[Opinion] - Could Primeval: New World Have Been Better?

Courtesy of Impossible Pictures.

I doubt it.

Well, that's it. See you next time, folks.

...

I kid, I kid. About leaving, not Primeval: New World. It was not a great TV show. It wasn't even so-bad-it-was-good. It was inconsistent and uninspired. And viewers apparently agreed with me, as they stayed away. Which has resulted, in the same week as the finale aired, in Space cancelling the series. So, we will never know if the show might have been able to improve itself in a second year. And while I am genuinely upset at the prospect of never finding out if it could have improved, based on what we got, it didn't deserve the chance. Better shows have lasted fewer episodes then this.

Storylines were set up, then just left on the floor, gasping like a trout on a dock. Characters suffered from multiple personalities, a roaming knowledge base, and less then quality acting. Though, I've been more forgiving on the actors considering that they had very little to work with on the page. And I've decided not to blame the writers as much now that its over, for what I perceive to have been the real problem: a lack of editorial control. Attentive script editors and show runners are a necessity, especially in arc based TV. They keeps everything flowing in a straight line, and in a way that makes sense.


Oh, and I might have mentioned before, but they used the word "Dinosaurs" to describe every damned thing that fell out of time and into their laps. This infuriated me. Would literally cause tremors in my hands as I watched episodes. This would be the same as referring to every single creature that has lived over the last 10,000 years as "dolphins." Which, I think you'll agree, is stupid. If I remember correctly, two writers realised this mistake, and used the non-specific "creature," which I much preferred. The rest simply got it wrong. Again, a script editor should have caught and streamlined that, so the same terminology was used every time, right or wrong.


Occasionally, when a piece of fiction really bothers me, I'll do an exercise where I try to restructure it, using the provided framework, into something I think would have worked better. Not because of ego, or because I feel I could have done it better, but because I like to think of how I might have done it differently. It is always a personal, subjective restructuring, and I usually do it when I'm stuck in a block of my own writing, and need to shake loose the narrative-structure cobwebs. Occasionally, I post them here. I did it with Prometheus. I did it with Return of the Jedi. I did it with Dark Knight Rises, though I never posted that one. Now, I do it with Primeval. Because I was looking forward to the show, wanted so much to enjoy it, and was disappointed in the product we were given. I was hopeful of improvements along the way, and frustrated when they never materialised. So, I've taken the basic core concept, the basic core characters, and played with them a little bit, to see if I could come up with a different idea. Not necessarily a better one, mind (almost certainly not), just different.

Hit the jump to see my changes.

For the purposes of this exercise, to give myself structure and limits (because otherwise I'd just white wash the whole damned thing, and start from scratch), I have restricted myself to reworking the characters already a part of the show, as well as the creatures, though having free reign in terms of plots and events.


The first major change I'd make is to the focus of the show. Rather then make it about Cross, Dylan would be the centre, the hero-in-training. She's the audience surrogate, the complete outsider, and the one that can bring the audience into the world by being introduced to it all herself. The series as-is tried, but was more interested in moving that stuff to the side in favour of getting to the action. Rushing never helped anything, especially when establishing character. I liked that she was the only animal expert on the team (the original series was all animal experts), but I'd make her less comfortable in the role. She'd be completely out of her depth, both in terms of being expected to know all the answers, but also in the sheer level of danger she was facing on a regular basis. She would maintain her position at Animal Control, using the reports they receive to aid the team in identifying risks. She would insist that all the creatures be treated safely and fairly, which would put her at odds with Cross, whose primary concern is the safety of the public, and is at times openly hostile towards the creatures that come through.


