Reviewbr> “Connor never met a conspiracy theory he didn’t like.” – Nick Cutter
The pilot episode of the new ITV series Primeval opens with a night time car pack attached to some isolated looking Smart, or whatever the place is called. A chick is running like hell, and clearly trying to get out of Dodge at maximum speed. We quickly learn why when a rather large dog like dinosaur crashes the scene. We later learn this is a Gorgonopsid, a carnivore from the late Permian era. The opening scene finishes with some Michael Bay style explosions, and enough damage to cars to have you believing the far flung hordes of Manchester United fans have got together for a spot of lager rioting.
Flash forward eight years and welcome to Primeval. The crack Scooby gang of Professor Nick Cutter, assistant Stephen Hart, and conspiracy theorist Connor Temple are soon on their way to the forest of Dean to investigate sightings of an unknown creature of immense power and speed. Think it looked and acted like a badly behaved Doberman myself, but what the heck wouldn’t be playing a game of catch with the furious beastie.
Meanwhile zoologist Abby Maitland, or Lizard Girl to you and me Rusty, is off to visit schoolboy Ben who has a rather strange pet, a Coelurosauravus. Sort of a flying lizard that I dubbed Cutesaurus. All roads lead to the forest of Dean and soon Abby and Ben are checking out the woodlands.
The Scooby Gang are joined by low level Government worker Claudia Brown from the Home Office and eventually nasty dude without portfolio James Lester, who has everything covered from Alien invasions to, well not prehistoric monsters on the rampage. The Government will try and keep everything under wraps fueling Connor’s conspiracy paranoia.
In the Forest of Dean our team will discover an anomaly exists that acts like a gateway between our own time and the Premian past, or if you want to be cynical the Canary Islands. Evidence that Nick Cutter’s missing wife Helen may be doing a bit of time travel; she disappeared eight years ago, and was last seen in a Smart car park. And a Scutosaurus, a large Premian herbivore. Nick Cutter along with army dude Tom Ryan will go through the anomaly to prove conclusively earth’s past exists on the other side, and to discover that Helen is in fact doing the time warp. The episode concludes with a rather enigmatic visit by Helen to Nick Cutter’s University office. A pretty good episode ensues, ready to go walking with dinosaurs?
[Editor's Note: The first season reviews were intially published on another site and are reprinted here with the Author's permission. Due to each episode not actually having a title, bad ITV bad, we're making them up based around the particular terror the team face in the episodes. Oh and before you claim this isn't horror, well it probably isn't, but what the flip it certain dials up the dark genre requirement.]
I have this sort of love hate relationship with SciFi/horror series made in the U.K. On the one hand we get some top notch stuff, on the other the Poms seem to have this insatiable desire to cancel things after a couple of seasons. This generally leaves me fuming that I didn’t get more and wanting some sort of resolution to the numerous plot arcs left gathering dust. Witness Ultraviolet and Hex. So it was with some trepidation that I ventured into ITV’s new SciFi series Primeval. Is this going to be another one that takes me out for a good time and then forgets to ring the following day? On the bright side ITV have commissioned another season, on the downside season one has a bare minimum six episodes. Let’s get it on.
I guess the best way to describe Primeval is as a sort of cross over between Walking With Dinosaurs and Stargate. We have these sort of gates between Earth’s past, present, and future that allow creatures and people to cross between the eras, with clearly bad results for all involved. The periods really shouldn’t mix and that provides the tension for each episode. Hopefully this all wont descend into Primeval’s monster of the week, we’ll have to wait and see as the season unfolds.
A disappointing episode that delivers some background on Dean's views of the supernatural and not much else
The opening scene from episode one, none of them are named, is pretty effective in getting this boat out of the harbour in style. Helen Cutter, as we later learn the chick’s name to be, has her run in with a Gorgonopsid amid some pretty decent mayhem. Clearly there’s a decent budget involved here judging from the number of cars that get trashed. Interestingly Director Cilla Ware wastes exactly zero seconds in getting her first beastie onto the screen, as the rampaging dino goes ape shit in the car park. I was actually quite impressed with the CGI in use here, with the Gorgonopsid looking like it had wandered over from the computers of Walking With Monsters. If Primeval can keep this level of rendering through the first season then I’m high fiving my imaginary friend, and starting to rave about this series.
I absolutely loved the first few frames of the episode and had my grin on. We get a static view of the Smart carpark, and clearly someone off screen pushes an empty trolley across the tarmac. Wonder how many takes that took to do, empty shopping trolleys have a habit of going feral at the best of times. It's a shot that shouldn't work, but which somehow conjures up just the right atmosphere and indicates we're in for a good time.
One cautionary note I took from the opening scene however was the black dude polishing the Smart floor. Clearly the Director is trying to portray normality interspersed with sheer chaos in some quick cut scenes, but Ware completely misses the beat on the development and black polishing dude should have hit the cutting room floor. The genuine worry here is that the Directors of Primeval may not be up to the task at hand. Thankfully, besides some groan inducing camera work, Ware manages to get to the finishing line pretty much without dropping the ball. On occasion you are left wondering if this is Ware’s first major gig though. We’ll give Director Ware the benefit of the doubt in the wash up, the Editors may have bollocked the scene mentioned.
