Steven Spielberg has a lot to answer for, as it seems that any show, film or video game that features dinos in some form or another has to have an obligatory running around corridors being chased by raptors bit. If you know anything about dinosaurs you will know velociraptors – which mean ‘fast thief’ – stood only about three feet tall and hence are not quite the man-size killing machines they are made out to be. However this hasn’t stopped ITV from launching its new series of Primeval with a raptor-packed episode.
Following on from the cliffhanger of last season’s battle with the ‘future predator thingy’, and returning to the present after his ex-wife Helen did a runner through one of the portals, Dr Nick Cutter appears in a slightly alternative reality, shocked to find his new girlfriend Claudia Brown doesn’t exist.
For anyone who watched the first series, this missing character is one of the few things which has changed for season two. Not only has Claudia ceased to exist, being replaced at the end of the season by a doppelganger PR guru called Jennifer Lewis (still played by Lucy Brown), in this slightly different reality (which was caused by a butterfly effect messing with the past and affecting the future) our team of intrepid dino-hunters are now fully funded and equipped with a secret base called the Anomaly Research Centre. It’s packed with a stash of weapons which are all pretty useful when hunting down scaly bad guys.
Furthermore, and most importantly, the titular eye candy (well for some of us anyway) Abby, played by Hannah Spearitt, has now decided she doesn’t want to walk around in pants anymore, so this new universe iteration of the character has uncharitably decided to be a much more clothed version. Which really is just a swizz, as no matter how cool a dino-themed Saturday night TV show is, getting to see former members of S-Club in their smalls really just top trumps anything that could be seen on telly at that time of night.
Another thing you will spot is a change in the CG. Primeval is produced by Impossible Pictures, a company run by Tim Haines and Adrian Hodges, who had already produced dino-themed shows such as Walking with Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Park before tackling Primeval. The first season extensively used the CG from previous shows (hence so many obscure dinos in season one rather than, say, the more obvious t-rexes and triceratops that everyone knows) and the quality was top notch, with a lot of work going into textured skins and movement. However this show’s featured creature looks a lot cheaper and certainly doesn’t have the same time and money spent on it as previous creatures had.
While many things have changed, some things have remained the same. Ben Miller is still the government liaison to the crew (but is now joined by a geeky second in command played by the bloke who played Martin in Green Wing) but is still a bit of an idiot. The ex-model bloke still says nothing but looks cool riding a motorbike (girl eye candy I suppose), and the bloke that looks like us geeks is still a geek and has all the best one liners. So really the ‘winning formula’ from the last season hasn’t changed that much to be unrecognisable.
The plot, or what there is of it once the pseudo-science is out of the way, is really basic. Some raptors have come through the wibbly anomaly thingy and are terrorising a glass-covered glimmering new shopping centre which looks very much like the Bluewater Centre in Kent. I don’t know why they picked here, as a six odd foot dinosaur is pretty easy to see through the CCTV and all that glass and chrome. I would have thought that unless a prehistoric creature is looking for a John Lewis, then teleporting into a dingy tatty 60s shopping centre would have been better as there are a lot more nooks, crannies and dark corners to hide away in to await prey, but still…
So with a cordoned off centre the team go through the obligatory getting chased down corridors, having to squeeze through shutting doors and even smacking a dino in the snout – things you need to tick off when appearing in a show like this. There is even a little chase on motorbikes and a ‘clever girl’ moment thrown in for good measure, which all add up to an hour’s worth of brain candy entertainment before you go out for the evening.
Even though we all really know that Primeval is really only ITV’s attempt to cash in on the success of Doctor Who by the Beeb on Saturday nights, and even though the scripts are a bit formulaic and the CG is average, the show is just what it says on the tin: silly, fun action adventure that is pure Saturday night TV viewing aimed at kids and adults alike.
Primeval is never going to compete with the quality of the hour long sci-fi coming out of the States at the moment, and it’s not able to hold a candle to Doctor Who for that matter. But it’s still good fun and infinitely better than the lameness that was season two of Robin Hood.