Cross would also under go intense revision. First, gone would be his cocky, Tony Stark-like characterisation. Also, he would be given a firmly established motivation that would be used to build his character arc, rather then just a general "do no harm" motto, and a wishy-washiness from episode to episode. I'd structure him as an obsessive character, more like the one Colin Ferguson played in the 9th episode. I would have had Cross Photonics be a Fortune 500 company years ago, employing thousands, holding multiple military contracts, and pushing the boundaries of optical physics in modern technology. When his wife died in an industrial accident, Cross broke the company up and sold it off piece by piece, then disappeared. To the outside world, he was as good as dead. In actuality, he spent those years using his personal fortune to build a detection system in his last piece of privately owned property, to detect space/time fissures. He would also be working with Project Magnet, a strained relationship on the military's part, who are uncomfortable dealing with Cross and his private agenda.

Cross would also be more antagonistic, which gives Dylan a constant emotional foe to battle against, as well as the physical threats from the fissures. His back story would be filled in over the course of the first season. It would be revealed that his wife was killed by a raptor in the building where he built the detector. He became obsessed with locating the fissures, and stopping the creatures from coming through and harming anyone else (this would be his stated goal, not his real one). He's also gathering data on the fissures, and the various times they open to, creating a database to help fine tune his instruments (this would prove to be important later on). Ultimately, he would reveal his goal was to find a fissure through to a time that would allow him to save his wife, which he would do in the season finale. Nothing personal against Niall Matter, but for this interpretation of Cross, the actor hired would have to be older (in fact, Colin Ferguson did such a good job playing basically this character on the show already, I'd say he would have been a grand choice).


Mac wouldn't change that much in terms of the content of his arc. But his characterisation would change. Rather then a cocky play-his-own-rules sort, he'd be a good little soldier. He'd follow orders, but also represent the neutral centre of the team, positioned between Cross and Dylan. A former member of British special forces, he was located by Cross and enticed to come help hunt down prehistoric creatures. His character arc would follow his corruption from a neutral position, into a desperate, revenge driven puppet of Cross'. Mid season, Cross' vault would be discovered, containing the raptor that killed his wife, and Mac, in an ARC coat. Mac would have, as in the real series, appeared and saved Cross, sacrificing himself. After this revelation, Mac would begin to question his identity, relying on Toby for support, causing their brother-sister relationship to evolve into a physical one. His psyche would suffer even more damage when Toby is killed in a late season episode. His desire to get her back would make him side with Cross when the military takes over the operation, and Cross reveals his plan to rewrite time, thus bringing Toby back.

Toby, I have to say, seemed pointless to me in the series. In terms of technical ability, her role could have been filled by Cross. Inevitably, she was used as fan service or as a damsel, and I'm not comfortable with either of those being the defining characteristics of a character. So, I would blend her character with that of the minimally appearing but highly effective character of Sam. This new Toby wouldn't be the geek girl, but rather the former head of Cross Photonics security. This provides the new show with three gun hands, and Cross back at base as the tech/exposition. Displaying more of the thrill seeking behaviours that Mac had in the real series (which were later abandoned), Toby would be the reckless one on the team, always using herself as bait, or disobeying orders if she thought she knew better. She would have an established relationship with Cross, who would rely on her as a trusted ally. Her relationship with Mac would be brother-sister like, with constant bickering and back talk, which would turn romantic when Mac suffered his crisis. She would be killed late season during a very public Albertosaurus attack, to great emotional effect on the whole team.


Leeds would be the head of Project Magnet, who was approached by Cross when he first started out. The military is hesitant to work with what they deem to be an unstable personality, but understand the importance of keeping the creatures contained and the public safe. Leeds wouldn't be a bumbling Clouseau-like character, but a competent military officer deserving of his rank. His relationship with Cross would be antagonistic, on his part, as Project Magnet was seen as the least expensive way for the military to work with Cross while still being involved. Leeds resents Cross for this. However, as the fissures get more and more dangerous, Leeds sees clearly the need to stabilise and contain their effects, and works well with the rest of the team, especially Dylan. After the very public killing of Toby by the Albertosaurus, the military takes over complete control of the detection system, putting Leeds in charge. Cross, aware that this means his plans are in danger, recruits Mac to his cause to work against them. As with Cross, this version of the character would have been played by someone older. And as with Cross, the show already gave us a perfectly suitable replacement in the mustachioed Louis Ferreira.


