Primeval Review

Primeval was a British science fiction series that ran from 2007-2012. Though many dismissed it at first as just being a Doctor Who knock off, (due to the fact that it also revolved around time travel.) The series still proved to be very successful both in its native UK and abroad, particularly in Europe. It has since developed a cult following.

I must confess for a long while I too dismissed the series. I was a fan when it first aired. So much so I bought it all on DVD, but after it finished, I came to buy into the received wisdom that it was just yet another attempt by ITV at doing Doctor Who. On a recent re watch however I have found it to be much better than I remembered, and overall I would say that it is actually one of the best British cult series. I wouldn’t say it is quite on a par with Classic Doctor Who, or Red Dwarf, or Blake’s 7, but its definitely a classic nonetheless.

Series Overview

In 1999 Helen Cutter mysteriously goes missing.

8 years later her husband Professor Nick Cutter and his friend Dr Stephen Hart discover that Anomalies, holes in the very fabric of space and time itself are appearing, allowing creatures from the past to enter into modern day. They along with a young student named Connor Temple, a zookeeper named Abby Maitland, form a team supervised by Claudia Brown and James Lester from the British Government’s Home Office to track down and contain the Anomalies wherever they appear.

Nick later discovers that his wife went through one of the anomalies 8 years ago, and has since been exploring all of time itself through them. She has also apparently found some way to control them. Helen offers Nick a chance to explore with her, but he refuses and though the Home office manage to capture her in order to learn more about the anomalies. She ultimately manages to escape again however after tricking them. Helen also warns Nick that she has seen the future and that eventually mankind will be destined to die out, and the team later do encounter a creature from the future.

Over the course of their adventures together Nick begins to develop feelings for Claudia Brown, whilst Connor begins to fall in love with Abby, who at first does not share his feelings.

Sadly after an incursion into the past, time changes and Claudia Brown is seemingly wiped from history, whilst the home office is replaced by the Anomaly Research Centre the ARC.

Cutter and Stephen’s friendship is also strained when Cutter discovers that he and Helen had an affair.

A woman named Jenny Lewis who looks identical to Claudia Brown comes to work for the ARC with Cutter believing her to be this timeline’s version of her.

Helen meanwhile begins to work for a man named Leek, who works at the ARC. Leek begins to capture creatures that come through the anomalies with Helen’s help, as she supplies him with advanced technology from the future that allows him to control them. Leek wants power, whilst Helen simply wants to see if she can change history by changing the future by helping Leek come to power in the present. Helen’s end game is to prevent the devastation that not only wipes out humanity, but almost all life on the planet earth itself.

The team are able to foil Leeks plan, with Leek himself being torn apart by his own pet Future predators. Unfortunately Stephen is also killed by the creatures whilst stopping them which greatly affects the team.

Dr Sarah Paige later joins the team whilst Captain Becker takes over as Stephen’s replacement. Unfortunately not long after, Helen attacks the ARC using an army of clones which she creates through more stolen technology from the future. She kills Nick believing that his research on the anomalies will help to bring about the catastrophe she has seen in the future.

After Nick dies, Connor takes over his research on the anomalies whilst a man named Danny Quinn, whose brother went missing in the anomalies many years earlier takes over as the team leader.

Helen later murders Christine Johnson, another government official whose experiments also helped to destroy the earth. However even this fails to change history and so Helen, by this point having gone completely insane decides in order to save the earth, to wipe humanity from existence itself. Helen travels backwards to the time of the first Apes who began to walk upright, humanities first ancestors and plans to kill them all.

Danny, Connor and Abby follow her. All four of them travel through a few different periods first. The devastated future, the time of the dinosaurs and finally to the time of the first proto humans. Only Danny follows Helen to where the proto humans are as Connor is injured and he and Abby are ultimately trapped in the time of the Dinosaurs.

Helen manages to kill a few early humans, but before she can finish the job she is ultimately killed by a Raptor that follows her and Danny through the anomaly and knocks her off a cliff.

Unfortunately Danny is ultimately trapped in this time period as he is unable to reach the anomaly before it closes.

After a year in the time of the Dinosaurs, Abby and Connor are able to return to their own time.

In the year they have been away the ARC has changed. Matt Anderson has taken over Danny’s position as team leader, whilst among the teams new and expanded roster include Jess Parker a co-ordinator for the team and Philip Burton an entrepreneur who is funding the ARC in a public/private partnership with the government.

