Top 10 Primeval episodes

Feature Philip Lickley 22 Aug 2012 - 08:01

With further instalments of the UK-based series in question but a Canadian spin-off soon to appear on our screens, what better time to look back at the ten best episodes of Primeval so far?

This feature contains spoilers.

Primeval has enjoyed a good run of thirty-six episodes so far but it’s not been smooth sailing. The show endured a withdrawn cancellation after series three, several major cast changes, and now has a big question mark hanging over any future British episodes.

Alongside BBC flagship show Doctor Who though, Primeval helped fly the flag for British-made sci-fi drama, so when better to take a look at its ten best episodes thus far?

10. Series 3, Episode 6 (2009) 

Though initially from the teaser trailer it looked as if the team had found themselves hiding in the past, in this episode they actually hide out in an old Ministry of Defence bunker whilst Christine Johnson come after them in search of the future artefact. The episode is crammed with great periodic detail and music – though annoyingly changed to less authentic music in the DVD versions – plus some genuine threat from the minefield located next to the bunker and Johnson’s soldiers, plus not to mention the first appearance of the terror birds which make convincing and scary monsters, even if the appearance of the anomaly from which they emerge is shoehorned in.

There are also some great moments of humour involving pets Sid and Nancy and a tying-up of Danny’s testing out of the ARC’s security systems. Oh, and Becker’s apparent change of character and solution to the problem is a great moment for the team.

9. Series 4, Episode 1 (2011) 

In a series that, overall, wasn’t as strong as that which preceded and would follow it, the opening episode is a tour de force for the programme with Connor and Abby’s relationship forged in the Cretaceous forest quickly but satisfyingly before the episode kicks in properly with a well constructed introduction to the new team, threats, weapons and ARC. There are also a handful of quality moments scattered throughout including their biggest creature yet, a cracking set piece in the O2 Arena, a magpie-like raptor and Becker’s no-fuss way of dealing with filming the dinosaur. Plus, we get a hint to Matt’s origin and the events of series five. It’s just a shame they, like in the last entry, replaced S Club 7’s Don’t Stop Moving on the DVD release, removing the nice nod to Hannah Spearritt’s past career.

8. Series 5, Episode 3 (2011) 

The series has always tried to include 'real-life' stories into the episodes, providing explanations for creatures such as dragons, Egyptian gods and poltergeists (more on that later) and this instalment is no exception. Weaving in the Victorian storyline from series four with dinosaurs and the myth of ‘Spring Heeled Jack’, this episode takes famous reports of murders in the 19th Century and justifies them with the myth of the anomalies. Plus, the recreation of Victorian England looks brilliant.

7. Series 3, Episode 10 (2009) 

Though the two episodes that precede this one create an effective three-parter and each are excellent, it’s the final episode of the third series that deserves a mention. We get the apocalyptic future filled with predators, a glimpse at technology to come and lots of running through past times in a dramatic episode filled with dinosaurs, peril and death, with the best cliff-hanger outside of series two we’ve had so far. Throw in a wide variety of creatures and some excellent CGI and moody landscapes and it rounds off the series nicely. Plus, it brings the Cutter arc to its full conclusion, tying in the first three series.

6. Series 2, Episode 7 (2008) 

The conclusion to series two follows the epic episode six to create an excellent conclusion. With the team fractured due to Nick and Stephen’s falling out over Helen, we get an heroic escape, a battle with a giant scorpion on Bournemouth beach and a heart-breaking end to the episode where one character sacrifices themselves for the cause. Plus, we also get the best cliffhanger at the end as we discover Helen has brought a character back from the dead but there’s more than one of him…

5. Series 3, Episode 2 (2009) 

As well as using actual creatures in their episodes, the series frequently would create threats and this was often when it was at its best. The camouflage beast of series three, episode two, an explanation of poltergeist myths, is one of only a few episodes where there are some genuine scares and a very creepy foe. Plus, the scarier side is balanced brilliantly with the humour of Danny Quinn and his arresting of Connor. As a standalone episode it’s one of the best but it also sets up not only the rest of series three but events in this episode impact on series four as well, but you wouldn’t know it just from watching it on first viewing.