Finch was an interesting character in exactly one episode. Problem was, the show had no idea of how to use her, and so she would disappear for long stretches, she'd alternatively be compassionate, or antagonistic, or both in the same scene, hell, even in the same line of dialogue. In my version, she'd be a recurring villain, and ultimately being close to the season's Big Bad. Former CEO of Cross Photonics, and current CEO of the mysterious Sun Group, a former rival of Cross'. She would appear infrequently, still bitter at Cross for destroying the company she had worked to build. As Cross begins to reappear in public, Finch would take an interest in what he'd been up to during his time away, at first presented like she was concerned about competition. In the wake of the public Albertosaurus attack that kills Toby, it would be revealed that Finch had seen footage of Cross' wife's death at the claws of a raptor, and had taken this information to the Sun Group, who had been doing their own research into the fissures, looking for profitable uses to time travel (the actual series' military intentions would make far more sense the context of Big Business). In the penultimate episode, they are discovered to have been running tourist groups back into the past through a fissure they managed to stabilise, allowing the rich to walk through the past (if you're going to rip off Ray Bradbury's title, you might as well rip off the plot as well).

Episode One

Creature: Lycaenops
Focus: Dylan
Elements: The first episode would focus on introducing Dylan to the audience, and through her, introducing the world of the fissures to the audience. All the other characters and the events would be previously established in universe, but be strange and new to Dylan, as they are to us. The first episode would do next to nothing to explain specific things, simply throw Dylan into the environment and force her to survive.

Episode Two
Creature: Pteranodon
Focus: Dylan
Elements: This is the episode where the viewer would get to know the other characters, and also see how out of her depth Dylan is. What would be most important is that the character's personalities would be the focus of the introduction, not necessarily their motivations. The Pteranodon attacks would also be territorial rather then food gathering, since they were too fragile to attack animals for food. The climax would take place on the roof of a tall building, and result in Cross acquiring a clutch of eggs, which he would turn over to Leeds as "incentive."

Episode Three
Creature: Brontoscorpio
Focus: Mac
Elements: The third episode would be a reworking of the Sisiutl episode, with the following differences: the attacks, while beginning on the oil pipeline, would move closer to public swimming areas, adding to the tension of stopping the creature before children get hurt. Second, while most of the episode would build up to the suggestion that the creature was a shark or ichthyosaur-type thing, the reveal would be of the sea scorpion. Mac and Toby would be at the centre of the episode, perhaps giving Mac a fear of water to provide some immediate conflict, but with more focus on establishing Mac's involvement in the project, his past, and his relationship with Toby, which will be important later on.


Episode Four
Creature: Bugs
Focus: Cross
Elements: Angelika Finch and the Sun Group would be introduced here, at a tech conference in a hotel. After a bug is killed by the team, previously laid eggs begin hatching. The episode would feature the first public appearance of Cross since his wife died. More information, or the public story of it, would start to fill in and Dylan would begin to sympathise with Cross a bit. By introducing Finch, the character histories can add drama, especially to Toby, who might have been torn between her two former employers. It would be suggested in this episode that Cross' wife's death has a fair amount of mystery surrounding it, with even a suggestion that Cross killed her.


Episode Five 
Creature: Ornitholestes
Focus: Toby
Elements: This wouldn't change that much from the original episode Babes in the Woods, obviously without the Cross/Finch subplot. It would fill in Toby's back story, though switching the personality types of her and the former girlfriend, which is where the relationship ultimately broke down. This episode would also feature the strongest foreshadowing of the Mac/Toby relationship, as he demonstrates hostility towards the former female flame.

Episode Six 
Creature: Triceratops
Focus: Leeds
Elements: The main focus would be Leeds, and his difficulty in running an operation he has very little funding for, and ultimately no control over. It would make clear that the military, while interested in the fissures, has no interest in using the fissures, and that they want to protect the public, nothing else. In this version of the show, the military isn't going to be the villains.

