Walking With Monsters

Last night I watched Walking with Monsters, part of the BBC’s outstanding Walking With… series on prehistoric life. I just can’t say enough about how much I have enjoyed the two installments of the series I’ve seen, which use big-budget state-of-the-art animatronics and CGI to imagine the lives of prehistoric animals. You just won’t BELIEVE how weird this world is. Fifteen-foot millipedes, horrid venomous night-hunting reptiles (nightmarish!), giant sea scorpions, polar jungles… Our world is just a flash in time, and there is so much that came before us that we know almost nothing about.

This series takes real liberties by imagining much, and not creating its world solely from the limited information we have on the prehistoric world. While I still wish that there was some kind of disclaimer informing the viewer of this directly, it’s enough, I suppose, simply to know that this series is where human imagination and science meet to bring the ancient world imperfectly but magnificently alive. It might not have been that way. But we don’t know exactly how it was, so why not imagine a world that could have been? The series sparks the imagination, and all of its creatures are real animals that once roamed the planet.

I can’t recommend this series highly enough. It’s fascinating and dramatic, and the world it depicts — our own Earth, so very long ago — is far stranger than you can imagine. You just won’t believe the crazy creatures hidden 300 million years back in our family tree. Yes, ours — mine and yours — for many of these strange ancient creatures are the ancestors of human beings.

Our branch of the tree of life goes back a lot farther than the prehistoric African hominids. That’s just where we became human. We weren’t always human. What were were before we stood upright? Reptiles? Amphibians? Fish in the sea?

All of the above.

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