Since The blue planet debuted over two decades ago, we live in a particularly prolific era of wildlife docs from the likes of the BBC and all the various streamers. With all that celebrity voiced competition it’s hard to do something new in the space, but Apple TV Plus succeeded by looking at something old – Real old.
The first season of Prehistoric planet had all the trappings of a traditional wildlife documentary, down to the reassuring voice of Sir David Attenborough, but used them to explore the life of dinosaurs 66 million years ago. And it worked, offering such a fully realized vision of the past that it almost seemed real. So of course we have a sequel, which doesn’t bring much news other than offering even more (and often much weirder) creatures to look at. On the other hand, not much really needs to change. I mean, have you seen the feathered, fluffy raptor babies?
Just like the first season Prehistoric planet 2 is a week-long event, with a new episode released daily starting May 22. Each is built around a particular theme, such as swamps, oceans or badlands. Essentially, they are highly dramatized versions of animal behavior. You will see babies being born, hunting creatures and many mating rituals. The difference, of course, is that Prehistoric planet 2 is not based on real animal images, but CG reproductions of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures.
Part of what makes it work is its familiar formula. It’s structured just like the big wildlife papers, esp Planet Earth, so it looks and sounds like a nature show you’ve probably already seen. The visuals in particular take center stage. The creatures in this show are so effective that you don’t really have to suspend much disbelief because it seems like you’re actually looking at real animals on camera (at least most of the time).
That was all true last year, and it remains true Prehistoric planet 2. But the new season does add a few wrinkles to the formula to keep things interesting. For starters, it really goes beyond the dinosaurs we’ve all seen many times, making for some interesting stories. The second episode has a fascinating thread about a herd of Isisaurus, who raise their young in a box surrounded by volcanic activity to protect them from predators. Some of the most interesting creatures aren’t even dinosaurs: the first episode features a cute vegetarian crocodile (Simosuchus) and a few mammals, including this big dude called Adalatherium:
There are flightless seabirds, 16-foot predatory fish, primitive ducks, and even swarms of millions upon millions of flies. The ocean episode spends much of its time on Ammonites. That’s not to say there aren’t “classic” dinosaurs. You will still see plenty of T. rex and other huge predators hunting along with an incredible variety of different species of raptors. But the second season does a great job of balancing the expected with detours into the weirder and lesser-known areas of prehistoric life.
It’s still largely a show focused more on entertainment than education, but Prehistoric planet 2 goes a step further in explaining some of the science behind the show. In Season 1, Attenborough ended each episode by directing viewers to a website where they could learn more. This time, the episodes end with various experts explaining how they know something, whether it’s the way giant flying reptiles hunted or how a whale-sized predator was able to move so fast. You’ll even get some insight into the triceratops’ distinctive horn.
Really what Prehistoric planet 2 shows is that the first season was not successful purely because of novelty. There are many more interesting stories to discover 66 million years ago – and the best are the strangest.
Prehistoric planet 2 will begin streaming on Apple TV Plus on May 22.