Episode Seven 
Creature: Pachycephalosaurus
Focus: Cross
Elements: While the team attempts to subdue a Pachy within their own facility, left behind after a fissure closed, the animal causes damage to a door, leading the team into Cross' hidden vault, which among other things, contains the frozen corpse of Mac. The episode would flash back and forth between three years previously and current, examining the day that Cross' wife died of a raptor inflicted wound, and how Cross was saved from Mac, wearing an ARC coat.


Episode Eight
Creature: Titanoboa
Focus: Mac
Elements: Mac has an emotional breakdown concerning the revelations of the previous episode, and the episode would follow how he tries to cope with his new understanding of reality. During this crisis, a Titanoboa hides in a botanical garden. The episode would end with Toby and Mac commencing a romantic relationship. Finch would return, offering Cross the opportunity to make up for past mistakes by coming to work with Sun on whatever it is that he's spent his time doing. This would be the first indications that Sun knows more then they should.

Episode Nine 
Creature: Albertosaurus
Focus: Toby
Elements: This would pick up with the relationship between Mac and Toby. An Albertosaurus appearing in the middle of Vancouver, and rampaging causes trouble, as the military attempts to cover it up and the team seems ineffective in stopping it. While the event spreads over the internet, the episode culminates with Toby being killed in a last ditch effort to stop the creature.

Episode Ten
Creature: Daemonsaurus
Focus: Leeds
Elements: Leeds takes full control of the project, having to deal with the media fall out and attempted cover up, and the grief of the team, as Cross retreats from active duty. A pack of daemonsaurus is a background occurrence, the weight of the episode being on the emotional turmoil of the team, and the change over to military control. The episode would end with Cross approaching Mac and offering an opportunity to make things right.

Episode Eleven 
Creature: Titanis
Focus: Dylan
Elements: Dylan reflects on her experiences since she learned of the fissures, her involvement with Cross and his team, and what she intends to do in the future. It would also see Mac return to duty, and the concern the others have for him in what they assumed would be a difficult time, which he seems unaffected by (his pact with Cross gives him new purpose). Terror birds are my favourite non-dinosaur extinct creature, so I'd be content on this episode being creature heavy, that and as a single person coming up with these ideas, I've pretty much run out.

Episode Twelve
Creature: Raptors
Focus: Dylan
Elements: A camera is found in rock next to a dinosaur skeleton during a dig. Finch returns, looking for Cross. Leeds learns that Sun Group has been researching the fissures for as long as Cross, looking for commercial applications. Since the Albertasaurus attack, they'd been leading tours into the past via a fissure they were able to stabilise. Dylan agrees to go with a team into the past to locate the tourists. Finding them, they are ambushed by a pack of raptors. Meanwhile, Cross discovers what Sun has done. Finch attempts to explain their logic, in finding ways to help the planet. In the past, Conner Temple and an ARC team arrive to drive off the raptor pack.

Episode Thirteen

Creature: Raptors
Focus: Cross
Elements: The tourists are returned mostly safe, but Cross believes that the Sun Group's technology is capable of allowing him to institute his plan. However, the Sun researches suggests that the distortions allow the fissures to open and cross only thousands, if not millions of years. He'd have to cross the other side. He goes through, with Dylan and Mac, and begins to try to manipulate the fissure to send him to the day of his wife's death. Conner warns them to stop, that trying to change the fissures themselves can cause problems (this holds true with the British series), let alone time. Cross alters the fissure as the raptor pack, having tracked the tourists to the fissure, attack. One escapes through the fissure, with Mac giving chase, in Conner's ARC jacket (which he gets a hold of through contrived circumstance). Cross and Dylan deactivate the manipulator, causing the fissure to revert. They step through back into the present, to a world where Cross' wife survived, Toby is alive, and the commercialisation of the fissures has lead to an entire industry based around the past.

