This review contains spoilers.
1.3 The Fear of Flying
As we hit episode three of the series, the dreaded ‘f’ word finally raises its head. No, not that word, this fourteen years and up show hasn’t entered the world of swearing just yet, but the word ‘filler’. After a couple of episodes building up some possible over-arching season plotlines, these are shelved for an episode as the creature-of-the-week premise takes fully over.
That’s not to say we don’t get some more character development – we do – but there’s no further mention of the cryogenically frozen UK ARC team member, or Angelika’s plans for the team, or any other development of the anomaly mythology. I’m hoping that PNW doesn’t do a Desperate Housewives and book-end the series with the plot and then thrust filler into the middle.
Episode three, The Fear of Flying begins with the shortest and cheesiest opening so far. We get two pilots Jim and Pallavi preparing for take-off but instead of heading up into the wild blue yonder they go crashing through a giant anomaly – think the size of the one that opened up for the Gigantosaurus in UK series three – and into a different time. It’s only one minute long but they manage to squeeze in some quick dialogue and scene establishment but also two of the cheesiest ‘oh no what are we heading for’ frozen face shots that would fit right into eighties spoof film Airplane and some confused cinematography: the camera move at the start and initial shot of the plane suggest they are up in the air, but we actually find they’ve not yet taken off. It took a few watches for me to get that, so a confusing start there.
After the credits – which still just feature the creatures from the first episode but with an opening theme that grows on me with each listen though it’s still not a patch on the original – we return to a split conversation between healthy jogging Evan and Toby, surrounded by half-eaten pizza, and some snappy conversation about Toby’s abilities to hack into everything as she once had a friend in Anonymous. Nice cultural reference, but perhaps a little too convenient in being able to hack into the airport’s CCTV which, though the use of more technology than a flagship Apple store, is rather clear and crisp and perfect for showing the plane going through the anomaly.
We also catch up with firearms expert Mac Rendell who is once more on his motorbike and this time with new girlfriend Samantha who quickly becomes privy to their top secret anomaly project and also proves to be a weirdly written character, but we’ll see how she develops as the series continues. In The Fear of Flying we find that keeping dinosaur-spewing time portals secret turns girls on (Connor take note!) but also that having sex doesn’t necessarily constitute a relationship in Samantha’s eyes though it does in Mac’s. She’s just at home with a gun as Mac (who continues to overdo his British accent for a Canadian audience) is, but does mention an unhappy life in London and being saved from a life in the army by Evan, so hopefully his background will link back to UK Primeval somehow.
The opening of the episode is smattered with some good one-liners and snappy dialogue and a few series traits – such as the loud klaxon to symbolise an anomaly opening – return. For the second time this series Evan and Dylan, now the dynamic double-act, go through the anomaly only to go for a fall as the past, or future, is lower down than they expected. There they find the crashed plane and its two occupants and a large number of ravenous beetles; think those featured in series five episode four in what feels like a very similar concept, even down to the appearance of a large, queen beetle.
It’s now a race against time for the team to fix the broken aircraft but only from the inside as the man-eating beetles are now crawling all over the plane in a rather The Mummy-style effect, and have by this point already killed Jim and left his bloodied corpse. Again, as with the previous episodes, they don’t shy away from the realistic aftermath of the creature attacks but very rarely show them. Think back to the UK Primeval and the soldier that got consumed by the mass of beetles; now that was an effect.
So, alongside trying to fix the plane – and Evan has suddenly become an expert in the inner-workings of large jets – Evan and Dylan have to keep Pallavi calm and focussed as they need her to fly the thing.
Meanwhile, back in the present, Mac and Samantha have to deal with the massive flying queen beetle that comes through the anomaly and precedes to scuttle off to a nearby building and lay its eggs in an unfortunate member of the engineering staff, in a well-put-together piece of CGI that looks the part and the pulling out of the eggs from the man’s throat is deliciously creepy.
