Walking with Monsters

Walking with Monsters -
Life Before Dinosaurs
Walking with Monsters DVD cover.jpeg
Genre Documentary
Developed by Andrew Wilks
Narrated by Kenneth Branagh
Edward Gero (US)
Theme music composer Ben Bartlett
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 3
Executive producer(s) Tim Haines
Producer(s) Chloe Leland
Running time 90 minutes
30 minutes (episodic)
Production company(s) BBC Natural History Unit
Impossible Pictures
Distributor BBC Worldwide
Original network BBC Three
Original release 5 November 2005 (2005-11-05)
Preceded by Walking with Beasts
Related shows Other shows in the Walking with... series
External links

Walking with Monsters (distributed in North America as Before the Dinosaurs - Walking with Monsters) is a three-part British documentary film series about life in the Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras. It is a prequel to Walking with Dinosaurs and was written and directed by Chloe Leland and by Tim Haines and narrated by Kenneth Branagh. It first aired on BBC Three and BBC One in November and December 2005. At the 58th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2006 it won the Emmy Award in the category Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or More).

Drawing on the knowledge of over 600 scientists, the series depicts Paleozoic history, from the Cambrian Period (530 million years ago) to the Early Triassic Period (248 million years ago), and extinct arthropods, fish, amphibians, synapsids, and reptiles.[1]


The series first aired as a single 90-minute installment on BBC Three, followed by a weekly episodic broadcast on BBC One. The first episode received 4.57 million viewers on BBC One;[2] Viewing figures for the remaining broadcasts did not reach the Top 30 and/or Top 10 Programs. The series has also aired as a two-hour special on the Canadian and American Discovery Channel with an alternate narrator, although Branagh's narration can still sometimes be heard.

Unlike previous series, each period begins with "tech specs" highlighting specific traits of that period; as well as the location based on fossil finds from that period, they also show the period's oxygen content (from up to the Carboniferous)/global temperature (from the Early Permian onwards), and hazards. It also features evolution sequences between periods and looks inside creatures to show new evolutionary traits that humans -within the context of the series- would later adopt (such as the heart of Petrolacosaurus or Euparkeria's hip joint). The major difference is that, similar to Sea Monsters before it, there are only three episodes, each containing two to three segments in time, instead of six full episodes.

No. Title Time Directed by Original air date
- "Walking With Monsters" 530-248 mya Chloe Leland and Tim Haines 5 November 2005 (2005-11-05)[3]
Omnibus of all three episodes.
1 "Water Dwellers" 530/418/360 mya Chloe Leland 8 December 2005 (2005-12-08)[4]

530 million years ago: Cambrian
Place: Chengjiang, China
Oxygen Content: 30% below today
Hazards: world's first super predator

The first episode begins with an illustration of the giant impact hypothesis: approximately 4.4 billion years ago when the Earth was formed, it is conjectured that a planet-like object referred to as Theia collided into the early Earth, dynamically reshaping the Earth and forming the moon. The episode then jumps ahead to the Cambrian Explosion, showing the first diversification of life in the sea. Strange arthropod predators called Anomalocaris feed on trilobites, and fight with each other, whereupon a wounded loser is attacked by a school of Haikouichthys, described as the first vertebrate.

Animals: Anomalocaris   Haikouichthys   Redlichia (unidentified trilobite)   Jellyfish

418 million years ago: Silurian
Place: South Wales, UK
Oxygen Content: 30% below today
Hazards: giant scorpions

The segment moves on to the Silurian period, where Haikouichthys has evolved into the jawless-fish Cephalaspis. The marine scorpion Brontoscorpio pursues a Cephalaspis but falls victim to the giant eurypterid Pterygotus, whose young feed on the smaller scorpion's body. Later a shoal of Cephalaspis migrate into the shallows to spawn, navigating via memory thanks to their advanced vertebrate brains. As they cross a shallow embankment, they are ambushed by several Brontoscorpio which are depicted as the first animals capable of walking on land. Several fish are killed but the majority slip past the feasting scorpions and arrive at the spawning site. One scorpion misses this feeding opportunity due to having to moult its exoskeleton.

