I can promise you that when I suggested Primeval do something outside of its comfort zone (like actually sending someone through an anomaly, perhaps to Victorian times, to capture a dinosaur), I genuinely had no idea that would be the basis of the very next episode! I'm either psychic, or Primeval's writers are gradually tuning into my wavelength! Unfortunately, this was a pretty unremarkable hour's entertainment, especially given the apparent juiciness of its concept, and just made you realize how much better Doctor Who does this kind of thing...
The basic idea had some fun elements, with the ARC team discovering an anomaly where a Dromaeosaurus (raptor) has travelled through to the 1800s, leading Matt (Ciarán McMenemin) to volunteer a trip into the past to capture the creature. Arriving in 1886, Matt soon discovered that the dinosaur is to blame for a spate of London killings the press are blaming on "The Beast", and that lost love Emily (Ruth Bradley) is likewise trying to capture the dinosaur and has become mistaken for the legendary Spring-heeled Jack. Meanwhile, in the present-day, Abby (Hannah Spearritt) became more resolved to dissuade boyfriend Connor (Andrew Lee Potts) from working on Philip Burton's not-so-secret project, and realized their relationship may not survive the process.
A malaise has struck me about Primeval just lately. I've never truly loved the show, and simply liking it can often be a struggle because it's so willfully dumb, but series 5 feels like the last dregs of series 4 are being squeezed out in the digital hinterland. Maybe a summer schedule on Watch is partly to blame (as I'm not in the mood for Primeval on a warm Tuesday evening), or if it's simply because Primeval continually does a disappointing job with a fantastic Hollywood-style concept. How can a romp through Victorian London, with a man from the distant future and a beautiful lady armed with twin knives, both chasing a prehistoric beast that's been mistaken for an iconic boogieman, be so strangely tedious? It's probably a combination of the fact the budget couldn't allow for much beyond chases through the "streets" of the Black Country Museum, and one muddy CGI vista of Tower Bridge from 125 years ago, but also because it was so hard to care about Matt or Emily. We're supposed to believe they're a compelling romantic couple, but it's never really worked for me, and even the side issue of Emily's husband (Stephen Hogan) wants to have her committed to the renowned mental asylum Bedlam didn't really interest me.
Not for the first time this year, the ARC-based storyline was more appealing in some ways, although again the writing's not strong enough to make you believe Connor wouldn't trust Abby after she warned him against working for Prospero Industries. And I still don't understand why Matt can't convince Connor the same way he convinced Abby (by showing him actual footage of the future he comes from, where anomaly-based experiments have caused global catastrophe.) It helps, I guess, that Spearritt and Potts are in a relationship in real life, as they connect quite well on-screen, but it's just a shame Primeval lacks the quality of writing a show like this needs. We're halfway through series 5 and Jess (Ruth Kearney) has been given nothing to do beyond sit at a desk, and Philip (Alexander Siddig) seems to have vanished—even when Connor's making breakthroughs in science that would make Einstein erect, he's only on the end of a phone? Incidentally, all this pioneering science from the kid in the porkpie hat who owned a laptop loaded with a dinosaur encyclopedia from series 1, whoever would have imagined!
Overall, episode 3 was a big disappointment considering what its one-sentence synopsis stokes in your imagination, but as the likes of Doctor Who becomes almost cinematic in their complexities (both visually and narratively), poor Primeval's looking increasingly tired. Even the CGI monsters rarely convince you the creatures are interacting with anyone, and instead look pasted into the environments and sometimes given almost cartoonish mannerisms. And I haven't even mentioned the laughable moment when Emily's husband stepped through an anomaly into a 2011 exhibition of modern art and didn't even bat an eyelid over the matter!
We're halfway through series 5—what are your thoughts?
written by Paul Mousley & Gabbie Foster / directed by Robert Quinn / 7 June 2011 / Watch