This would give the series in a new foundation moving forward. Cross' arc would continue as he is forced to accept his role in changing the world, not necessarily for the better. Does getting his wife back make up for the damage he has caused elsewhere? His character's evolution to a less obsessed, more guilt-ridden and helpful character would begin here, basically a move from villain, to anti-hero, to hero. Dylan's role would continue to evolve, as she becomes more worn down by everything, and risks becoming as cold as Cross once was. The support they give each other as the only original timeline characters, would make them grow closer. But that is getting well ahead of things.

Would, if this bit of internet happens to fall back through an anomaly and lands on the desktops of Impossible Pictures years ago, have made a better series of Primeval: New World? Probably not.

But what it wouldn't have been is what we got, and that might have been something.
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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.

5 comments :

  1. I am according with your opinion. This serie could have been better and it is terrible that all creatures are called dinosaurs. I don´t understand why they did this: Different writers for chapters, filler, characters that they don´t have any idea to do, etc.
    The ideas for the serie are good, better that original.
    Congratulations

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    Replies
    1. This is the danger with giving a whole season order to an untested series: there is no oppurtunity to change things based on how the show is being received. By the time people (weren't) watching, there was nothing the producers could do but sit back and take it.

      Thanks for reading.

      Delete
  2. I totally agree with the article. One thing about PNW that's continually frustrated me was it seemed to keep and discard the wrong elements of the UK series. On one hand it keeps storylines that are just pale copies of the original but then changes up the time travel mechanics (one thing i thought the UK show did well)for no reason it seems. All this show did was make me long for more season 1-3 Primeval. The most excited I was in the show was when Connor was on screen but they never had him do anything, eve in the finale he was standing around for like 20 minutes. And never look at seasons 4-5 I don't know what those seasons were but they certainly weren't primeval.

    On a different note, I thoroughly enjoy your blog and have found myself either vehemently agreeing or disagreeing with your writings on a regular basis. Just wanted to take this moment to say thank you for the opinions whether I agree or not it's been a damn good read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. Genuinely, I'm glad to hear that. After a year of doing this, I haven't had a lot of feedback that wasn't "Star Wars is awesome, you suck" oriented. I like writing this stuff, and if you like reading it then we both win, I guess. Or at least, loose in a way less then ordinary.

      As for Primeval, I can only hope this is the last we see of this franchise. The Americans have a film buried in some development hell somewhere, but you'd think after being cancelled several times on multiple continents, they'd let it stay extinct.

      I apologize for that. There really is no need or excuse for puns.

      Delete
  3. It's interesting that you want to make Finch a villain. One thing I really liked about P:NW was the realisation by the end that there had BEEN NO VILLAINS. Lots of antagonism, but everyone: Cross, Finch, Leeds and even Colonel Hall had all done what seemed like the right thing to based on the information available. It was a very refreshing change from Helen "For the Evulz" Cutter.

    I actually thought Finch's character made perfect sense.

    From Day One she's been looking out for Evan. She sees his obsessed with the anomalies and confronting deadly prehistoric creatures and knows that sooner or later he's going to end up dead. (She probably sees that partly as a death wish from survivor guilt and with some justification). So she tries to get him to hand over responsibility to the proper authorities. When he won't, she considers leaving rather than sticking around to see him get himself killed.

    They begin a relationship which ends when she realises how badly he's still hung up on his dead wife. So now she's feeling spurned and angry, but still wanting to protect Evan from his own obsession. So she takes up a position with Project Magnet which gives her the leverage to FORCE him to stop.

    You hit the nail on the head when you said she'd 'be both compassionate and antagonistic, sometimes within the same scene'. That's because she was being antagonistic for (mostly) compassionate reasons. Being an antagonist doesn't make you a one-dimensional villain or even a bad person. It just means your goals are opposed to those of the protagonist.

    I don't share your vitriol for the original show, but your version sounds quite good. Have you considered writing it up as a fanfic or even a novel? With the possible exception of Connor you've changed almost every aspect of the show beyond recognition anyway - change the names and you have a new, original property...

    ReplyDelete