Did Primeval New World deserve to be cancelled?

Feature Philip Lickley 27 Feb 2013 - 07:00

Philip evaluates the success of Primeval New World, recently dropped by its network, and asks whether it deserves another chance...

Warning: this feature contains spoilers for Primeval New World

Last week Primeval New World came to an end on Canadian sci-fi channel Space after a thirteen-episode run. A spin-off from the UK Primeval, now seemingly languishing in cancellation hell, it was purported to be an “older, darker and scarier” version of the five-season programme that inspired it, about anomalies opening up around the world allowing creatures from the past and future to invade our world, and the team who deal with them.

Primeval New World featured an entirely new cast – with one guest appearance aside – and a team discovering the anomalies for the first time. Admittedly, the show had its ups and downs (and more of the latter near the beginning of its run), but did it deserve to be dropped by Space? And, should it find a home on another network, what needs to change?

Characters 

Let’s start with the characters. By far the strongest, most well-written character in the piece was that of Lieutenant Ken Leeds, played with gusto by Geoff Gustafson. Turning from an off-beat, weird loner trapped in Project Magnet, an off-the-books “department” looking into the supernatural, to someone with some power and a purpose to their role, who finds himself stuck between two teams with apposing aims, Leeds brought humour into the series as well as being a genuinely interesting character. Though underused in the final episode, I always looked forward to his appearances on screen and consider him one of the strongest additions to the tweaked formula of New World.

Evan Cross, played by Niall Matter, was the leader of the group and felt like a cross between Nick Cutter (even sharing a similar back story), and Connor Temple. Often perhaps seen to be infallible when it comes to his intelligence, he was a flawed main character through his handling of the situation, driven by the death of his wife. His character wasn’t quite as interesting as the other “leaders” of the team but he certainly became stronger as the series progressed. 

My second favourite character in the series had to be of Mac Rendell, played by Danny Rahim. Though perhaps succumbing to the series’ stereotypical portrayal of British accents, he was the one character that changed the most throughout the series and the one I felt most like rooting for throughout the thirteen episodes. Despite, like several other elements in the series, his character feeling at times inconsistent, as seen when he went from emotional distress after the death of his girlfriend to being fine, but then returning to this state after the revelation of episode eight. Like Leeds, he felt more of a rounded character than the others. 

Dylan Weir, played by Sara Canning, was this series’ Abby Maitland in relation to her work with animals, her spirit and her power but not, thankfully, as sexed-up as Maitland was in the early series of UK Primeval so as not to discredit her character. Though she was involved with many of the creatures and incidents she felt underplayed, and didn’t really have much to do until the final couple of episodes other than be a potential love interest for Evan. 

Toby Nance, played by Crystal Lowe, felt like a mix between Connor Temple and Jess Parker, and enjoyed the most varied of roles throughout the run and did more than just sit behind a computer. She felt well-rounded and as a bisexual character created a positive portrayal, even if she was lumbered with a slightly titillating plot-line because of it.

Angelika Finch, played by Miranda Frigon, also enjoyed a strong character arc morphing from a team supporter to a team traitor, and felt realistic as both and was a strong rock through the series. 

As characters go, the team didn’t feel as instantly likeable as the original group. Though we did have five series to grow with the other team, this set didn’t feel as distinct with not as much personality to latch on to, outside of Ken Leeds and Mac Rendell, but this is something that would grow as the series continues. The strongest element though was the character development: by the end Mac and Evan in particular had changed, with the events they’ve faced impacting on them, with the former coming to terms with who he is and the latter having to face up to having to set the wheels of his wife’s death in motion to avoid any timeline problems.

Plotlines 

A series lives and dies on its plotlines and Primeval New World had a tight-rope to walk: it had to both stand on its own two feet and present something cohesive, but also acknowledge what came before it, and mostly it succeeded. The first episode generated a good balance of information to keep new viewers and those familiar with the original Primeval up to speed. It managed to introduce some new concepts outside of the original including a stronger military focus, a grander scale and other advancements such as the ability to work out when anomalies would close, but elsewhere it felt at times like it was a remake of the old series rather than a new one. 

