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Clash of the Dinosaurs (2009) is one of Discovery Channel's many dinosaur-related documentaries. It was presented in a Miniseries format, and contained a grand total of four hour-long episodes. Each concentrated on different aspects of the dinosaur lifestyle, such as how they coped with environmental changes, how they hunted and defended themselves, and how they reproduced.
The show received notoriety even before its TV debut, thanks to the heavy advertising campaign the TV station gave it. When it finally aired, it quickly gained a bad reputation due to the several serious problems that plagued it. Besides its criminal overuse of (admittedly pretty) Stock Footage, Clash of the Dinosaurs infamously quote-mined paleontology expert Mathew Wedel who appeared on it, and presented wild theories as solid facts. Thanks to these shortcomings, the program is nowadays considered by dinosaur fanatics to be one of the worst dino-documentaries of recent times, and the offended scientist actually encouraged his fellow paleontologists to boycott the production company.
The series was followed by a special titled The Last Day of the Dinosaurs. This time, the producers told us their story of how these majestic creatures went extinct. This one had fewer problems.
A list of tropes that appear in the series:
- Anachronism Stew: Easily avoided, since not that many animals appear, and the ones that do were contemporaries in Real Life.
- Apocalypse How: A Class 4 event.
- Badass: Ankylosaurus deals with Tyrannosaurus.
- Beware My Stinger Tail: Ankylosaurus.
- Crapsack World: The end of the Mesozoic.
- Curb Stomp Battle: To paraphrase one talking head, using his hands to represent dinosaurs:
- Documentary of Lies: To quote Thomas R. Holtz, Jr., a talking head on the show:
"For those going to watch the show, a warning: The documentarians often take anything that any of the talking heads speculated about, and transformed these into declarative statements of fact. In some cases this is particularly egregious, because I strongly disagree with some of these statements and believe the facts are against some of these (say, about tyrannosaurid cranial kinesis…) and they present these as facts rather than suppositions."
- Eats Babies: Quetzalcoatlus and Deinonychus.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Goes without saying.
- Eye Scream: The Triceratops stabs the Tyrannosaurus in the eye.
- Feathered Fiend: Deinonychus. And it's actually shown feathered.
- Foregone Conclusion: The extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous happens.
- Giant Flyer: Quetzalcoatlus.
- Gorn: The Deinonychus pack attacking the young Sauroposeidon.
- Infant Immortality: Averted, as the Quetzalcoatlus preys on T. rex babies.
- Mexican Standoff: This is what the Narrator calls the situation the Saurornithoides and Charonosaurus find themselves in. The former is trying to steal the latter's egg.
- Misplaced Wildlife: The narration suggests that Tyrannosaurus lived in Asia, when it was strictly North American. To be fair, some include the Asian Tarbosaurus in the genus, but most (both then & now) consider them distinct.
- Outrun the Fireball: The dinosaurs attempt this. Emphasis on "attempt".
- Prehistoric Monster: Pretty much averted in the original miniseries, but played straight in The Last Day, when food sources became scarce.
- Ptero-Soarer: A scaly, UV-seeing Quetzalcoatlus.
- Quote Mine: Poor, poor Mathew Wedel.
- Raptor Attack: The Deinonychus at least have feathers, but are shown killing a Sauroposeidon with ridiculous ease.
- Rule of Cool: Hadrosaurs using a sonic weapon against theropods? A pair of small raptors attacking a sub-adult sauropod? Do note, when the talking head said "juvenile sauropod" and "pack of raptors", he meant tiny babies and a huge pack, but the animators instead used the largest animal that would still qualify as a "non-adult" specimen getting mauled by a pair of raptors.
- Seldom-Seen Species: Sauroposeidon, Charonosaurus and Saurornithoides.
- Don't forget Alamosaurus! Yes, they reused the Sauroposeidon model, but who cares?
- Shown Their Work: Most of the talking head segments. (They did get actual paleontologists, after all.) The key word being most.
- Feathered deinonychosaurs. One would be surprised as to how rare they are in media.
- Small Taxonomy Pools: You only get six dinosaurs and a Ptero-Soarer. The special throws in three more dinos.
- Somewhere a Palaeontologist Is Crying: More like palaeontologists are up in arms everywhere.
- To clarify that quote-mining part: the expert was trying to clear up the misconception that large dinosaurs had two brains (one in their head, one in their hip-region). The editors made it sound like he was confirming the notion.
- What more, he clearly said that sauropods most likely covered their eggs with vegetation. The CGI clip shows a sauropod leaving its eggs out in the open. You Fail Biology Forever or They Just Didn't Care?
- When their eggs hatch, the young sauropods and tyrannosaurids look exactly the same as the adults. "Sauropodlets" and "rexlings" actually had way different body proportions.
- Their duck-billed dinosaurs have fleshy lips.
- While the raptors were nice and feathered, they still weren't quite feathered enough.
- Recycling of animation models meant that the lean troodontid Saurornithoides looked the same as the relatively robust dromaeosaurid Deinonychus.
- Speculative Documentary: Maybe a bit too speculative.
- Stock Dinosaurs: Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, Ankylosaurus, Parasaurolophus, Deinonychus and Quetzalcoatlus. Sadly, along with the sauropod Sauroposeidon, those are the only creatures in the doc.
- Stock Footage: It drives a man nuts! The same clips being replayed constantly, over and over and over again!
- Tyrannosaurus Rex
- Viewers Are Goldfish: To quote the quote-mined paleontologist:
"[The program] is incredibly repetitive, to the point that I found it hard to watch for any length of time without my attention wandering. Not just the CGI clips, but the narration as well. You’ll learn in 30 seconds why females tend to be choosier about mates than males (eggs are more expensive than sperm), and spend the next 15 minutes having that slowly beaten in your brain using as much empty verbiage as possible. Ditto every other fact on the show."
- ↑ The one who was quote-mined, at that!