This review contains spoilers.
Hallelujah! Christmas wishes have come true! As the Canadian spin-off of the UK sci-fi dinosaur-hunting portal-jumping television series reaches its seasonal break eight episodes in, we get an episode that finally references back to the plot strands of the season opener and delivers us forty-five minutes of story, action and answers – plus some questions – that goes some way towards making up for last week’s distinctly average instalment.
For fans of the original Primeval, this episode will trigger memories of several others. There are elements of the penultimate episode of series five with the T-Rex, the one in the same series where the ARC goes into lockdown, and the episode mid-way through series three where a deadly fungus wreaks its revenge in the modern world. Truth combined these elements together into an intriguing plotline that mostly eschews CGI in favour of character-built tension. That might label this as the cheap episode of the series, but it’s done with the right reasons.
There’s no messing about in Truth, with the dinosaur appearing almost immediately on the screen, in the form of one of my favourite prehistoric beasts the Pachycephalosaurus, a pretty famous creature in popular culture as the one with the domed head that goes round butting into things, rival males, and seemingly lots of windows. In a slightly comical opening, a jogger lost in a world of mp3 music, is oblivious to the following dinosaur and confused by the wild gesticulating of some bystanders before spotting said creature and running for safety but the creature has other ideas and smashes the glass panelling of the door he’s run behind. The opening is short, sweet, and sports some great CGI effects, especially the reflections, even if the smashing of the door panel at the end seems false.
With so many people seeing a creature now, is the secret out?
After the credits, as always, we return to Cross Photonics where Angelika is practicing her boxing on a punching bag with support from Evan. They briefly kiss and talk about dinner, in what still seems a really false romance, but there’s little time to worry about this side of things as the anomaly detector goes off and Evan and Dylan race to the scene.
Parallels are bound to be drawn here with the T-Rex episode of series five. The same elements are in place, with a dinosaur running around and lots of screaming people, and it’s fun to watch, but there’s something missing from this interpretation. Aside from the fact the dinosaur is not as big or as iconic, much of the terror here is portrayed by screams off-camera rather than people running around as in the UK episode, suggesting they couldn’t find enough extras. It’s a scene screaming for energy and power but just feels a little lacklustre even if the writer’s heart is in the right place.
Mac, returning to his more troubled character, arrives on his bike and teams up with Dylan to tranquilise the creature whilst Evan tries to locate the anomaly, which he finds behind a locked door before he’s held up by the local police for running around a public place with a weapon. Luckily for him. Lieutenant Ken Leeds arrives with some soldiers to get him out of trouble and help lock down the perimeter. Their dislike of each other is still apparent and the introduction of the military into the situation adds a little more realism to proceedings than in the UK original. There is a neat line in the dialogue about Leeds giving the scoop to The National Enquirer to ensure the story is discredited, which is a nice acknowledgement of the work needed to be done to keep things hush-hush but is perhaps a little too much lip-service in a world of mobile phones and quick posts to YouTube, but it’s a funny quip and a well-written plot point all the same.
The dinosaur incident is wrapped up pretty swiftly with the Pachycephalosaurus neutralised off-screen but there’s still time for some dialogue about the clean-up operation and for a snot joke, but one that is not include for the crude reasons you’d think. Ken Leeds continues to be an enigmatic character, and there’s still little mention of what he is doing with the creature he captured all those weeks ago.
This is when the episode takes a confusing shift tonally and plot-wise. We next see Evan back at Cross Photonics coming out of having taken a shower to remove the dinosaur mucus. Suddenly an Albertosaurus turns around the corner and chases him down the corridor before he escapes behind a metal shutter. Though this is explained shortly I had to rewind a few times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything as it felt a whole scene had disappeared. Looking back at the episode I feel there could have been more establishing done here but as quick, and actually shocking and scary scene, it really works.
Evan, fearing the dinosaur killing more employees, triggers lockdown under the guise of a gas leak and soon everyone is outside aside from Evan, and Dylan, Angelika and Toby in the control room. Toby reveals it to be a phantom alarm but their chat is interrupted by Evan entering and uncovering the existence of a secret room in the building, one we’ve not seen since episode one. It’s clear already that something is up with Evan.