4. Series 1, Episode 6 (2007) 

Through the series the team battled many prehistoric creatures but it was this final episode where we finally saw something not from the fossil record but from the future. It’s easy to be blasé about the future predator now as it has become the Dalek of the Primeval universe, but this first appearance was great on first watch with a creature that seemed impossible to kill and one that would lead to many deaths, the first few in this episode. With many great set pieces and attacks, it’s also easy to forget what a well-designed monster it is. Plus, at the end we get two twists as we find out what the team going back into the past has done, and what Helen can also do…

3. Series 2, Episode 6 (2008) 

The first episode of the two-part conclusion is one of the best written episodes of all five series. In it, we get a great sequence involving a Mammoth on the M25 which mixes death with a challenge for the team and some great one liners for Ben Miller’s James Lester. When this problem is dealt with in the first fifteen minutes, the episode still has a lot of mileage, with the threat of a bomb, future predators with a scary new adaptation and a climatic battle between James Lester and one of the creatures from the future, also setting up the final episode mentioned above.

2. Series 5, Episode 5 (2011) 

This is the episode where the series goes really big. Convergence is happening and anomalies are appearing all over the world. Though the programme doesn’t have the budget to show dinosaurs in New York or pterodactyls in Paris and the episode does, at times badly, reuse some footage, the scope of this episode is massive with the sense of the team struggling against the increased threat with resources maxed-out. The sense of threat is well created and it feels like the most wide-reaching of episodes. There’s a great scene with Ben Miller and a real effort from all the team to tackle convergence. Plus, it’s set aside the growing threat of New Dawn and where that will lead…

1. Series 3, Episode 3 (2009) 

There's only really one episode that could top the list, and it's one that shows Primeval at its best. On one hand you have the monster-of-the-week threat, which is handled brilliantly with plenty of humour as Nick tries to deliver a baby and Connor attempts to capture the creatures. On top of that, we're treated to the return of journalist Mick Harper teased at the end of series two, who will appear in the following episode, plus the conclusion to the build-up of the cleaner clones that have been drip fed to the viewers over the previous three episodes, creating a huge threat within the ARC whilst also showcasing some fantastic split-screen and CGI work.

But the big scene of this episode is, of course, the destruction of the ARC with another bomb, caused by a familiar looking clone in an impressive piece of visual effects work, and the stand-off between Nick and Helen Cutter, leading to the most touching, sad, and poignant end to an episode ever, and an event that will have repercussions throughout the rest of the series and the two that follow.

Those last few minutes as the camera crane lifts up and James Lester calls out for an ambulance while the other characters – in particular Jenny and Connor – react to the unfolding events made more emotional impact than I’ve seen in this sort of drama.

Bubbling under: I have a soft spot for all three episodes that conclude series three, with the battles in the future world of episode eight being a particular highlight, but felt series three is already represented a lot in the countdown. There are also the episodes with the Dracorex, fungus and Gigantosaurus, all from the stand-out series three, but also the humour of the Dodo episode of series one and the conclusions to series four and five. Oh, and the scene involving Becker and a tank from the first episode of series five deserves special mention.

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Well done on naming 10 episodes. Whilst I watched it, I'm struggling to name any episode as 'The one where...', except maybe Lester and the machine gun. Reading through the list just lists the ideas, like the cleaner clones, Helen, Sid and Nancyn, and Emily that were good ideas but just seemed to putter out and not do anything solid with.

