TV Review: Primeval (1×06)

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The past has the habit of coming back these days, doesn’t it?

If we follow on from the idea presented last week – that Primeval is, fundamentally, a programme about unsustainable beauty, and nature fighting back against humanity – this finale episode becomes an obvious example of the past fighting the future.

It’s interesting to look at the future predator here, and to consider what it means. It was always the most iconic of the Primeval monsters; understandable, given that it was also one of the few original creatures. Certainly, it is an effective creature – this episode is a well-directed one, and far more tension was wrought from this one episode than have been in any of the preceding ones. There’s something about the future predator that does make it scary. Of course, it’s also the most well suited to Primeval’s fundamental premise – a literal representation of the danger presented by the future.

But then, however, when you look at the fight between the future predator and the Gorgonopsid, it’s the Gorgonopsid that eventually wins; the ultimate killing machine from the future can’t beat the past. It’s Primeval’s most blatant statement of intent – past is paramount. You can’t escape it. It’s always going to reassert itself, and it’s always going to win.

In that vein, Primeval certainly becomes a very cynical programme; the anomalies here a far more a representation of danger than of grace and beauty, with the attack of the future predators…

primeval nick cutter douglas henshall itv future predator gorgonopsid hd wallpaper tim haines adrian hodges claudia brown lucy brown

… and, of course, the disappearance of Claudia Brown.

It’s the great unsolved mystery of Primeval – one that positions the programme’s first series as a strange little oddity in its own right, at just enough of a remove from the rest of the show that it doesn’t quite fit alongside any other series. There’s various conflicting theories and assumptions as to what it all meant, how it happened, and why it was never explained; the most commonly accepted theory seems to be that Helen caused it somehow, or that it was a result of the baby future predators being left in the past, or something along those lines.

Both are wrong. The actual answer is this:

Claudia was taken by the anomalies.

It’s made clear from her dream – dream sequences rarely have dramatic merit in their own right, but at times the symbolism can be interesting. So, when we see Claudia’s reflection replaced – subsumed – by the anomalies, what does that mean?

It might simply be that this is the next stage; we’ve seen her largely abandon the bureaucracy she came from, acknowledging and embracing the beauty of the anomalies. Perhaps this is what happens next? (You can also note that both Nick and Connor, the other characters who came closest to engaging with this beauty, are wearing quite dark clothes, whereas Claudia is wearing brighter colours; the implication, presumably, is of a certain innocence and purity to her that they lack – making her ready for this ascendance?)

That doesn’t feel quite right though. More likely, perhaps, is that this was an act of foreshadowing rather than explanation – after all, while the above is an interesting idea, there’s actually very little to support it anywhere else in the programme. Instead, it might just be an indication that the anomalies will offer a reflection of Claudia in her place; that, of course, is Jenny Lewis.

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At the end of the day, though, there’s still not a lot to say about Primeval. It’s still difficult to call this particularly well-written television – there are certainly some egregious moments in this episode, though surely the crown must be handed to the shockingly poor throwaway revelation that Helen had an affair with Steven. It’s a very rushed reveal, which is handled quite poorly – and it diminishes the impact of the Claudia cliffhanger, which is where the focus should really be.

The fact is that Primeval actually isn’t all that good from a critical perspective. That’s not to say it isn’t fun or entertaining; after all, I’ve enjoyed watching each episode. But there’s just not a lot of depth here. Which is a shame, really, because there’s certainly the potential for that – often the show gestured at ideas that were quite interesting, and went deeper than what was on screen, but rarely followed them up or pursued them to their full extent.

To some extent, it’d be easy to write off the programme’s first series as a misstep – if you’re grading it all on the metric of characterisation and writing, that is. You can’t deny, though, that Primeval was often suspenseful, usually entertaining, and had some stunning CGI for its time. In that sense, then, the show is a success.

And in all fairness to it – I enjoyed myself. I think these reviews were worth writing, though I do suspect no one read them. And I think I’ll probably do series two next year – part of me wants to start watching it now, actually.

So, for all I criticised the show (and with the series roundup and graph coming next week, I suspect it’s due for some more critique in time) it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t so bad after all.

7/10

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Broadchurch: Who attacked Trish? All the clues pointing to the attacker you might have missed in episode 3

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As the drama series progresses, the case continues to unfold – episode 3 introduces us to more new suspects and gives us more evidence to consider.

There’s no sign of the net closing around one particular person, however – Broadchurch is still quite resolutely keeping the suspects ambiguous, with plenty of contrasting evidence to suggest different people.

