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Series / Walking with Monsters

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Walking with Monsters is the 2005 prequel to the Walking with Dinosaurs series, and is similarly narrated by Kenneth Branagh. Focusing on life during the Paleozoic era, Monsters showcases the evolution of numerous forms of life and their battle for dominance over the planet. Unlike its predecessors (both of which wielded six-episode runs), Walking with Monsters was allocated only three episodes, and thus compresses multiple time periods and narratives into single episodes.

  • Water Dwellers:
    • Chengjiang, China (530 MYA) - Following the Cambrian explosion, Anomalocaris, a 6ft marine invertebrate and the world's first superpredator, dominates a coastal sea increasingly teeming with life (including trilobites and a miniscule form of early fish).
    • South Wales, UK (418 MYA) - In the Silurian, a school of Cephalaspis, an algivorous jawless fish, swim upstream from a shallow coastal sea to spawn. However, they are being hunted by a group of Brontoscorpio, a gargantuan sea scorpion and one of the first creatures to walk on land.
    • Pennsylvania, USA (360 MYA) - In a Devonian river, it's mating season for the Hynerpeton, large early amphibians, and their reliance on remaining close to the water puts them in the path of aquatic predators.
  • Reptile's Beginnings:
    • Kansas, USA (300 MYA) - A giant Mesothelae spider searches for a new nest in the massive coal forests of the Carboniferous while confronting the predatory amphibians and other enormous insects dominating her ecosystem.
    • Bromacker, Germany (280 MYA) - Early in the Permian, a mother Dimetrodon, an early synapsid (the group eventually containing mammals) must feed herself and build a nest for her eggs, all while avoiding her cannibalistic peers.
  • Clash of Titans:
    • Siberia (250 MYA) - At the end of the Permian, all the continents have combined into the supercontinent Pangea and the resulting mass desertification wreaks havoc on almost all inland ecosystems, decimating multitudes of reptile and amphibian species (including the predatory, mammal-like gorgonopsids) and paving way for the biggest mass extinction event in the history of Earth.
    • Antarctica (248 MYA) - At the dawn of the Triassic, large herd of the synapsid Lystrosaurus migrate in their search for food while Euparkeria, a small, insectivorous early archosaur, quietly sets the stage for the next big players in evolution: the dinosaurs.

This work provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Anyone Can Die: Four segments have distinct protagonists: of these, three die before the end. The Hynerpeton is eaten by a Hyneria; the Mesothelae is hit by lightning; the Gorgonopsid presumably dies from carbon monoxide poisoning from the Great Dying. Only the mother Dimetrodon makes it to the end, and passes on her genes to boot.
  • After the End: The last half of the third episode takes place shortly after the Permian extinction.
  • Always a Bigger Fish:
    • The huge eurypterid Pterygotus killing the alleged Big Bad of the episode, Brontoscorpio.
    • Literally with the huge fish Hyneria swallowing a prehistoric shark whole. This doesn't save the amphibian the shark was pursuing, as Hyneria immediately starts hunting it too, and only escapes it by making it to land.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • The Cephalaspis featured in the Silurian segment is only known from the later Devonian Period, while the orthocones featured had already become extinct by the time the segment is set.
    • The large amphibian featured in the Carboniferous is identified as Proterogyrinus in supplementary material, but this genus had become extinct in real life some twenty million years before the segment is set.
    • The gorgonopsids (that are clearly based on Inostrancevia) and Scutosaurus had already become extinct in Siberia by the end of the Permian, as they're only known from the Wuchiapingian stage, while the extinction began near the end of the Changhsingian. In real life, Changhsingian strata of the area shows they were replaced at that point by therocephalians and dicynodonts respectively.
    • In the Early Triassic segment, the Euparkeria is only known from slightly younger strata, while the therocephalians, although unnamed, are clearly based on Euchambersia, which is only known from the Permian.
