The programme contains two separate half-hour segments originally transmitted as Walking With Dinosaurs "specials" The first is a biopic of Big Al, the allosaurus whose remarkably complete skeleton, found in Wyoming in 1991, allowed scientists to piece together an accurate picture of the creature's life. We follow Al from his hatching out of an egg, then at regular stages through his development into an almost fully grown adult. Almost being the operative word since, since after suffering a series of injuries Al becomes too ill to hunt and suffers an arbitrary, unspectacular demise (all the more believable and touching for it) in late adolescence.
The second programme is a "making of" documentary, showing how scientists analysed Al's bones and came up with a plausible series of adventures for him. It's easy to forget that these recreations can only be educated supposition--the camerawork and narration (by Kenneth Branagh) exactly mimic actual wildlife documentaries about living species, while the computer-generated depiction of the dinosaurs is never less than utterly convincing. We're in danger of taking this kind of dazzling FX work for granted, but Big Al freshens it up by putting it at the service of a well-structured, very specific narrative.
The programme doesn't hold back on realities of the Jurassic period's harsh, kill-or-be-killed ecosystem, but while it carries an official warning about "mild wildlife horror", Big Al sensibly never dwells on the gory stuff. The most graphic section is also, strangely, the most alluring, as a hungry pack of Allosaurs patiently stalk a herd of colossal Diplodocus across a dry salt lake. The images of these enormous creatures trotting and lumbering along against a stark white background have a surreal, dreamy beauty--the spell abruptly broken when an ailing Diplodocus collapses, exhausted, and the ravenous Allosaurs quickly move in for their bloody feast. --Neil Young