It’ll be a while still before we can be certain who did it – but for now, take a look at these pieces of evidence…

Another article on Broadchurch for the Metro.

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Everything you need to know about Iron Fist, Marvel’s latest Netflix Original and the final Defender

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Iron Fist follows the story of Danny Rand, who has returned to New York city to reclaim his family company.

He was presumed dead for 15 years, during which time he’s been in the mystical city of K’un-Lun, learning the power of the Iron Fist, or magical Kung Fu.

When a new threat emerges, however, Rand is forced to choose between his obligations as the Iron Fist and the family legacy he’s fought to preserve.

I wrote an article with everything you need to know about Iron Fist – who he is, what the story is about, and why it (might, but probably won’t) be worth watching.

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TV Review: Primeval (1×05)

primeval logo hd itv science fiction dinosaurs nick cutter douglas henshall tim haines adrian hodges impossible pictures

It’s beautiful.

It’s worth considering what the anomaly represents in all of this.

On the surface, it’s a simple sci-fi plot device. Except, actually, it’s not. We associate time travel with science fiction, but there’s nothing about Primeval that marks it as such – particularly so at this point in the show’s development, when it’s at its most low-tech. There’s no scientific explanation of the anomaly – how could there be, really – and so it must be considered as something else.

The anomaly, then, is magic. It’s a portal to another world – glimmering, shining lights, representing a path into something otherwise cut off from us. How could it be anything else?

It’s more than that, though – because it’s an opportunity for grace. Repeatedly it’s been emphasised that the creatures from the anomalies are beautiful; the majesty of nature is perhaps the closest that Primeval has to any single overarching theme. The close of this episode is a scene of sheer jubilation for Cutter, Steven, Connor and Abby. And, notably, for Claudia.

When Claudia describes the Pteranodon as “beautiful”, after having been demanding to kill it for much of the episode, it’s an important point of progression in her character arc; the moment at which she moves away from the political world, embracing the natural side of things. Embracing that beauty.

Claudia’s prior stance, however, is not out of the ordinary – it’s not anomalous, if you will. It’s the same stance represented by people like Tom Ryan or James Lester; one of limitation, one of control, one of constraint. The grace of the anomalies is a liberating force, but it’s one that can only be considered an aberration in the world that Claudia Brown came from.

primeval anomaly 1x05 golf course sky helen cutter review

But then, there is more to it. The anomalies are also a representation of danger; more specifically, it’s a danger that’s always framed in terms of consumption. Akin to the ouroboros, the past is eating the present. To reassert the beauty of the past, the present must be cannibalised. Subsumed.

Arguably, you can see this carrying across the entirety of Primeval; any trips to the future have always affirmed the idea that humanity plunges the planet into a dystopia, leaving nature as a dead and barren wasteland. For all that Nick and his team think they’re helping, they’re not – they’re an extension of the bureaucracy represented by Lester and the government, ultimately forming a part of the same system that brings about the end. The dystopian future was always caused by attempts to control the anomalies, rather than letting them run their course – from the ARC in series 3, to Philip Burton’s later efforts as the series drew to a close.

This casts the anomalies in a different light again. Taken as a natural phenomenon, they should be understood as a response to humanity – the immune system fighting back. Primeval is, then, a fiercely environmentalist programme; it is, after all, quite literally depicting nature itself trying to reassert dominance over humanity – yet not through violence, but rather through beauty.

Certainly, this is the most obvious interpretation of later years of the programme; here, though, it’s less obvious. One could take the character Rex as a suggestion that humanity can live alongside this grace without corrupting it – and yet, consider what happens to Claudia Brown. In this episode, she finally understands the beauty of the anomalies; in the next, she disappears, to be replaced by a woman far more firmly entrenched in the world of bureaucracy than she ever was.

All of which, in turn, prompts an understanding of our main characters which is in fact far darker than initially appears. Hoping to preserve what they clearly acknowledge as beauty, the team instead become an eschatological archetype, engaged in a wholly futile fight against an unavoidable status quo. For all their attempts to engage with the grace of the anomalies, they are instead unwitting agents of the control they so often try to shrug off.

This then begs the question – by the standards of the programme itself, who is the real hero? Who is, fundamentally, in the right? The answer is obvious.

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Helen Cutter.

She’s the only one who has wholeheartedly embraced the anomalies, and, in turn, their liberation. Consider her introduction in the pool – entirely vulnerable, yet entirely at ease. Helen is at one with nature, and so Helen is the hero of the show. She’s the only one who understands the point of it all.

