Micheal Cobley

Interstellar Tactics




Primeval Season 3 Episode 3: Why It Sucked

Aar, but it only appears that I missed blogging about Primeval cos I was away in Bradford, attending Eastercon along with a megagaggle of other writers, editors, readers, critics and sundry mighty-brained fans. Apart from the cough thats been dogging me for over a week, a good weekend was had, such that certain career advancements were achieved. Sshh, no names, no pack drill. Further details shall emerge in due course, doncha know.

Anyway, to the matter in hand, my current favourite cultural trainwreck, Primeval. Suffice to say that astute readers of this blog may have formed the opinion that I wasn`t to enamoured of the script and plot elements on show in the first two episodes. In fact, rereading my effervescent rant, I kinda worried that mebbe I had overstepped the mark, that perhaps I was being unfair and not giving the series’ writers and directors the chance to get their feet.

Then I watched episode three. Nah. I was right before.

Where to begin? I had thought that episode two was an unsurpassable mound of careless writing and reeking cliches torn bodily from their graves. But Ep3 inflicted more idiocies on the audience (as well as the actors, poor sods) than I thought an hour of commercial television could safely contain. Okay, lets start with the cute Diictodon and their charming little tunnels, and those holes in the walls which, unaccountably, no-one thought to try and block up in the pregnant womans room (or elsewhere), which would seem like a natural reaction. And I dont know about you but watching Cutter and Abby and Connor and Annoying Journobloke  chasing after the widdle cute dinos engendered in me a titanic, jaw-breaking yawn. Then there was the hospital evacuation, possibly the most inane and incompetent building evac ever witnessed. Then there was the Cutter-and-Abby-do-doctor-and-nurse in the pregnancy plot-thread which, like the girl-in-the-red-dress subplot last week, was utterly superfluous and contributed absolutely nothing to the main story. (And you have to ask what the point of the Annoying Journobloke subplot? As far as I can make out, his ONLY function was to lock Cutter and Abby in with the pregnant woman. Was the writer really that stuck for some plot action?)

Then the action shifts to the ARC, that top-top, uber-top secret gummint building that the Diabolical Helen can seemingly waltz in and out of at will. And LO! for we are introduced to Nick Cutter’s clone, which DH seemingly whisked up in a farfuture Kenwood combined cloning and ageing tank (the Kenwood Clonemaster 9000, no doubt); now watch as he penetrates the ARC’s security (which astonishingly has an eye scanner this time, unlike last time when one of  DH’s goons was able to waltz in with a purloined card). Clone Cutter strolls around the place, talking in a monotone voice while employing a 40-word vocabulary and no-one bats an eyelid, not even the 2 women who clearly have an interest in him (yet not to the point where their special woman-powers would be capable of spotting suspicious changes in his character).

This is ridiculous – Clone Cutter is even dressed in totally different clothes from almost anything he usually wears, yet everyone just assumes that he must have changed them on his way back from the situation at the hospital (with which no-one, not one of the personnel at the ARC seems to be, er, monitoring or keeping tabs on in any way, y’know, which might drop a clue that, er, Cutter was still there, y’know, the real one).

Of course, Cutter meets his clone and the scenes involving the two of them are suitably emptyheaded and cliche-ridden; the plot-twist by which Cutter’s trapped colleagues free themselves and neutralise Diabolical Helen’s verbal commands seems almost plausible, and all her goons stop being goonish, including Clone Cutter. Plausible until Helen talks extra loudly at Clone Cutter, telling him to complete his mission. Which he has to do because thats what idiotic characters do in an idiot plot, despite the fact that the other goons are NOT obeying DH’s verbal commands.

The burning building scene was the most unconvincing I`ve ever seen; didnt seem to be any firefighters present, or indeed anyone with the slightest knowledge of the dangers of smoke inhalation, for example. Yup, Cutter goes running back in to save DH, even though she was clearly seen to be the first one heading out of the building. Then there’s Cutter’s death scene which, for clunking bathos, was on a par with death-scenes from the Carry On movies. So DH shot him and vanishes, as only a black-clad moustache-twirling villain can vanish, leaving Cutter slumped against a bit of wreckage (non-burning, non-hot) where Connor finds him, amid the flames and the destruction. If this scene had possessed a gram of honesty, Connor would have hauled Cutter up over his shoulder and dashed out to waiting medics; instead what we get is Cutter saying something like ‘just stay here with me’, and yes, with flames and destruction all around, Connor – rather than saying, shut the f*** up, I’m getting you out of here – says okay, sits down while Cutter has his deathbed speech, handing on the mysterious artefact etc. Head tips over onto Connor’s shoulder. Dies. Connor then leans his head on Cutters. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what’s known as bathos. Look it up.

