Dino Docs! Prehistoric Planet

Prehistoric Planet Season Two, Episode One: Islands

Prehistoric Planet 2’s premiere brings audiences back to the vibrant and fascinating world of the Late Cretaceous

After a year since the first season, months since the second season was announced, and weeks since the first promotional material arrived, season two of Prehistoric Planet has finally premiered.

What a start it was!

To say the hype train for Prehistoric Planet’s second season was going off the rails would be underselling it. The sheer brilliance of the first season left paleonerds and enthusiasts anxious for more, evidenced by the fact that I wrote not one, not two, but three articles previewing the second season. After all the excitement, Prehistoric Planet is finally back and, dare I say, better than ever. This article will provide commentary and explore the science of episode one, highlighting the best moments and most fascinating subjects.

As expected, spoilers will be present. I have included a brief spoiler-free summary to begin the article for those interested. With that out of the way, let’s get into it!

Simosuchus. ©Apple TV

What’s it about?

Prehistoric Planet’s season two premiere, Islands, examines the fauna endemic to islands during the Late Cretaceous Period. While the episode is somewhat limited in subject matter (as much of the dinosaurs known from the Late Cretaceous were continental species), Islands does a great job of selecting species that fully capture the bizarre nature of island habitats. Audiences are taken to Europe, Madagascar, and Antarctica to encounter dinosaurs and the animals around them. While I may be biased due to my love for the species of prehistoric Madagascar, I believe that Islands may be the best episode yet, combining striking visuals with a diverse array of species in more intense situations. Let’s hope the rest of the season rides this high!


New Look Series

While the overall episode format has remained the same, there have been a few noticeable changes. First, David Attenborough’s introduction to the world of dinosaurs has been altered for the second season, this time featuring a massive Triceratops skull instead of Tyrannosaurus rex. Second, the episode features more action sequences than any previous episode, which works well for the overall intrigue of Islands. It’s unclear if this will continue through the rest of the season, though a combination of intense and calmer moments would produce excellent results. Lastly, Prehistoric Planet Uncovered – the segment exploring the science of the series – was featured at the end of the episode instead of being online. I believe including Uncovered at the episode’s end makes it more accessible, as many of us are too lazy to look it up online…

Life of Zalmoxes

The first scene of Islands introduces us to the Iguanodontid Zalmoxes who has become caught on a raft following a tropical storm. After a narrow escape with a predatory mosasaur, the Zalmoxes meets a female on another raft that carries them out to sea. While such rafts may seem improbable, giant naturally forming rafts have been observed after times of extreme flooding. These rafts can travel thousands of kilometres and are proposed to have been responsible for bringing rodents and monkeys to South America from Africa. While we do not know the fate of the Zalmoxes, their impromptu journey isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem.

Zalmoxes. ©Apple TV

The Reign of the Azhdarchids

Goodness, this series makes Azhdarchid pterosaurs seem like jerks. Following the Zalmoxes, we travel to Italy where a flock of the giant pterosaur Hatzegopteryx terrorizes a herd of the dwarf hadrosaur Tethyshadros. In a scene inspired by the paleoart of the Mark Witton, giant pterosaurs chase the hadrosaurs through a horsetail forest, plucking the small dinosaurs from the ground with brutal efficiency. For what feels like the tenth time in this series, the Hatzegopteryx makes a quick meal out of a baby Tethyshadros. If this series has made anything clear, it’s that Azhdarchid pterosaurs like Hatzegopteryx should not be found within 500 feet of any school zones…

Tethyshadros. ©Apple TV

Welcome to Madagascar!

The Late Cretaceous of Madagascar was a weird place, something Prehistoric Planet exploits with maximum proficiency. The trip to Madagascar begins with the vegan crocodile Simosuchus being chased by the large predator Majungasaurus. The Simosuchus use a combination of extreme aggression and burrowing to escape the Majungasaurus, likening them to vegetarian honey badgers.

