Primeval series 4 episode 4 review

It's Aliens meets Grange Hill this week, as the team tackle a dino menance in detention...

Primeval

This review contains spoilers.

You know how Doctor Who always has a cheap episode per season? My guess is this was it for Primeval. That’s not to say it was a bad episode, but setting everything in and around a school gave me the feeling that the outside broadcast and location shooting money wasn’t here for this week’s adventure.

Again, not to say that this episode was weak, it wasn’t. It was all pretty gripping, and while I could not help having flashbacks to Aliens with all the camera glitches and running down corridor elements, the actual threat, although not on a massive scale, was very unnerving. Meanwhile, the confined corridors and classrooms made a nice location for what was essentially a dinosaur survival horror episode.

While in detention, three school kids and a teacher are doing a Breakfast Club, sitting out a punishment for something at school. And although we’re never actually told, there is an implication the two geeky kids are there for stink bomb making or messing around with chemicals in school.

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Joining these two is a pop princess who is very quick with the put-downs and Seth Rogen-style teen comedy references, forming a fun little group of victims for the monsters of the week to chow down on. And it doesn’t take long for the teacher to shuffle off his mortal coil, as he is attacked from inside a vending machine (don’t ask. It was a little strange) by a half lizard, half council estate status symbol canine, which proceeds to take him out with a mix of venom and huge jaws and claws.

The anomaly is spotted back at the ARC, and we begin to find that the newly formed team are already keeping secrets. The tightly intertwined, close knit family of previous seasons is a thing of the past, and agendas and outlooks are a lot different from the research and analysis of previous seasons.

First of all, it seems that Philip wants to do a lot more with the dinosaurs than just study them. The danger and potential threat they pose (even Rex) is something that he deems to be too high, and he asks Connor to provide him with ways in which to dispose of the creatures, much to Abby’s dismay.

While the original team were happy to send the monsters and creatures on their happy way via the nearest anomaly, keeping on those they could not get back, Philip’s new regime is considerably more harsh. However, there seems to be an another agenda here, possibly linking back to the ‘New Dawn’ initiative that was mentioned last week.

It’s not only Connor, Philip and Abby and the potential threat to Rex and company that are having a bad time about it. Everyone is keeping secrets as the Emily, Ethan and Matt storyline also heats up. Again, it’s a little early to tell, but could there be love, betrayal and a lot more sinister things coming into play with the human characters the anomalies spit out?.

But while these plots, betrayals and potential problems bubble under for the rest of the season, it’s back to this week’s monster of the week scenario and back in the school Connor, Matt and Becker have their hands full trying to capture the lizard/dog things. (While the names of the creatures escaped me, just think of a reptilian version of the ‘Terror Dogs’ from Ghostbusters. They were a bit like that.)

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Once again, a nod of acknowledgement and respect goes out to the CG crew, as what could have been potentially silly monsters were, via the power of the pixel, credible and vicious threats.

Now, I mentioned last week that, at times, Primeval is a bit dark for a prime time Saturday night and for two episodes we have seen the show pushing the boundaries of its timeslots as far as gore and ‘nasty’ bits are concerned. I think that shows should have ‘watch behind the sofa’ moments, but this week I think that maybe they went a little far.

As mentioned earlier, the school the monster dogs invaded was not empty, and while the usual cannon fodder was dispatched early on, before the credits this week, in the shape of the teacher, there were a couple of scenes that maybe should not have been shown. Namely, the prissy pop princess’ demise.

While it was only implied that she had been eaten by the creatures, the build up and eventual pay off under the gym bleachers was not a nice thing, especially for kids. And while its understandable that it’s all make-believe, if I were a parent, I would have serious considerations about letting my kids watch the show. And if I were a kid, I’d have a serious look under any or all gym equipment, just in case there is something nasty there.

It was dark, it was close to the edge and it was actually a very good episode, especially given the budget and limitations of location. The threat of the monster dogs was viable, especially towards the end when the nest of them were found in the canteen.

The fact Becker was attacked from behind by one shows that the ARC team are not all superheroes and gives an actual sense of danger. While surviving and providing the ladies with a few minutes of no shirt action, the blood and attack was all pretty vicious and there was a real sense that the current mix-up and establishment of a new status quo means that, potentially, there could be even more casualties this season.

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While there were a few clichés with the geeks helping out Connor with the computers and using the school science lab to save the day, along with the creatures in the ARC getting a reprieve thanks to some eleventh hour tinkering by Lester, all in all, things were not too bad in this episode. Especially considering it could have been turned out to be a by-the-numbers homage to Aliens. Instead was a viable piece of survival horror drama that really didn’t pull any punches when it came to the actual surviving element.

Read our review of episode 3 here.

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