[Review] - Primeval: New World, Season 1 Episode 1, "The New World"

Courtesy of Impossible Pictures
The British series Primeval was...different. Born on ITV as a reaction to the rebirth of Doctor Who, produced by Impossible Pictures, the group who had made Walking With Dinosaurs. An interesting concept, with holes in time opening up and spitting out dinosaurs and other ancient creatures into modern day England. The longer the series went on, though, and the bigger it built up it's own mythology, the more it got bogged down with detail, and moved further and further away from the original format. A host of cast changes, various cancellations and rebirths, and a convoluted partnership with Sky that lead to the show disappearing with a whimper rather then a bang.

But the show continues, in a new Canadian spin-off, with the "anomalies" opening up in Vancouver. And while the new show replicates the original formula, there are enough vestiges of the original series to make anyone unfamiliar with that program confused.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that also keep dinosaurs frozen in their cellar.

We'll start first with the dinosaurs. Two creatures were featured in the premiere, Pteranodon and Utahraptor. Burning off two high profile creatures in the first episode, and using neither to full effect, was probably unwise on the part of the writers, but that is a narrative problem. Right now, lets deal with accuracy. I was pleased to see the Utahraptor identified as such, though I feel that Utah is becoming as over used as velociraptor did after 1993. I was also pleased to see the creature sporting feathers, though nowhere near as many feathers as they actually had. Can we please, as a culture, get over the fact that these sort of dinosaurs had feathers, and embrace the change, just as we did in the late eighties when the standard posture models changed? You know how we embrace such a change? Shows like this abandoning the Jurassic Park model, and creating the new paradigm.

The Pteranodon was woeful. Again, an over reliance on viewers assumption, based on the Jurassic Park films, have resulted in more and more prehistoric creatures having their actual and effective behaviours abandoned in favour of something more predatory. Pterosaurs were not predatory. They simply did not hunt and attack prey as depicted: they were too large and too fragile. At best, some smaller species might have been carrion eaters. They certainly wouldn't have pecked out a person's heart and liver, and eyes (the beak would have split the skull of a human in two). They were fish eaters, having no teeth in their beaks that would allow them to cut and chew meat. Or take on a raptor. And it almost certainly wouldn't have been able to maneuver quite so effectively on the ground. Or build a nest on level ground in the middle of a forest. What might have happened would have been attacking the opening sequence base jumper, as a territorial response to hi being too close to a nest it was building on a skyscraper, resulting in the jumper plummeting from the sky. Which is cool enough, so why turn everything from the past into basically a wolf?

As for the episode itself, it shows all the signs of wanting too much too soon. Character after character is forced on us without organic introduction. And the mid-point death, which is meant to be an emotional linchpin moment, is cold and ineffective, as we the viewer knew the guy for only a couple scenes. Any emotions we are meant to feel are informed. And not even completely. The Dylan Weir character practically breaks down, as if the deceased were someone close to her. But for all we had seen of them together (one scene, with a brief exchange) he was merely her supervisor. I don't mean to sound callous, but if my supervisor died, I wouldn't be that hard hit by it.

Because we don't have a frame of reference for these characters, and because they are being purposefully obtuse about motivation, we have only the plot to push us along. One would think, since the focus should have been on introducing us to the world and the players, that one creature would have been enough. But we get two: a raptor on the loose, and a pterosaur, both of which the episode forgets about while focusing on the other. I wonder if at one point these started off as two separate, more balanced episodes, that needed to be padded to length, and were merged.

The use (and again, obtuse caginess) of Conner Temple felt like something that should have occurred later in the season. Anyone familiar with the original series wasn't given new information, and anyone who wasn't familiar would have just been confused. The meat of his one scene was driving home the point of not messing with the anomalies. Which I feel would have been a better message to deliver after the new team had been given a chance to, you know, mess with a couple anomalies first.

So much in this first episode should have been saved for further down the line. The weird Canadian government X-Files project, the horribly blunt flashback, trying to give Cross some instant motivation and back story, which misfires completely. Have it be slowly revealed, over time, not in a info blast at the back end of the episode. Include the ARC agent in the deep freeze, and let us suspect Cross of no good for a time. Then reveal his first encounter with an anomaly. Then reveal the lawyer-on-a-toilet way his girlfriend died. If your intention is to build up an arc-based  mystery program, develop a sense of depth. Think forth dimensionally. Learn patience.

A lot of the dialogue was stunted, which I don't know whether to blame on the acting, or the writing, but both had their failings before the hour was out. Niall Matter as Cross, easily the best actor of the bunch, was frustrating to watch, and clearly uncertain in which direction to take his character. Hopefully as the series progresses, he'll settle on something more substantial (or at least lest superficial) then Tony Stark/his own character from Eureka, but with hidden pain. The rest of the episode had all the hallmarks of a moderate thing done poorly, and I would hope that will change. I hope they focus more on character development then forced plot contravencies. I hope they don't build up too much a universe for the show to exist in, and fail to use each piece to an effective end. I hope it gets better from here.

But I've been wrong before.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


  1. Having now watched the first three episodes (and being a fan of the UK series), all I can say is RIP!