Monday, March 19, 2007


I remember telling my wife that ITV's Saturday night sci-fi drama Primeval was going to be utter drivel and that neither of us would want to bother with it again after the first episode. My confident prediction was based on the show's premise ("Oh bloody hell, CG dinosaurs... again!"), the fact it was on ITV (the spiritual home of terrible dramas featuring ex-soap stars) and the cynical way it was marketed as the 'New Who'.

Against all odds though, Primeval turned out to be a bit of a cracker and the first season's final two episodes as good as anything Russell T Davies and co have come up with over at Who central (those magical Steven Moffat episodes excepted).

I liked the scripts (simple, direct, fun, a pleasing lack of technobabble and pop culture references); I liked the characters (little more than stereotypes at first but imbued with a bit more depth as the series wore on); I liked the love triangles (even great shows like Battlestar have those); I liked the cast (especially foxy Lucy Brown as Claudia) and I really, really liked the CG dinosaurs. In fact, the fight between the Gorgonopsid and the creature from the future in the season finale was easily as good as anything you'd see in Jurassic Park and surprisingly visceral for a Saturday tea-time.

Add to that list a couple of very successful homages (Hitchock's The Birds in episode five, Predator in the finale), plus a healthy dose of humour and a terrific cliffhanger ending, and you've got a series fully deserving of its six million viewers and speedy recommissioning.

It's just a pity that it took the success of Doctor Who to prod ITV into doing something like Primeval in the first place. Perhaps with Michael Grade now in charge, the channel will start setting the agenda a bit more instead of slavishly following successful formats.

And maybe Primeval's success will lead to the channel trying its hand at a few more sci-fi or fantasy shows – after all, let's not forget The Avengers, The Prisoner and Sapphire & Steel were all on ITV so it's hardly crazy talk.

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