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Case Number 23649: Small Claims Court

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Ice Age Death Trap

PBS // 2012 // 54 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // April 10th, 2012

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge James A. Stewart has mastodons in his backyard.

The Charge

"Did something catastrophic happen to kill off all the ancient elephants—and what was it?"

The Case

In Snowmass, Colorado, the site of a pending dam became an archaeological dig when a bulldozer turned up a mammoth's jaw and teeth. Experts from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science had only a short time to find what they could—and they found a lot.

Most interestingly, the archaelogical team found lots of bits and pieces of mastodons—and realized that, since they were finding all age groups, something had done them in. Ice Age Death Trap follows the team as they dig, provides CGI introductions to the animals they found, and speculates on what ended the lives of the mastodons.

This is a single episode of PBS' long-running NOVA series, co-produced with National Geographic, so its purchase value is probably limited to the "educators and librarians" the ad inside the box pitches to. However, it's entertaining as well as interesting. If you're a teacher, note that the simple experiment to reproduce the demise of the mastodons could be replicated in your classroom.

The announcer takes on an urgent tone, asking lots of questions ("Was it a resort where bad things happened?") that occasionally attempt to make Ice Age Death Trap feel more like a thriller than a science documentary. The questions don't seem all that mysterious by the end of the episode, although the Denver museum team undoubtedly spent a lot more time puzzling over them off-camera.

Presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with a Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix, the picture and sound quality are excellent. There are no extras; PBS missed out on the opportunity to expand on the original episode.

The main benefits of Ice Age Death Trap are showing how any archaeological dig works and providing a brief CGI introduction to prehistoric wildlife. For classes studying these topics, it does the job nicely.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: PBS
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 54 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Science and Nature
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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