceful in the water.
    • All of the featured pterosaurs (now debunked due to Science Marches On); cumbersome and ungainly on the ground, expert flyers in the air.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • I Am A Humanitarian: 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.
    • 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", 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.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted 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.
  • 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.
  • Kill ’Em All: The series ends with the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event, killing 75% of life on Earth.
  • Land Down Under: Cretaceous Australia spends half the year frozen solid, with no sunlight whatsoever during that period.
  • Leitmotif: The Utahraptor pack is accompanied by tribal drums during their ambush on the Iguanodon herd.
  • The Magic Goes Away: Death of a Dynasty.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Fourth Wall: Nigel Marven repeatedly addresses the audience.
  • 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 shit and the dung beetles crawling all over it.
  • Outside-Context Villain: Several episodes feature a natural disaster that comes late and puts at risk both prey and predator - a drought in "New Blood", 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".
  • 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 raptors appear.
  • Real Is Brown: Averted. Much like modern fauna, these dinos are pretty vibrant-looking.
  • 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
  • Sea Monster: The entire third episode, Cruel Sea, 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:
  • Seldom-Seen Species:
  • 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.
    • 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 agonising 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, though it was confined to India at the time, so its absence is still justified.
  • 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.
  • Tail Slap: An adult Diplodocus saves a younger one from an Allosaurus this way.
  • 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.
  • Tyrannosaurus rex: The main character of the final episode.
  • 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 of course (see above).
  • Zerg Rush: The Coelophysis against the dying Postosuchus.


Alternative Title(s): The Ballad Of Big Al, Chased By Dinosaurs, Sea Monsters, Walking With Cavemen, Walking With Dinosaurs

Top

Example of:

/

Feedback