Back from the brink of death at the hands of the evil ITV Cancellation Monster, the new series of Primeval (now bankrolled by international broadcasters and UKTV’s Watch channel) has a point to prove.
Wasting little time, the opening episode of Series 4 takes us straight in with a new team, overseen by the immaculately suited Lester (Ben Miller), watching over proceedings with air of someone who has just smelt something funny. Hard-man Becker (Ben Mansfield) is still with the team and reliable as ever, giving hope to all disposable ‘red-shirts’ everywhere, but there’s a new team leader, Matt (Ciarán McMenamin) – calm, Irish, twinkly eyed and clearly up to no good. Then there’s a new female techy in the form of perky Jess , who appears to be a bit useless but is clearly competing with Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan for the Shortest Skirt On Primetime TV award.
The team’s home/fortress, the high-tech Anomaly Research Centre (ARC), is now partly funded by a wealthy private financier (played by Deep Space Nine‘s Doctor Bashir), which immediately makes you wonder whether it will be similarly compromised like other public private financing initiatives in real life. Will we see a wing of the ARC rented out to a firm of architects or perhaps predators only neutralised during peak hours due to ‘streamlining’?
Meanwhile, still stuck in the prehistoric era are regular team members Abby and Connor. Abby’s look has understandably gone from punk to grunge due to a lack of haircare products, while Connor (despite getting to spend a year alone with Hannah from S Club 7) is moping around looking for a way to return to the future… or present… whatever.
There’s much back and forth between the fractured teams before the inevitable pay-off as Abby and Connor finally make it through an anomaly that they manage to summon by shaking an overgrown remote control. In returning, however, they do manage to unleash a Spinosaurus upon everyone, which requires some serious attention and gives the meandering episode a big set piece finale.
Somewhere amongst all this is the seed of this series’ underlying plot, as Matt meets a dusty academic-type not dissimilar to Tintin’s Professor Calculus and the pair talk obscurely of a ‘mission’, hinting at a hidden agenda for our new Gallic leading man.
Whilst some homegrown genre shows have seemed terribly cheap and laboured (hello, Demons!), there was and still is something quite charming and old school about Primeval. Its production values are extraordinarily high for a show of this nature and it stands up as a cracking testament to contemporary British ‘cult’ entertainment.
Airs at 7pm on Saturday 1st January 2011 on ITV1.