TV Review: Primeval (1×06)

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

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.

primeval claudia brown lucy brown anomaly reflection arc itv impossible pictures

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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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.

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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.

helen cutter primeval itv juliet aubrey hd

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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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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TV Review: Primeval (1×03)

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

The anomalies are conclusive proof that the past exists in a fourth dimension as real and solid as those we already know.

The most obvious thing to do, at this point, is compare Primeval to Doctor Who – after all, it’s pretty obvious that was the intention behind the show. Primeval only existed because of the success of Doctor Who; it is, on a very fundamental level, a response to the hit BBC show, and an attempt by ITV to find their own equivalent.

So, where did they go with it? The most obvious comparison is also the most basic – the time travel element, and the monsters. In that sense, the two programmes share a broad similarity that’s going to bind them together to most of the television audience, particularly if they’re not so inclined to sit around thinking about the deeper differences. It’s clear, though, that there are some; otherwise Primeval would be entering its tenth season in a few months’ time, just as Doctor Who is.

Arguably, what Primeval shares more with is the programme that inspired Russell T Davies in his vision for Doctor Who in 2005 – Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although, admittedly, only in the most basic sense; we’ve got the Scooby gang, we’ve got the monsters each week, they have a bit of a runaround to fix things. Sorted.

And yet Primeval isn’t quite a patch on either show. It doesn’t work in the same way. There are, I suspect, two main reasons for this – limitations on the show that prevented it from ever moving forward than it really did.

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First, let’s consider why Primeval can’t quite measure up to Doctor Who.

On a fairly simple level, Primeval can be considered a reasonably straightforward adoption of a stalwart Doctor Who story – the ‘aliens in London’ plot. (Or, if you’re so inclined, ‘Yeti on the loo at Tooting Bec’.) It’s meant to be a collision of the mundane and the fantastic, crashing those two worlds together, and setting the story within that central moment of tension.

And that’s fine, really. That juxtaposition has made for some excellent Doctor Who stories, and it’s been the central hook of various different programmes over the years – something like The X-Files, for example, makes a lot with this idea – so there’s no reason why Primeval couldn’t do it either. Certainly, thus far, they’ve done a decent enough job of trying to advance their premise each week, and adding in some interesting little details with each new episode.

But it isn’t enough. Part of why this juxtaposition works on Doctor Who, and indeed why Doctor Who maintained a certain longevity that Primeval could never attain, was that it always aimed to be something different – those moments when we saw the intersection between the ordinary and the extraordinary work because they’re rarer, and because we’ve already seen the extraordinary independently of this.

It’s unfair, admittedly, to level this criticism against Primeval only after its third episode. But at the same time – this is the third episode in a series of six. While they might well be trying to set a status quo of sorts, they don’t have the room for these sorts of establishing episodes; we need to have had a little more variety in terms of what happens. Just switching up the settings a little bit – forest, underground, and water – isn’t quite enough.

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Which in turn brings us to Buffy, and the other issue to level at Primeval. Because, like I’ve said, other shows have made that ‘freak of the week’ type storytelling work before – plenty still do now. Even Buffy, oft-hailed as a masterpiece, engaged in quite a lot of this other its duration, and like Primeval, it was typically fairly similar stuff – each week, Buffy slays a new vampire. I’m being terribly reductive, but I think the basic point is clear.

These shows were able to sustain themselves, though, on the basis of their character work. Each week, further developing a character, keeping them turning, keeping them moving – it’s what lets the ‘freak of the week’ format work, because at the end of the day the monster doesn’t actually matter. It’s just set dressing.

At the moment, though, it feels like Primeval doesn’t quite get that as a principle; it’s just a little too concerned with the dinosaurs than the characters. Arguably, the dinosaurs are the main characters. You can sort of understand the temptation there – these CGI creations would have been one of the main draws for the show, and were groundbreaking in their own right at the time the show first aired. But ten years later, that doesn’t quite mean the show is going to have much longevity.

Now, in all fairness – Primeval is doing some character work. The episode was full of lots of nice little moments shared between Connor and Abby (you can see why they became fan favourites), Douglas Henshall continues to do great work with Nick, and Juliet Aubrey is fantastic as Helen, who’s surely one of the most fascinating characters we’ve been introduced to so far.

Perhaps this episode is just filler, in some regards; after all, I’m well aware that the next episode, which I’ve been looking forward to ever since the start of this rewatch, is going to address both of my above concerns. And, to be fair, it’s not like this episode is bad – I could have written quite a lot about Helen, actually – but it was an easy place to posit this argument.

