A Wanker’s Literary Reaction: Primeval
I know that it must seem like nothing really lives up to my standards any more. Fifty Shades is goddamn awful. Age of Ultron was a disappointment. Doctor Who wasn’t as good as it should have been. Bitch. Moan. Whine. Blergh.
So occasionally it’s rather pleasant to revel in something I really enjoy, even if it is a rather unpopular opinion (judging by the massive, collective sigh that happens whenever I bring it up). And that’s Primeval; a desperate ITV flail at gaining some of Doctor Who’s Saturday night teatime audience. Running from 2007-2011, I remember many evenings locked up in my bedroom with the crackly portable TV watching one of the most supremely underrated British TV shows of the last ten years.
So, what’s the story? Nick Cutter (played by a rugged and witty Douglas Henshall), a professor of We-Only-Made-Him-A-Professor-Because-Indiana-Jones-Was-ology-
-is called in to help when anomalies start appearing all over the city of London. And what’s coming out of those anomalies?
Yeah, that’s right, dinosaurs. Mother-fucking dinosaurs (and occasionally other things from other time frames, but I don’t care about that). The series was created by Tim Haines, the man behind the incredible Walking With… series, and his knowledge and love for these creatures is clear- whether it’s in the careful creature design, or the dinosaur-related jargon everyone spews every thirty seconds, this satisfies the dino-geek in me who I thought was gone by the time I reached double digits.
But of course, the enigmatic Henshall has a team-and WHAT a team. There’s Stephen, AKA James Murray, AKA the good-looking one with both guns (firearms) and guns (biceps)-
-hey, let me have my ogle. Then there’s Connor, AKA Andrew Lee-Potts, AKA the geeky one who knows loads about dinasours who’s still pretty hot-
Here we’ve got Abby, the biologist, AKA, Yes, that IS Hannah Spearitt from S Club 7-
And to finish out, you’ve got government official Claudia Brown, played by Lucy Brown who always looks like she’s about to say something really raunchy-
And that’s the main team. Henshall leads them every week against a different dinosaur foe caught up in a new modern setting-whether they’re destroying schools or smashing their way into a screaming child’s bedroom (because Primeval never skimped on the “terrifying the kids” factor, much to my delight), it’s this lot who have to turn up and do something a bit clever to stop them, in simple three-act plots that generally get tied up by the end of the episode. The writing is top-tier tight, building on character relationships and using the monsters as a wraparound device to fill out some themes about science and discovery. Think Buffy tone, with a healthy dose of Scooby-Doo, sprinkled with a liberal helping of Jurassic Park (which it explicitly, brilliantly references a couple of times).
Still nursing my wounds from a disappointing series of Doctor Who, Primeval is a deliciously perfect example of freak-of-the-week storytelling, with just a hint of a running plot concerning Nick Cutter’s wife, who may or may not have vanished into one of the anomalies years ago. The action sequences are a little dated, but hold up with a moderate-to-strong suspension of disbelief, and the cast has an easy, comfortable chemistry right from the off- bouncing off each other with quips and piss-takes, even as they’re stalking raptors round shopping centres.
Call me a traitor, but sometimes fiendish plotting and endless character monologues just don’t do it for me. I’m one of those people who’s perfectly happy to be able to dip into a series whenever I fancy, and be completely caught up on what I need to see with a “previously-on” montage. The most important thing for me is that Primeval never lost sight of who it’s audience was- for one, freshly-teenage girls crushing hard on a sarcastic, guest-starring Ben Miller-
-and families. It’s time slot and it’s subject matter dictated it’s broad audience, and it stuck to that- throwing in the odd saucy joke or movie reference for the parents, but focusing on bringing exciting, scary, funny plots to life for everyone to enjoy. I’ll admit that a healthy dose of nostalgia was useful when I came back to the show (which is on Netflix in it’s entirety), but Primeval is the kind of thing you can dive into at any age and find something to enjoy, if you keep your standards to “entertainment”, and not deep philosophical musing. Go watch it. Go watch it now.
Who am I kidding, if you weren’t sold by the dinasour gif, there’s no convincing you.