A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
While the series is supposed to be educational on its own, Ancient Yellowstone functions more as a gateway towards other sources of education that curious viewers might be inspired to explore after they have finished the series. The show's talking heads offer only bare Wikipedia-level facts about the geology and hot springs of Yellowstone National Park, while they and the narrator spend the rest of the episodes giving half-conjectures about what science might be able to find out about ancient and alien life from the observable evidence at Yellowstone (e.g. hot spring bacteria's biology is slightly different from bacteria that live elsewhere on Earth) in maddening repetitions.
Marvel at the natural world and the secrets parts of it might be holding right in front of your eyes. In addition, always remember that there's a wider world larger than yourself, and that it's important to make active efforts to take care of that world by having less of a carbon footprint.
Positive Role Models
The scientists interviewed really just repeat the same facts and science-adjacent conjectures over and over again, and their additions function almost more as storytelling beats instead of actual substantive information. Because of this, it's hard to imagine that they would inspire any aspiring scientists in any meaningful way.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Ancient Yellowstone is a three-part science documentary miniseries about the mysteries that the particular bacteria and geology of Yellowstone National Park might hold below the surface, and the implications that these subjects might have for subjects as far reaching as alien life, past animal fossils, and ancient plants. There's nothing to warn about as far as violence, sex, or other possible worrisome subjects go, but there's also not a lot actually offered information-wise.
Is It Any Good?
Ancient Yellowstone begins its three mini series admirably, providing a summation of the ways in which many people know about Yellowstone already, and what secrets it might hold below the surface of its unique geography, fossils, and animal and plant life.
However, as the miniseries' episodes continue, it becomes apparent that the superficially "cool" nature of the possibilities referred to above-- the episodes' titles are 'Alien Life', Frozen Archeology', and 'The Petrified Forest'-- forms the most significant engine behind Ancient Yellowstone's (halting) clickbait-like momentum. The dramatic pulses of music, artistic renderings of science-adjacent items, and interviewees' conjectures that form the miniseries never engage fully with any more information than their most superficial selves. Perhaps Ancient Yellowstone's lack of substance or quality can be summed up in one instance: when a talking head figure refers to the fact that "a famous microbiologist" began studying Yellowstone's thermal vents more closely a few decades ago. There's no excuse for that phrase in any piece of media that purports to share knowledge in any serious way, and in the same way that there's little to no knowledge that the miniseries has to actually share.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.