With beloved global hits including Jurassic Park and Walking With Dinosaurs, it’s difficult to imagine how watching prehistoric creatures come to life could get any better. Except it can, if you throw David Attenborough into the mix. Over the course of 5 nights, Apple TV+ are bringing viewers an immersive new venture into the forgotten world of Prehistoric Planet, charting the habits and behaviours of all of our favourite dinosaurs from the end of the Mesozoic era. Taking BBC production value to Hollywood heights, this cross-atlantic collaboration of all things dino is a comforting work of wonder to any nature or history buff alike.
Taking viewers through oceans and freshwater habitats to snowy or desert dwellings, every crevasse of the cretaceous period is thoroughly examined through the lens of the traditional nature documentary. While previous smash hits like Walking With Dinosaurs are still sweet in the palette of viewing nostalgia, there’s an extra layer of scaly satisfaction that comes with Prehistoric Planet. Although a compact 5 episode miniseries, there’s an intensely educational feel within every frame of the dinosaur diary, with the level of detail down to an intricate precision. This is largely thanks to a creative team that hail from distinctly different backgrounds — with nature documentary stalwarts Mike Gunton and Tim Walker working alongside commander of The Jungle Book and The Lion King remakes Jon Favreau. What’s more, the show is the first of its kind to come with a full-time palaeontology advisor in the form of Dr. Darren Naish.
By melding the advantages of real life with fiction, Prehistoric Planet becomes a remarkable end product. Setting up shots in the framework of documentary styling allows for each capture to be completely naturalistic, observing dinosaurs as a hidden bystander in their own domain. While there are fleeting moments of unbelievable CGI that arguably take the mind’s eye out of a moment, the sheer beauty of each creature is a continually astounding feat. For prehistoric newbies, there’s a chance to gain a wealth of knowledge on stars from the T. Rex to Raptors, while hardened fans can enjoy the thrill of the chase, set to an impeccable original score by Hans Zimmer. Although each element in its own right is a thing of beauty, it’s the overall blended effect that takes the breath away — staying true to the heartbreaking trauma, nail-biting tussles and joyous success arcs we’ve come to expect from any primetime nature programme.
Of course, it goes without saying that the true star of the show is Sir David Attenborough. Following the beloved format of hits including Planet Earth and Natural World, the cosy familiarity of Attenborough’s husky tones are a soothing tonic for even the most barbaric of escapades (and there are quite a few of those). At 96, his passion for Earth and its wonders is still as strong as ever, guiding audiences through a passage of time they’ll claim to have seen before. If Prehistoric Planet turns out to be one of the concluding moments in his career, it’s a belter of a note to end on, packaging a whimsical yet frightening magic into spellbinding food for thought.
It cannot be understated how well-rounded Prehistoric Planet is as an emulsion of worlds from past and present. The show hugely benefits from its dogged commitment to factual science and seamless collaboration between boots-on-the-ground nature programming and big-budget CGI. Despite moments of sheer horror that might genuinely make viewers cry, Prehistoric Planet is a comfort show in the making, with a more than satisfying educational bite.