Planet Dinosaur

Samantha Price reviews the BBC series Planet Dinosaur.

I first saw the trailer for the BBC’s Planet Dinosaur back in the New Year. (You know? In the advert where the BBC shows off its amazing documentaries and dramas for the coming year?) Well, I’ve been looking forward to this documentary since then. I was expecting great things. Like Walking with Dinosaurs but more updated.

Unfortunately my great excitement turned to disappointment after watching the very first episode.

There are a number of downfalls. Clearly the BBC has spent more money on Doctor Who, instead of trying to create something as successful as the 1999 documentary. Walking with Dinosaurs got me interested in dinosaurs and the science behind them at such a young age, it’s such a shame that Planet Dinosaur is unlikely to have the same effect (let alone be repeated).

And it’s not just me…

On the BBC website, @edyong209: “How do you recreate a dinosaur?” asks BBC. Anyone who has seen Planet Dinosaur knows the answer is “unconvincingly”

My mum: It’s a bit boring, the narrator, the science…

I’m not having a go at the BBC. Wonders of the Universe and Walking with Dinosaurs were excellent documentaries. I just feel Planet Dinosaur could have been so much better. Walking with Dinosaurs worked so well because it was a story about these amazing creatures and how they used their adaptations to survive. Also the computer graphics were a hundred times better in Walking with Dinosaurs, along with animatronics and puppets (clearly in 12 years this hasn’t improved much if Planet Dinosaur is anything to go by).

I also feel, for the non-science individual, the facts and science behind the fossils seemed to disrupt the ‘story’ (if there was one?) and left the likes of my mum falling asleep. Personally I found the fossil evidence and facts incredibly interesting, however I feel that the majority of the general public was not quite enthralled by it (my mum for example). What the BBC should have done is what they did with Walking with Dinosaurs. Six half an hour episodes followed by a final episode on the fossil evidence, making the dinosaurs and general behind the scenes information for the ‘dino science geek’ who likes the fossil facts.

I can’t fault the science. The detail and information regarding the sites and structure of the fossils was brilliant. The explanations for dinosaur behaviour (cannibalism etc.) and even feathers were backed up with a lot of fossil and scientific evidence.

Like I said, the main fault was how the science was presented. If the ‘dino science geek’ is happy, that’s all good… However if the rest of the general public (who we as scientists WANT to be interested in our work) are snoozing away, then clearly something’s gone wrong.

A little fact: The ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ TV series was the most expensive documentary series, per minute, ever made according to the Guinness Book of World Records (I doubt ‘Planet Dinosaur’ can be put in the same category of expenditure).

Coming soon: Walking with Dinosaurs 3D! Apparently the BBC and 20th Century Fox are working on a film adaptation of the TV series. Due for release October 2013. Let’s hope this does what the TV series did to me. Get children interested in Dinosaurs and Science!

Samantha Price is doing a PhD in Applied Microbiology at De Montfort University, and is also a registered biomedical scientist who has a passion for communicating science to the public. She’s on Twitter here.