Connor soon begins working with Burton, his idol on a project to try and control the anomalies. The team meanwhile soon encounter a new enemy in the form of Ethan, a mysterious psychopathic time traveller. Ethan is part of a team who travel through time via the anomalies. All of the team are gradually killed except for Ethan and Emily. Ethan blames Emily for the death of his wife, who was the only person that could hold him back.

It is later revealed that Matt is in fact from the future. He comes from after the disaster Helen saw, when virtually all life on earth has been destroyed. He knows that it is something that happened in the present involving the anomalies that led to the disaster and he hopes to stop it in order to save the world.

Matt initially suspects that it is Ethan who will bring about the catastrophe. Later however when Danny manages to return to the present through an anomaly, it is revealed that Ethan is in fact Danny’s brother. The reason Ethan began killing people was to hurt Danny whom he blamed for being trapped in another time.

Ethan manages to escaped the ARC and flees through another anomaly and Danny in order to prevent him from harming more people follows after him. Before he leaves however, Danny warns both Matt and Emily that Burton cannot be trusted. Danny discovered on Helen’s corpse several documents she had with her that had Burton’s name on them.

Connor meanwhile discovers that the anomalies will very soon multiply leading to a disaster. Thus he and Burton attempt to try and find a way to control them. Matt soon discovers that their experiment which Burton calls New Dawn is ironically what caused the destruction of earth in the future.

Helen before her death aided Burton in his experiments in the hopes that he would exterminate humanity through them, knowing full well how dangerous they were.She played on Burton who genuinely believed that they would help people’s vanity. Though ironically at the same time Helen in her attempts to save the earth by destroying humanity, has actually brought about the catastrophe she hoped to avoid.

Unfortunately Burton realises what Helen’s true motives where and how deadly his experiment is only when its too late. Burton sacrifices himself in a vain attempt to stop it, but sadly he fails. Fortunately Matt is finally able to prevent the experiment from destroying the earth in time and erase the future he saw from unfolding.

The series ends with Matt and Emily becoming a couple, Connor and Abby becoming engaged, the apocalyptic future averted and the general public aware of the anomalies.

However there are still a few loose ends left. For instance it is not known what became of Danny and Ethan. Also in the final shot of series 5, Matt comes into contact with a double of himself who gives him a warning to go back to his own time before its too late.

Primeval ran from 2007 to 2012. A spin off series titled Primeval New World began in 2013. Though the franchise is currently on a hiatus, its co-creator Tim Haines has said that there he does plan to continue the series one day at some point.


Nick Cutter

Nick Cutter was the series main protagonist for its first two seasons as well as part of season 3. He was played by Douglas Henshall.

Cutter was portrayed as something of a maverick. Described as “a rank amateur who was exceedingly good at what he did” Cutter often had little time for those in charge and would often go against the rules, sometimes even just based on a hunch he had. He could be quite arrogant, cold and even distant to those around him, as well as quite grumpy, rude and scathing.

Still despite this he did genuinely care for his team mates such as Connor with whom he developed a very close friendship with. In his dying moments he entrusts Connor to carry on his work. He also fell in love with both Claudia Brown and Jenny Lewis her counterpart in the new time line too, both of whom felt the same way.

Cutter ultimately was killed by his ex wife Helen who came to believe that his work with the Anomalies would lead to the destruction of the earth. The reason the character was written out of the series despite his popularity was because Douglas Henshall wanted to leave the series.

Of the shows 3 leading men I’d say that Cutter was the best. I liked all 3 of the shows main characters. I think it did quite a good job of having 3 such different characters from another.

Still Cutter was the best for me as in many ways I think that Cutter was really that type of hero that the British do so well. The maverick genius who is part of the establishment but has disdain for it.

A lot of people have said that the difference between British heroes and American heroes is that American heroes are often members of the establishment, such as the crew of the Enterprise with Captain Picard in particular being a very by the book hero.

Even those who are vigilante’s still respect authority where ever they go. Batman for instance works side by side with Commissioner Gordon and never undermines him. He even tells him in the animated series that he’s just the night shift, whilst Gordon deals with the crime of the city 24 hours a day.

British heroes meanwhile its not so much that they are anti establishment as many of them still work for the establishment. Its more that they work for it, but ultimately despise it and undermine it every step of the way and show off how incompetent it actually is, which in some ways is better than simply having an totally anti establishment hero.

Examples of this type of hero include Sherlock Holmes the consulting detective who enjoys showing up the police and everyone else around him. Bernard Quatermass, and even the Doctor at various points, such as most notably in his third incarnation when he worked for UNIT. Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor was never done upstaging the Brigadier, dismissing him as a pompous military idiot, or winding up petty government officials and seeing through their web of lies and bullshit. Even James Bond follows this template too albeit to a lesser extent.