It’s difficult when you have thirty-six other stories out there not to copy, but the final two-parter felt like an extended version of the second episode of UK series one and the capturing of creatures was lifted from series two. 

The main issue I had with the plotlines was the lack of consistency through the thirteen episodes. The presence of the frozen body in episode one – a brilliant way to end a strong opener – wasn’t touched upon until it was revealed who it was in episode eight with no teasing in between; the capture of the creature at the end of the episode four didn’t get referenced until the end of the series; and the great sub-plot of Howard Kanan in the first episode after the mid-season break was set-up and then didn’t have any further impact for the rest of the series. I imagine the latter would appear in a second series but it felt like they kept setting things up and then forgetting about them. In series two and three of UK Primeval, the overall arc was referenced each episode even if it was only in minor ways but here they felt separate to the plot, as if the episodes weren’t being held together by anything overarching. 

It’s not the only guilty party though. The original series felt a little dismissive of ongoing plots such as the disappearance of on-going elements like Rex, Sid and Nancy; the issues with Danny returning due to Jason Flemyng’s other commitments; and shifts in style necessitated by the constant issues of cancellation, but these felt more pronounced in the new series. For instance, Mac behaves as you’d expect after the death of his girlfriend for the episode afterwards but after that he’s cracking porn jokes and making light of things in the next episode, not feeling consistent with how his character has changed. Characters like Lisa Merriweather appeared and then disappeared; and plotlines seemed to be set-up and dropped quickly, with some a little confusing and underdeveloped like the love triangle of Evan-Angelika-Dylan. 

Primeval New World was, though, a stronger series towards its back half. The final six episodes were, without exception, absolute corkers but between those and the strong opener, episode five aside, it felt a little on autopilot. 

As plot goes, Primeval New World was good with many interesting strands: the death of Evan’s wife and how it happened; Howard Kanan and his rivalry with Evan and just who invented Photonics; the development of Mac as a character; and Project Magnet. It’s just at times as if they were underutilising what they’d set up and needed to make more use of what they’ve got. 

The one thing they didn’t skimp on was the fan service. With the appearance of Connor Temple in the opener and closer, plus a return for kit like the anomaly locking device and a teasing mention of Connor’s marriage, they tied up both series nicely and stuck with the canon, even if the lack of seeing a few of the other team in episode thirteen felt like a missed opportunity. 

More adult? 

One thing that was pushed at the time of commissioning was that this series would be “older, darker and scarier” than the original, that is more adult. But was this the case? 

Primeval as a concept has never shied away from death with many of the characters in the original meeting their maker, but the one element the spin-off did concentrate more on was a more visible signs of death with corpses and such like. Elsewhere it didn’t feel much darker than the original series. The only real adult elements that felt added in was the shower scene with Mac and Sam, a little bit of language here and there and the lesbian kiss of episode seven; it certainly didn’t feel like Torchwood to Doctor Who. Blood aside, it’s not a series I wouldn’t be uncomfortable showing to the same audience of the original but in creating a few more adult overtones it felt like some of the magic of the original was missing, something noticeable when Connor return in the final episode and proved to be one of the strongest elements of the piece. 

It did feel more realistic at times but then again the original handled the concept, as far as you can, realistically. It wasn’t Torchwood adult, it was just dropping the more “family” elements of the original like Rex and Sid and Nancy and replacing them with dead bodies and a train full of drugs. 

The creatures 

The series did well with the creatures with a good range of dinosaurs and others coming through the anomalies, with only the raptors of episode one, the beetles and the terror birds feeling recycled from the original series. The creatures were handled well and the CGI was strong throughout the series, but never felt any better or worse than we saw in the UK version. The anachronistic animals did feel more involved at times, such as the terror bird ripping a corpse to pieces and there were some strong set pieces, such as the Albertosaurus and petrol station climax in the final episode, but they didn’t stray too imaginatively with the creature. In the original first series we were given the future predator, and there didn’t feel like an iconic creature established in this series, plus the collecting of the creatures by Project Magnet never felt as visual in the laboratory as it did in that final visual scene of UK series two, but the depictions of creature autopsy were done well. 

