[Review] - Primeval: New World, Season 1 Episode 4, "Angry Birds"


Courtesy of Impossible Pictures

This week, I decided I was going to try something new. This week I decided I was going to meet Primeval: New World half way. Despite it giving me no reason to, I opted to put in some extra effort and try to establish a rapport with the program that it has shown no interest in doing itself. Because this week they were hosting some terror birds, and I wanted to look my best.

The results were surprising. Not because I gave up trying before the first commercial break, that was to be expected. I am incredibly lazy, after all. But because the show has shown a slight improvement. This episode, giant man eating birds aside, is the best thus far, which I hope is to be a regular refrain in these reviews. However, improvements aside, it remains not a very good show.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that also inexplicably have no idea what a 'hot box' is.

So... terror birds. Of all non-dinosaur prehistoric creatures, they're my favourite. 1-3 metre tall birds with powerful legs and massive, nut-or-small-mammal crushing beaks. Yet another creature that doesn't need gussying up to be effective. And yet another creature that the show has taken beyond their capabilities in the 'interest' of being made to look like a monster.

Titanis was one of the mid-sized of the Phorusrhacids, at about 8 feet tall, and was bulkier then those in the episode. And if the two adults in the episode were meant to be mates, then they wouldn't have been near the same size, as fossil evidence suggests quite a bit of sexual dimorphism, as can be common in animals (even humans), but especially in birds. Titanis was also one of the more recent of the order, dating from about 2 million years ago, or in geological terms, yesterday (more like earlier this morning, really).

What they couldn't do was outrun a motor bike. Or, as a character later claims, "run faster then you can drive." They simply couldn't. In the same way that T-rex couldn't keep pace with a jeep, computer models suggest that the lightest, strong-legged terror bird would top out around 50 km an hour. And there is considerable evidence to suggest that this would have been more of a burst then anything sustained. In fact, some research suggests that the power in the legs was used more for kicking, to stun prey, then wasting energy on running.

They also wouldn't have preyed on anything as large as humans. Their beaks certainly weren't meant for the sort of specific destruction that we see at the end of the episode. Even with a sharp beak to stab, it would have resulted in more tearing and ripping then being able to dig in and rip out a spinal cord (which it would have been unable to chew). There is a disagreement as to whether they hunted anything larger then a modern raccoon, preferring to use their beaks to crack large nuts. Even with a parental instinct overriding their behaviour, they wouldn't have stopped to eat, rather just pummel their victims to death, and go after the hatchling.

The rest of the episode showed signs of at least some of the writers being interested in more then just the anomalies. They tried to include some characterisation here, but it ended up getting buried in so much nonsense it was for not. And clearly, many are unfamiliar with ways of establishing characters as well rounded humans, that behave as normal. Each character represents only a single function, and rarely strays outside of that. Which might be fine for a grade school writing assignment, but this stuff is on TV. Show a little more finesse. The scene where the Business Woman, who I had forgotten existed at all since she last appeared, throws her weird temper tantrum was awkward and uncomfortable to watch, and I don't know what it was they were going for in that scene, but they didn't find it.

The dialogue is still clunky, and overly melodramatic. The events of the episode were still contrived, especially the increasing stupidity of the pot growers. At first, their characters were fun, interesting and engaging, in a way none of the main cast is. But then, about half way through, they just got dumb, and insisted on making decisions that made very little sense, because certain characters needed to be in certain places later in the episode.

What frustrates me most is how they seem to keep taking the easy way out. The Animal Control Person is able to identify a Titanis at first glance, without inspecting it or anything. Is being able to identify extinct animals standard Animal Control knowledge? I mean, as a lay person, I would have guessed eaglet before anything else. Even knowing that there was a glowy time hole out there somewhere. British Guy and Tech Girl are annoying with each other, then disappear until they are needed to provide or relieve "dramatic tension" later on. And joy oh glee, everyone is getting some belligerent sexual tension. Hooray, because that makes up for a lack of definition.

This episode more then others at least tried to incorporate more layers into the story, but the layers just fold in to one another and don't really pay off. The Project Magnet subplot, the company struggling to stay afloat while its founder gallivants around the city, the personal toll this is having on Zane, all of this would be interesting to slow down and examine. But any time there is a touch of it, it is briskly and clumsily pushed to the side, in favour of something CG attacking our "heroes."

What the show needs is a complete retool. I'm serious. Start from scratch. Establish clear(er) motives, that will inspire interesting story lines, with complex, well developed characters. Avoid charactertures, avoid laziness, and tell the actors to starting acting like they give a damn. Behind the camera are a lot of people who were involved with the Stargate franchise, which suffered from the same thing in its early days, and managed to pull themselves out of it, and create one of the longest running North American science fiction frachises, ever. Four episodes in, there is time to save Primeval from the bog of mediocrity it's stuck in. But I don't see that happening anytime soon.

It needs some MacGyvering.
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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.

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