Characters like Holmes, The Doctor, and Quatermass always have no social skills, are somewhat arrogant, never play by the rules, and often comes up with an idea that sounds completely nonsensical yet somehow manages to save the day. They often also have to have a sidekick who is in awe of them, or who is perhaps the only person who is more on their wave length, and consequently the only person they don’t look on as an idiot. They also often have a government official character who they clash with over different methods, but who comes to respect them.

Cutter follows all off these tropes beat for beat. Like the Doctor and Quatermass he works for an organisation designed to track down the paranormal (ARC, UNIT, British Rocket Group), like them he is an unconventional professor who has little time for “civil servants”, “pen pushers” or “office boys”. He is often rude to and dismissive of them. Like them he often comes up with ideas that no one else agrees with that turn out to be correct, such as in Episode 1.5 where he believes that the Pteranodon did not kill the Golfer, or in Episode 2.4 where he goes against Lesters orders and very nearly gets Abby killed, but is ultimately proven right and manages to save the day.

Like them he is somewhat lacking in social skills, is arrogant and quite grumpy too. Connor meanwhile can be seen as his Watson, Jo Grant, figure the supporting character who idolises and looks up to him, whilst Abby fulfils more of a Liz Shaw, Sarah Jane role in that she is his sidekick who is more on his wave length. Finally Lester can be seen as his Brigadier, M type of character, his more conventional boss who is frustrated with his methods, but has a grudging respect for Cutter as he realises he needs him. As Lester himself admits about Cutter he is “a fine line between inspiration and madness”.

To me Cutter is really the perfect British hero and I think Henshall was great as the character. In many ways much like the actors who have played the Doctor, I feel he brought a lot of his own personality to the role. When you look at him in real life, you can see he has that same kind of grumpy, dry sense of humour that Nick has.

I think its a real shame that Henshall left after just 2 and a half series. Had he stayed longer, Nick could have been remembered as an all time classic character, but sadly he just wasn’t there long enough.

I remember being very upset when Cutter left. To me Henshall was Primeval. Me, my friends and family used to just call the show “Dougie” instead of Primeval. I hadn’t read any spoilers for series 3 and so naturally it was quite a shock to see Cutter suddenly get killed off. Whilst I think the show did manage to overcome this and produce two more fantastic series, ultimately till the end a part of me was always missing Dougie.

Danny Quinn

The series second leading man. Danny Quinn was the shows main protagonist throughout its third season. He sadly was written out at the end of series 3 which ended with him trapped in the past seemingly forever, though he did return in the final episode of series 4 for a single guest appearance. Danny originally began as a police officer who learned about the existence of anomalies when his brother fell through one into the future. Danny later joined the team as its leader and helped them defeat Helen Cutter once and for all. He was last seen travelling through another anomaly in order to catch his brother, who in the years he had spent in a hostile time alone, had gone insane. What became of them both sadly was not known.

He was played by Jason Flemyng.

I wasn’t as keen on Danny as I was on Nick, but I still thought that he was a very strong lead none the less.

Jason Flemyng is an actor I have a lot of time and I felt he gave a great performance. Much like Henshall I think he brought certain aspects of his own personality to the role, with Danny being a much more physical character than Nick. There are certain scenes with Danny that I couldn’t imagine Cutter doing as they require much more of a straight forward action hero which Flemyng obviously is. Henshall was better for the Holmsian, Doctorish, Quatermass type of hero, but you could never imagine him coping with some of the more physically strenuous scenes that Danny does.

Danny was a much more laid back character than Cutter. He generally tended to face danger in a more jokey, light hearted way. He was something of a maverick, but it was in a different way to Nick. Nick didn’t do as he was told, as you got the impression that he was someone who actually had greater knowledge of what was going on than anyone around him. With Danny he seemed more like someone who was actually quite reckless. He tended to act without thinking and on impluse, but he was excellent at being able to improvise his way out of tight situations.

My only problems with Danny where that I felt he didn’t have quite as strong a chemistry with the rest of the cast as Cutter had. It wasn’t that he didn’t gel with them or anything, but its just that Cutter had such a strong dynamic with all of the supporting characters. He and Stephen had a real brothers in arms dynamic, whilst he had a very strong Holmes/Watson Doctor/Jo Grant type of relationship with Connor and Abby, and a great confrontational Bond/Q Doctor/Brigadier type of relationship with Lester.