The best episodes 

My favourite episode is a toss-up between three: it’s either Truth, that closed the first half of the series, with its fresh plotline of Evan Cross being ‘drugged’ by something from the dinosaur and hallucinating and putting the team in danger, alongside the revelation of the frozen body at the end; the second-half opener Breakthrough which felt like a breath of fresh air to the series that felt like the arc was finally being explored, and the interesting Kanan sub-plot; or the series closer which tied things together nicely, threw in some great moments for fans of the UK original, and worked as a strong closer. 

When it comes to my least favourite it has to be Babes In The Wood which felt like an awkward inclusion mid-series that replaced the grieving Mac with a ten-year-old school-boy sniggering Mac and used a lesbian plot-line as titillation, damaging what was otherwise a fun episode. 

Where to go from here? 

In the wake of the series ending it was announced that Space would not be picking up the series for a second season due to low ratings, which I feel is a shame. With the UK series looking not to be returning this was the only way for the concept to continue. It’s disheartening now that so many series appear to get cancelled without the chance to let them breathe and grow with an audience, something affecting shows on both side of the Atlantic. With it yet to be shown in America there may be a chance of it being picked up elsewhere but with lots of drama I enjoy watching cancelled recently including this and The Hour, I’m starting to wonder if it’s worth investing time in following a drama only for them to be cancelled, leaving cliffhangers dangling. 

And of course it would be from the cliff-hanger the series would be going from. Having fulfilled the timeline and Mac sacrificing himself to make sure everything has happened as it should do, something has indeed changed and anomalies are closing. Will Evan and Dylan get trapped in the past and if they do get back what will have changed? 

I don’t know whether the writers have planned that far ahead but it’ll be interesting to see what a second series would bring. Personally I’d wanted a second season to be more focussed, with a strong concentration on the arc. I’d love to see Lieutenant Ken Leeds getting more screen time and I’d like to see Mac back in some alternative form. The Howard Kanan sub-plot would need to be addressed and I’d like more from Connor, as he suggested in the last episode he would be back. 

I’d also like them to address the direction of the series: if they are going down the adult route it needs to be more adult, with stronger deaths or more genuinely dark elements, or if not go more like the UK series and put a bit of magical sparkle into the plotlines with a little more humour: either direction, I don’t mind. 

Now that the team has been established and viewers will be familiar with the anomalies, I’d like to see a stronger arc and darker plots, and perhaps changes have happened that will affect the cast as they did between the first two series of the UK Primeval

I do hope a second series is commissioned as it’s our only link to the series and I feel the second half proved they have the characters and plots to carry it. Networks can be their own worst enemies by cancelling so many series early on into their run without them being able to build up a fan base and by not broadcasting simultaneously in different counties. Though the UK has been lucky in getting it only about six weeks behind, it’s not yet appeared in America and already big fans will have viewed the series by other means. 

Here’s hoping for a second series so we can step through the anomalies once more...

Read Philip's Primeval New World episode reviews, here.

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Let it die. It was terrible.

It wasn't terrible, well maybe for the first few episodes it was, but once it got into the arc it got pretty good.

Have to say it was a grower. It ended strong and a second would have been better. It was all the better for connor in it. How many first seasons were crap but became better as each season passed. These days unless the viewers are in the millions from the end of the open titles of the first episode its doomed these days. Take a look at The Event. Flashforward and the brill Firefly but to name a few

Reading the recent Star Trek recaps on DoG I realise now its a miracle that TNG made it to a second season, it were pretty bad before it improved

It began with a solid few episodes, that were admittedly unmemorable. As the series went on though, it developed its characters, offered better balanced plots and began to tap into the potential it had at its start.

Personally, I see how it did become 'more adult'. It offered more complex human storylines, it had morally-grey characters rather than panto-style villains such as Oliver Leek, and above all it didn't stop every ten minutes to try and look cool to a younger audience.

I would hate to see things left on such a catchy cliffhanger. Primeval never got the break it should have done, and this is the third time the loyal fans have had to deal with a possible cancellation. I think they're really missing a hit if it doesn't come back to prove its worth with a Season 2. There has to be a broadcaster out there that genuinely wants to try and give TV drama a go, rather than endorsing yet more reality trash.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I feel robbed. The
issue with a lot of sci-fi shows these days is not that they do not rate, it’s
that they do not make enough of a profit. Eureka was a show that fell into that
category.