Overall Ware does exactly what a pilot episode demands of a Director. We get introduced to all the major characters, with enough background on each to be going on with, plot arcs are starting to happen, and the actual episode is interesting enough to hold our attention. Added bonus here is the character of Helen that is largely unresolved as the episode finishes on a pretty high note. Exactly what was the purpose of Helen’s “present” to Nick? Ware does get the odd money shot happening and seems more at home with wide angles than close ups. Might have been the requirements of the first episode, so once again we’ll keep an eye on developments later in the season.
There are a number of class scenes in the first episode that had me grinning ear to ear. Ben reaching for his light saber to face off against the Gorgonopsid, use the force Ben. Helen’s final scene that Ware hits for all it’s worth. The pan shot from the other side of the anomaly. And of course everyone’s favorite Dino of the first episode, Gorgonopsid visiting a local school to once again make a detention enduring Ben’s life a misery. “Miss. Miss, there’s a dinosaur in the playground”.
Scripting is of the crisp style with some real groaners thrown in like hand grenades. About every character gets some punch lines, with Connor getting the pick, but on occasion you will be rolling your eyes. The pace of the episode lags in places, but not enough to have you switching the T.V off. There’s always the hope that the next scene will have something cool happening in it, and by and large the writers deliver on that promise. Clearly Primeval at this early stage hasn’t found it’s groove, but everything looks and feels like that won't be far off.
SFX is from the CGI rendering side of the camera, with the odd prop used to good effect. For the most part the integration is seamless, though on occasion there’s a sort of hazy look to some of the frames. The episode romps along with enough pace to avoid anyone getting overly concerned there. Good use of backgrounds and the blending is on par with the various “Walking With” shows.
Douglas Henshall (Prof Nick Cutter) takes the lead here and delivers a strong performance. Girls are going to love this dude’s accent. Henshall emotes pretty well, and we get the pain his character is feeling over the disappearance of wife Helen. The Actor manages to add enough gravity to his character to make Nick Cutter interesting, and he deadpans his punch lines to good effect.
James Murray (Stephen Hart) does okay with his manly man hero role, but at this stage I’m not entirely sure he was the correct casting choice. Bit of eye candy for the ladies was my call on Murray’s performance in episode one. Andrew Lee Potts (Connor Temple) goes at it wide eyed and manic. Actually enjoyed Potts work here, and no it doesn’t suffer from odious comic relief syndrome.
Lucy Brown (Claudia Brown) is fairly captivating, and Ms Brown delivers a strong performance as the Government munchkin out of her depth. Added bonus is she is real nice to look at. Hannah Spearritt (Abby Maitland), name’s familiar can’t place her, wasn’t working for me overall but does okay in a pretty non-demanding role. She may well improve as her character evolves, some facial expression needed there. Juliet Aubrey and Ben Miller didn’t feature that much in the opening episode so we’ll make a call later in the season.
T&A isn’t on the menu in episode one, though the various dinosaurs remain buck-naked every time one of them appears.
Dominik Scherrer handed in a pretty good score for the first episode. The theme tune is going to be instantly recognizable, the incidental music does exactly what it’s meant to do, and the overall mood is one of grandeur matching the visuals. Top marks to the composer, the score would not be out of place in a major Hollywood production.
I got enough out of episode one of Primeval, wish they had of named the episodes, to want to dig into future installments. The premise is interesting and should evolve further, there are some strong characters, and the story held my attention. Besides the odd issue that I noted, the production values are top notch, and the series looks to have a decent budget. Best of all, at only six shows this episode guide is going to be a walk in the park.
Primeval has turned out to be something of a hit for ITV, hence the green lighting on season two, with most of the major Commonwealth Countries having brought into the series. The show is being sold around the globe by the BBC who can report season one of Primeval as their fourth top selling product after Doctor Who series two, Planet Earth, and the abysmal first season of Robin Hood.
Downunder the first season aired starting Saturday 28th April on Channel 9 Nationwide, but failed to garner sufficient audience share to really make an impact. Why the ABC didn’t pick this one up remains a mystery considering some of the crap SciFi they are currently showing. In recent weeks the DVDs have arrived, and as expected sales are far outstripping the audience share gained via Television.
For U.S readers you will have to suck it up at the moment. Season one at only six episodes isn’t long enough to gain North American distribution via Television, and it would appear the DVDs are an import prospect at best. Considering each episode is self contained, although allowing for plot arcs, even the SciFi channel has no room to mini series Primeval like they did with Ultraviolet. Hope is on the horizon however with season two schedule for seven episodes, and all thirteen episodes from season one and two arriving on North America’s doorstep as a single season.
ITV seem to have green lighted Primeval to take advantage of the audience generated from the BBC’s Dr Who and spin off series Torchwood. Unfortunately the studio seem to have gotten slightly too big for themselves and are considering pitching Primeval season two directly against Dr Who in the same time slot next year. There can only be one winner there, and it won’t be ITV, fan sites not withstanding. More on online resources for Primeval later in the episode guide as I’m really out staying my welcome with the first part of the guide.
Full recommendation on Primeval episode one. The show falls into the family entertainment category with nothing too upsetting for sub teens. And lets face facts here, what self-respecting ankle biter doesn’t want to see honking big dinosaurs on a rampage. I will be definitely dialing into the rest of season one, well it wouldn’t be much of an episode guide if I didn’t, and am looking forward to the next five episodes. The only worry I have is that this may turn into ITV’s monster of the week. We all know what happened to Carl Kolchak when that went down State side. I would suggest you go out and score the DVDs and take a walk with dinosaurs.