For now, though, we’ll just have to see where Primeval goes – and whether it can evolve beyond these limitations.

7/10

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TV Review: Primeval (1×02)

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

You know what? All my life I’ve wanted to be in a crime-busting gang. And now I am. Sort of.

What interested me about this episode was how heavily it focused on character development. It was a very talk-y episode, in fact; long swathes of the runtime dedicated solely to the characters talking and discussing things, with comparatively little action going on. It was an interesting choice for a show like Primeval – you’d expect, simply by virtue of the programme’s nature as a ‘genre show’, as it were, that it’d be packed full of cheap thrills and jump scares, following a fairly generic and formulaic structure.

And yet Primeval, in this case, largely eschewed that – and I’d argue that was to the episode’s credit. In spending so much time focused on our human characters, rather than a runaround with the monsters (which, make no mistake, did feature; just not to the extent one might expect) the show positions itself as a slightly different beast from anything comparable. In many ways it feels like it’s settled a lot since last week; most of the tonal variances have balanced out, giving us an episode that feels a lot more coherent than last week’s. There’s a clear improvement here, and a sense that Primeval has found its footing somewhat – there’s a greater understanding of what it wants to be as a drama.

All this means, then, that after a fairly short space of time we’re beginning to get to grips with our characters to a far better extent. Certainly, there are limits; Stephen remains something of a blank slate, for example, and the same is true of Tom Ryan. But in other places, it really does work; Nick Cutter and Claudia Brown are beginning to develop nicely, in no small part because of the chemistry of Douglas Henshall and Lucy Brown. Their early interactions in Cutter’s office really anchor the first half of the episode – it’s part of why the story works so well, despite (or because of) its nature as a talk-y episode. The real star, though, is Andrew Lee Potts as Connor; while a lot of his dialogue could leave Connor as little more than a simple stock character, Potts plays the role with a degree of self-awareness (particularly the Buffy speech at the end) that makes the character come across as far more endearing, and far more real, than he would have in the hands of a lesser actor.

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The monster aspect of the story is, if nothing else, functional; there’s a wise choice here to conserve the budget by largely keeping the creatures in the shadows, and limiting their appearances where possible. It’s a sensible economic choice, though I suspect that from a storytelling angle they could have pushed this a little harder – certainly, the direction of the episode is a little perfunctory, and I can’t help but feel that a lot more could have been done with the creatures to make them a little more frightening. A lot of it comes down to mood and the creation of atmosphere; while there were plenty of entirely serviceable sections, there are others where it’s all just a little bit flat.

On the other hand, though, this was a good choice of ‘monster’ – stretching the premise somewhat, and demonstrating that Primeval is about more than just dinosaurs. (Even if it will, admittedly, forever be known as “that one with the dinosaurs”.) I’d have liked to see more done with the comment regarding the oxygen moving back and forth, though; the idea that there’s more than just creatures that could come through and pose a concern is one of the more interesting extensions of the premise that’s been put forward so far. It’s about exploring it as fully as possible, really, and that’s a pretty good way to go about that – hopefully it’ll be returned to in future.

I also appreciated how, broadly speaking, they tied the creature-plot back into the storyline featuring our main characters, demonstrating how Connor is actually useful to the team; it’s a smart way of building the episode, and ensuring that the two threads mesh together, rather than simply running parallel to one another.

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The further development of Nick and Helen’s story is also quite engaging. A huge part of that, obviously, is Douglas Henshall’s performance; he carries the material extremely well, particularly considering we haven’t even been introduced to Juliet Aubrey as Helen yet. More than that, though, he’s able to make the limits to the material actually work. Consider the end, when Nick doesn’t go through the anomaly; really, the only reason why he doesn’t is because we’ve got four more episodes to fill. Here, though, Henshall is able to take that and show us the normally headstrong character in a place of almost trepidant awe – it attaches a far greater level of significance to the moment, and again gives the character a certain interiority beyond what’s in the script.

To be honest, though, that’s pretty much it. I’m starting to run out of things to say, and I suspect in future I’m not going to be able to sustain the same wordcount for these reviews as I typically try to do. It’s not a slight against Primeval as such, but it’s just that as a programme, it’s difficult to write about it; it’s usually just about decent, rarely stellar or abysmal. With no particular praises to sing or flaws to condemn, I’m going to end up running out of steam.

Hopefully, I suppose, that’ll prompt me to start tackling these reviews in a different way, and write them in a different style; I’ve become slightly frustrated with the fact that I’ve settled into a formula, because – if nothing else – it means I’m not really pushing myself as a writer anymore. So, next week, we might see something different. Or perhaps we might not.