Primeval U.K. Got cancelled, and then it came back, then as
a carrot so that fans would not notice a spin-off was offered and basically
Primeval U.K. got cancelled again. Had they used the money for the production
costs to produce a 6th season of Primeval might have been a better approach?

As to Primeval: New World, I enjoyed it. It may be more that
I enjoy the primeval universe and will accept any vehicle to get there.
Traveling along my linear existence without Stargate or Primeval leaves me
knowing that there is something missing.

I would still like to travel to the Primeval Universe. I
hope a vehicle can be found to get me there.

Obviously being a second rate channel Space prefers to only run endless episodes of Startrek and SG series. Notice now they are adding Castle....what has that got to do with space. They wonder why they have no audience because they axe any new good shows because they cost money. There's more money in 10-20 year old reruns I guess.
The US version ended up running WWE wrestling.

Did anyone else think the last scene of the last episode was almost exactly same as the end scene of Episode 1.6 UK series right down to the dialogue?

Have to agree that it was dire compared with the UK series with a number of ham actors, wooden characters and cheesy scripts and dialogue. RIP and let's hope the UK lot pull their fingers out for a new season.

You're right that the US has yet to get Primeval New World, and those that really wanted to see it, have found other means to watch it. That sucks for ratings. In addition, those of us in the US that would watch it through a broadcast, now know it's not being picked up for a 2nd season, so many are going to think, why invest time in watching it when we know it's been cancelled.

Personally as for stargate universe being cancelled after 2nd season was a mistake because it was brilliant but was replace for a 15 year old out dated series star trex:genaration just for HD tv was a p*ss take.Having primeval cancelled as well was a big mistake because it was popluar,It was new & it was something fresh,the fact that primeval:new world is linked with the first primeval series because connor disapeared in the enomaly at the final season of the original series of primeval because he dose mention that as much as he wants to go back he cant because it would change things,that was in primeval new world.I dont think this season should be cancelled because i really enjoy watching this type of series,to many good series are being cancelled its stupid making them in the first place if there just going to cancel the series.People say its not making money,look at the money that gone in to makeing the series in the first place is a complete waste of money to have it cancelled after the 1st or 2nd season.its stupid & a waste of money.

I've noticed a continuing trend with the networks in the UK, US and it would seem Canada now that they rarely have the patience any more to allow a show to develop, especially sci-fi. People criticise this show for not being as good as the original Primeval but I remember the first series of the original having plenty of it's own dodgy moments, especially the characters of Connor and Abby. It took time for that show to develop. But it's all about the money nowadays.

I think science fiction shows are more likely to be watched online, via various helpful "tivo" work in a legally-grey area, since the audiences are more likely to be tech-savvy. Thus they don't show up on ratings surveys so well, nor find exposure to the advertisers who underwrite a proportion of the shows on non-subscription channels. This was one of my favourite shows - and I agree with Leeds as being a great character - but I didn't see a single ep on an actual TV.

It took TNG till The best of both worlds pt1 to show what it could really do. And from then on it was great TV

It was a pile of crap, but I still wanted a second season cause I'm A fan of Primeval.

I don't care, I want Primeval season 6 !

This is an amazing show, it MUST CONTINUE! I literally cried when I saw it was discontinued. It's my favourite show next to Terra Nova- which was also discontinued...huge disappointment.

I for one didn't mind the new series, much better than the tail end of the UK series. The demise of Cutter, the switching of Claudia Brown & the addition of the Philip Burton character all put paid to the series for me. Sadly I think it's the preoccupation with subplots in pretty much every American series is ruining a lot of programs. Well thats my 2 peneth worth

I live in Australia and had to find another means of watching, and I got to episode 8 and found out it had been cancelled. And I have to say I'm really disappointed, not only do I now love the show but I love the directors they are amazing, from the people that did Stargate and sanctuary to make a new "primeval" was just brilliant. And I am so disappointed its cancelled. It makes me loose faith in networks when shows like this and many others (for example V) that get cancelled either early on or with a cliffhanger which drives me nuts. It's like the networks just love screwing the fans thy do have over. But I must say I love this show and hope it gets renewed via another means.