Naturally, things don’t go well for either team, and alongside discovering that Mac might be being taken for a ride by his spunky but scheming new girlfriend, with the plane eventually fixed the front windscreen smashes and beetles pour through, killing Pallavi and putting Evan and Dylan’s escape plan back to square one. Now it’s time for them to set light to blankets and run back to the portal and use a make-shift lasso and hook to try and hook onto the car and get out, all while beetles slowly approach them as the fire fades. Surely this would have been a better plan all along than trying to pilot a damaged plane across a bumpy desert back through the anomaly, and thus saved two lives?
Luckily, they’re in time for Mac to spot their attempt and pull them up to safety, but they still have to deal with the flying queen, though this is quickly dispatched and falls back through the anomaly, not to mention the few bugs that come up from their rope which is also pushed back through.
Alongside this adventure, which works through the episode but does require a few things to be believed (such as Evan’s expert knowledge of planes), and throws enough spanners in the works to keep the tension going (even if everything that is done in the episode basically counts for nothing), there is a fair bit of character development especially between Evan and Dylan, even if it’s sometimes a little forced. Facing possible death in the alternative world, they discuss things and Evan suggests what they could do if they lived their life in the past and that they might have to start a family as, in a weird paradox, that might be how the human race started. That’s either an interesting theory to play with or a creepy chat-up line, your call.
Whatever the origin, it does suggest an impending relationship for these two characters following Mac’s previous assertions that there is chemistry between them, and their shared grief in the loss of Tony Drake back in episode one. It’s painted on a bit thick at times but they do work well together.
We also learn more about Mac and it seems that, especially in this episode, he’s a little naïve and being taken for a ride by other people, especially his new headstrong girlfriend. I’m just hoping his British past fits in rather than him being just character for the UK fans to relate to. Not that you can relate to such a weird interpretation of a British accent!
The episode also has its fair show of emotional moments. The ending with Ethan holding the letter Pallavi was writing to her family was quite touching and Jim’s death had a little bit of impact even if we’d just met him.
On the note of CGI, the beetles were well rendered in their thousands and the queen beetle in particular was well composited, but the effects weren’t as vivid or impressive as the matching series five episode of UK Primeval where they did much more with the creatures and the similar threat of stopping the creatures from getting in to where the survivors are hiding. That said there was plenty of tension built up in the episode and the deaths of the two guest stars shows that not everyone can be saved.
The only other major thing that stood out in this episode was the use of location. The night-time desert used where the plane has crashed looked very much like a set rather than a location. I appreciate filming at night on location is tricky but it didn’t quite feel right. If it was an actual location then I apologise, it just felt too set-like.
The episode did also include a nice touch in what impact leaving the plane in the past – assuming they were in the past – would have on humanity if that was uncovered. It was a throwaway line but one that acknowledges the problems they face, though the outcome of the episode was that they have left it down in the past anyway. Where’s a mechanic’s tow-truck when you need it?
Overall The Fear of Flying is probably the weakest of the three episodes so far. Lacking in any continuing overall threads of plot development, it felt too stand-alone. The CGI was as well done as ever but doesn’t feel as if it’s used as excitingly as in the UK series with those episodes seemingly cramming more into their forty-five minutes, but the creature of the week worked well in the two different styles on the differing sides of the anomaly and there was some good character development of the leads.
Primeval New World is so far enjoyable but I’m not yet convinced of its brilliance and at the moment it’s behind the UK original in the fun and imagination stakes, though does benefit from a script that’s a bit wittier and punchier. I wouldn’t say its shaking-off of the family image of the UK version for a more-adult style is yet really paying off, unless a bloodied-corpse and the mention of sex constitutes a higher rating.
Next week we get Angry Birds which is either going to be the return of the Terror Birds as seen in the original series or Evan is going to have to save the world by throwing dodos at prehistoric boars to get back into Cross Photonics. We’ll just have to see.
Read Philip’s review of the previous episode Sisiutl, here.
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