In the UK: Saturdays, ITV, 9pm
In the US: Not yet acquired
So here we are at the beginning of the episode-by-episode review of the second season of Primeval. Well, fingers crossed, assuming they prove at all popular that is. Let's see how it works out, hey?
The great thing about time travel is that you can reboot your whole series if you don't like it. Don't like the fact the Chinese guy was dead or the guy off Baywatch is getting too much screen time? Hey presto, use the mighty power of the Witchblade and your entire second season can retread the same territory as the first but with a completely different set-up that you like a whole lot better.
And so goes Primeval. Got a bigger budget but don't want to explain why you've had to change your HQ to a great big sci-fi base? Think your hero's love interest is a bit wet and pathetic? Think that the young guy is a bit of a twat? Hey presto, through the mighty power of the “anomalies” (which is actually an anagram of “script writers”. In Croatian. Honest), you can change everything in a couple of minutes in between seasons and everyone will just accept it. Or maybe they won't. Perhaps we shouldn't be so radical, huh? Let's keep the young guy as a complete twat.
Plot (appeared through an anomaly on my computer from the ITV1 web site)
While Cutter grapples with Claudia Brown’s disappearance, and tries to make sense of his confused mind, the anomalies make another appearance. This time a shopping mall has been targeted by ferocious Raptors and the team is called in to deal with the situation. Faced with an unknown terror, Cutter and the team rely on their wits to get the monsters back through the anomaly.
Is it any good?
Clearly, it was also only a matter of time before the powerful race memory that is Jurassic Park emerged in Primeval, hence the raptors in this episode. Never mind that they were pretty stumpy really and probably had feathers all over. The audience wanted Jurassic Park raptors and that's what they got, right down to the same noises. And they were quite frightening, actually.
On the whole, this wasn't bad. A little flabby around the middle as the writers desperately tried to inject some action-adventure excitement into the script by kicking it old school Doctor Who stylee with some running up some corridors. Then running down some corridors. Then running up some corridors again.
Indeed, it was quite a sleek, minimalistic old school Doctor Who adventure in a sense: DoctorCutter turns up through time travel device. Something happens. DoctorCutter works out what's going on and uses his ingenuity to fix it, all with the minimum amount of characterisation and emotional interplay necessary to achieve the desired plot resolution within the allotted time span. Which was nice. No messing around with jargon, no messing around with plot structure, just a traditional beginning, middle and end.
As reboots go, the changes were pretty minimal. Slab of rock action hero man is still out-acted by Everest. Young git might be zooming around on a skateboard now, but he's still a twat. S-Club girl still looks like a giant Lego figure, right down to the haircut. Dougie still looks as though he's walking through a virtual, perpetual rainstorm. Ben Miller stills acts as though he's in panto (oh yes he does).
But (spoiler) Claudia Brown has gone, replaced by a new lady, thanks to all that time-changing, although she looks exactly the same, more or less. Apparently, it might have affected evolution as we know it, so new lady could well have three kidneys, two pancreases and an extra gland that makes her float at times of duress. All we know is she's now a bit of a tart because she's in PR all of a sudden and wears bright red lipstick and bright red shoes (that's universal action-adventure semiotics 101 that). I imagine there will be some Emotional Scenes between her and Dougie next episode.
If I were going to pick some more holes, I'm not quite sure why Dougie and Slab of Rock patched things up so much so quickly, other than because the scripts demanded it. I'm also not quite sure why Dougie has only just realised that his ex-wife is a bit mental. Didn't he notice when they were married? There was also the small question of how tiny dinosaur made it into that locker, climbed to the top and bit the cleaner in the neck, with the guy just walking away of his own volition later on, mopping up his own blood puddle as he went (there's dedication in a cleaner).
But on the whole, not bad. Far less up its own arse than most of new Who has been, more mature than new Who and Torchwood, although still not quite adult TV, it's a jolly little romp of a family show. It still doesn't quite have the charisma to really take off in popularity, but it's enjoyable.
Let's see what happens next time. I predict - dinosaurs.
You can watch clipettes (and dinosaurs) over at the ITV1 web site
- January 21, 2008: Review: Primeval 2x2
My review of the next episode of Primeval