Still. This episode was still an improvement on the last, which was good.

7/10

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TV Review: Primeval (1×01)

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

Some force, out there, ripped the boundaries of space and time to shreds. Maybe it’s happened before, in which case, every single thing we thought we knew about the universe is wrong. Or, this is the first time. In which case, what changed? What happens next? Believe me, it’s very, very far from over.

Today marks ten years since the very first episode of PrimevalPrimeval was initially broadcast.

While it was – obviously – never Doctor Who, and never could be, Primeval is still a programme I’m quite fond of, and there’s always going to be a fairly strong sentimental connection there. In part, it’s because it’s just another aspect of my early viewing and so on, but there’s also a rather more tangible connection there: some of the earliest writing I did (which actually won competitions!) was about Primeval. So, I have a certain appreciation of this show, not just because of its quality, but also because of its connection to that particular milestone.

Which is why I’m marking the occasion with this series of reviews! Akin to my Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor and Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor series, although lacking a similarly snappy name. It was a bit of a last-minute decision, but given that this is only a six-episode season, it’s not a huge commitment to make. (Plus, it’ll lead quite nicely onto the Doctor Who reviews for series 3, when those begin again at the end of March.)

Admittedly, I can’t actually remember if I watched this episode on first broadcast. I suspect that I didn’t – I probably wouldn’t have known it was going to be on ahead of time, and ended up watching it from the second or third episode onwards. And, while it’s possible I did see it the first go around, I actually remembered very little of this episode – another thing that leads me to suspect I’ve probably only seen it as a repeat once or twice, or maybe actually not even at all, merely constituting a few half-memories from Wikipedia summaries and magazine articles.

So, when I was approaching this episode, it wasn’t carrying the same weight of expectations that the early episodes of Doctor Who do when I return to them – while Primeval is significant to me, it’s significant in the same sense that one might have grown fond of a strange knick-knack. Putting it under the lens of a critical re-evaluation now is going to form a rather different perspective to the one I usually take, in essence.

With all that said, then – how did it measure up?

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As it goes, it’s actually a decent pilot. It’s nothing amazing, no, but it’s functional, and you can understand easily enough why people would be inclined to return to the show next week.

Our main characters are, if not well developed, largely well introduced; as you’d expect, Nick Cutter comes across particularly well. Douglas Henshall’s performance is actually a lot more nuanced than I realised; it’d have been quite easy to play Cutter as a bitter old curmudgeon, or a bit of a maverick, but Henshall takes a slightly different approach. In a fairly short space of time, he’s able to imbue the character with more depth than the typical archetype would belie, indicating that there’s a lot to explore moving forward. Certainly, from Cutter’s profound scientific curiosity, and his intense desire to reunite with his wife, it’s evident that there’s a lot of promise here – I’m quite excited, actually, to watch it again, and pick up on more of the subtleties I might have originally missed in Henshall’s performance.

The other characters don’t, perhaps, do quite so well – Stephen is something of a cipher, Connor a bit of a joke, and Hannah Spearitt’s acting is, at times, a little inconsistent. I’m not particularly bothered by that at this moment in time; obviously, watching it with the benefit of hindsight, I know that these characters are going to develop significantly over subsequent episodes – and I’m typically inclined to be a little kinder to pilots anyway, really. Regardless, though, it’s clear that this is something that’s going to need some work over the next few episodes – the sooner, the better.

Another aspect that stood out to me particularly, though, was the tone of it. Certainly, if not in terms of how I remembered it, but in terms of how it was described, Primeval was always meant to be a bit more ‘adult’ than Doctor Who – not quite Torchwood, but not exactly a family show in the same way that Doctor Who was. (But then, it did have action figures, so maybe that’s a caveat worth bearing in mind.) Here, though, the episode is grounded in a child’s world – we’ve got the Gorgonopsid attacking his bedroom and his school – which really does make it feel like Primeval, at this point, isn’t exactly sure what it wants to be. Consider also the implicit horror of the dead animal carcass, and how that’s meant to read; tonally speaking, this first episode of Primeval is a bit confused. There are no outright moments of horror, or aspects that are overtly childish, but it does feel like the programme is caught between two worlds at this point – and that constrains its potential.

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Generally, this is a fairly well-constructed piece of television, like I’ve already said. Heed should be paid to the dinosaurs (well, mammal-esque reptiles, as IMDb would have me believe) – while they weren’t particularly amazing in the 360p version I happened to watch, you can tell that they would have been quite something in 2007. Undoubtedly, the series deserves some credit for that… even if the direction of the episode was, at times, a little flat. A tad more flair certainly couldn’t have hurt.

