Some things change, some things remain the same CONTAINS DETAILED SPOILERS
Writer Paul Mousley
Director Mark Everest
THE ONE WHERE Abby and Connor make it back from the Cretaceous (bringing an unwanted “pet” along with them) only to find that things have changed at the ARC.
VERDICT There’s a lot to like about this new, revamped Primeval , but much of that can be filed under “potential”. Because while it boasts some intriguing new characters, a promising new set-up, some vastly improved effects, more muscular action sequences and sparkier dialogue, this first episode back sadly fails to kick off the series with all guns blazing. It’s solid, it’s well made, it has its moments, but it’s also a tad underwhelming and predictable.
The new cast members seem an interesting enough bunch, to be fair, but the way they’re introduced is so by-the-numbers. Matt, we need to know, is “brave and resourceful” so we get an engineered scene with him fighting a dinosaur using a tea trolley. New tech whiz Jess gets to be efficiently rude to Lester and play with her buttons. New private investor Philip gets to look oily and issue subtle threats. Becker, meanwhile, needs to feel guilty about all the deaths that have happened under his watch, which manifests as having a teenage strop over some new weapons in a scene so hideously contrived you can almost see actor Ben Mansfield wincing before he gets hit by the energy bolt.
Abby and Connor, meanwhile, sit around bickering in the Cretaceous like some tribute to Deathly Hallows, before handily finding their way back home in the most perfunctory manner (thanks to a Magpie-o-saurus). Some of the effects in the Cretaceous sequences are outstanding – the dino-a-dino fight especially – but the somehow Abby and Connor’s escape simply feels convenient and a less triumphant moment than it should be.
Oddly, though, it does set-up one of the best scenes in the show… what could have been the best scene if it had happened elsewhere. Imagine how much stronger the episode would have been if – instead of opening with a slightly bored-sounding voiceover from Lester bringing us up to date – it had opened with that moment when Abby and Connor appeared through the anomaly, then get pounced on by the ARC’s new bovver boys. We, as viewers, would then have been introduced to the new characters and the new set-up at the ARC at the same time as Abby and Connor. It seems a shame that such a strong scene is undermined by the fact that we already know what’s going on.
There are a couple of other misfires. Matt is presumably supposed to appear all heroic and “action man” when he dangles in to rescue Connor from the spinosaur, but he just looks a bit silly, frankly. And Becker confiscating a bystander’s mobile phone to stop him taking pictures of the dinosaur just highlights the fact how generally empty the streets are the rest of the time.
But having said all that, the episode was an affably entertaining piece of fluff. Connor and Abby have become a wonderfully endearing oddball couple; Lester is never better than when his power base seems threatened; new boy Matt makes a decent enough new team leader (and there’s clearly a lot more to him than meets the eye); the dinosaurs are looking better than ever and there are some intriguing arc plot elements falling into place.
There’s still a lot to like about the show – and you get the feeling this could develop into a great fourth series – but this opening episode simply feels too safe, too obvious, too timid. Come on, Primeval , grows some prehistoric balls and start taking some risks.
HUMAN RESOURCES ISSUE Jess’s previous employer must have been Torchwood if her slipshod attitude towards security is anything to go by.
VISION QUEST Hmmm, was that opening shot of a volcanic-looking landscape supposed to be deliberately misleading? Initially, it seemed to suggest that we back in the Creataceous with Abby and Connor, but in fact it was Matt daydreaming. So what was all that about? Presumably it links up with his meeting with the mysterious Gideon at the end.
IN-JOKE Was there anybody in the audience who didn’t realise the significance of Abby using an old S Club 7 track, “Don’t Stop Moving”, as part of the psychological attack on the poor old spinosaur?
Connor: “You’re driving too close to the curb!”
Read our interview with the stars of Primeval here .