By Mike Lipton
July 14, 2003 12:00 PM

Animal Planet (Tues., July 8, 15 and 22, 9 p.m. ET)

Watching a haggard band of baboon-like primates called babookaris being pursued by a flock of 7-ft.-tall wingless avians called carakillers, I had to remind myself that this chase scene was taking place 5 million years in the future, and that babookaris and carakillers are merely make-believe, the speculative doodlings of evolutionary biologists. But so convincing is the computer animation that brings these and other posthistoric creatures to life that this imaginative nature series plays eerily like the real thing. The carakillers (think Big Bird gone berserk) turn up in the July 8 episode. The following week’s show leaps ahead 95 million years, when massive, 240,000-lb. toratons, resembling tortoises on steroids, roam the swamps of what used to be India. In the July 22 finale, set 200 million years hence, the animators go on a DNA bender, creating shape-shifting slime monsters, giant snails that hop about like kangaroos and flying fish called (what else?) flish. Bottom Line: Intensely Vivid Future

Terry Kelleher is on vacation.