    • Rhinesuchus is an In-Universe example, as it's depicted as a relic from the Permian that is dying out.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: The mistakes about ancestor -> descendant relationship: the jawless, armoured Cephalaspis becoming a primitive amphibian missing two passages (jawed armoured fish and non-armoured lobe-finned fish), and the early lizard-like diapsid Petrolacosaurus (portrayed as the "first reptile") wrongly becoming an Edaphosaurus (a Dimetrodon relative, thus a mammal ancestor); however, a 2022 study suggests that Petrolacosaurus may be a stem-amniote (i.e. outside the group that includes modern reptiles, birds and mammals). Another example is Euparkeria mentioned as the ancestor of all the dinosaurs (it was only a distant relative). And chasmatosaurs were not the ancestors of crocodiles and alligators, and perhaps they weren't even aquatic as shown in the program.
  • Bait-and-Switch: One of the shots near the end of the Reptile's Beginnings episodes opens with the mother Dimetrodon staring off to the side at another Dimetrodon feasting on something bloody near her nesting mound, with the narration describing her as being too weak to defend her nest from intruders. The shot then pans out to reveal the other Dimetrodon has instead killed said intruder - the egg-stealing amphibian from the start of the episode.
  • Book Ends: The final section of the third episode, covering the early Triassic, has similar creatures to the first Walking with Dinosaurs episode, which covered the late Triassic. It has a Lystrosaurus to WWDs Placerias, Euparkeria to WWDs Coelophysis, and the chasmatosaur and therocephalian resemble the Postosuchus and cynodonts in appearance, if not behavior. Euparkeria even has a similar color pattern to the Coelophysis seen in the first episode.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Breaks the Fourth Wall rather often, having creatures walk up to and often interact with the 'camera'. And occasionally leave spit on the lens.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Dimetrodon's distaste for dung, which a hatchling exploits to make itself unappetizing when pursued by a cannibal adult.
  • Crapsack World: The late Permian. Almost all of Pangea is covered in deserts, there's no rain in the "wet" season, and anything that can't burrow is doomed whenever there's a sandstorm.
  • Darker and Edgier: Has a scarier edge to the fight for survival than Dinosaurs and Beasts.
  • Death of a Child: A juvenile Edaphosaurus gets eaten by a Dimetrodon, a bunch of baby Dimetrodon get eaten by the adults, and a mesothelae spider butchers an entire nest of Petrolacosaurus, save for the few that got away.
  • Eats Babies: The Dimetrodons. And yes, that includes their own kind. This also includes their own babies as, after weeks of protecting the eggs to the point of near starvation, the mother joins in hunting her newly hatched offspring.
  • Eye Scream:
    • A female Dimetrodon's eye is knocked out of her head while defending her nest.
    • A Euparkeria is seen gnawing on a Lystrosaurus carcass' eye.
  • Fantastic Fauna Counterpart: Plenty of it.
    • The Lystrosaurus/Proterosuchus scene is copied to a T from documentaries featuring wildebeest dying in mass when crossing rivers full of crocodiles. The first lystrosaur even dives in water in a totally gnu-like fashion, while the proterosuchians (though nimbler and longer-legged than modern gators, and lacking armor) growl in a totally gator-style to make them even more croc-like.
    • The fight between Arthropleura and the giant amphibian, where the giant millipede acts just like a cobra against a mongoose.
    • Dimetrodon's overall act is very similar to Komodo dragons (the adults fight by standing up, are cannibals, and their pups flee by climbing trees to escape them).
    • Hyneria pursue the proto-amphibian Hynerpeton "in the same way orcas do after a seal" as stated by the narrator himself (even though it can follow its prey even on land unlike orcas).
    • The Cephalaspis migrating in mass from the seas to a river and captured by the giant scorpions when they try to jump unto their spawning pool: this recalls a lot grizzly bears catching salmon near a waterfall. Finally, Haikouichthys eating the meat of a wounded Anomalocarid like a hagfish or lamprey.
    • The close-up of an amphibian attacking by desperation the giant gorgonopsid is very similar to that of the alligator attacking the black bear in Animal Face Off.
  • Fiendish Fish: The giant carnivorous fish Hyneria, which is portrayed as a Prehistoric Monster in its quest to hunt down our amphibian ancestors. It's an apex predator which is large enough to scare off sharks, and powerful enough to drag itself onto a beach in pursuit of prey like a killer whale.
