'Prehistoric Planet' review: Best dinosaur doc in a generation

Prehistoric Planet is the best dinosaur doc in a generation [Apple TV+ review]


Triceratops in Prehistoric Planet season two★★★★★
Triceratops fights are a highlight of Prehistoric Planet season two.
Photo: Apple TV+

Season two of Prehistoric Planet will fill the heart of any dinosaur-obsessed child with joy. And adults should watch, too — especially anyone who still thinks dinos are slow-moving, stupid creatures that are just waiting around to go extinct.

These new episodes, which Apple TV+ doled out this week, combine cutting-edge CGI with the latest in paleontology. The result is a series that’s stunningly beautiful, exciting to watch and as scientifically accurate as possible.

Dino documentary Prehistoric Planet roars back for season 2

Dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago, but they still loom large in our imaginations. Partially, that’s because they were themselves so enormously huge — titanosaurs grew to be over 120 feet long and 70 tons. And you’ll find spikes and armor and huge teeth scattered liberally around the other types of ancient archosaurs in ways that mammals can’t match. The animals prove undeniably fascinating.

The first season of Prehistoric Planet took full advantage of that fascination, using photorealistic visual effects to show dinosaurs and their relatives as we’d never seen them before. And it was a huge success. It has a 100% positive score on review-aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. Critics raved about the dinosaur docuseries — including the Cult of Mac critic — and the series became a big hit for Apple TV+.

Season 2 proves a worthy successor

The five episodes in season two build on that achievement to tell new stories. It does this brilliantly.

CGI has reached the point where the documentaries look like a camera crew was sent back in time to film the animals. It’s sometimes hard to remember they’re digital re-creations, not living creatures. They look so real.

Each episode is broken up into sections of about 10 minutes each covering individual groups of dinosaurs and how they interact. Each episode uses a type of terrain as a theme. In Prehistoric Planet season two, these are Islands, Badlands, Swamps, Oceans and (in a curious outlier) North America.

The episodes are exciting — it’s not hard to see the skilled hand of producer Jon Favreau in that aspect of the documentaries. He’s best known for Marvel and Star Wars films and series, and knows how to keep an audience interested.

But the docuseries is also informative. Even eye-opening. For too many decades, paleontologists thought dinosaurs acted like crocodiles when birds are actually a better comparison. Prehistoric Planet spends quite a bit of time showing how the reptiles carefully looked after their hatchlings as they grew. Even Tyrannosaurus Rex was a good parent.

Having Sir David Attenborough as the narrator helps keeps the shows interesting. He’s been the sure voice of countless nature documentaries over his 97 years. Incidentally, he’s also the brother of Richard Attenborough from the original Jurassic World.

An emphasis on scientific accuracy

Velociraptors in Prehistoric Planet season two
Velociraptors in Prehistoric Planet season two make caring parents.
Photo: Apple TV+

What we know about dinosaurs has expanded enormously over the past 50 years or so. The idea that they were slow and stupid went out in the 1980s. If you still think of them that way, you need to see Prehistoric Planet to grasp how quick and clever they really were.

If you’re a bit younger and got most of your knowledge about dinosaurs from the Jurassic World movies, you should watch the Apple TV+ series to see where those films got it wrong.

The most obvious example is that real velociraptors were covered in feathers. This is solidly backed up by evidence from the fossil record.

And that’s true for everything in Prehistoric Planet seasons one and two. Apple TV+ put out YouTube videos that back up the way it presents dinosaurs in this documentary series. (Watch the one on Velociraptor feathers if you have doubts.)

I never outgrew the fascination with dinosaurs I had back in elementary school, and still follow the science in a casual way. I saw only one thing in the Apple TV+ series that I thought was questionable: the sauropod neck sacks from season one. And while these are speculative, they’re possible. In short, you’re getting solid science here.

More kid-friendly than Jurassic World

'Prehistoric Planet' dino documentary season 2 thunders toward Apple TV+
You’ll have a hard time believing the dinosaurs in Prehistoric Planet aren’t real.
Photo: Apple TV+

Like me, many kids go through a dinosaur phase where they become fascinated with these animals. They can explain the difference between a Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus while they still have their baby teeth.

These kids want to go see the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World series because they’re full of the animals they love, but you shouldn’t let them. These movies are intended for adults and the dinosaurs are deliberately frightening. Way too scary for little Timmy.

Prehistoric Planet is a much better option. It’s not setting out to try and frighten the audience, though there is some killing. That’s nearly unavoidable in a nature documentary.

And it’s only a general impression, but it seems season two has fewer examples of cute baby dinos getting devoured.

Prehistoric Planet brings dinosaurs back from extinction

This is the most visually stunning and scientifically accurate dinosaur documentary in a generation. Apple TV+ has created a landmark series.

Even if your interest in dinosaurs hasn’t gone past the Jurassic World movies, you should add some science to your science fiction by giving these documentaries a try. You might be surprised how exciting they are.


Prehistoric Planet season one and two are exclusively on Apple TV+. Watching them comes with a $6.99-per-month subscription, and there’s a seven-day free trial.

Watch on: Apple TV+

Watch on Apple TV


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