This review contains spoilers.
1.7 Babes in the Woods
Do you know when you’re watching an episode of a television show and it feels like you’ve missed an episode as the plot lines and character development don’t make sense, and you find yourself wondering whether they put an extra episode on air that you didn’t see? Well this is how I felt when watching Babes In The Wood, sadly the least enjoyable episode of the series so far following two of the strongest, which adds to the shame.
The episode opens in a cabin in the woods – no, not that one – with a selection of beauties – the babes of the title – taking part in a photo shoot with the photographer doing his best Austin Powers parody. It’s not long before he decides to leave the women and head into the forest for a cigarette, but naturally there is a series trademark point of view shot and something is stalking him in the woods. It’s not long before he’s face-to-face with an Oviraptor (I think it’s one, it’s never mentioned in the episode) and with a flash of his camera triggers it to attack him and in a fairly graphic death scene he becomes separated from his intestines.
After the credits, we’re once again at Cross Photonics and Toby is back, chatting to Evan about the anomalies in characteristic sci-fi pseudo-science lingo, this time concentrating on how to close anomalies, something the UK team have already figured out but the team here are trying to discover. But then, equally as expected, the anomaly detector goes off but it’s not the only alarm that fires in my head: it’s the coincidence alarm. Because, as the monitor zooms in on the location Toby realises it’s the cabin where she used to have photos taken of her as part of some risqué burlesque troupe and she doesn’t want this part of her past to be revealed to her boss, even though Evan admits he already knew. This plot line, though, starts off a series of immature and crude jokes that, though I’m not turning my nose up at it in an I’m-offended way, it just sits awkwardly with what’s has happened so far. The main culprit is in the character development of Mac who, last week, was a darker, troubled character cut-up about by the cruel and sudden death of his girlfriend. This week he doesn’t have a care about this and is the origin of a series of porn and lesbian jokes that jars with his deepening character and feels like a real misfire to me.
Meanwhile in the building, Evan is contemplating his wedding ring, in a plot device that has yet to be really followed up since the first episode which is getting more disappointing each week, when Angelika enters and has revealed she has decided to stay in the business to support Evan on his anomaly hunting. In the office they kiss and talk briefly about their relationship, in something that seems to have developed a lot since the subtle hints of last episode and adds to the feeling of missing something.
As the team prepares to investigate the anomaly – and at least Mac delivers some funny lines even if it jars with his character development – Angelika joins the team to keep an eye on Evan and to find out what he does.
Back at the cabin and the models are wondering where their photographer has gone, with the dinosaur – by the inclusion of a POV shot – approaching the cabin. Meanwhile the teams are driving over to the anomaly and Dylan and Angelika share a conversation about the tasers that seems forced and patronised; I’m sure the CEO of a company knows something about tasers and even if she doesn’t do we need to be introduced to them again? Mac continues on his fantasies as they drive and when they get to the cabin but at least the line of ‘really big cougars’ as a double-meaning adds a bit of dialogue spark to an otherwise average script.
With more POV shots thrown in there is an impressive dinosaur chase sequence as the Oviraptor runs after the jeep, with a neat shot in the rear-view mirror and by the open side-door, and a well-created feel of tension. But the driver – Nat from the group – is panicking and won’t stop the van even when they are free of the dinosaur and so is tasered, forcing the jeep off the road.
Meanwhile the rest of the team arrive at the cabin and after a brief exploration find the dead photographer and a look at his camera reveals the creature responsible for his death.
But it’s back at the crashed jeep where the plot develops but equally takes a dive for the gutter. It is revealed that Nat and Toby have a past as a couple. I’d like to say it’s handled in a realistic way with a genuine lesbian ex-couple introduced into the plot, but like the bisexual comment she made a few episodes ago, it feels little more than a springboard for a few dodgy lines from Mac and some, to quote a phrase, sexing up of the episode and justifying the series’ ‘adult’ title. I’m not saying the dialogue Mac has isn’t funny but it’s funny in a schoolboy South Park way and feels like this has been included in for cheap thrills.
Back over to the other side of the team and Angelika is chased by a dinosaur in a very well-filmed scene that shows off the CGI that has excelled in the series, and never so more here. Ken Leeds gets name-checked for the first of two times – but doesn’t appear in the episode – alongside Project Magnet with Evan once more reluctant to get him involved. The dinosaur is tranquilised and wrapped in cloth for the dragging of the body back to the anomaly that makes up the remaining twenty minutes of the episode.