Sadly Danny I don’t really think ever had as clear a relationship with anyone in the team as Nick did. Ironically the character he played off of the best, Jenny Lewis was only in three episodes with him which is a shame. Quinn seemed quite keen on Jenny and it was a shame they didn’t get a chance to explore their relationship further. Still I suppose had they gone down a Jenny, Danny romance then it would have been too similar to Nick Cutter which is another problem I had with Danny.

Whilst Danny as a character was almost the complete opposite of Cutter, sadly his story arc was somewhat similar. Danny much like Cutter had lost someone he loved through the anomalies, who had gone insane and become evil after spending years away from humanity.

Still I do think its a shame that we never got to see a proper resolution to the Danny/Ethan arc nonetheless and the character was overall a great replacement for Nick.

Matt Anderson

The series third leading character. Matt came from far in the future in a time when virtually all life on the planet had been destroyed. He was sent backwards in time to try and find the source of the catastrophe that would devastate the earth and find a way to stop it from ever happening. He was played by Ciaren McMenamin.

Now initially I found Matt to be a rather boring character. Of all the three leads he was certainly the most conventional and had the most boring and bland personality at first.

He wasn’t an actively bad or annoying character or anything like that and McMenamin was perfectly fine in the role. He was dashing and likable enough to be the hero, and he was more than capable of doing the action scenes. Still it felt like a bit of a shame that after two such strong and unusual leading men we were getting what was apparently just a generic action hero.

Over time however they were able to flesh Matt out to the point where by the end of the series he had arguably the most interesting and complex story arc of the three main leads.

It was quite interesting having a character come from the future and took the show away from just being a generic monster of the week series.

I think Matt really shook up the dynamic of the series and whilst he may have got off to a slow start in series 4, by the end of his time on the show he was a very engaging and dynamic character in his own right.

Helen Cutter

The main villain of the series. Helen first became lost in the anomalies 8 years before the events of the series began. She found a way to travel through them and visited several different periods. Somewhere along the way she found a device that could control the anomalies. Helen however was later driven insane when she visited a future period and saw that mankind would be responsible for a disaster that would devastate the entire surface of the planet with only hideous mutations existing.

Helen made many attempts to prevent this appocalypse from happening but they all ended in a dismal failure, even when she killed those she believed where directly responsible, such as her own husband Nick Cutter and Christine Johnson. Ultimately Helen came to believe the only way she could save the earth was to exterminate all of mankind itself. She came to see mankind as a blight upon the earth because of what we would eventually do to it.

She travelled backwards in time to when the first proto humans had evolved and hoped to kill them off in order to erase mankind from existence. Unfortunately for her whilst she was able to evade Danny, Connor and Abby, a Raptor that followed her from the age of the Dinosaurs (which she had stopped in first) attacked her from behind, knocking her off the edge of a cliff to her death.

I loved Helen’s death. To start with it was a great irony that she was killed by an animal rather than a human being, and also I just love the fact that it was a Dinosaur that saved all of humanity. The fact that it was one of the most famously vicious and fearsome dinosaurs that did it is just even better.

Helen I feel was an excellent character. I think her story arc was interesting as throughout the series we were kept guessing as to what her true motives were, and to begin with she seemed to be more of a likable anti hero, and even had a few heroic moments such as saving Claudia Brown from the Pterosaurs. Ultimately however over time we see what a truly dangerous sociopath she truly is and we also see her get dragged deeper and deeper into madness, the more her attempts to save the earth fail.

I think Juliet Aubrey gave a very subtle performance as Helen. She was able to show how damaged and completely unhinged Helen was without chewing the scenery. Helen seemed calm and normally kept her cool, but there was just something about her that was unnerving. I also loved the way she looked like she was genuinely in pain and anguish all the time in the shows third season, as she kept trying to avert the disaster she saw in the future. It really showed that what she had seen had just completely broken her as a person.

She was also a somewhat more 3 dimensional character too. She wasn’t just a monster. She actually believed that what she was doing was for the greater good and she took no pleasure in killing her victims either. She actually had tears in her eyes when she shot her own husband Nick.

At the same time though Helen was a genuinely menacing villain too. They didn’t hold back in showing us just how unstable and dangerous this woman was. Though she may have regretted it, ultimately she does still gun her own husband down in cold blood. What’s worse is the way that she kills him when he comes to rescue her after she is trapped in a burning building! My favourite moment though is when she kills Christine Johnson. Johnson tries to reason with Helen, tries to bribe her, but it becomes apparent that there is nothing she can say or do to save her life.

