It’s hard to believe that it’s been some eight years since ‘Primeval’ first aired and certainly the ITV channels haven’t come up with anything as ingenious since its cancellation in 2011. Having time portals or anomalies accessing the past or future letting odd animals into the present gave great latitude to play with dinosaurs and such without stretching credibility too much as a team chases them down. Having it grounded in present day also ensured that we had an everyman approach as even the elite team selected to pursue this, mostly chosen because they’d already seen things first than them being top of the field, learnt as they went along.
I’m going to make some assumptions here that you might have seen the show or heard of it, so I don’t have to go into too much detail because from the start there is very much spoilers that will keep coming up throughout the series and things never turn out quite how they appear.
Season two shook things up and moved things along. It wasn’t just the disappearance of Claudia Brown and her body as Jenny Lewis (both played by Lucy Brown), but also the dark side of Helen Cutter (actress Juliet Aubrey) being revealed when a change in the past upsets the present to chief scientist Nick Cutter (actor Douglas Henshall). With the appearance of the Anomaly Research Centre, several months had likewise passed or Connor Temple (Andrew-Lee Potts) would not have been more established at the electronics geek compared to being just a geek he was in season one. It was also a demonstration of the butterfly effect of contamination or death of creatures from the past could affect the present. As Nick Cutter points out, time is flexible enough to go back and correct mistakes, assuming of course you know what to change and can get it right.
From the end of season two on, ‘Primeval’ shared something in common with BBC’s ‘[Spooks]’ in that cast were expendable, either by an actor wanting to move on or killed off to remind viewers that tracking these creatures was a dangerous business. It also upped the stakes somewhat, including marooning some of them in the past. The finale of season five tended to be ambiguous as to where Temple had actually created the anomalies in the first place or not. There would be some sort of time paradox if he had, seeing them before they were created. It also brings a serious question to Helen Cutter’s motives for killing her husband. Was she killing him because he would have stopped Temple being manipulated into building an anomaly or because he would have created one. Certainly, Nick Cutter wouldn’t have had the electronic knowledge to design the device, let alone be manipulated by billionaire Philip Burton (actor Alexander Siddig) into doing so. Any more about that, you’ll have to watch for yourself.
Watching this series in one go showed how much cohesion there was between all the seasons, even if the final two were filmed in Ireland to take advantage of lower budgets. As usual with most British TV series, all the main cast were served well in getting their own spotlights across the episodes. Interestingly, the motives of Helen Cutter and even Burton weren’t actually with that villainous contempt but merely the means in which they chose to do so. One to stop a calamity and the other…well, that would be telling.
The effects budget certainly paid off and although it is doubtful that ITV could ever produce something as long-lasting as BBC’s ‘Doctor Who’, this was actually a very successful series for as long as it lasted. As I’m going to watch the Canadian version next, it wouldn’t surprise me some time into the future that the anomalies will open again when someone high up thinks that ‘Primeval’ could do with coming back.
(region 2 DVD: pub: Impossible Pictures 2EDVD0671. 11 DVDs 1639 minutes 38 * 43 minute episodes . Price: £20.00 (UK) if you know where to look)
Sub-titles for the hard of hearing.
cast: Douglas Henshall, Andrew-Lee Potts, Hannah Spearritt, James Murray, Lucy Brown, Ben Miller, Juliet Aubrey, Ben Mansfield, Jason Flemying, Laila Rousass, Ciarán McMenamin, Ruth Kearney, Ruth Bradley and Alexander Siddig