Primeval series 4 episodes 1 and 2 review: series premiere

Rob takes a double dose of the returning dino drama. Here’s what he thought of the fourth series double-episode opener of Primeval...

This review contains spoilers.

Episode 1

Well, it took a while and a few behind-the-scenes negotiations, but one of ITV’s most enjoyable Saturday night treats is back with a new series, and it looks like there are some new faces at the ARC.

For those following the series, we were left (nearly two years ago) with Danny, Connor and Abby ‘Quantum Leaping’ through various dinosaur-infested time periods to stop Cutter’s mad wife, Helen, from destroying life as we know it. And while they succeeded in preventing the destruction of the human race, all three were trapped in various time periods.

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This was a great way to finish a series off, and as we kick things off this season we find that our heroes are still lost and that Connor and Abby are trapped in a time that looks very much like Jurassic Park III, filled with avian-looking Raptors and a rather nasty Spinosaurus that would give Spielberg’s dinos a run for their money. And while there is no sign of Danny (he is probably off making X-Men), it is great to see the now beardy and dreadlocked duo doing their best to survive and try to get home.

While our intrepid explorers are dodging dinosaurs back in our time, it’s all change in the ARC, as the research facility has gone all ‘corporate’ and become a PFI, a joint government and private initiative, meaning now there is not only a few more pennies for nice toys and technology to play with, but there is also a new set of team members.

Firstly, we are introduced to Connor’s replacement, Jess, an ethical computer hacker and gamer girl who, by getting to grips with the new computer systems, releases the ‘Dragon-sarus’ thing from last season from the new menagerie. Helping clear up her accident is the returning Captain Becker, who actually gets a few good quips in this episode, and provides a little more than the stoic standard army guy from last series.

Also helping out is new character, Matt Anderson, a sort of dinosaur Dr Doolittle, who seems to be the new replacement for Cutter. With a mysterious past and a bit too much knowledge of dinosaurs, his introduction and uncanny way of dealing with the anomalies, and the animals they throw out, looks to make for interesting watching for the rest of the season.

Rounding off the new cast is new character, Philip Burton (played by DS9‘s Alexander Siddig), who is the new ‘corporate’ boss of the ARC, and the returning Lester’s new nemesis.

With the new status quo in place, all that’s left to do is for Abby and Connor to make their way home, which actually turns out to be pretty easy, as they find the anomaly opening device thingy Helen used last year to ‘leap’ through time in a raptor’s nest, and on the first button punch and shake, the futuristic iPod spews our heroes out just down the road from the ARC nearly a year after they left. While this was a bit clichéd, seeing the duo return was fun, especially the reunion with Lester, which was just all full of awkwardness.

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However, things are not all that easy, as not only do they make it back in one piece, but Connor’s bodging of the device re-opens the anomaly, letting a Spinosaurus through, leading to the standard chase and trap the dinosaur elements we have come to expect from the show.

Again, a little clichéd, but the new ARC team are efficient and get a chance to use their new toys and manage to trap the beast in what looks like the ‘Manchester Evening News’ arena, with the help of a light show and a small and witty nod to Hannah Spearritt’s former career as an S-Clubber.

Overall, the show’s return wasn’t so much a big bang as ITV would have led us to believe, but more a standard return to form. And while that’s not a bad thing, there were parts that just seemed lazy (the easy escape for Connor and Abby, for one).

But once again the action was fun and the special effects top-notch, especially for a Saturday night television show, with the dinosaurs really looking as though they had a lot of weight, being packed with CG detail.

While it’s easy to see where the money has gone, a little bit more could have been spent on a more creative script, but, hey, I will let that slide for the moment, as things were still enjoyable and there was a lot to get through in this first episode with new characters and all.

Fun, entertaining and good enough to sit through while we eagerly await the return of Doctor Who, it’s good to see sci-fi back on mainstream TV, especially at prime time, and the new characters, ideas and setup show there is potential for this new series. It also all, hopefully, proves the suits at ITV were wrong to axe the show in the first place.

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Let’s just hope that the success of this doesn’t go to their heads and they decide to re-commission Demons as well.

Episode 2

Okay, so it won’t last. Don’t expect a double dose of dinosaurs every week. The reason ITV are doing what they are doing is that Dancing On Ice starts next week and I guess they need another week to try and fit Kerry Katona into her spangly pants or something.

But while the tedium of D-list celebrates risking life and limb being swung around by various body parts is something to, er, ‘look forward’ to next week, us lucky sci-fi fans are treated to another episode of Primeval. (Hurray.)

Now, we left things off in the first episode with the return of Connor and Abby to the newly-funded ARC. The newly-appointed Dr Bashir was at loggerheads with one half of Armstrong and Miller, and with Danny still missing, the focus is on debriefing Connor and Abby. 

The return of the two main characters to the ARC should be a good thing. This doesn’t really seem to be the case, as Connor is told that, while it’s great to have them back, his services are no longer required at the ARC.

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While this was hinted at in the last episode, the duo are officially given different paths to take, with Abby a part of the new ARC team, while Connor is, for all intents and purposes, given his marching orders. Without a carriage clock or farewell party in sight, he is given his P45 and told that the research he had done for Cutter is no longer needed.

So, what does every good geek do? Well, carry on, of course. This time ‘off the grid’, and when homeless people start going missing on a construction site, it’s not long before our bearded friend is off again on another monster hunt.

Indeed, the monster of the week itself is a bit of an anomaly, as we are not really told where and when it came from, appearing as if out of nowhere as a baby (there is an assumption a mini-anomaly opened sometime in the past) in a fancy flat and flushed down the loo, a la Alligator, by the scared tennant.

As any sci-fi geek knows, flushing anything down the loo is a bad thing as said ‘flush-ee’ usually comes back bigger, mutated and with a large angry chip on their shoulder, which I guess is what a diet of  rat and poo does to you. So, while Abby is happily reunited with the returning Rex, Connor has to deal with a huge alligator-warthog thingy without the backup of the ARC team.

That’s to say he doesn’t get any help, as one of his first ports of call is visiting his old mate, Duncan. Since we last saw him in the dodo episode a few seasons ago, Duncan has gone full-on ‘Lone Gunman’, in-depth in his conspiracies and also living off the grid, untraceable to everyone who doesn’t know his mum. But with a database and cunning map full of sightings, Duncan leads Connor to the newest spate of killings in an attempt to find out what is taking away the ‘lost’ people.

So, with Duncan in tow and the eventual help of the ARC team, Connor tracks down the alligator thingy to the docks, where things get a little Doctor Who-like, with lots of running down corridors (well, between storage tankers). And with a nod to Alien and the usual extra losing his life in a horrific way, the team track down and neutralise the creature.

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While the end is a bit clichéd again, it’s pretty tense stuff, especially for a Saturday (okay, Sunday) night, and quite gruesome in parts, especially the sneaky brief look at a mauled body. While maybe a little bloody for young-uns, the setup, effects and creature are cracking, with a good team bonding ending and the return of Connor to the team, even if he doesn’t get a pay rise.

While the other team are out monster hunting, we also find that Jess is reading everyone’s files. Whether this is a sinister thing or whether she is just over friendly we are yet to know, but using it as a chat-up for Captain Becker and eventually letting Connor and Abby stop in her apartment, is there more to this happy-go-lucky hacker than meets the eye?

Overall, another solid establishing episode, and while all the pieces haven’t fallen into place yet, and the new characters have yet had time to bed in, the prospects all look good and with the trailer of next week showing a future visitor, a lizard man and potentially Connor’s new ‘sinister’ role in the ARC, there is a lot to look forward to.

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