Tales from the Cultural Wilderness - Journal

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2011-01-15 Entry: "Primeval - "Episode 1""

Still bouncing around my list, we've got an ITV sci-fi show from 2007...

Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Audio: Stereo

Professor Nick Cutter - Douglas Henshall
Helen Cutter - Juliet Aubrey
Stephen Hart - James Murray
Connor Temple - Andrew-Lee Potts
Abby Maitland - Hannah Spearritt
Claudia Brown - Lucy Brown
James Lester - Ben Miller

We open on the slightly strange image of a dinosaur chasing a woman through an Asda car-park. And then we skip to 8 years later and a professor at the fictional Central Metropolitan University. We have a student, Connor Temple, the professor's assistant Stephen Hart, and the professor himself, Nick Cutter.

Connor's convinced the newspaper report of an undiscovered giant predator (with suitable fuzzy image) is real, and it's nearby, which seems to perk up Cutter's interest - or maybe it's the mention of the Forest Of Dean.

Meanwhile, Abby Maitland is being downsized from her job in the lizard house at the zoo (or reassigned to a different department at least), but she's got a last task of picking up someone's exotic pet lizard that they no longer want that catches her eye (and that, too, is in the Forest of Dean).

Turns out Helen, Cutter's wife, disappeared in the Forest of Dean 8 years earlier, and no-one found a body. Then there's the torn up truck that Cutter finds investigating with Stephen and Connor. And Abby going to see where the mysteriously lizard, Rex, was found, finds a dead animal in a tree and mysterious roaring.

And our next cast member, Claudia Brown, ambushes Cutter in the hotel bar - she's there from the Home Office to investigate the "monster". She insists on joining the search. Meanwhile, Abby discovers Rex can fly, and the boy who initially found Rex finds a strange shimmery glowy thing that appears to lead to a world full of volcanoes and more flying lizards like Rex. Oh, and Abby sees the dinosaur...

The boy runs homes, but cuts his finger on some nettles, and the dinosaur follows him, breaking in through his bedroom window and doing a passable recreation of the Jaws-on-the-boat seen from the end of that film. The boy fights it off with a stereo, a bedside lamp, and a lightsaber. Abby encounters another dinosaur - although this one's docile - and she encounters the rest of the team. After talking to the boy, Ben, again, they find out that there are doorways to the past where these creatures are coming from, and the docile herbivore leads them right to it.

The official response from the Home Office introduces James Lester, the guy who's going to end up in charge of the "situation" and after signing their lives away, they get to witness a scientific examination of Rex go suitably badly when he takes off and flies around the building scaring most of the staff. Fortunately, the scientific examination does persuade Lester to let Cutter go through the "anomaly."

The dinosaur, which Connor has now identified as a Gorgonopsid, has followed Ben's scent to his school, but Stephen gets there in time to divert its attention... although it does knock him unconscious after he tries to fend it off with a fire extinguisher. Cutter gets given a red-shirt military guy to go through the anomaly with him. But just after they step through, Connor realises that the magnetic field around the anomaly is getting weaker... which doesn't bode well for Cutter's request for an hour on his own to wander around and look for his wife!

The red-shirt discovers the remains of a campsite as well as skeletal remains alongside Helen's camera. But it's a man's skeleton. The red-shirt resorts to knocking Cutter out and carrying him back when he decides he doesn't want to leave. They (and Rex) make it back through before it closes, but that does leave the Gorgonopsid on the wrong side! Which leaves Stephen to hit it with his car!

The effects in this show are pretty good, as you'd expect considering they honed their craft with the whole "Walking With Dinosaurs" thing before having to make an action show with the same technology. Unfortunately, the Gorgonopsid doesn't really have any weight when it's crawling over bookcases in the school corridor; they clearly don't break as they should if a huge dinosaur is walking over them!

They've set up the characters pretty well - Cutter's obsessed with the disappearance of his wife, Connor's a conspiracy nut, Stephen's the big game hunter, and Abby's the animal behaviour expert. They tease us at the end with the "Helen is still alive" story, but give no indication of where she's been or what she's been doing for the past 8 years. Claudia and Lester are both pretty one-note at this point, so they've got room for some character growth there.

There's plenty of scope for the show, although they've clearly defined a format - "anomaly" appears to a random time-period, creatures come through, our team try to deal with them, cover-up ensues. But if the anomalies aren't stable, then could our team be trapped on the wrong side? Who was the skeleton by the camp? Where has Helen been? And if they're messing around with past time-periods, what happened to the whole "butterfly effect" of changing timelines?

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