When viewed through this lens – ie, taking the anomalies as the centre of the show, rather than merely a plot vehicle to allow for prehistoric escapades – Primeval takes a very different stance. It becomes difficult to see our heroes as heroes, per se.

And yet, perhaps they still are.

Primeval, understood in this way, is a crushingly cynical programme. Yes, it’s about a reassertion of beauty in the face of the degradation of the natural world (consider the setting of each episode too – always an artificial version of nature) but it features main characters whose actions are fundamentally yet unknowingly at odds with their worldview, and ultimately posits that nothing can be done to avoid the end of the world – indeed, their very actions advance this dystopia.

However, our heroes always maintain a level of positivity and optimism – far moreso than Helen, who grows increasingly nihilistic as the programme goes on. It’s this nihilism that is ultimately the clearest argument from which to denounce her as the hero – for all that she initially embraces the liberation of the anomalies, her eventual slide into nihilism is surely incompatible with the beauty of nature that the series holds paramount.

Perhaps, then, the fact that the team were able to create their own beauty indicates they do understand the premise of the show after all.

7/10

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The impact of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and why it still matters

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It’s not exactly an original take on the matter to say that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was highly influential, if not pivotal, in terms of how television has developed over the past twenty years.

That does not, however, make it any less true.

Certainly, Buffy was groundbreaking in many key respects – many of the most popular television shows today owe a huge debt to Buffy, and may not have existed without it. In some regards, it’s a little bit like Isaac Asimov’s story about the woman who read Hamlet for the first time and said “I don’t see why people admire that play so. It is nothing but a bunch of quotations strung together”.

And yet despite how familiar certain aspects of the show have now become, Buffy still stands above them – after all, part of the reason why it was so influential was because of just how good it is.

For the 20th anniversary of Buffy on Friday, I wrote this short piece, celebrating the show and arguing why it still matters today.

This piece shall also be dedicated to my real life pal Robbie, who very much likes Buffy. I got him a book for his birthday once that compared Buffy to Hamlet, which I thought was quite clever, since we had exams on Hamlet coming up soon. I’m told he didn’t write his essay about all the ways Hamlet is like Buffy, but I don’t entirely trust his account of it all.

(Oh, huh, I just noticed that I referenced Hamlet in the above anyway. I bet that was for his benefit. Wow, I’m such a good friend. Presents and articles. What a blessing to have me in your life.)

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Broadchurch episode two – Here are the latest clues as to who attacked Trish

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Tonight’s episode of Broadchurch saw Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) meet with three potential suspects, while Trish gave her deposition interview about what happened the night of the assault.

As with every episode of Broadchurch, there were plenty of twists and turns ahead, not to mention a big helping of characters behaving suspiciously.

Here are some of the clues and details from tonight’s episode that might hold the key to solving the mystery.

Latest Broadchurch article, analysing the potential suspects from tonight’s episode.

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Doctor Who Explainer – What are the Mondasian Cybermen?

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The Cybermen in The Tenth Planet were from the planet Mondas – a hidden planet from our solar system, and a ‘twin planet’ to Earth before Mondas drifted away into deep space. Those living on the planet, now faced with increasingly harsh conditions on their planet, began to augment their bodies to survive, becoming Cybermen. However, because the conversion process was done in a gradual way with limited technology, the Mondasian Cybermen were not the sleek silver giants we’ve seen in recent years; rather, they were cloth-faced mummies, still with visible flesh and organic parts on show. In many respects, that’s part of why they’re so creepy – and why their memory has endured.

With the news today that the Mondasian Cybermen will be returning to Doctor Who, I wrote an article to explain what that actually means – after all, the Cybermen have a fairly complicated backstory!

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How Clique masters tone to present a tightly wound thriller

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The premier episode exists in a liminal space of uncertainty, with every frame of the episode imbued with a subtle sense of discomfort. In turn, then, Clique becomes a particularly tense and taut hour of television, crafted with a real precision that positions it as one of the most effective pieces of drama BBC Three has put out in a long, long time.

Part of this discomfort is a gradual probing of the darker aspects of the world that Clique presents; from the twisted energy of the party scene to the high-pressure competition of internship applications, this is a show that focuses on delving into the depths without holding back. Indeed, there’s an unrelenting intensity to Clique that’s borne of this incremental unveiling of the darkness, carried well by nuanced characters and compelling performances.

The latest drama offering from BBC Three, Clique is a fabulous piece of television. I’m very fond of this show. And this article, come to that.

I really deliberated over this article, actually, trying to make it into something special – because Clique deserves that level of high quality writing about it! You can be the judge over how successful I was in that regard, mind you.

