Micheal Cobley

Interstellar Tactics




Primeval S3 Ep 9 – Attack Of The Zombie Dialogue Monsters!

So, the penultimate episode beckons, like a half-seen figure from a shadowy doorway over which is written the immortal words…Titter Ye Not Ye Who Enter Herewithin…

Personally I’m waiting to see what decaying carcass of cliched dialogue will be unearthed tonight; last week we had Danny Q – after a vroomtastic bit of driving – impart that eternal driver’s maxim (so resonant that it could have fallen from the lips of the hallowed Clarkson himself) – ‘My car, my rules’.

See? See? Wot a bloke Danny-boy is, eh? Eh? And later on I believe the Mighty Quin said to Becker (just before they go guns blazing out at the monstahs) – ‘Let’s do this!’

Blimey, guvnor, you can run but you can’t hide and anyway, I’ve got a bad feeling about this, even if it looks like an easy-in, easy-out job and you’re a well-ard diamond geezer.

Titter ye not.


And LO! for they did not disappoint.

I know, I know, here’s Impossible Pictures turning out fast-paced, actioner scifi for the Xbox generation, while here’s me, SF writer, ageing but still game, young (looking) turk of the Curmudgeon Generation, casting aspersions upon the undoubtedly Yoof-orientated creators of same. Well, if this were a programme going out at some graveyard slot on a Tuesday night I might not get so darned ascerbic, but when you wheel out a limping, gaffataped wad of crap dialogue and character motivation that wouldn’t be out of place in a episode of the original Flash Gordon, it aint flowers and chocs that are coming your way.

As I’ve said, I’ve really too much to do in my REAL life to go through it all with a fine toothcomb, but willya just take a look at these execrable pieces of dialogue:

Exhibit A – Christine Johnston to Danny Quinn at the ARC;

Even if I have to go to the ends of the earth, I’ll find her.”

Puhlease. This is straight out of every cornball, wornout American low-budget TV space adventure. As a measure of how cliched this is, if you put the words ‘to the ends of the earth’ into google, the search will turn up 62.7 MILLION hits.

Exhibit B – Danny Quinn to his team just before final credits roll;

I’ll follow Helen wherever she goes – to the end of time if necessary.”

Which sounds like something that Nick Cutter might have said (only better written), because he would have the motivation to deliver a melodramatic line like that. Whereas Danny Q hasn’t really got much history with Diabolical Helen, has he? Still, looks like she won’t be around much longer anyway. And another thing – the addition of the words ‘if necessary’ amply shows what a tin ear for dialogue the scriptwriters have. ‘Even to the end of time’ would have been acceptable (on it own terms anyway), but instead it comes over as – ‘Right, we’re gonna chase this biatch down, EVEN TO THE END OF TIME…if we really have to, like’.

And on the google-ometer, the phrase ‘to the end of time’ gets an impressive 197 MILLION hits. Way to go.

Various other offences against the screenwriters art were on display.

Like – why didn’t the mummy rhinodinos trample their way into the tent to rescue the toddler?

When Connor was leading the bull rhinodino away, a gocart driver drove up and saw the big beastie but rather than doing the sensible thing – ie turning round and flooring it away in the opposite direction – said driver promptly abandons his vehicle and scampers off (of course the reason is that the writers wanted Connor to be driving through the woods with a rhinodino hot on his trail, and this lazy contrivance was the best they could come up with).

Why did the happy campers so readily evacuate the site and run away? Normal people, faced with strangers telling them to run off and leave their personal belongings unattended, would tell such strangers to bog off.

Amazing how unconcerned Christine J is about the mysterious device Disguised Helen was carrying, to the point of leaving it on the table so that DH was able to easily snaffle it back into her handy tote bag.

And the whole Abby and Connor thing – the way it is treated starkly illustrates how ineptly this series is now being written. Instead of actual dialogue which reveals character while simultaneously advancing plot and theme, we get a caricature of young-lurve awkwardness which is just infuriatingly lowbrow, vacuous and insulting to the actors who have to somehow speak this pustulent pap. Here’s a clue – facial expressions are NOT a viable substitute for authentic, dramatic dialogue; the writers do this all the time with Connor and Abby and Christine Johnston (the UK champion of wide-eyed smug menace mingled with a hint of psychotic ticket collector). Also, whenever Abby and Connor are doing one of these scenes, the incidental music is an annoying plinky-plonky-ave-a-banarner-its-all-good-fun piece of synth slop, clearly meant to cue the viewer into the required yoofy-laffs frame of mind. God, it sets my teeth on edge.

The sad truth is that there are some not-bad concepts at the back of the whole series. To get some idea of how good Primeval could have been you only need to look at the best American series, like Supernatural: their quality of writing is lightyears ahead of anything seen in Primeval, even including the 1st 2 series. Supernatural is certainly written with a certain demographic in mind but almost everything about it is excellently done. And please don’t give me the budget argument; financial restrictions do not automatically mean that you have to choose the most inappropriate writers to provide your scripts. There are a lot of good SF writers out there, just in the UK alone, which you’d think that production companies would look on as a valuable resource.

If they really did intend to create something with a little integrity.

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Other Posts of Potential Interest:

  1. Primeval S3 Ep6: Turkeys Of Doom
  2. Primeval S3 Ep5: Wince And Wince Again
  3. Primeval: S3 Ep7 – Updated Pondering
  4. Primeval Season 3 Episode 3: Why It Sucked
  5. Primeval S3 Ep 4: The Call Of The Mild

6 Comments already, do join in...

  1. Primeval fan Says:

    May 23rd, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    These two episodes have been amazing. This episode was surprisingly good and even better than 3.8!

  2. rockitboy Says:

    May 23rd, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    A man happy in his viewing. You’re an example to us all, sir!

  3. Primeval fan Says:

    May 24th, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    I’m only happy with really good viewing.

  4. Qatux Says:

    May 24th, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    I watched it – honest I did. Have to agree with your well documented critique. Your problem lays in expecting televised SciFi to be anything like the brilliant to half decent SciFi available in books – In my experience it rarely gets close. It manages to entertain (maybe) because it has action, special effects, cgi and (sometimes) good actors. But story, what story?

    My Primeval summary – Young cool types interact with pompous farts in low budget visually attractive, everyday settings. They are threatened/ chased/ attacked by CGI dino-monsters that appear and through ‘anomalies’ and incredibly conveniently then disappear through said anomaly. Does that sum up most episodes?

    And stop knockin’ the original Flash Gordon. I know I was young and impressionable, in the 9d seats at the Essoldo flea pit in Stockport. The special effects were iffy but it sure had more plot than the Primeval episodes I’ve seen.

  5. rockitboy Says:

    May 24th, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Qatux old fruit, I believe your pithy paragraph summary of the Primeval modus operandi is a model of concision. Hoorah!

    As for knocking ol’ Flash – hmm, mebbe you got something. The old Flash serials didnt have much in the way of subplots or plotthreads – the story arc was the story! Me, I saw em at the ABC Minors at the Grosvenor Cinema on Byres Rd, Glasgow. The Grosvenor is still open, against all the odds seeing as its quite a small cinema, but then it is in the heart of the trendy studentzone.

  6. Mr. Primeval fan Says:

    May 25th, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    This episode had considerably more story in it than usual and the main basis of the show is that it is a “creature show”. Primeval has stepped too close to a more drama focused series and therefore people expect a reasonable explanation for things happening other than seemingly random (although they aren’t) anoamlies even though anoamlies are the basis of the show.

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