Johnson always saw herself as ruthless and determined, but when she goes up against Helen she is out of her league. As Helen herself says Christine is just an ambitious little civil servant who has absolutely no idea what she is dealing with, whilst Helen is a complete psychopath who thinks she can alter time itself! We also see in contrast to how she killed Nick a more unusually sadistic side to Helen’s persona when she kills Christine. She could have just shot Christine but she instead prolongs her agony and forces her through her own anomaly, where she is eaten alive by a future predator.

I also liked the way they didn’t drag the characters story out for too long either. When she was dead, she didn’t magically come back from the grave, though at the same time they were able to link her to Philip Burton in a way that was quite nice too.

Overall one of the best characters in the series and one of the best performances from Juliet Aubrey too.

Oliver Leek

Leek was the main villain of the shows second series. He hoped to create an army of creatures from both the past and the future in order to gain power for himself. Ultimately however when Nick Cutter broke the device he used to control the Future Predators Leek himself was torn to pieces by them. He was played by Karl Theobald.

Leek I felt was quite an interesting character. In contrast to Helen who was this charismatic, somewhat alluring villain, Leek was just a miserable, weasly little nobody and that was really what motivated him. All his life he had been put down, bullied, ignored, even by Lester his boss and so naturally he was desperate for power.

Whilst this might have made him in some ways more sympathetic than Helen in other ways it made him worse. Due to a lifetime of being made to feel inferior Leek relished in the opportunity to hurt, torture and even kill others as demonstrated when he taunted Lester after leaving him at the mercy of a future predator, or when he locked Abby and Connor in a room with a Smilodon and forced Cutter to watch, an act which managed to appal even Helen herself!

Also much like Helen his death has a wonderful irony to it as he is torn to pieces by the very creatures he had hoped to control, mere minutes after having laughed at Cutters suggestion that they couldn’t control them.

Philip Burton

The main villain of series 5 Philip in contrast to Leek and Helen is more of a misguided character. He genuinely believes that his experiments with the anomalies will save the world and bring about an end to the chaos. Ultimately what causes his downfall is his own arrogance, and pride.

We see many different sides to this character throughout the course of the series. On the one hand we see how utterly ruthless he is when he does things like leave Connor to be torn apart by a Dinosaur, yet at the same time we also see a more noble side to his persona when he sacrifices himself. I also love the way his sacrifice in a final cruel irony is completely and utterly pointless too.

Overall I think Alexander Siddig did a good job with this character making him seem charming and likable, yet even at the very beginning adding a certain arrogance to him that made it perfectly believable when he went off the deep end later in the series.

I think Primeval benefited from having three very different and very strong villains. Its main villains where every bit as different from one another as the three leading characters where. With Helen we had the master manipulator whose true true motives we were kept guessing at, with Leek we had the petty sadist, and with Burton we had a more sympathetic, well meaning villain who unlike the others actually did manage to redeem himself, even if it was sadly for naught.

Connor Temple

Connor is really the heart of the show. He along with Abby I’d say are the two best developed characters. Connor begins as really kind of a male Jo Grant to Cutters Doctor. He is his sidekick who looks up to him and idolizes him in every way, but as time goes on we begin to see him move out of Cutters shadow and even question his orders. One of my favourite moments is in episode 2.4 where Cutter is forced to go to Connor for help. I don’t think you should ever undermine the main character too much, but at the same time its good to show how valuable the supporting characters are to the lead too, and this scene really showed how much trust and faith Cutter had in Connor and his abilities.

After Cutter’s death, Connor really came into his own as he became the teams leading expert on prehistoric life and anomalies. By the end of the series he was shown to have become an accomplished scientist and brave hero in his own right.

Not surprisingly as a result of his long time in the series, his lovable geeky persona (strangely enough though Connor is shown to be a fan of many genre series such as Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Blake’s 7, he is never shown to mention Doctor Who the series that Primeval is most often compared too. Perhaps that’s why?) and finally Andrew Lee Potts excellent performance, Connor is undoubtedly one of the most popular characters in the series.

James Lester

My favourite character. I am a huge Ben Miller fan overall so undoubtedly that is part of it, but still Lester is a great character. There wasn’t much to his character, but Miller’s wonderfully deadpan delivery of Lesters insults always made him a joy to watch.

As time went on however they did move Lester beyond the uptight pen pusher, showing him to be capable of defending himself from a future predator, and possess a genuine loyalty to the team against Christine Johnson.

