I’m not sure whether it was coincidence, serendipity or just plain luck, but having rampant dinosaurs mixed up in Victorian London seems to be a recurring theme this week. From the spectacular (it was, wasn’t it?) mid-season finale featuring a sword-wielding Silurian on Doctor Who, to this new episode of Primeval, it seems that winding streets, fog and a penchant for corsetry is the in thing for sci-fi this summer.
While Doctor Who did Victorian England in spectacular, if brief fashion, it seems that ITV/Watch and Impossible Pictures were hobbled a little when trying to bring their vision of Victorian history to us, with a budget that seems to only stretch to a one-day ticket to the Black Country Museum for the cast and crew. All we get to show us we’re in Victorian London is a lot of very empty day shots. It’s a shame, really, that the episode’s low budget is so noticeable, because it wasn’t a bad instalment.
With the 1868 setting, it’s not hard to deduce that, once again, we’ll meet up with Emily, the time displaced dinosaur hunter with whom Matt started an affair last season. She’s been putting all her practise in the future to good use, hunting down a shadowy creature called Spring-Heeled Jack, a play on the Victorian character that’s killing off the local inhabitants in a particularly gory fashion. I guess having Jack the Ripper in the story would have been a bit too much, especially since this was hinted at (and abandoned last season), and, of course, him being dead, courtesy of a Scottish Silurian in Doctor Who.
Back in the present, we have the team out on another anomaly hunt in Intimidation, a modern art gallery video instillation, and find we get another raptor appearance, which is easily disposed of via the anomaly lock. However, the anomaly doesn’t go back to Jurassic Park, but the late 1860s.
With this known, Matt decides to head through the anomaly, as the raptor has been having a feast of Victorians, and in turn, seems to be Spring-Heeled Jack.
The episode then turns into a period murder mystery, with an out-of-time Matt stalking the raptor though the CG streets of Victorian London. While this might sound fun, remember that this is a kids’ show, and not a Hollywood blockbuster, and while the premise of a prehistoric creature preying on the good people of London sounds great, there’s only so much that can be shown.
Matt’s not the only one stalking the creature. A superhero is also stalking the beast which, of course, is a disguised Emily who, while tracking the beast at the same time, had been mistaken for the killer. It seems that Emily’s been causing her fiancé trouble. First, for her time-displaced disappearance, and second, because, on her return, she’s lost all her lady-like decorum.
Her lack of sense of her place in society and how to behave is a bit of an embarrassment to her husband who’s looking to commit her to Bedlam (a Victorian hospital for the mentally ill). Again, this is a good idea, but only so much can be shown on screen as to the experiments that went on there.
While the show does what it can as far as action is concerned, there are some silly bits. For example, why does the raptor only attack people? There is a scene with a horse and cart in which the horse is stationary and tangled up, yet the raptor ignores the easy prey, choosing instead to hunt the cast down rather than taking a large chunk out of the poor, defenceless creature.
Additionally, the raptor is treated pretty badly, and is thrown down some stairs though the anomaly, not really the best advertisement for animal protection. But essentially, the creature is used as a MacGuffin, a plot element used to get Emily back on the team, and for her nasty husband, Henry, to come to a nasty end.
While it’s all fun to watch, some elements seemed forced. It’s as though the writers have to get certain things into an episode, and they’re box ticking certain elements, with very few original ideas to be had.
While the venture through time is trite, yet fun, the juicy stuff is happening back in our time, as Abby and Matt are once again trying to find out what Connor is up to, even going so far as to break into his lab.
Connor, we learn, has been out of the field for a while on Philip’s behalf, and has made a semi-breakthrough with the energy tapping device. This has been slowly moving our favourite geek ever further towards the dark side. As Abby states, this could well be the beginning of the end of her, Connor and the ARC team.
We also find that Connor knew that Phillip and Helen had a past, with Abby confronting him with the suggestion that Phillip is an evil super-villain, which Connor disbelieves. It appears that Emily is going to be a new regular, and love interest for Matt.
Abby also got the New Dawn hard drive data for Matt, at potentially the cost of her relationship. Not that Connor seems to mind, as he appears to have made history by creating a mini-anomaly in the lab.
While the action sequences and dino chasing elements all seem fun and by the numbers, all we’ve seen is people being chased around by raptors (just in a different setting from usual), with a lot of apples falling off carts and out of crates.
Things move along well, but once again, it’s the overall arc, with New Dawn and Connor’s predicament, that really makes for the better story this week.
Read our review of Primeval series 5 episode 2 here.
Primeval airs Tuesdays at 8pm on Watch.