The appearance of Simosuchus and Majungasaurus is spectacular and quite possibly the best representation of both species I have ever seen. The pug-face of Simosuchus is adorable. Seeing Majungasaurus, my favourite dinosaur, with a stumpy horn and a low-set body parallel to the ground was incredible and a massive improvement from the monstrosity in Jurassic Fight Club. Gabriel Ugueto, one of the best paleoartists in the world, is responsible for its design, so please feel free to give him all the flowers he deserves.

Majungasaurus. ©Apple TV

Next, audiences are introduced to the first named mammal of the series, Adalatherium. While Adalatherium may look like a badger, the show quickly subverts expectations by showing it laying eggs. While this may be surprising, Adalatherium belonged to a lineage of extinct mammals known as the Gondwanatheres, close relatives of the monotremes or egg-laying mammals. While mammals are associated with placental behaviours, many Mesozoic species laid eggs, making the appearance of Adalatherium even more fascinating.

Speaking of subverting expectations, the Masiakasaurus from season one returns to hunt the Adalatherium. After inspecting the burrows of Adalatherium (which appears to be a callback to Coelophysis in Walking with Dinosaurs), the Masiakasaurus ventures outside only to be absolutely demolished by a giant snake. Named Madtsoia, some estimations place this colossus at 9-10 meters long, making it one of the largest snakes ever. Between the giant snakes, giant frogs, and predatory dinosaurs, I’m not sure prehistoric Madagascar would have been the most welcome vacation destination!

Masiakasaurus. ©Apple TV

Was Prehistoric Madagascar the Best Segment of Paleomedia Ever?

Perhaps. In all fairness, making such a proclamation mere hours after the episode aired is bold, to say the least. However, I have never seen such a brilliant combination of scientific accuracy, beautiful designs, unique animals, and gripping storytelling. The Madagascar segment portrays prehistory in a way that few other sources of dinosaur media have ever been able to. To say it was cathartic would be putting it mildly.

A Trip to the Extreme South…

The next stop in Islands is Antarctica, where audiences follow a pack of Imperobator chasing the ornithopod Morrosaurus. While it is not mentioned in the episode, Imperobator is a unique species as it is the only dromaeosaur, or raptor dinosaur, to lack the famous killing claw on its feet. Additionally, Imperobator was massive, with some estimations (~2 meters tall) placing it amongst the largest raptors known to science.

Imperobator. ©Apple TV

Morrosaurus represents an intriguing species too. While the feathers seen in Prehistoric Planet have not been confirmed, it’s likely that the ornithopod sported such filaments, given the frigid climates of Antarctica and their presence on close relatives. Additionally, Morrosaurus may have had massive eyes like its close relative Leaellynasaura, a crucial adaptation for surviving in the dark winter months of polar Antarctica.

Love in the Time of Murder-Storks

The final scene travels back to Europe to witness the mating ritual of Hatzegopteryx. Step one? Present your love interest with a dead baby hadrosaur you have carried kilometres out to sea (charming). Step two? Display your brightly coloured crest, whose colours have changed drastically since the non-breeding season. The crest of Hatzegopteryx exemplifies the series’ attention to detail, with fossil evidence and modern analogues coming together to bring prehistoric animals to life.

Hatzegopteryx. ©Apple TV

Step three in the mating process is fighting off a rival, turning a potential love triangle into a love…line? The last step is to click your titanic beak together, establishing your connection with the lady pterosaur. Such behaviours are practised by modern birds, though the clicking of Hatzegopteryx is much more subtle than that of some birds like the Shoebill. After the mating ritual, the lovely couple part ways, leaving the female to care for the young by herself.

Final Thoughts

Islands is the best episode of Prehistoric Planet yet. The main appeal of the series – beautiful, fascinating, and accurate dinosaurs – has somehow improved from the first season. The storytelling remains excellent, with the increased frequency of action sequences making for more gripping narratives to engage audiences. It may be early, but it certainly looks as though this season of Prehistoric Planet will not disappoint.

Thank you for reading this article! If you need to catch up on Prehistoric Planet, I suggest you read about it here at Max’s Blogosaurus!

I do not take credit for any images found in this article. All images are property of Apple TV.

4 replies on “Prehistoric Planet Season Two, Episode One: Islands”

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