Animals: Cephalaspis   Brontoscorpio   Pterygotus   Cameroceras (unnamed, identified as orthocone)   Sea sponge   Sea urchin

360 million years ago: Devonian
Place: Pennsylvania, USA
Oxygen Content: 20% below today
Hazards: giant killer fish

A short sequence depicts Cephalaspis evolving into Hynerpeton, amphibian-like tetrapods, who now hunt their arthropod contemporaries which have shrunk. Though capable of terrestrial movement, Hynerpeton have to remain near water to keep moist and reproduce. A lone male Hynerpeton hunting underwater is threatened by predatory fish, at first by a Stethacanthus which is eaten by a two-ton Hyneria that chases the amphibian out of the water. After seeing off a rival during the night, the male finds a receptive female at dawn and the two mate at the water's edge. They are ambushed by the Hyneria, which beaches itself in the attack, but then uses its fins to drag itself ashore and grab the fleeing male. Despite his untimely death, the Hynerpeton eggs were successfully fertilised and sink into the water to develop. A sequence depicts them acquiring hard shells as the first reptiles evolve, but as the offspring leave their nest, those still hatching are left at the mercy of a giant spider, foreshadowing the return of the arthropods.

Animals: Hynerpeton   Hyneria   Stethacanthus (unnamed, identified as primitive shark)   Scorpion   Petrolacosaurus   Mesothelae (model based on outdated depiction of Megarachne)

2 "Reptile's Beginnings" 300/280 mya Chloe Leland 15 December 2005 (2005-12-15)

300 million years ago: Carboniferous
Place: Kansas, USA
Oxygen Content: 40% above today
Hazards: giant insects

The second episode shows the swampy coal forests of the Carboniferous. It explains that because of a much higher oxygen content in the atmosphere, giant land arthropods evolved, such as Megarachne, a spider the size of a human head, Meganeura; a giant dragonfly the size of an eagle and Arthropleura; a giant relative of modern millipedes and centipedes. A Megarachne hunts down and kills a Petrolacosaurus. She comes back from her hunting expedition only to find her burrow has flooded; the Petrolacosaurus she caught is then stolen by a Meganeura. On the spider's search for a new burrow, she passes a pond full of Proterogyrinus. Later she is chased by an Arthropleura, which is later killed in a fight with a Proterogyrinus. The Megarachne finally chases a Petrolacosaurus out of its own burrow and moves in. A storm brews and the narrator explains that its high oxygen content makes the atmosphere very combustible, so lightning is a real danger. The Proterogyrinus are seen leaping out of the water to catch Meganeura, which were driven below the tree canopy by the storm. Later, lightning and a forest fire pour in, devastating the life around. Despite no apparent signs of life after the storm, a Petrolacosaurus is shown to have managed to outrun the flames, but then heads into the Megarachne's lair, where it emerges with her dead body (her burrow was at the centre of a lightning strike) and begins to feed upon the spider's carcass.

Animals:   Megarachne (unnamed, identified as mesothelae)   Petrolacosaurus   Meganeura   Arthropleura   Proterogyrinus (unnamed, identified as amphibian)

280 million years ago: Early Permian
Place: Bromacker, Germany
Global Temp: 20% colder than today
Hazards: extreme seasons

The episode then moves on to the Early Permian, where the swamp-loving trees of the Carboniferous have been replaced with more advanced conifers that are better adapted to survive in a changing climate. Petrolacosaurus and a few other diapsids have evolved into the sub-group of creatures called pelycosaurs like the Edaphosaurus which are now closely related to mammals. They live in herds and have outgrown their arthropod contemporaries in size. A pregnant female Dimetrodon, another pelycosaur, hunts the Edaphosaurus herd, beginning with a mock charge to expose the juveniles. She finally kills a baby Edaphosaurus, but is forced to abandon her kill when the scent of blood attracts others of her kind, all highly-aggressive males. She builds a nest on a hill and is watched by the egg-stealing reptiliomorph, Seymouria. Some time after laying her eggs, another gravid Dimetrodon tries to take over her nest. After a long duel, the original female drives off the intruder, but is badly injured and fatigued in the process. A male Dimetrodon approaches the now unguarded nest, but luckily kills the thieving Seymouria and leaves the eggs unharmed. The eggs hatch and the mother's bond with her offspring is severed. The episode ends with the wounded mother joining other adult Dimetrodon in attacking her own young which race to the trees and hide in dung to escape. At the end the Dimetrodon is seen evolving into an Inostrancevia and the narrator says that the reptiles will evolve to tighten their grip on land, becoming new "specialist reptiles".