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Why it’s important to advance Doctor Who’s Nazi allegory into the 21st Century

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Daleks began as fairly straight-forward allegories for Nazis. It was a depiction shaped by Terry Nation’s youth during the second World War, and one which was understood by all watching – the dark days of the 1940s weren’t so distant a memory in 1963, after all.

This allegory forms part of the central tension of the Daleks as not just monsters, but villains. The Daleks aren’t mere clunky sci-fi robots; they’re a representation of the worst of us. Of hate and prejudice and a very specific human evil. It’s this aspect to them that has made the Daleks last for so long, and why they resonated so well with audiences in the 1960s.

However, in recent years, this allegory hasn’t quite held the same meaning. And that’s understandable; the way we perceive Nazism has changed a lot since the 1960s. Accordingly, the allegory that the Daleks form doesn’t hold quite the same impact anymore – which means that one must consider what Nazis represent now, and update the allegory accordingly.

The idea of the Daleks as an allegory for the Nazis has always fascinated me; even moreso in recent years, as the way in which we understand Nazis in society has begun to change.

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TV Review: Primeval (1×04)

primeval logo hd itv science fiction dinosaurs nick cutter douglas henshall tim haines adrian hodges impossible pictures

It was a conspiracy, wasn’t it?

Essentially, this is the consensus best episode of Primeval. Or is it? If not, it’s surely only because no one’s ever actually cared enough to come to a consensus; writing these, I do wonder if anyone has actually ever brought themselves to consider Primeval in any particular depth like this before.

In any case, though, this was the episode I was most looking forward to – upon deciding I was going to be doing these reviews, it was this episode that kept me going at the points when Primeval was getting a bit, you know, meh.

A lot of it is because this episode starts to move beyond the fairly simple monsters-chasing-people set-up that we’ve had so far; even just the smallest tweaks to the format feel like quite significant structural changes (even when, admittedly, they’re not) that really allowed the show to breathe. It’s one of the most concise arguments for variety within the show, really, because of how fresh this episode feels in contrast to the prior ones.

Certainly, in terms of how the piece is made, it is a lot more effective than prior episodes – the team take a much more proactive approach, which gives the script a lot more drive. There’s a real central tension that comes from this, too, which allows the episode to be that much more effective again – which is helped, of course, by a higher quality of direction than we’ve seen on the show so far.

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Following on from last week, where I spoke at length about the need for Primeval to engage a little more in some emotional content, this episode actually does that – which is nice!

There’s a danger that this week’s storyline might not have been as effective as it could have been – and, admittedly, I’ve got to concede that it wasn’t actually as impactful as I remembered it being. The impact of Tom’s death is blunted by how quickly it’s dealt with; I suspect it might have been more effective had it been moved forward slightly, with Connor’s crisis of confidence and Nick’s reassurance happening after a bit of a time delay, just to allow the magnitude of what happened to sink in a little more.

Nonetheless, though, it does work. Yes, it’s not fantastic, but it is one of the most subtle and intelligent moments we’ve seen in Primeval so far. It’s certainly an instance where the script was better, but it’s carried by the acting; Andrew Lee Potts demonstrates, once again quite clearly, why Connor fast became one of the breakout characters on Primeval. There’s a consistent ability of this cast to take the material they’re given and elevate it higher than it really is – and the show is all the better for it.

primeval nick cutter douglas henshall connor temple andrew lee potts Richard Kurti and Bev Doyle jamie payne

At the end of the day, though, the most significant realisation that comes with this episode is the fact that Primeval just isn’t that good. And, fair enough – that was always sort of to be expected. It’s very much the epitome of decently entertaining mid-2000s sci-fi which was, while perfectly functional on first broadcast, never really anything special; certainly, it wasn’t meant to be written about in any particular depth ten years on. I don’t know that anyone involved was really expecting it to have this odd little cult lifespan that it does.

My own primary attachment to it is a sentimental one, really; when watching the show, it is consistently frustrating how often they’ll throw out some genuinely quite creative ideas with reams of potential to explore, but then return to that basic format of monsters chasing people. Sure, it’s still enjoyable – but there’s very much the feeling that this show probably could have been a lot more, had it been pushed further and developed more.

And yet, though, this episode was very good. Certainly, it’s the best episode that Primeval has had so far – the first one that’s made a break from the more generic aspects of the series so far, and given us a bit of variety and some deeper emotional content. The first episode, really, to be telling stories as though it was genuinely in a post-RTD Doctor Who world, demonstrating that Primeval can be quite good.

It’s just that it also makes it quite clear that “the best episode that Primeval has had so far” is damning with particularly faint praise.

8/10

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