“I’ve always been obsessed by dinosaurs and monsters, all that kind of stuff, since I was a boy,” said Douglas Henshall, explaining what drew him to the ITV drama, the first two series of which are available on BritBox today. “Primeval was kind of a hang-over from childhood, a way of vicariously satisfying the old childhood memories.”
The series began life at the BBC, under a very different title. “I’d made a [documentary-style series] called Walking with Dinosaursfor the BBC back in 2000,” recalled co-creator Tim Haines, previously a science journalist with a background in zoology, “and it struck me that all that technology [could be] used for a drama. Because the BBC wanted a recognisable piece of IP, we made Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World first. I then came up with the idea of Cutter’s Bestiary, and developed a script with another writer, which didn’t go anywhere.”
It’s at this point that Adrian Hodges – who had recently won a BAFTA for Charles II: The Power and Passion – came on board. “One day I went into [BBC Head of Drama] Laura Mackie’s office, and she asked me what I wanted to do next. She suggested Bleak House – I’d already done David Copperfield, so I said no, I don’t want to do another Dickens, thank you. I want to do something that’s fun, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’d just watched all of Buffy, I thought it was a brilliant show. I wanted to do something with the same vibe, the same feel to it.”
New inteview(s)! With the first two series of Primeval on BritBox, I spoke to the cast and crew about the early years of the show – how it developed at the BBC as Cutter’s Bestiary, how Douglas Henshall leaving the show impacted their plans for the series arc, that sort of thing. (Most of the reason why I pitched this was so, almost fifteen years later, I could finally find out what the whole Claudia Brown/Jenny Lewis plotline was about.)
Quite enjoyed writing this one! It was by some distance the most logistically complicated piece I’ve ever done, in terms of co-ordinating all the different interviews – might try and write up a behind the scenes type thing one day, figure that might be an interesting thing to do.