(On that note – the reveal of the anomaly itself was completely botched. It was interesting to watch, actually, because based on the build-up to the reveal of the animal carcass, I was expecting to see the anomaly itself; when we did eventually see the anomaly for the first time, it was introduced with a fairly blasé and almost throwaway scene. There was little to belie its greater importance, when there really should have been some sort of build-up.)

The episode also does an impressive job of introducing some overarching mysteries to follow through on. There’s the matter of Nick’s wife – Helen is alive. Where has she been? Why has she reached out? Why hasn’t she reached out properly? And what about that campsite – who does the dead body belong to? The questions we’re being asked to consider aren’t just plot based, but character based too – it’s a well-constructed, gripping hook, and I’m certainly inclined to come back for more next week.

Really, though, the best aspect of the episode is the short scene when Nick first goes through the anomaly. The sheer wonder of that moment – conveyed almost entirely by Douglas Henshall – is quite powerful, really capturing the potential of the series. In that moment, Primeval justifies its existence, and makes us the promise of something great to come. If we can have more episodes with that same sense of wonder, then it’ll all be worth it.

6/10

Related:

Primeval reviews

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10 years since it began, could Primeval ever return?

primeval itv reboot return danny quinn jason flemyng connor temple andrew lee potts hannah spearitt lucy brown impossible pictures tim haines adrian hodges

Today marks exactly ten years since the first ever episode of Primeval aired.

ITV’s sci-fi series started as a competitor to Doctor Who in the Saturday evening family drama slot, but quickly grew into something far more interesting. It was a show that, rather appropriately, evolved a lot over its lifetime – but even if nothing else was consistent (which was sometimes the case), you could always count on Primeval to be entertaining.

This summer it will be six years since the final episode of Primeval. And this month also marks four years since its Canadian spin-off series, Primeval: New World, came to an end. In wake of that, there have been a lot of fans clamouring for the show to return – it’s a sign of how popular the show once was that it maintains this devoted fanbase still, with Twitter accounts and petitions and a meaningful cult following all hoping that, one day, they’ll see their favourite show once more.

Now, to be honest – I suspect the answer to this question is a fairly resolute no. If Primeval is ever to return, it’ll be essentially as a reboot – or at least a continuation in the same vein as Primeval: New World, with fairly limited connection to the original show. Heck, I might bring it back myself one day. Why not, right?

But, since today is ten years since the first episode of Primeval, it’s been on my mind a lot. Stick around for a set of review to celebrate this anniversary!

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Primeval: The show that kept evolving

primeval series 2 itv impossible pictures nick cutter douglas henshall stephen hart james murray connor temple andrew lee potts abby maitland hannah spearitt hd

Created in 2007, Primeval was ITV’s answer to Doctor Who; a high concept programme incorporating time travel elements. Portals through time, known as anomalies, were opening across England, and allowing all many of prehistoric creatures to roam free – the series began following the work of Professor Nick Cutter as he attempted to solve the mysteries of the anomalies, a matter of both scientific curiosity and personal concern. It was described as being more “realistic” than Doctor Who – debatable, given the time travel and dinosaurs, but, in any case, it was clear that a closer comparison was perhaps the one made by Douglas Henshall (Nick Cutter) himself; Primeval was akin to The A Team, with an ensemble of specialists having to work together to achieve their aims.

Over time, though, the show began to change; the second series saw our team go from a ragtag group to a fully-fledged secret organisation with the backing of both the government and the military, as well as having to face a larger threat for the first time. The third season brought with it another near-reboot, as Douglas Henshall decided to leave the show; gone was our professor of zoology, replaced with an ex policeman played by Jason Flemyng, and the show gradually became more action oriented. It grew grander in scale, too, and saw the team coming up against potentially world ending threats.

A recent article about Primeval – which, somewhat surprsingly, I’ve never actually written about on the blog before! I was quite a fan of the show back in the day (although I’ve not seen it for a while, and I can’t imagine it aged particularly well), so it was nice to take a bit of a look back and see how it changed over the years.

In some respects, it’s one of the most interesting things about Primeval – which admittedly is not a comment that says a lot about the quality of the show. It seems a little less remarkable now, when the cancellation of any show could be followed by it being picked up by another network, or revived 15 years later, but when Primeval did came back from the dead (and got an American spinoff!) it was more than a little atypical. To be honest, given its track record, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ever popped up on Netflix with a new series a few years down the line…

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