This review contains spoilers.
Does anyone remember during the early 1990s, when films were fascinated with underwater monsters? There was the intelligence of James Cameron’s The Abyss, the tentacled Deep Star Six, the shape-changing Proteus, and the Alien copy, Leviathan. Well, this week’s episode of Primeval is sort of like those, an homage to aquatic horror, a sort of Das Boot, only with dinosaurs.
When a submarine on a recon mission picks up a weird reading on sonar, the ping back sounds almost animal-like. And while the crew believes it to be a glitch, the sub is shadowed by a massive underwater dinosaur called a Liopleurodon.
Finding that an anomaly has opened in middle of the North Sea, the ARC is contacted by the Admiralty to investigate. Before boarding, the cliché of an underwater horror is even mentioned by Connor, who reels off (just like I did above) a set of submarine films, and apart from a lack of a yellow Beatles-filled one, he names quite a few topnotch sub-sea claustrophobic classics.
We are then introduced to the skeleton crew of Star Trek redshirts, who are all so wafer thin character-wise, you know they’ll be cannon fodder for the creatures, and their deaths are signposted once the team are on-board, along with the creature.
Now, I’m not one to criticise the show too harshly, as week on week Primeval is an enjoyable romp, but I do have a feeling the writers have sat down with a VHS copy of Jurassic Park when writing this episode. In Jurassic Park the Tyrannosaurs Rex is a big bugger, visually huge and menacing, but not all that threatening when you’re locked inside something. The same goes for this episode. The Liopleurodon is a huge aquatic predator, and once everyone is relatively safe in the sub, essentially, the creature can’t do a lot apart from bang its head against the side.
However, Jurassic Park needed something human-sized for a bit more drama, and Raptors were created for such a purpose. Primeval has done the same, bunging in a Eustreptospondylus (thanks, dinosaur wiki!) for good measure. And surprise, even with its convoluted name, the corridor-chasing creature is essentially a Raptor, a plot device shoehorned in to add a bit of extra horror and menace to the proceedings.
Even the explanation about its ability to swim is weak. Okay, so maybe it could swim a little, but given the anomaly the sub found is in the depths of the North Sea. I assume that the pressure would have killed it. And how it got on board? Let’s just not bother going there, shall we?
Okay, so I ‘m being picky, as this isn’t a bad episode, one more focused on the ‘creature of the week’ element, rather than the overall plot threads of Prospero. That’s not to say that the broader arc isn’t mentioned, as we find that Matt continues his investigation into Prospero after confiding in Abby about the potential future problems which Philip and Connor might create.
We also get some excellent banter back at the ARC, where Lester is, for once, outranked, and members of the Admiralty want to do an Aliens on the crew, sub and anomaly by “nuking it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.” But once again, and while not trying to spoil too much, it’s the resourcefulness of Connor, his anomaly closing device, and the missile tubes on the sub that help save the day.
All in all, things were quite epic this week. The sub surroundings gave everything a nice claustrophobic and tense feel, and while the addition of a terror onboard was a bit cliché, it was pulled off quite nicely.
Once again the FX team did well, with the sub exterior shots and the large basking terror of the Liopleurodon feeling weighty and menacing enough.
With some little hints and tips once again dropped in about Matt’s mysterious past/future, the episode was a good solid, no-nonsense monster-bashing episode, with some fun bits.
And while I can be forgiven for having flashbacks to the Doug McClure classic, The Land That Time Forgot (another submarine-based monster film), and while the dinosaurs did look a little more convincing than the plastic (but rather charming) ones from this 70s classic, once again Primeval hits the spot for a primetime Saturday night non-brain action adventure. Even though it’s not on Saturdays anymore…
Read our review of the series premiere here.
Primeval airs Tuesdays at 8pm on Watch.