The home of Critic, Writer and Film-maker: Liam Walters

The Future of Primeval, Why the BBC Should Show It’s Doctor Some Love, and Why ITV Needs to be Decisive

Written By: Philip Lickley

As Primeval Series five comes to its conclusion I thought I would take a brief look at Primeval series five; where I’d like to see Primeval going with a series six; and the future of British sci-fi in general.

* Primeval – Series Five *

I think Primeval series five was up there as one of the best so far in the sci-fi show. Though it’s difficult to talk about it without referring to series four as they are parts one and two of the same series and the end of episode seven wasn’t really a dramatic twist, series five took what was established in last year’s seven episodes and really built on it.

Primeval’s CGI has always been superior to other shows. Indeed, although it’s The Mill that does it now instead of Framestore, it’s still superior to their work on the BBC show Doctor Who which is unusual as Primeval usually deals with more realistic, visually-familiar creatures on a commercial station budget. The T-Rex of episode five, mutated future predator of episode six and raptors of episodes two and three were as realistic as ever and, in the case of the former, rendered out in daylight and interacting with actors and vehicles, with no darkness or bad weather to conceal them. It’s a big thumbs up for everything the Mill has done with the series.

Character development is something that has certainly been concentrated on in this series with most really advancing. Only Becker hasn’t seen much action in the plot stakes this series, which is a shame as Ben Mansfield has a very good persona to him in his portrayal with Becker. Matt Anderson was much more believable in this series and with a better story, and even Ben Miller as James Lester was given more to play with.

The plots of the episodes themselves were more adventurous, with effective uses of the budget. Even episode four, confined mostly to the ARC, was a masterpiece in setting up tension and using CGI wisely. Stand out episodes included the submarine one (#2), the multiple anomalies (#5) and the epic conclusion (#6).

Overall series five was an excellent addition to the Primeval canon and got the mix of plot, character development and CGI monsters just right.

* The Future of Primeval *

As we stand, like we did back with series three, the future of Primeval is uncertain. Ratings on ITV1 for series four were good, but not up to those of Doctor Who, and series five’s debut on Watch saw them get their highest consistent ratings ever, so there’s no doubt they are happy. Though it’s not the 4-million the series gets on its terrestrial partner, Watch need to be congratulated for their effective online marketing through Facebook and their website that, begs the question, why didn’t ITV with all their resources do as much? Yes, they had their website, but they didn’t show trailers on TV until a week before and even then it was a rarity. If ITV could do what Watch have done with their equivalent budget then I’d expect great things.

We’ll see how the marketing team at ITV tackle series five when it is shown in the autumn but, with the main fans having already seen it on Watch and the DVD / Blu-Ray out next week, the viewing figures could be lower and, unless the premiere on digital TV and release of the DVD is not compensated for it’s not good news in a rating-obsessed market.

So, assuming ITV, Pro-Sieben, Watch and BBC America do another deal to get us another series, what should it be?

Well there’s lots of things I’d like to see them doing to ensure a great series six:

Ensure Jason Flemyng isn’t doing X-Men Second Class or whatever at the same time. The Danny / Patrick story has great legs and, if the rumours are to be believed, wasn’t covered in series five because of Jason’s filming commitments. Bring it back as a sub-plot in series six, with some time-hopping twists, and maybe some real threat and it would be a great addition and tie-ing up those plot lines.

Tackle the knowledge of the anomalies. Don’t do what Doctor Who did. The world saw a massive battle with Daleks and Cybermen throughout the world. Wouldn’t that have some effect on people? Though they attempted to tackle it and re-boot it with the whole cracks in time changing what happened in series five it still felt a bit of a cop-out. The public know about the anomalies. There will be footage on Facebook and YouTube of the T-Rex rampaging around, plus other creatures. What effect will that have on the public? On society? On the scope of the ARC team? A lot of these issues, granted, are far-reaching and the show isn’t about global politics, but it cannot be ignored. Pretending its not a problem, re-writing time or coming up with some implausible cover stories will not cut it.

Tie in more from series three. The future ARC has masking technology; it has cloning technology; it was ways of predicting when and where anomalies will appear. Let’s see some of these coming in.

In episode five of the latest series anomalies started opening up all over the world. Let’s see an episode set abroad, and not as part of some American re-boot.

What happens to the future that Matt has to come back to warn himself? We naturally need the answer to this!

Make better use of Becker. Ben Mansfield is a great actor so give him some more to do!

What was the reason behind the spaghetti junction way back in series one? Maybe tie that in somehow.

Let’s see more about the ARC teams. Episode five covered lots of teams in the field; just how big are their resources?

Though I’d like to see more cast members killed off I would prefer to see the same cast stay the same for the third series in a row.

And they need to get the balance between the amateur bunch of series one and the anomaly detecting, dating detecting and anomaly closing team of the latest series.

* The Future of British Sci-Fi *

This is where I think Primeval should be in the future as well as other key sci-fi programmes. I’m going to mainly look at Primeval and it’s BBC equivalent Doctor Who.

It’s also a call for the television network to treat their key programmes better. Though it’s difficult to justify spending millions of pounds on quality drama when reality TV shows and ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’ get massive viewing figures for small costs, BBC and ITV need to realise the benefits of drama through DVD sales and selling the episodes abroad. Who do you know would buy the ‘Complete I’m A Celebrity’ box set? It has very little re-sale value, and little international appeal. I wish I didn’t know who Christopher Biggins is. Americans probably don’t at all.

The care for these shows is shown in many ways. Look at the BBC’s recent treatment of Doctor Who. Yes, I know it’s expensive, but it’s also popular. Give the viewers a seventh series, not just four episodes. The BBC, though I am a massive supporter of it and think it’s one of the things British people can be most proud of, spend enough of celebrity talent. They can afford to spend it on quality drama.

Now ITV can be excused a little as they have more commercial pressures on them, but still they have had a profound effect on Primeval. Some plot lines, such as Jason Flemying’s absense from all but one of the last thirteen episodes and Laila Rouass’ leaving, happened because of the delays in filming due to cancellation and then re-commissioning. How can a series set up stable arcs if they don’t know from one season to the next who the cast is going to be? Even now we’re not likely to get a new series until 2013 if it is re-commissioned; who knows which members of the cast will be available then?

Primeval and Doctor Who, like a lot of quality drama, is not promoted enough or loved enough. We should be proud of what is produced in this country. ITV in particular needs to develop the buzz for Primeval that Doctor Who gets. I don’t think the plots are a problem – internet bloggers will pull things apart no matter how good they are – the episodes just need to be promoted more and given decent slots and, you know, adverts to let those on the sofas know it’s coming up.

Until the TV networks start getting the most out of their expensive drama then it’s going to be a struggle.

Finally I’m going to end on a plea. Primeval needs to be re-commissioned for another season. Series five has shown itself to be an amazing four-and-a-half hours of entertainment and we need more. ITV needs to love it like the BBC loves Doctor Who, but even they need to realise what they have to show; and ITV needs to see how effectively Watch can plug a programme and do the same with the much bigger resources available to them.

More Primeval please!


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