Wednesday, 1 June 2011

PRIMEVAL, 5.2: dinosaur on a submarine

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

There was a muted response to my premiere review of Primeval last week, so either people don't care about the show now, aren't aware of its return, or don't subscribe to Watch--the digital channel with the UK premiere ahead of ITV. I don't have much to say about episode 2, beyond the fact I was pleased it demonstrated some creativity--with an anomaly appearing deep in the North Sea and being discovered by a nearby British submarine...

The ARC team were sent aboard to seal the anomaly with a specially rigged torpedo, but after coming under attack from a liopleurodon (think Nessie) they found themselves dragged through the magnetized anomaly and into prehistoric waters. With no main power, a skeleton crew (of expendable cardboard cutouts), a propeller tangled in cable, a school of liopleurodons swimming around wondering if the sub's food, and a recovered eustreptospondylus (think velociraptor) gaining consciousness inside the sub, matters were actually made worse when a Navy Admiral monitoring events at ARC relinquished Lester (Ben Miller) of command and ordered the anomaly to be sealed using a nuclear-tipped torpedo.

Snakes On A Plane has nothing on Dinosaur On A Submarine, which is exactly what this was. It was a ludicrous hour, but knowingly so, and made more "slipshod sense" than most Primeval plots. It was enjoyable to have a story that managed to make the standard formula feel fresher, basically--with a deep sea environment and unusual circumstances the show hasn't tackled before. If anything, I was just disappointed the action sequences inside the submarine weren't very exciting with the on-board dinosaur, but that was off-set by some diverting exterior moments: such as Matt (CiarĂ¡n McMenamin) and Abby (Hannah Spearritt) in a submersible trying to untangle the giant propeller, and the giant dinosaurs slamming into the sub's hull.

Given the general competence of the week's plot, the side-order of mytharc was the least compelling element of the episode. I'm not sold on the idea Connor (Andrew Lee Potts) can't be taken into Matt's confidence about the fact he's come from the future and believes Philip Burton's going to cause a global catastrophe with the anomalies, as the writers have no persuasive argument for why Abby can't tell her boyfriend what she knows. The idea that Connor's spending the majority of his time working in secret for Burton doesn't quite work either, as the show's at pains to ensure Connor's around to participate in every adventure. It would make more sense if he was absent for awhile entirely, consumed by the "New Dawn" project, but obviously the show can't do that because ARC is staffed by a total of seven people.

A little better was the late reveal, via an old newspaper cutting, that Emily (the Victorian time-traveller who endeared herself to Matt in series 4) returned to her own time and was thrown into a mental asylum over her tall story, 12 Monkeys-style, I'm hopeful this means Matt will try and change history by going back through the next available anomaly to the late-1800s, or at least rescue her from the nuthouse, which would be something out of the show's comfort zone. Isn't it about time we had some adventures where the gang were capturing dinosaurs and monsters in the relatively recent past? Chasing a raptor through Victorian London or '60s Carnaby Street is exactly the kind of thing it's a shame Primeval is reticent to do--perhaps because it would be a strain on the budget.

Overall, episode 2 succeeded because the setting was unique for the show and, consequently, certain elements weren't entirely predictable. It didn't rewrite the rulebook, but it was something more imaginative than we usually get, with a claustrophobic tone and a story that justified its time nicely. Just don't ask too many questions: like how did that dinosaur get aboard the submarine, and why did the captain apparently decide it was a great idea to bring it aboard? Then again, the Royal Navy came out of this whole thing looking like blithering fools--compared to the ARC's own blithering fools.

written by Steve Bailie / directed by Robert Quinn / 31 May 2011 / Watch