Awful, just awful. You have to wonder what persuaded Dougie Henshall to jump ship – did he get some inkling of the way the story was going and, listening to his instinct, said I want out? I absolutely don’t blame him. But then again, never underestimate the ability of TV networks, in their pinheaded way, to dumb things down beneath and beyond the call of corporate duty.

Roll on Episode 4.

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  1. Primeval Season 3: What The Hell Happened? – Updated

23 Comments already, do join in...

  1. Kris Says:

    April 23rd, 2009 at 3:03 am

    What a load of garbage

  2. rockitboy Says:

    April 23rd, 2009 at 11:08 am

    What? My wise and perceptive remarks or Episode 3?

  3. Primeval fan Says:

    April 28th, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    I disagree with you.

  4. rockitboy Says:

    April 29th, 2009 at 9:13 am

    I would love to know why, bearing in mind that I really enjoyed series 1 and 2.

  5. Primeval fan Says:

    April 30th, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Series 3 is an improvement.

  6. Demyx Says:

    May 16th, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    I like it, except for the grimlin bit. That was a little cheesy for me. No vicious blood baths like season 1 and 2. I loved that. ^^

  7. Daniele Says:

    May 24th, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    I totally agree with you. I liked the first two seasone, though they had some serious flaws here and there, too. But at least the background story was entertaining, time passages, the past, the future, love stories (which always contribute to a good show, if well developed). Then Cutter dies (in the dumbest, i-never thought-they’d-have-come-to-this death moment ever).
    So…let’s recap: Stephen’s dead, Cutter’s dead. Connor takes the head of the team (or something like that, temporarily), some evil, psychotic ministry of defence’s officer wants to control “the power” of the anomalies and what they bring along (superbats?).
    Then what? Oh, Jenny’s leaving too. Great. Really. I mean what the hell? Dunno, I probably won’t watch the remaining episodes, and that’s a shame, all in all, the idea behind the show wasn’t that bad.

  8. rockitboy Says:

    May 24th, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Yes, its shame. Coulda been the champ…but having said that, I have some worrying stats to reveal. The wikipedia page for Primeval Episodes also gives weekly ratings; for season 1 the average was 6.39 million; season 2 was 6.28 million; season 3, up to Ep6 its been averaging 4.92 million. The lowest rated episode of S3 so far was Episode 3 with 3.28 million; for comparison, the Seasons 1 & 2 ratings never went below 5.81 million.

    Interesting point – since episode 3, however, ratings have been climbing, 4.97m, 5.2m, 5.27m. My theory is that Nick Cutter’s death and the drop in script quality has repelled a big chunk of the original viewers but the less-highbrow, more-action reframing is pulling in a new audience. Just a theory.

  9. Daniele Says:

    May 24th, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    A theory that is likely to be true indeed, given the mass-centric (sorry if the term isn’t correct, english’s not my native language) era we’re living in.

    Actually, I get confirmation of this in my family every day, when they complain about some series dwelling far too deep on psychological introspection or the plot getting somewhat more complicated then “good people shoot bad people”. I mean, that’s ok for “realistic” series, where you’ve got a lot of background everyday stories to choose from. I’d be the first to rant if law and order’s plot spent more time inspecting characters’ personal life rather than concentrating on trials, but hey, we’re talking about sci-fi here. Fiction in its prime form, I think some story is needed to keep everything stick together. Otherwise I’d as well go seeing some rambo/dolph lundgren movie, for what matters. And my parents are not the kind of people who just sit down and blindly watch whatever passes by on the tv screen.

    That said hey, I also understand their attemp at keeping up the expectations raised by the previous two series with actors resigning. By the way, have they resigned because of the plot, or has it degenerated because of them leaving?

    My (tiny) hope is that somehow they find some trade-off so they can bring the original storyline back.

