Primeval: Series 5 Episode 1 Review
Written By: Philip Lickley
** Warning: contains spoilers **
After a few months gap since the end of series four, time-travelling adventure Primeval is back. After the series – which sees anomalies, or portals to other times, opening up and creatures from the past and future emerging through them – was cancelled at the end of series three, the creators got round the board table and created a deal between ITV and Watch. This meant that, whereas series four debuted on ITV and was repeated next on Watch, it’s now the other way round, so digital channel Watch got first dibs on the latest six-part series.
And it seems they’ve scored big in their approach to the series. Whereas ITV’s promotion of series four was, frankly, abysmal, Watch have embraced the series with internet marketing unseen on the terrestrial channel, such as exclusive clips, a flash game and unseen images. Granted, they have a lot of work to do to convince people to watch an expensive series on a digital channel, but one wonders what ITV could achieve if they promoted their quality drama in such interesting ways rather than relying on Britain’s Got the X Factor Street.
In series four we saw Abby and Connor return to the present day to find the Arc moved and now a public-private partnership with entrepreneur Philip Burton. The team, consisting of new team leader Matt, new communications operative Jess and returning soldier Becker. Over the course of seven episodes we learnt that Matt is from the future, trying to work out who from the Arc brings round the end of the most of humankind, that Philip Burton is connected to Helen Cutter, the protagonist from series one-three in some way thanks to the return of Danny Quinn, and how there are a group of humans travelling through time between anomalies including mass murderer Ethan, aka Patrick Quinn, Danny’s brother. When we left series four Connor was predicting an apocalyptic scenario where the number of anomalies grow exponentially, bringing around a dangerous situation.
Series five episode one picks up the less than explosive ending to the series, one that fitted the feeling of one series split in two, with James Lester, the person in charge of the public side of the Arc enterprise, stuck in traffic due to road works. One of the workers collapses through the road only to be eaten by a beetle that resembled a massive woodlouse. Whilst James Lester was distracted by the prospect of a Knighthood, the team were on hand to tackle the creature which, after the attack on the roadworks, had moved onto a family barbecue, chomping its way through a man and his sausage (that’s a sausage in a bun).
Running concurrently to this we learn more about ‘New Dawn’, which was mentioned mid-series 4 and I’m surprised is answered so quickly. ‘New Dawn’ is basically Philip’s attempt at using anomalies to create green energy. So nothing dodgy there then from the baddie, though who knows where it could lead? Though April’s glasses were dodgy, April being a new scientist introduced to Connor at Prospero Industries.
And we also see Abby finding Matt trying to hack into Prospero’s system, still trying to find out who caused the sterile earth in the future and trying to stop them.
Thanks to Jess and her 3D mapping software that would make Google jealous the team arrive at the house only for Connor to captured by the creature and deposited in its nest. So, it’s up for the team to rescue him, using Connor to release gas into the building that is detonated, but only after Matt rescues Connor from the clutches of fifteen sleeping, but on awaking angry, giant future woodlice.
In the dying minutes of the episode the story goes into plot overdrive, revealing Lester’s interviews throughout the episode about the knighthood were actually for Philip Burton; that Abby has worked out Matt is from the future; that April is now Connor’s new assistant and there’s something suspicious about her; that Philip knows that Danny told Matt he has a connection to Helen Connor; and that Matt has a ring recorder showing images of the future. Phew.
Though series five episode one started off with less of a bang than necessarily previous series, I have to say this episode was up there with the best episodes of Primeval. Having not been that amazed by series four compared to the excellent series three, the pinnacle of the programme so far, I was pleased to say this episode was much more on message.
The CGI of the creature was fantastic and Ben Miller as James Lester had much more screen time than in a long while, bringing his humour and timing to a very funny subplot to the episode, especially in the off-screen scream near the end. This episode managed to take what we have seen so far and really speed up the plot. Though the answer to ‘New Dawn’ came earlier in the series than I thought it might, the split between the team looks to be creating an interesting dynamic in the series. In one corner you have Matt and Abby who are suspicious of who is going to create the sterile earth, in another Connor and April who are working for Philip, and in yet another Philip and April who know more than is letting on.
The ending of the episode was particularly memorable with the burning images of London and Paris sticking in my mind.
Even having moved over from ITV to Watch, the series is as great as ever with the CGI spot on and more convincing than, say, BBC’s Doctor Who, and a great mix of adventure, humour and plot twists and developments. Though unfairly known for being a monster-of-the-week programme, this episode managed to balance this element with overall arc development, with the added benefit of being able to start from a run having established a lot of the themes in the last series.
This opening episode shows much promise for series five and as we head onto a nuclear submarine next week it looks to go from strength to strength, but it’s time to reserve judgement to see if it stands up to the highlights of the previous series’.
Primeval is on Watch, Tuesdays at 8pm.