Great list, perfect number 1, agree that it couldn't have been any other episode. I know it seems at times like a simple 'monster of the week' episode I love series 5 episode 4, where the beetles take over the ARC. It definitely wasn't an original idea at all but it executed all of its ideas well.
Series 4 as a whole was a disappointment for me, feeling very slow and clunky although series 5 cleaned that up for me. A great show and one I've been a keen follower of throughout, it will be saddening if no more episodes are made (although series 5 did supply a good ending) although I am looking forward to the Canadian Spin-Off. If there's one thing that may help it would be the addition of more violent attacks, so hopefully the new, darker series will keep up the good work.

I love this list - 3.3 was probably the best of the bunch; although when
Lucy Brown left shortly afterwards...

However, 5.3 is awful - it had such potential, yet it managed to
completely screw up the SHJ mythos and the history of Victorian London
at the same time. That one made me feel both bemused and sad as I watched it...

Great list agreed on the number one slot, what else could it be had everything.

I am really sad that there will be no more Primeval it was a show that I didn't like at first but it grew on me and fell in love with I wish the powers that be wouldn't be so stupid and make some more.

I have no interest at all in the Canadian spin off, it wont have any of the characters from Primeval in so wont be a patch on the original I am interested in the characters in the original without them it just another SF programme from North America and it wont last more then a season because they don't invest time in their programmes.

Last i heard, Primeval was still up in the air over a series 7, so still hope yet. I have to say though, I do like the one with the raptors, think it's the series 2 premiere. The reveal of the ARC, the general upgrade from "ragtag bunch of misfits" to "actual government operation" was a fantastic move, one which the likes of Torchwood never really got to. It was a shame to never find out just what the Hell happened to Claudia though. Or Jennifer. Whichever one was the series 1 version. I get confused.

I'm with you on struggling to remember any episode in particular but it was a fun, albeit patchy, series which did a lot with the budget and had some great character moments.

had Terra Nova been half the show this was (and considering the budget that had they deserved to be cancelled considering they did naff all with it) it may have made it to a second series.

I'm happy to celebrate the show even if it is a bit like vaguely clapping just because everyone else is.

It was only any good when that girl from S-Club Seven used to appear in her knickers once a week.......

Series 5's final episode was good until that final scene when the writers tossed in a teaser for a possible sixth series. Given the on-again, off-again history of the show, I thought the producers would stay away from teasers that throw the story arc up in the air. This is something a lot of shows do these days in order to sustain interest until the next series, but I thought the ending of series 5 would have been better if everyone just rode off into the sunset together. The end of series 3 was actually better, in spite of Danny, Abby, and Connor being trapped in the past.

I'm looking forward to the new Canadian series once it gets started, especially since Connor returns for at least one episode. Perhaps he can wrap up what has happened in the interim between the two shows.

Hey, everyone! I am a huge fan of Primeval from Greece! This list ia very well. I will agree that episode 6 from 2 series was one of the best. It has a lot of tension. You felt it was a very long one. Also very good the tyrannosarus episode from season 5 but it shows only veryy little the t-rex. I hope the New World series will be such good and even better. Thanks for your time !! Greetings to all Primeval Fans!!!!!

Hi i have a question for all you primeval fans what is the song being sung while connor is in the guards chair at blue sky park [series 2 episode 3 smiledon ]watch it on youtube and it's rachel stevens watch it on dvd and it's totally different can anyone help with the title and artist of this song

On the other side of that, if Primeval: New World is succesful enough it might convince ITV to make another series of the original Primeval, food for thought ;)

Series 5 episode 5 is at the top of my list too, but I'm missing 1.1, 2.1 and 2.3, which I quite honestly thought had some brilliant uses for their creatures. The story of 3.3 is great, but for me it disappointed on other fronts, like trying to squeeze a silly cute critter childbirth distraction through one door with the rest of the episode.

For worst episode I vote for 4.4 or (perhaps surprisingly) 5.6

The spinoff series isn't half bad though. When the rest of the comments were posted it was still an uncertainty, but I guess we can now say it's kind of cool in its own right.

Great list. Going through, I could see the good parts of the episodes mentioned. I think that 3.6 deserved to be higher up though. And I love 2.6 especially when Lester has the gun and all :)

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