Abby Maitland is probably the shows most well developed character. It was great seeing her go from the young, sweet animal lover to the hardened action hero in the later years of the series.

I think that we saw the effect of Abby’s stay during the time of the Dinosaurs than Connors. Abby seemed to become a lot harder and more cynical after living for a year alongside Dinosaurs than Connor who seemed to maintain his somewhat boyish nerdy persona. Though that’s not to say that Connor didn’t go through significant development as well, but I feel that we saw much stronger and more obvious changes in Abby.

Claudia Brown/Jenny Lewis

These two characters are the main love interest of Nick Cutter. They are the same person but in different timelines. There isn’t really that much difference between the two characters except that Jenny was a bit harder than Claudia, but by the end of her time on the show Jenny had softened up to the point where there wasn’t really any difference between them at all.

Claudia/Jenny was a great character. Her relationship with Nick was my favourite romance in the series. Connor and Abby where a very sweet couple, but I found the chemistry between Lucy Brown who played Claudia/Jenny and Douglas Henshall far more interesting.

I think there was so much more to Jenny’s character when they wrote her out. There was her friendship with Sarah which felt the most natural in the series since Cutter’s friendship with Stephen, her and Danny Quinn’s relationship had also just begun and also rather frustratingly she left the series just as she discovered the truth about who she had once been, which could have set up a wonderful story arc.

Her presence was greatly missed from the later episodes, but it was nice that we got to see her again in season 4 and that the character was given a happy ending too.

Stephen Hart

There wasn’t as much to Stephen. He was just kind of the more straight forward action guy of the first two seasons. Still his bromance with Cutter was great and I also found his relationship with Helen to be a nice twist too. His ending was also very touching and a real shock too as it was the first time we lost a major non villainous character.

Poor Steven got probably the most horrible death of any of the leading characters being ripped limb from limb by a menagerie of monsters.

Captain Becker

Again much like Steven there wasn’t as much to his character. He was still likable enough and there were some great moments of comedy with his character too. I also enjoyed his friendship with both Sarah and Jess though sadly in both cases we weren’t able to really explore either too much.

Sarah Paige

I really liked this character. I felt she played really well off of the other team members, Jenny Lewis in particular. I also think that she opened up whole new possibilities for the series. Through Sarah who was an expert on mythological creatures, the series began to toy with the idea of the anomalies being responsible for many ancient legends by allowing prehistoric creatures into the past.

Sadly however the character of Sarah simply wasn’t there long enough to really make an impact.


Sadly I didn’t think much of this character. I don’t hate her, but she didn’t really get that much to do other than stand around looking at computers. I much preferred Sarah to be honest as at least she opened up new possibilities through her status as an expert on ancient mythology.


Emily is Matt’s main love interest. I have somewhat conflicted feelings for Emily. On the one hand I think she was an interesting idea, a woman from the Victorian era who becomes part of a team of people from different era’s. Sadly however she never really became more than Matt’s love interest. With Claudia/Jenny she didn’t just seem like she was there to swoon over Cutter, where as sadly that’s all Emily really felt like which was a bit of waste.

Notable Creatures

Tyrannosaurus Rex

The T.Rex rampage is one of my fave moments in the entire series. Normally in Primeval the monsters tend to attack little isolated area’s like a shopping mall late at night, or they appear in the middle of the countryside, but here we see a Tyrannosaurus Rex loose in a big city. It was always a bit convenient the way that the anomalies would always open in tiny little isolated area’s I thought.

Remember that gun Matt uses one shot from that was enough to knock down a Spinosaurus. Look how many he fires in the vid below.


I always had a softspot for this creature. It is a synapsid a race of gigantic reptiles that ruled the earth before the Dinosaurs appeared. The Synapsids were almost wiped out by a mass extinction event worse than the one that killed the Dinosaurs. One small group of Synapsids however survived and later evolved into the first mammals. Through us, the Synapsids, after the Dinosaurs died out would later become the dominant life forms once again.

The Gorgonopsid therefore is actually much more closely related to YOU and I than it is to any Dinosaur. For this reason I have always found Synapsid’s particularly fascinating, but sadly they generally tend to get overlooked in popular culture.

I thought it was great to see them appear in Primeval. That was one of the best things about Primeval was the way it gave prehistoric creatures that we normally don’t get a chance to see even in documentaries, never mind adventure series, a chance in the spotlight. They still gave us the classics, Raptors, Sabre Toothed Cats and T-Rex, but at the same time it was good to see some of the more obscure prehistoric creatures get a turn.

