The people who brought you the various Walking with Prehistoric Monsters series and "Prehistoric Park" present the story of two young dinosaurs coping with the rigours of an Arctic winter. Narrated by Stephen Fry, this film features Scar, the young Edmontosaurus, who must migrate south with his herd and face several dangerous trials along the way, ranging from predators to environmental hazards. Also featured is Patch, the adolescent Troodon, who has to rely on his insulating feathers and cunning to survive the onset of the cold, darkness, snow, and ice, as well as competition from rival Troodons and the threat of larger predators. During their adventures, we meet some species not yet covered in previous "Walking With" shows . . . .
EDMONTOSAURUS: A large, herd-oriented hadrosaur. The herd belonging to one of our protagonists (Scar) is central to the story.
TROODON: Once also known as Stenonychosaurus, these bird-like predators are big-brained and fast, possibly the most intelligent dinosaurs to have existed. The other of the main characters (Patch) belongs to this species.
GORGOSAURUS: A large solitary tyrannosaur which toughs out the winter with its size, feathers, and ability to eat practically any creature smaller than itself.
EDMONTONIA: A nodosaurine ankylosaur (one whose armour includes large shoulder-spikes but no bone club on the end of its tail), it's slow and unable to migrate, so it stays put and forages in the snow.
EARLY MAMMAL (not named in the film): A small, primitive, opossum-like furball. Its descendants will likely eventually evolve into lemurs, monkeys, apes, football players, and humans. In the context of the show, it's mainly Troodon's between-meal snack.
PACHYRHINOSAURUS: A short-sighted, foul-tempered ceratopsian herd animal which must also migrate according to the seasons. Unlike its more famous cousin, Triceratops, Pachyrhinosaurus doesn't have much in the way of horns, other than a few small spikes on its neck-frill. Instead, it has a large, thick boss of bone on its snout. Still not an animal to mess with, though.
QUETZALCOATLUS: Perhaps the biggest animal ever to fly, with a wingspan of up to forty feet. In this film, it fills the role of scavenger / predator, circling like a vulture and waiting for the weak, sick, and injured to succumb, raiding another predator's unguarded kills, or actively pursuing easy prey.
PROGNATHODON: A huge mosasaur that makes swimming in Cretaceous waters a very bad idea indeed.
ALBERTOSAURUS: Another large tyrannosaur, this time a pack-hunter. The thought of ten or more multi-ton death machines working as a team to kill and eat everything they come across . . . well, have a couple of changes of underwear ready if you're of a nervous disposition.
This is the first such undertaking done entirely in CGI. This is both a good and a bad thing. It's good, because location scouts don't have to scour the planet to find places to film that resemble the Cretaceous world as closely as possible. The programmers can MAKE the Cretaceous world as accurately as they can. It's bad, because during some of the fast camera-panning and quick action, the backgrounds or creatures move, flicker, jump, and blur like they come from a video game. I don't know if this happens in the Blu-Ray edition, but it does on my DVD, and it's rather distracting and detracts from the realism. Otherwise, the scenery is lovely, and in many places, breathtaking.
And speaking of realism and video games, a lot of effort was put into this show to make it as accurate as possible, but there is no way I can believe that a massive adult Albertosaurus can leap thirty feet into the air to deliver a killing blow like a character from one of the more violent martial arts beat-'em-ups. Many of the scenes which are supposed to take place in the months-long Arctic night often seem to be as brightly-lit as day. And maybe I haven't been keeping up with all the latest developments in palaeontology, but I could've sworn that pterosaurs such as Quetzalcoatlus were supposed to be covered in fur, and that Gorgosaurus was a defunct name attached to some fossil material that was later found out to be from Albertosaurus. I might be wrong on that last point, though there still seems to be some debate on the matter. There's a bit of over-dramatising and some slight anthropomorphising, but on the whole, the story's gripping, the science is mostly sound, and the animals look extremely good. You might think that feathery tyrannosaurids might lack the necessary fright factor, but they somehow look even NASTIER with feathers.
The DVD itself contains some fun downloadable material, including colouring-in sheets, posters, and fact files. You also get a "Making Of" documentary, director's commentary, storyboards that play along with the narration, and fact-screens about the various prehistoric creatures.
On the whole, this is a very good DVD set. Not outstanding, but very good. It tells a fascinating story that hasn't been told before in any of the "Walking With..." series, and introduces some interesting species. Definitely worth a look for all dinosaur fans, but I might recommend renting it first to see if you'd want to own it.