Animals: Dimetrodon   Edaphosaurus   Seymouria (unnamed, identified as amphibian)   Dragonfly (non-episodic version only)   Inostrancevia

3 "Clash of Titans" 250/248 mya Tim Haines 19 December 2005 (2005-12-19)

250 million years ago: Late Permian
Place: Siberia
Global Temp: 60% hotter than today
Hazards: extreme heat, volcanic activity

The third episode is set in the Late Permian, on the supercontinent Pangaea, which was covered by a vast and inhospitable desert. In this arid climate, early therapsids, which are described as more mammal-like than reptile, are shown fighting to survive alongside other animals. The programme starts with an old Scutosaurus, a relative of turtles, being killed by a female Inostrancevia, a type of gorgonopsid which later joins others of her kind at a small waterhole. Other inhabitants of the area include Diictodon, a small burrowing dicynodont. In the pool itself is a starving female Rhinesuchus that ambushes the female Inostrancevia in desperation and quickly retreats. A herd of Scutosaurus arrive and eventually drink the waterhole dry. The female Inostrancevia tries to dig out a pair of Diictodon but is unsuccessful. Upon returning to the waterhole, she unearths the female Rhinesuchus wrapped in a "cocoon" which it utilized to survive drought. In a torpid state, it is helpless and quickly killed. The Inostrancevia is eventually killed by a sandstorm, foreshadowing the oncoming Permian鈥揟riassic extinction event. The Diictodon meanwhile are able to adapt by digging their burrows deeper, occasionally unearthing plant tubers for sustenance.

Animals: Inostrancevia (unnamed, identified as gorgonopsid)   Diictodon   Rhinesuchus (unnamed, identified as labyrinthodont)   Scutosaurus

248 million years ago: Early Triassic
Place: Antarctica
Global Temp: 40% hotter than today
Hazards: ambush predators

Diictodon is seen evolving into the larger Lystrosaurus. The Lystrosaurus multiply into vast herds that must continually migrate in order to find fresh foliage. Also featured is the small insectivorous Euparkeria that is depicted as an ancestor of the dinosaurs. When the Lystrosaurus herd traverses a ravine, one is killed by a pack of venomous Euchambersia, though the herd doesn't show concern for the victim. Encountering a river, the herd enters the water and is attacked by numerous Proterosuchus. Many are killed, but the majority escape and continue their migration. The narrator explains that despite the dominance of Lystrosaurus, eventually the world will recover in full from the Permian-Triassic extinction event and other reptiles will overtake them; the resulting decline in all mammal-like reptiles meaning that mammals are destined to be confined to the shadows as a new group of animals becomes the dominant species on Earth. The episode ends as a Euparkeria is confronted by a Proterosuchus: the Euparkeria suddenly rapidly evolves into an Allosaurus and the scene cuts to the Late Jurassic where it passes two Stegosaurus (in the non-episodic version it cuts to both the Jurassic and late Triassic). The Age of Monsters is over, and the Age of Dinosaurs has begun.

Animals: Lystrosaurus   Euparkeria   Proterosuchus (unnamed, identified as chasmatosaur)   Euchambersia (unnamed, identified as therocephalian)   Dragonfly

Late Triassic (220 MYA)/Late Jurassic (150 Mya)(all unnamed; stock footage from Walking with Dinosaurs)   Coelophysis   Thrinaxodon   Allosaurus   Stegosaurus   Diplodocus   Apatosaurus   Anurognathus   Brachiosaurus


  1. ^ Southern, Nathan (17 January 2006). "Walking with Monsters: Before the Dinosaurs (2005)". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  2. ^ Weekly top 30 programmes BARB Web. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  3. ^ "BBC Three: 2005: November: Sat 5". BBC Genome. BBC. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  4. ^ Episode 1: Walking with Monsters bbc.co.uk. Web. Retrieved 28 September 2018.

External links