Its nearly April, Saturday night and while Doctor Who should be on our screens in the next few weeks (damn you having-to-wait-till-Easter-special-then-only-three-more-specials-this-year new series) we instead have got the Beeb promoting its pretty poor Robin Hood as prime-time viewing. However, if you don’t fancy a chubby Chav with a longbow and hoodie and watching Richard Armitage in black leather, then you can always flick over for ITV’s dino-fest, Primeval.
Now, I must admit, while having a prime-time sci-fi show on ITV is great, the programme, quite frankly, isn’t and should be reviewed as what it is – a cheap and cheerful action adventure show aimed at kids, with dinosaurs and cheap ITV writers. If I am overly harsh in my review, it’s not because I don’t like dinosaurs or sci-fi but really, if this is the best we can expect a terrestrial channel to produce in the genre, then all hope is gone. Or at least slowly fading for good solid Buffy-like sci-fi to ever appear on our screens again.
While not as lamentably bad as Demons, Primeval is a sort of 45-minute showcase of CGI dinosaurs and a member of S-Club in her pants. While these things do have a certain appeal, having to endure this pick-and-mix of sci-fi cliché and maguffin building, with its gaping plot holes, even the lithe form of Hannah Spearritt loses its appeal.
Now in its third season (see my reviews of the second season’s finale) all the crew are back, apart from the walking block of wood, Stephen Hart, who at the end of the last series pointlessly sacrificed himself to Oliver Leek’s (Martin from Green Wing) easily escapable cunning secret base and menagerie of CG monsters.
Now we have another extra from Ross Kemp’s Special Force, a clichéd hardman and ex-SAS chap struggling to find his personality, sexuality and Die Hard-style back-chat in the shape of Captain Becker. Then there’s Dr Page, arguably a standard too-attractive-to-be-real professor. The team’s new rookies is feisty, fun and quite ‘easy on the eye’, and her job seems to be to look at the mythology books that are giving the writers leeway to add a whole new dimension to Primeval..
It’s not just dinosaurs now, ya see. There’s been a bit of ripping off of Stargate, with tenuously-linked dinosaurs to ancient time. Clever as the writers may think this is, it’s not. It’s dead simple, silly and really just a way for kids to engage with the show a little bit more.
Still, all griping aside, tonight’s episode wasn’t all that bad… well, apart from the Stargate rip-off. You see, in the British Museum there is a cool thing called the ‘Sun-Cage’ a great chunky piece of Stargate..erm, sorry, Egyptian artefact that is all cool, mysterious and looks a bit like the pool that Mumm-Ra sat around in Thundercats.
Well, this great piece of metal or stone (they don’t really explain, apart from that it’s made from Adamantium or Magantron or somesuch material) is a trap for anomalies and, as it is being prepped for exhibition, opens an anomaly and unleashes a Pristichampsus, a huge crocodile-like creature that bears a resemblance to Sobek the Egyptian crocodile god, which goes on the rampage around the West Bank of the Thames.
While this makes for some quite interesting action scenes, the entire point of the episode is really a bit daft; the Pristichampsus escapes the museum, has a swim, attacks diners at a river-side café, gets a bit injured and then all by itself wanders back to the anomaly, eating a parking attendant for good measure.
However, while this really is just a by-the-numbers catch, the monster-type scenario of the other minor plot threads are a whole lot more interesting with Lester’s new boss/rival/potential love interest, Christine Johnson, who has eyes on taking over his job and the ARC (Anomaly Research Centre) herself. On top of this we also see that Helen Cutter is still lurking in the shadows, hiding away in a pocket-dimension or weird alternative reality that resembles a city-like street scene placed atop a rocky outcrop surrounded by prehistoric trees and scenery, sort of like an inverse Lost World.
While this season’s opener really is designed to get everyone up to speed with what’s going on and to introduce the new team, they dropped the ball with the main story as characters are not that fleshed out with every new face, only getting a few lines and not really getting that much screen time. Still, there’s another five episodes to go and with the introduction of Jason Fleming. Despite my gripes and moans, it’s worth tuning in while you are getting ready to go out on a Saturday night.