Big Monsters Are Back!

The first two episodes of season five of Primeval suggest a series in top form.

Primeval has somehow never quite managed to reach its potential.  There have been perfectly enjoyable episodes and Ok episodes; remarkably there has never really been a bad episode. On the other hand neither has the series delivered anything classic and what support it had amongst the public in the early days has ebbed away. ITV must sense this as they have waited more than a year to show season 5 long after it debuted on Watch and was subsequently released on DVD. Shoving it on in the midst of the sports filled summer schedules hardly displays confidence.

He soon regretted inviting the neighbours to the picnic

While this is officially called season 5, it is part of the same block filmed in Ireland during 2010 that also constitutes season 4. This was a surprising rescue package for the show after what must be the shortest cancellation in television history before a co-production deal meant that the first 7 episodes debuted on ITV, these 6 on Watch. Season 4 was a difficult season to like with a central plot that brought in some new characters that seemed, if it were possible, even less distinctive than the ones they replaced. Crucially Jason Fleming who had done so much to enliven season 3 was missing and you could feel the energy rise when he popped up in the last episode.

Despite the filming schedule, the first two episodes of season 5 do seem different, almost a return to the simple joys of the first two seasons. 5.1 deals with some large borrowing creatures that seem to be from the future.  The episode also reveals Project New Dawn is a device that Burton hopes will harness the power of the anomalies to provide unlimited energy   we also learn that Matt’s mission is to stop Connor whose involvement appears to lead to a bleak future for mankind. This plot seems like the most interesting the series has done and bodes well for the season. Writer Chris Lang utilises the cast well- Hannah Spearritt whose function in season 4 seemed to be to hang about looking bored, gets more to do while the enigmatic Irishman from the future Matt starts to become vaguely interesting.

 As usual though, it is Ben Miller and Andrew Lee-Potts who inject character into the scenario. The former has an amusing sub plot in which Lester thinks he is up for knighthood, the latter spends much of the episode trapped in a shopping centre with the creatures. If Primeval is sometimes guilty of an electronic game level of emotion, there is a sense here of real jeopardy with director Mark Everest employing a lively style that takes us into the action.  The photo realism of the creatures is better than ever; there are a couple of shots where Connor is cornered where you would swear they have hired some real life giant bugs!  The result is a better episode than all of season 4 and a promising start.

"You do know I get all the funny lines don't you mate?"
Episode 5.2 sees Matt, Abby and Connor on board a naval submarine which has encountered an anomaly through which have emerged some large undersea dinosaurs. The narrow passages of the vessel make the episode tense and well choreographed and there is a genuine rapport between the characters. One of the show’s perennial issues has been the way the dialogue seems unnatural; here that is less of a problem as writer Steve Bailie equips them with more fluid dialogue that differentiates the characters properly.
There are also two strong guest roles- Allen Leach plays Officer Sam Leonard, the only sailor left awake after the initial peril who has to deal with incredible situations, especially when the sub is taken through a wormhole. He would make a great addition to the regular cast. Bosco Hogan is Admiral Marston who is tasked with nuking the wormhole inciting several memorable clashes with Lester. The bluff senior official is a tricky role to get right but Hogan does so while matching Ben Miller too. Another top notch episode – could season 5 be the best one of all?

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