My favourite Gorgonopsid moment by far is when it tangles with a Future Predator.

This scene, aside from being a thrilling action sequence, is a great subversion of expectations, as you would have expected the old, outdated creature to be slaughtered by the Future Predator, but the Gorgonopsid, shows the young upstart that the classics really are the best.

Mer Creature

A future monster, this creature it is hinted gave rise to myths about mermaids. I always wanted to learn more about the time this creature came from which is also the home era of a strange looking Future Shark too.

Such a shame we never got to see these two things fight. The Mer creatures play a fairly important role in the series as its while rescuing Abby from it that Connor finally reveals that he loves Abby, though it would be another year before they got together.


One of my favourite Dinosaurs. In real life this monster was even bigger than Tyrannosaurus Rex. Sadly in popular culture the role of the meat eater bigger than the T. Rex has been taken by Spinosaurus and Giganotosaurus has been somewhat overlooked. To be fair Spinosaurus was bigger than even Giganotosaurus, but still again its good to see a monster that you don’t normally see get a chance in the limelight.


Now I am not as fond of the big creepy crawlies. Whenever I used to see them on the next week bit “I’d be like oh great a disgusting episode”. Still this episode where Nick and Stephen were lost in the past, and had to face a whole host of giant scorpions bursting through the ground was one of my favourite ever episodes. The Bronto Scorpions where definitely among the shows most effective monsters. There was a real sense of paranoia, the way they could suddenly strike up from below the ground and drag you under. In a way they were like a prehistoric version of Tremors.

Future Predator

These guys are the most recurring monsters in the series. They are a highly intelligent, agile and relentless killers. They emerge after the downfall of humanity, and become the dominant life forms on earth.

The predators were the first creatures we saw from the future, and also the first fictional species introduced to the series too. I thought it was a wonderful idea to show us a monster from the future. It was one that didn’t really occur to me when I first started watching the series, but its just so obvious and it was really through the presence of the future predators, that the series I feel was able to expand beyond just simply being a monster of the week series.


Among the series most recurring monsters, the Raptors are also among the most popular among the fans.

I loved the way the Raptors in Primeval often had a somewhat heroic role, such as when the Raptor killed Helen Cutter, or when it murders Henry, another villainous character in series 5 and saves Matt and Emily in the process.

I always like it when people use really vicious meat eating Dinosaurs in a surprisingly heroic way. Its like the end of the first Jurassic Park film when the T. Rex ends up becoming the unexpected hero and kills the Raptors.

My Opinion Of The Series

Primeval I think managed to maintain a consistent quality throughout its run.

I am not sure which is my favourite series of the show. The great thing about Primeval was that it was really able to completely reinvent itself several times.

The first series is really more about the wonder of the discovery of the anomalies, whilst the second is about people like Leek abusing the anomalies, by capturing the creatures and using them as an army for his own benefit. The third series meanwhile I feel takes a much deeper look at man’s effect on the environment, as its this that ultimately motivates Helen Cutter to try and erase the human race from existence. Series 4 meanwhile focuses much more on the time travel element than ever before, whilst Series 5 takes us into the devastating future to a greater extent.

Though Nick was my favourite leading character I liked all of the shows characters. I don’t think there was a single unlikable main lead, and all of the villains were interesting and 3 dimensional characters too.

I think that Primeval’s greatest strength was in how strong and varied a premise it had however. Now some critics have slated its premise as being too limited. I can see why they might think that. At first glance it does just look like a series about portals opening up and monsters coming through. However when you look at it closely you can see its so much more than that.

To start with its really the best premise for any piece of Dinosaur fiction you can think of. Whilst Dinosaurs may be a fascinating subject, they are extremely difficult to use. How do you get creatures that died out 65 million years ago to appear in modern day?

Most people tend to just do a variation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. There is a valley, a plateau, an island somewhere where Dinosaurs survived to the present. Now and again you get the odd story that manages to be something more than just the Lost World again like say Godzilla, or Jurassic Park that has Dinosaurs being brought to life through cloning. Still even then you are still limited in terms of where you can put your Dinosaurs.

Primeval however thanks to the idea of the anomalies, can allow you to put a Dinosaur anywhere, in any time you want. Primeval can do a story about Dinosaurs in Victorian England being mistaken for the famous serial killer Spring Heeled Jack, or a story about a Dinosaur on a submarine, or story about Dinosaurs on the beaches of D-Day!