The story continues to throw puzzles in the direction of the viewers. It’s implied through a conversation between Mac, Nat and Toby that Mac and Toby are in some sort of relationship and has yet to meet the family. Either this is a subtle wind-up that isn’t shouted-down by the characters in the piece or I’ve fallen asleep sometime in the previous episodes and missed this plot line. And either way, Mac seems to be a different Mac to just the last episode where he was grieving over his killed girlfriend.
But there’s little time for more joviality as creatures are stalking both groups but in the case of Mac, Nat and Toby it is just a bear, which looked real but superimposed into the scene and looked a little out of place, but not being a big distraction. A short sequence of making themselves look as big as possible to distract it was, in itself, a nice distraction and proves it’s not just creatures from the past which are a threat to them.
Over with Evan, Dylan and Angelika, and the writer continues to make some weird decisions. They have emphasised in other episodes the need to stick together in the face of creature attacks and in this episode to keep the smallest member in the middle to project them. Then, knowing something is stalking them, Evan is left alone while Dylan and Angelika go off to monologue about why Angelika has joined them on the team and naturally the dinosaur appears but is quickly dispatched over the edge of a cliff by Evan, or at least he is not sure whether he hit it.
With the end of the episode in sight we get the first glimpse of the anomaly on a bridge which Mac and the team are heading for, but back at the other group, the drama of dragging the dinosaur across the forest continues with more self-generated tension as Dylan falls down a slope and dislocates her shoulder, but it’s quickly back in and feels more like a way of stretching out the episode rather than adding plot.
Mac is called back to join Evan to now help drag the body through the forest but this comes to nothing and they set a new plan in motion to get the other dinosaur, which they assume Evan missed, to the anomaly and naturally this works and a chase through the forest ensues, with another neat piece of CGI which makes up for the less-than-exciting plot. Toby and Nat share a kiss in front of the anomaly after the first bit of proper character development for them even if the kiss feels more like voyeurism than any real development there.
There is a last bit of drama at the end as Toby and Nat have to jump over the side of the bridge and grab on to avoid the dinosaur – though arguably they could have just stuck up close to the barrier – which goes through the anomaly and the episode is rounded up with a longing look back by Dylan at Evan and Angelika standing side-by-side looking into the anomaly, suggesting there might be something to this three-way love affair, but it still just seems a little false and under-explored.
Ken Leeds is name-checked again at the end as Evan agrees to get him involved in containment of the area, rounding off an average, slightly disappointing episode.
So where does Babes In The Wood stand in the series so far? Well it’s the episode I’ve enjoyed the least, not necessarily because of the creature of the week element which was not bad, if not that exciting either – even though the CGI was as strong as ever, but because of the inconsistent plotting. Mac’s character, which darkened over the last few episodes, seems to have see-sawed back into being jokey and the relationship between Evan and Angelika doesn’t quite gel. The subplot of Toby and Nat’s past seemed to be put in for nothing more than a few jokes at their expense and what could have been an interesting pair of non-heterosexual characters in a show seemed to descend into voyeurism.
I hope we get a more exciting episode next week to build back up the character designs. Sure the previous episode might have been a little soapy, but at least it was consistent with what had come before. This episode seemed odd as if it was either filler or moved back from earlier in the run which would explain the character inconsistencies.
Babes In The Wood brings us to over the halfway mark of the series. So far Primeval New World has definitely been worth the watch with the CGI proving strong and the character development arguably better than the UK original, but the overall plotting and sense of drama seems considerably less than the series that inspired it. Plot strands set up in the strong opener – including Connor’s words of warning and the mysterious figure cryogenically stored, linked into the death of Evan’s wife – have been ceremoniously dropped, and others like Ken Leeds’ involvement, his capturing of one of the creatures hiding in his car boot and the unravelling of what the anomalies mean, seem inconsistent and drop in and out of episodes without any smooth flow.
There have been high points such as the shock death of Sam and the focus on more gruesome deaths, but it doesn’t seem to gel like the original series with no overarching arc, and relationships, plotlines and such that don’t seem to move smoothly from one episode to the next. How this all pans out over the next six episodes will mark how this series is judged but at the moment it’s great to see anomalies and creatures back on screen but it just makes me wish they’d made a sixth UK series instead of this at the moment.
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