The plot of Truth continues with some well-crafted scenes and editing. We go to flashbacks from the first episode as Evan and his wife Brooke enter what is a deserted building up for lease, what is now Cross Photonics, to investigate weird interference on his mobile phone. There they enter what is now the cold store and find the anomaly and Albertosaurus, which promptly kills Brooke, with this footage nearly intercut between the present hunt. But it soon becomes clear that Evan is seeing the dinosaur in his mind as Dylan cannot see it, in some minimal but well-done, CGI.
Back in the control room Toby hacks into the CCTV of the secret area and finds where Evan is with Angelika heading off to over-ride lockdown to get Mac in the building. Meanwhile Evan gets back into the control room, destroys the computer and takes Toby’s mobile phone, grabbing a real gun, as his insanity and hallucinations build.
Mac gets Evan on Toby’s phone and comes to find him and then the big mid-season twist is revealed, harking back to the first episode. Mac sees himself frozen in the refrigerated room complete with ARC insignia on his arm and through some more well-edited flashback scenes, we see it was Mac who saved Evan from the Albertosaurus but in doing so died himself. In the past Evan locks Mac in the freezer to keep him alive, though it’s not said how long this takes as at that point, there is no cryogenics equipment in the building, but we’ll gloss over that for the moment.
Back in the control room, Toby resets the locking system but also reveals that there is now a genuine gas leak and Evan is going to set off an explosion in the tunnels underneath the building to take out the dinosaur that he believes is roaming around.
With Mac also now locked in the refrigerated room by Evan, Toby goes on a mission to save him before there is a well-written touching scene between the characters where they talk about Mac’s background and how he wanted to be like the man frozen – a soldier, but never got to be. Contrasted to the character last week who was emotionally cutback, this was a nicely included scene.
Meanwhile in the tunnels, Dylan is undoing the cables to try and stop the gas explosion whilst Angelika reaches Evan. There she tries to stop him blowing the building up and in another good scene, Evan hallucinates that she is Brooke and gets to say his final goodbye, before he is tranquilised by Angelika.
With Evan back to normal, the other Mac is re-frozen and the Mac we know is not answering his phone. It is revealed that, after Mac saved Evan and died, Evan went to find Mac’s family to thank them only to find a parallel Mac, a young delinquent, living there. From then, Evan tried to improve his life and brought him over to Cross Photonics, unable to tell him that in a parallel timeline he was a nineteen year old time traveller.
The episode ends abruptly with the team in disarray and Angelika saying she’s quitting, with a wait until late January to see the remaining five episodes.
Truth has been the best episode of the series yet, and one of three that really stand out so far from the eight. From the limited North American series I’ve seen so far, Primeval New World has shown itself to be similar to the series that last twenty episodes plus: setting up an intriguing plot line in episode one then not coming back to it until many episodes later. The twist of Mac being the person frozen is not one I was expecting – possibly hoping for a UK cast member – and leads to lots of questions of whether time has been rewritten or Mac will travel back into the past at some point, and from then it could go, as The Doctor would say, all timey-wimey.
Truth heavily borrowed from the UK series probably in more ways than any other episode and I think it benefitted from this. The threat in the episode was closer to home and though there was still plenty of CGI in it, the lack of it did not come across as budget-saving but more as plot-building. If the plot strands set up in episode one and picked up here had been threaded more expertly through the six episodes between them, I think this first half of the series would have seemed much stronger, and hopefully the feel of this episode continues through the rest of the run.
The opening may have been a lower-key version of the UK series five T-Rex episode and some of the romance elements feel forced, but this was a tense, not always straight-forward episode, that got more things right than wrong and looks forward to how the characters deal with the revelations that came out within its running time. With a human focus setting the tension, it was well-balanced between the creature of the week and the bigger picture, with several scenes standing out as setting a good tone for this episode.
After a poor episode last week the series is starting on its path to redemption and I hope it continues. It’s still not as enjoyable as the UK original but this episode is the closest it has got so far.
Read Philip’s review of the previous episode, Babes In The Woods, here.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here