First aired: 10th February 2007
Douglas Henshall – Dr Nick Cutter
Juliet Aubrey – Helen Cutter
James Murray – Stephen Hart
Lucy Brown – Claudia Brown
Andrew Lee Potts – Connor Temple
Hannah Spearitt – Abby Maitland
Ben Miller – James Lester
Synopsis: In an Asda car park a woman is chased by a prehistoric creature. She outruns it, barely.
Eight years later at Central Metropolitan University, Professor Nick Cutter and his assistant Stephen Hart are accosted by one of Cutter’s over-eager students Connor Temple, who tells Cutter about a ‘monster’ sighting in the local Forest of Dean. He manages to convince the pair to check it out. At a nearby zoo, reptile keeper Abby is sacked by her boss, on her way out, she finds correspondence from a woman whose son found an unknown species of lizard in the same place, Abby decides to go check it out.
At the forest, Cutter, Stephen and Connor arrive and see the carnage left by this creature, whilst Abbey meets Ben and his lizard known as Rex, who it appears can fly. When looking at where Rex was found Abby comes across the ‘monster’s’ prey, a whole cow stuck up in a tree. Later that night at a nearby hotel, Cutter meets Claudia Brown, who is investigating this for the Home Office and wants it to be a hoax, so she can go home. Still in the forest, Ben finds a spacial aperture, when he puts his head through the anomaly, he can see another world, one with dinosaurs and other creatures like Rex. Abby hides from the monster as Cutter and his group are getting closer. Ben gets home, cutting himself on a fence on the way. The monster the others are seeking follow him there, but inside a house full of noises and hassle, the prey becomes too much of a bother to be worth it and it leaves.
Out in the forest, Abby is faced with another creature, this one a large herbivore, more tortoise than the monster she was fleeing. After catching up with Ben, both groups learn of the anomaly and are able to chase the herbivore back through to its home, a past that predates all of them.
At the Home Office, Cutter and Abby sign the official secrets act, under the supervision of government hatchet man James Lester. Claudia reports the whole event to him and he is annoyed at the whole thing more than worried or even incredulous. Cutter talks with Lester, both very antagonistic towards one another. Also at the home office Claudia and Abby chase Rex, until it returns to Abby in a light hearted moment. As this is going on Stephen is hunting the monster with Connor. Connor identifies the creature as a Gorgonopsid, which is now stalking Ben at his school, where he and his teacher are terrorised by it, until Stephen arrives and is attacked by the creature, who knocks him out, giving Ben and the teacher time to escape, one would assume.
At the anomaly, Cutter and a soldier take Rex back through. One the present side, Connor notices that the anomaly has a strong electro-magnetic field, which over time weakens, The door is closing. The soldier points Cutter to a modern campsite in the prehistoric world, which contains Cutter’s wife’s camera. Helen Cutter vanished without a trace 8 years earlier. There’s also several male dead bodies, but no sign of her. They barely make it back, before the anomaly disappears.
The Gorgonopsid attacks the camp, but is stopped by Stephen’s prompt arrival and a combination of a 4×4 and assault rifle ends the immediate threat. The pictures from the camera are developed, Helen was alive in the prehistoric past. This is not over, this has only just begun.
That night, Cutter finds a living mollusc on his desk, the species being long extinct, he races outside and across a busy road, he sees his wife, casually standing there. As he gets closer, she fades into the shadows and he is alone, with so many questions.
Notes: Primeval is ITV’s modern answer to Doctor Who, in the same way that the Tomorrow People was in the 1970’s. Once again I have to ask if they understood the question. The idea of time-holes linking two points of history is not a bad one and adding Dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals is a good idea and it was something that I hadn’t seen in a while, an original idea. But that’s just premise, what about the execution?
Well let’s start with the good, Douglas Henshaw’s Cutter is not your typical action hero, he’s wry with a matter of fact view of the bizarre things he is witnessing. When faced with dinosaurs and temporal/spacial anomalies, he’s not fazed, he’s curious. It’s nice to see a scientist character on TV acting like a scientist. Many of the rest of the cast are equally open minded with the whole thing, a sort of british shrug and get on with it sort of thing that pair’s itself perfectly with something like this. Lucy Brown and Andrew Lee Potts are fun additions to the staff and Ben Miller’s James Lester is to my mind the best thing he has done that wasn’t part of his partnership with Alexander Armstrong. There’s a lot to enjoy here and having Cutter’s long lost wife as an ongoing mystery/possible antagonist is something of a masterstroke.
Sadly it isn’t all that good. James Murray is completely free of anything resembling charisma and the plot seems to use him as ‘the guy we need for the action stuff’ and it feels that he has been stapled onto the show, rather than been an intrinsic part of it from the beginning. It’s hard to see whether it’s a writing issue, or the actor, but there it is. Also a problem is Hannah Spearitt’s Abby. The former pop star has a go here and I am not about to blast her for not being a good actress, because she does fine with what she’s given, which let’s be honest isn’t much. She’s a plot device and really isn’t given anything more than that to do. A better show would have incorporated much of the Steven Hart character’s traits into Abby and just have the one character rather than these two. But that’s the problem really, this isn’t the show it could be. From the fast aging effects and the slow pace, it’s trying to compete with better shows, but it’s not at that level. I watched this show, years ago and there were some high points, but none of them were in this episode and they were mostly gone by the 3rd season. I wanted to give this a fair chance and maybe it would be something to introduce my son to, after one episode I am a little less keen.
Does it work? For the most part yes, it does what it needs to, in order to set a series up.
Does much need fixing? The cast aren’t really doing all they can do, or aren’t being given the material to do it.
Does it stand up? No, the effects alone are so dated it almost got funny watching it.
Do I want to watch the next one? No, I really didn’t.
Did I enjoy it? Sort of, but I don’t think I would ever watch it again.
Overall: 2 out of 5: Next time you want to have an answer to Doctor Who, re-read the question.