    P.S.: good site indeed, compliments ;)

  10. rockitboy Says:

    May 24th, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    From a writers POV, there is always a trade-off between depth of characterisation and pace (or even depth of description and pace) – trying to find a balance between these story elements depends on the kind of story you want to write (and I do realise that such a technical view of writing narrative prose can be utterly alien to many writers who just sit down and instinctively do it!) Personally, I’ve had to work hard at being aware of the technical aspects of what I’m writing, just so I don’t make obvious mistakes, not just in terms of grammar/syntax, but also in dramatic terms, flow, pace, surprise etc. And looking at Primeval I just see such a lot of lazy story plotting and lazy dialogue writing.

    As for did the actors leave because the writing went downhill, or has the prog lost it because they left? I would love to share a beer or two with Dougie Henshall – as a fellow Scot, y’unnerstand – and find out just what it was all about. But it does seem odd that Dougie Henshall’s Cutter is killed, Claudia./Jenny leaves, Christine Johnston becomes dino nosh, and Helen is soon to depart. Smacks of clearing the decks.

  11. Daniele Says:

    May 25th, 2009 at 6:43 am

    Sure writing isn’t an easy job at all. Sure ruining a good idea isn’t either. Well, let’s see, never say never as the saying goes :)

    Thanks for the chat, and best wishes for your book!

  12. Mr. Primeval fan Says:

    May 25th, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    If you look at the audience share rather than the actual figures your will actaually see a smaller difference. Dougie left because he thought that he would make the show stale if he stayed. He thought it needed reinvention. Christine was obviously only supposed to be a 1 series character. Helen’s death was necessary. Also, Robin Hood and Doctor Who have created more competition for the show and ITV is extremely unorganised at advertising etc. It is a great show and the one remaining episode will be even greater!

  13. rockitboy Says:

    May 25th, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    Forgive me but can you provide sources for what you’re saying? I’ve not come across comments from Dougie Henshall saying what you say – if you could provide a link, it would be much appreciated.

    As for your other assertions, needless to say I disagree in one way or another. I’m not going to into a big song and dance about it, except to say that from the point of view of a professional writer the show displays gross flaws in its storytelling, technical errors which go beyond mere opinion. Sorry to pull rank but on technical matters (and yes, you can analyse a story from a technical viewpoint) Primeval falls down.

  14. Primeval fan Says:

    May 27th, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Dougie wanting to reinvent the show?


  15. kally Says:

    June 1st, 2009 at 7:16 am

    Well one thing is really annoying me and that is how bbca doesn’t start or end the shows ON TIME and so I always end up missing the first 2-3 minutes or the last 2-3 minutes.

    So I see Cutter getting carried out of the building, dead, I guess, I dunno, but what then?

  16. Primeval fan Says:

    June 1st, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    That’s the end! Lol.

  17. Primeval fan Says:

    June 1st, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Actually I just remembered, there are a couple of minutes you missed were they all mourne him. You should easily be able to find it on Youtube. With recording I always put the scheduled time a few mins in front and behind to avoid your problem as every TV station (annoyingly) seems to do what BBCA does.

  18. rockitboy Says:

    June 1st, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Kally, keep in mind that Mistah Primeval Fan is a diehard loyalist who, touchingly, doesn`t see much of anything wrong in Series 3.

    About your link to the Dougie interview – well, reading it purely factually, there’s no reference to him saying that the show might get stale if he stayed, or that it needed reinvention. The words ‘stale’ and ‘reinvention’ appear nowhere, laddie.

  19. Primeval fan Says:

    June 2nd, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Sorry, I linked the wrong interview. And what has me been a fan got anything to do with me talking about channels. And BTW I’m only loyal because it remains a good show, actually it has improved. And I would be loyal even if it some bad episodes but I haven’t find any so far.

  20. rockitboy Says:

    June 2nd, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Gee, aint he cute!

  21. Primeval fan Says:

    June 2nd, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    My grammar looks bad on that sentence but it was a one off!

  22. Christine Says:

    June 3rd, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    I have to say I love Primeval, but I totally agree with what you wrote about this episode. I found myself thinking the same things… “block that hole,” and “get him out of the fire, stupid!” If he died in the ambulance, it would be more realistic to me that sitting there while the place burned down around them. I hope the rest of the season isn’t so flawed. This was one of the few shows I could sit still for and actually watch…

  23. Primeval fan Says:

    September 6th, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    He was already stuffed at that point.

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