  • Gainax Ending: The final episode ends with the Euparkeria asserting itself to a Proterosuchus... and then the "evolving" (in more of a Pokémon-esque fashion than anything else) into an Allosaurus (which lived almost a hundred million years later), then scares the Proterosuchus away. Clearly it was intended to be a segue into Walking with Dinosaurs, but it serves as a very strange conclusion to the Euparkeria's story, which up to that point was solely grounded in reality.
  • Just Before the End: The Late Permian segment is set just as the P-Tr extinction event is beginning.
  • Large Ham: Kenneth Branagh's delivery is noticeably more exaggerated here than within the series' predecessors, particularly within the first two episodes (the final episode, uniquely directed by franchise creator Tim Haines, audibly features him reverting to a more leisurely, WWD-reminiscent tone).
  • Leitmotif: Hyneria is accompanied by a Jaws-esque theme.
  • Killed Offscreen: The last time we see the Gorgonopsid, it's desperately looking for prey in the increasingly-inhospitable Death World around it and gorging itself on a dead amphibian. When it returns, the Gorgonopsid has become a mummified corpse along the sand dunes.
  • Misplaced Wildlife:
    • Carboniferous Period: The giant "mesothelae" spider depicted is based on Megarachne (at the time, thought to be an enormous spider). However, the species is only known from South America, while the episode is set in the United States. Meganeura is also only known from remains found in France, although close relatives are known from North America.
    • Early Permian Period: The species of Dimetrodon shown is not from the Bromacker Quarry. There is a species of Dimetrodon present, but it is significantly smaller than any of the American species.
    • Late Permian Period: Rhinesuchus and Diictodon are unknown from Russia and were probably restricted to the Southern hemisphere.
    • Early Triassic Period: Euchambersia and Euparkeria are unknown from Antarctica, although they are both known from South Africa, which was conjoined to Antarctica at the time and many species from the Early Triassic of South Africa are also known from Antarctica.
  • Monster Is a Mommy: After killing a Brontoscorpio, the Pterygotus shares the kill with its brood.
  • Nearly Normal Animal: Some animals seem sometimes acting in a human manner. For example: the male hynerpeton, when escaped the giant fish, looks backwards at it like it's saying "Take That!"... but the fish then demonstrated it was wrong. Also, when the giant spider destroys a Petrolacosaurus nest seem almost laughing for vengeance (because in the former period vertebrates had outmighted their arthropods "enemies").
  • Prehistoric Monster: It's even titled Walking With Monsters! Predators here are represented in a scarier way than the original Dinosaurs and Beasts. The premise the crew seem to have used is that the series is set before the Earth had a ruling class, so different groups of animals were ferociously and graphically battling it out to be the dominant lifeform. Things become more relaxed by the Mesozoic and Cenozoic, as seen in WWD and WWB (which somewhat broadly portray dinosaurs and mammals as the "ruling" animals of these respective periods).
  • Prequel: Can be seen as one to WWD.
  • Sickening "Crunch!": How the Anomalocaris eats its bony prey.
  • Stock Footage: Amusingly the series re-uses several shots from the original Walking With Dinosaurs: the sunrise from New Blood's title card and a Chilean peak from Death of a Dynasty appear in the Dimetrodon segment, and some leaves blowing into the camera also from Death of a Dynasty appear in the gorgonopsid section's sandstorm.
    • The finale also re-uses shots from the "Time of the Titans" episode, but these are explicitly meant to be from the same time period.
  • Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: The Devonian amphibian Hynerpeton and his mate escape from the giant flesh-eating fish Hyneria's approach by crawling onto land. Just when it seems they're safe, the Hyneria reveals how powerful its fins are by dragging itself after the amphibians and grabbing the male by surprise.
  • Threatening Shark: In the first time period that sharks show up, they are playing second fiddle to the much larger carnivorous fish Hyneria. One of them is Swallowed Whole by the larger predator.
  • Wham Line: During the episode on the Permian-Triassic Extinction event.
    Narrator: With life under such pressure, species are dying out at a rate that won't be matched until humans evolve in two hundred and fifty million years' time.