Primeval is good, old-fashioned fun, combining the spirit of exploration of the first Star Trek series with the paranoia of The X-Files.
All of a sudden, for no reason, wormholes are opening all over England, allowing creatures from the past and the future into our world. It’s up to a group of scientists working under the authority of the government to discover why these anomalies are happening and to protect the public from the wild, often dangerous animals.
The group (which I affectionately thought of as Team Science) is lead by Nick Cutter, a paleontologist whose wife had disappeared eight years ago. And if you think you know where that is going then you’re absolutely right—Nick’s wife does indeed return when the anomalies start happening in force. It’s predictable, I know, but the show manages to play it for all its worth and makes it interesting.
In fact, pretty much all of the character moments are stock soap opera. In some ways this show plays like a comic book, which may be why I enjoy it. It intersperses fun action with melodramatic love triangles and interpersonal relationships, and while nothing here is necessarily new or innovative in terms of storytelling, the people involved do use this style well to make a standard, but highly enjoyable, series.
Primeval manages a good mix of having an overarching story while maintaining a creature-of-the-week feel. Team Science approaches each case with the excitement of explorers about to enter a new world, which is why I compare it to the original Gene Roddenberry Star Trek. However, it also reminds me of The X-Files because it has a healthy dose of government paranoia. Even though Nick and his team work for the British government, they don’t really trust their supervisor and his motives, and one of the sources of tension within the team is whether they are doing the right thing in keeping the general public from knowing about the anomaly.
Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have liked this show as much if I hadn’t known that it was British. It’s not necessarily that I’m a huge anglophile, although I do love the British culture, but it’s because I know that British shows tend to work more like novels in that they have a planned beginning, middle, and end. J. Michael Straczynski used this model to great effect in Babylon 5, and it makes me enjoy Primeval more because I don’t think I’m going to be lead by the nose for an interminable number of seasons where the show just spins its wheels (I’m looking at you, X-Files), so I like the little teases to the overarching story because I have faith that it will actually go somewhere.
One thing that should be mentioned, though, is that even though this is considered science fiction, I consider it more science fantasy. The premise is based on a real scientific concept—wormholes—but the way the show uses it so far is fairly unscientific. I have no problem with that because the show ends up telling a good story, but I could see where hard-core SF fans would get irritated with the weak science going on here.
This was a fun show, and one that I hope to keep up with. Although this is the first season of the show, I was very glad in that it ended with a nice sense of closure instead of doing the American method of leaving off with a cliffhanger á la Battlestar Galactica. Plus, the show has people punching dinosaurs in the face! And if that isn’t worth a watch then I don’t know what is.
The show was presented in 16.9 Fullscreen Enhanced with the soundtrack done in Dolby Digital Stereo. The visual was just fine, but on the first disk the sound dropped off the second and third episodes. There were no distinct scratches on the disk, so I’m not sure if it was just a transfer mistake or something else. Definitely something to watch out for.
Behind the scenes (45:00) – This was fun to watch mainly because the actors and crewmembers so obviously enjoy working on this show.
Through the Anomaly (45:00) – Interestingly, although the show is labeled Season One here in the States, it’s actually a compilation of Series One and Two from the original British airing. So this functions as the behind the scenes featurette for that season.
Commentary: Episodes 7 and 10 – The co-creators of the show comment on both episodes and give lots of interesting information.
While I was watching this show I started referring to it as “Captain Action and Team Science.” At first I was just playing around, but I really started thinking of it in that way because this is the kind of old school science fantasy that fueled some of the great comics and movie serials from back in the day. This show really brought out the kid in me, and I mean that in the best way possible. Recommended.
BBC Video presents Primeval Volume One. Starring Douglas Henshall, James Murray, Andrew Lee Potts, Lucy Brown, Hannah Spearitt, with Juliet Aubrey and Ben Miller. Running time: 585 minutes. Rated RATING. Released on DVD: November 4, 2008. Available at Amazon.