Prehistoric Planet broke the mould of what a nature documentary could be in 2022, with its realistic depiction of Earth’s extinct creatures, the dinosaurs. The ancient animals came to life in a new and never before seen way in the Apple TV+ series, and even more are about to come to life in Season 2.
Over a week-long event of episodes, Season 1 of Prehistoric Planet took viewers into five unique environments, each filled with dinosaurs, reconstructed faithfully – according to the latest scientific research.
In Season 2, the brilliant minds behind the cutting-edge docuseries are ready to do it again. Lifehacker Australia spoke with executive producers Mike Gunton and Tim Walker about the relationship between art and science in the series and which new dinosaurs audiences can look forward to.
How Season 2 builds on the first
While many TV shows don’t survive the axe of cancellation, the producers of Prehistoric Planet knew they were safe fairly early on, having been commissioned to create Season 2 alongside the first.
That, along with a positive reception from the audience, gave them a boost of confidence for the second season.
“Everybody kind of piled on very positively. So that gave us confidence that we were getting it right, sort of scientifically and representational,” Gunton said. But also it gave us a sense of the other thing that we were really trying to do, which was to make people feel they were in a natural history world rather than a dinosaur world…
“The reaction we were getting was that this feels so authentic and so real as if I’m really there,” he continued. “So that gave us the confidence to say okay, well then we can now step a little bit closer.”
For the team, stepping closer meant zooming in on the dinosaurs, both physically, and in terms of the complex relationships and behaviours they have.
“In season two, we’ve incorporated many of the B characters from season one, given them full storylines and introduced new members of that very, flamboyant world,” Walker added. “It’s not just the dinosaurs, we see the mammals, we see birds, we see fish having storylines.”
Art vs Science
Prehistoric Planet is a product of a highly skilled team of filmmakers (including The Mandalorian’s Jon Favreau), natural historians and palaeontologists. It’s this meeting of the minds that not only make the series possible but makes it feel so real.
Research in the dinosaur world moves quickly. With new discoveries made every week, it was a challenge for the Prehistoric Planet team to keep up:
“I hadn’t really realised how fast it was moving,” Gunton said. “Between researching and deciding the stories for series one, even in those 18 months when we were deciding and developing the stories of season two, all sorts of extraordinary things were being discovered.”
“Also, we were now in the kind of inner circle of scientists and we were getting stories long before… Some of them may still not even have been published.”
“We started getting the secrets that perhaps others wouldn’t get,” he added.
Another unique element of this series is that the research that was being done for Prehistoric Planet ended up informing research in the real world.
“We had a couple of instances where what we were trying to portray on the screen started to affect research,” Walked explained.
Walker cited a specific instance where they needed to find out how fast a Mosasaur could propel itself through water, which was research that had never been completed before. The results of this inquiry were then not only included in the show but also helped add to the research in the scientific community.
“The science drives the series, and the series drives the science – like this lovely circular motion,” Walker said.
“You don’t think about it as it’s happening, but actually, every single twitch, every single walk, every single relationship have gone through a series of these really strict filters,” Gunton added.
“It’s a really interesting way of storytelling. Because it’s a kind of maze that you have to go through to tell the stories.”
What new dinosaurs are in Prehistoric Planet 2?
Of course, the main product of all this research is the characters of the show – the dinosaurs!
Trailers have teased the arrival of some new stars, including the Tarchia (a large Ankylosauri), Isisaurus (long-necked plant-eating guy), Pectinodon (bird-like feathered dino) and Quetzalcoatlus (a big sky guy).
Gunton and Walker also hinted at some animals we’ll be seeing, both new and returning:
“Every episode has a new dinosaur in it,” Walker said. “…we’ve got the returning favourites. We’ve got T-Rex and Triceratops and many others. But [also] this new batch of lead characters”
The duo hinted at the Rajasaurus, a large red theropod that appears in the ‘Badlands’ episode as well as the Simosuchus in the first episode.
This season’s crop of episodes will also take Prehistoric Planet viewers to vast new biomes that haven’t been explored in the series before. There may even be some Australian locations to look out for in Episode 3.
As for the rest of the new dinosaurs, we’ll just have to watch and see.
Prehistoric Planet Season 2 premieres globally on Monday, May 22 on Apple TV+.
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