Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Dinosaurs - Big, Bad & Bizarre - hold on to your seats for Planet Dinosaur on BBC One

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 Planet Dinosaur, BBC One, 8:30pm, Weds 14th September.

As a trained palaeontologist I've been waiting for this series since I watched the last episode of Walking with Dinosaurs with my colleagues at the Natural History museum in London in 1999. 12 years later and the BBC has finally put its sharp teeth back in and brushed down its scaley armour to present an even more ambitious new series - Planet Dinosaur. The next generation of children won't be talking about Tyrannosaurus Rex or Diplodocus because bigger, badder and altogether more bizarre dinosaurs are taking their place at the top table of the prehistoric world. More dinosaurs have been discovered in the past 10 years than the previous 200. From Spinosaurus, the biggest killer to ever walk the Earth, to the immense sea-monster Predator X, and the deadly cannibalistic Majunasaurus – dinosaurs were more monstrous and horrific than ever before imagined. 

As a child I gazed at Charles R Knights classic dinosaur paintings that adorn the walls of the American Museum of Natural History - I wanted to dive in and see these dinosaurs brought to life. This series does just that, not in a wet-your-pants Jurassic Park kind of way, where everything looks terrifyingly real, but in a 'hyper-real' dreamy sort of way. To me this is Knights paintings writ large on our Television screens. Planet Dinosaur combines a rich 3D graphic world with incredible CGI to bring us a whole new perspective on these 'terrible lizards'. Find out more on the BBC programme page 

Charles R Knight 1897. Illustration of a Brontosaurus (nowadays called Apatosaurus). The idea that Apatosaurus was wholly or mostly aquatic is now considered outdated (AMNH)

Predator X didn't mind the fact that he was technically not a Dinosaur so long as he had a cool super-hero name, but he got pi***d off when other marine reptiles taunted him!

Spinosaurus got to grips with life at the top of his game. All the dino-girls were impressed that he was considered the biggest land predator ever.

BBC 4 looks beneath the scales

Meanwhile BBC 4 will be less 'what big teeth you've got' and more 'mmm, I wonder what else these odd creatures can reveal about life on earth' with an equally fascinating line-up of programmes exploring the legacy of Dinosaurs.

How To Build A Dinosaur, BBC Four
Dinosaur skeletons are some of the most popular exhibitions in the world – each year, hundreds of thousands of children flock to the Natural History Museum to see the world famous diplodocus, Dippy. But how do these skeletons get from the ground to the museum hall, traversing millions of years in history to educate and entertain? For every museum, reconstructing a dinosaur skeleton is a fine balance between science and art. Science presenter and anatomist Dr Alice Roberts guides viewers through the entire reconstruction of a museum's new dinosaur exhibition from the raw bones to the final skeleton.

Survivors, BBC Four
It is estimated that 99 per cent of Earth's species have become extinct. Professor Richard Fortey of the Natural History Museum discovers what allows the very few that survive to carry on going – perhaps not for ever, but certainly far beyond normal species life-expectancy. What makes a survivor when other species drop like flies?  From the jellyfish to the crocodile this series focuses on the survivors whose biographies stretch back millions of years and who can teach humans how it is possible to survive a mass extinction event.

Dinosaurs, Myths And Monsters, BBC Four
Prehistoric bones posed an enormous conundrum in the past. What were they? What did they signify? And what were the implications of those findings? How could they be reconciled to beliefs and myths about the origins of humans and indeed, the planet? For centuries, dinosaur and other fossilised bone remains have perplexed, challenged and amazed humans. This film tells the story of the impact of the gradual discovery of dinosaurs. It's a story which explains how ideas, explanations and philosophies altered and evolved through time and how humans developed theories to explain the mysteries of the bones.

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