Perhaps as with the original Primeval, another network will pick up the baton and make a second series, especially, although it has yet to show here, the final two episodes appear to be a sort of crossover with Connor Temple making an appearance...Here's hoping.

I don't know how you could call Helen Cutter a 'panto-style' villain, she was twice as slippery as an eel and naughtier than a Carolina pine. And James Lester was the antagonist we all loved to hate, until his bureaucratic layers peeled back and we saw his true mettle. I guess I'm probably part of that younger audience they were trying to to look cool for, because I definitely found it extremely cool :)

Anywho, I have to agree with you about wishing they would give us a chance to know these characters better.

Yes, it does deserve another chance!
No, it doesn't deserve to be cancelled!
Primeval New World deserves to get a second season!
They need to find another network to renew it for a second season.

No way! They've made a mistake! Primeval New World has to come back for a second season!
We are all dying for season two! Find another network to save the show, please!

No way! They've made a mistake!
Primeval New World has to come back for a second season!
Find another network to save the show, please!
We are all dying for season two!
And we are also dying for Primeval USA.

Get BBC Canada to pick up Primeval New World.
It deserves a second season.

Primeval New World did not deserve to be cancelled!
The fans in Canada should write letters to the producers of Primeval New World to let them know that cancelling the show after one season, 13 episodes was an mistake and they should find another network like CBC and CTV to pick the show up for season two. The fans should also picket any networks to save Primeval New World. Like Now!
Does everyone want to see more of Primeval New World?
Should it be pick up for a second season by another network?
How about being saved by Syfy?

Babes in the woods is what killed it, the lesbian overtones should not be have been used at all, i found it very out of context with the rest of the show, and wont watch it again as a result, of course there are other people who would disagree, it seems these days the world is becoming less and less moral as to what effects these things have on the younger generation is very scary, if you want to make a tv show on fantasy with dinos then stick to fantasy and leave the sexual elements out.

Me and my 8 year old son have watched all the UK series and now this one and he is heart broken that it has been cancelled. He watches them over and over again and has said when will I know if they get back home? I really wish that they would at least let the series run for a minimum of 2 seasons and promote it more to get the ratings. There are people out there who love it and as for my son runs his life around it. He has also learnt a lot about dinosaurs and his interest in them has progressed for boys loving them to wanting to find out more about them facts etc. It is a real shame and I feel let down, :-( one unhappy mum and little boy.

Do indeed feel robbed. So many good series start, and then get axed. the 4400, the cape for example.

Primeval New World didn't deserve to be cancelled!
I still wanna see season two happen!
Find another network!

I think we should all write letters and write emails to Impossible Pictures and Omni Film Productions about finding another network to pick the show up for a second season.
I don't know why the fans hadn't picket anywhere, demanding any networks to save
Primeval: New World.

Helen Cutter started off as an interesting character but by Season 3 she was very much a cartoon villain. It didn't help that her motivations completely changed each season. Season 1 she was pretty much just enjoying the freedom of cavorting through time. Season 2 she was trying to use the creatures to obtain power in the modern world (which she'd previously had zero interest in). In Season 3 she was an insane eco-terrorist. So yeah. It was a blessing (if a belated one) when they finally wrote her out.

Primeval New World didn't have anything like that. All the characters were basically decent people trying to do what they thought was right, even the antagonists.

I wish producers would realise that Sci-Fi is a genre that takes a comparatively longer time to grow fans but that, when it does, they tend to be rusted on.

i want freakin original to continue

I really did not like the 'New World' version of Primeval. The only reason I watched it to the end was because I heard that if it did well they might bring the main characters from the original show and make them main characters in this one. I love Primeval, its what made me like dinosaurs but this "New World' version was week. I didn't like how they molded their characters to be like the characters from the original show. If you are going to make a spin-off show with new characters and new plots then create your own characters with their own personalities. This show was predictable and frustrating. I think they should forget this and start up the original Primeval again I want to know what happens after that cliffhanger! :P

I hope it comes back the last one was so good and ill be devastated if it doesn't come back

I agree with Jurassic land it deserves a second chance

Thanks! I'm gald you agree with me.

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