At the same time it can do more traditional Dinosaur stories. You can  Dinosaurs emerge in modern day cities and go on a Godzilla style rampage, like the Tyrannosaurus, or you can do a story where members of the Arc are trapped on the other side of the anomaly in a world full of Dinosaurs.

Thus as far as a work of Dinosaur fiction goes I’d say Primeval has by far and away the best premise. The concept of the anomalies at the same time allows it to be far more than just a Dinosaur series. It was also able to incorporate stories about a post apocalyptic earth, explore concepts such as time paradoxes, changes to established history and even existentialist ideas about the ultimate fate of mankind itself and the effect we have had on the environment.

I think its a real shame that the show wasn’t able to run a lot longer as though it had an excellent run I think there was still more to explore. It would have been interesting to see if any anomalies could lead to alien planets. We know the can travel in time and space.  The Tyrannosaurus Rex appeared in London for instance, whilst we know that in real life, they only lived in North America. So if they can open up to different parts of the earth, whose to say that they can’t move to different worlds and galaxies?

Ironically Primeval has potentially the most varied premise after possibly Doctor Who itself. It can allow its characters to visit anywhere, and its not dependent on one lead like Doctor Who either.

Overall I’d rank it as the best British cult series of the 21st century alongside Being Human and the best British Science Fiction series of the 21st century.

Doctor Who Vs Primeval

From its inception Primeval was compared to Doctor Who, sometimes negatively. Many saw it as being yet another attempt by ITV to create a rival to Doctor Who and it was often bashed in the mainstream media as an inferior version of the classic British sci fi series.

Caitlin Moran wrote a particularly scathing and vicious attack on Primeval, stating that it had paper thin plots, poor special effects and that if it was a proper rival to Doctor Who then the most it could do would be to make the makers of Doctor Who wet themselves with laughter.

I am sure the fact that she is a close friend of Steven Moffat and Russell T Davies has NOTHING to do with her opinions of Primeval.

Russell T Davies himself slated Primeval’s lack of ethnic casting stating that he had never seen such a white cast, though he also did say that apart from that he felt it was excellent.

I think its fair to say that Classic Who was a massive influence on Primeval. There are shades of Classic Who in many Primeval stories such as most notably episode 3.5 which features a fungus monster taking control of people’s bodies that is similar to the Doctor Who story the Seeds of Doom.

There are also shades of the story The Sea Devils in episode 5.2 where we see an ignorant military idiot try and launch a nuclear strike on a submarine that the main characters are on whilst dealing with a reptillian menace.

Also as I already pointed out Nick Cutter is similar in some ways to Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor and the ARC is basically just a modern day version of UNIT.

In some ways I think that Primeval captures the spirit of the classic era better than the new Doctor Who series. Nick Cutter at times seems more like the classic series Doctor than some of the new who Doctors. As I have mentioned in the past I think that Russell T Davies’s Doctors suffered from being written too much as 90’s anti heroes, with their dark pasts, love interests that held back their darkside etc. Cutter however is more like the arrogant, yet lovable unconventional classic era Doctor.

I also think that Primeval in certain stories is better at capturing the Classic era’s claustrophobic atmosphere than the Revival.

In some ways Primeval was a superior show to the new Doctor Who it must be said.

I feel that Primeval despite having a more limited premise actually had much more varied settings. The New Doctor Who sadly has been largely earth bound through large parts of its run.

I also think that Primeval handles death better as ultimately it’s characters who die stay dead!

Its also worth noting that new who has taken the odd thing from Primeval too. In the story Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, the models used for the Raptors were the same ones used for the Raptors in Primeval. Also many fans have commented on the story Planet of the Dead which involves a portal to another time period opening up in modern day and lethal creatures coming through it having a similar premise to Primeval.

Planet of the Dead was shown during the middle of Primeval series 3 when the show was at the height of its fame.

Overall whilst Primeval can’t compete with the Doctor Who brand as a whole, it would be wrong to dismiss it as a cheap knock off of Doctor Who.

3 thoughts on “Primeval Review

  1. I really enjoyed Series 1-3 of Primeval, and you raise a good point with how it has a great setup for mixing prehistoric animals with the modern world. I thought it ran out of steam in Series 4-5, however: they seemed to be struggling for new ideas.

    The Claudia Brown arc especially annoyed me as it got no real closure at all (I already did a post about it on my blog, and it somehow became my most viewed post by far until Blackpool Comic Con happened). My interpretation is that the writers threw in this dramatic twist, then realised they had no real way to explain it within the rules of the show, so quietly let it die.

    Liked by 1 person

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