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Extinction Event

June 15th, 2009

British broadcaster ITV has cancelled its sci-fi drama Primeval after three successful seasons. (The third and apparently final set of episodes is currently airing on BBC America.) It’s a strange move, considering recent reports of a big-budget Warner Bros. film adaptation and even a possible international spin-off series.

According to the report in The Guardian, it appears that the show may have become too expensive for the commercial channel on which it aired in the U.K. I can see why; the producers of the series also made the various Walking with Dinosaurs shows, and they leveraged their digital effects assets into creating some truly stunning CGI monsters both prehistoric and futuristic to stomp around contemporary London.

Primeval‘s premise–in which time anamolies randomly open to spew forth a variety of deadly creatures–is compelling, but the scripting is aggressively stupid. We’re meant to believe that the people best equipped to detect temporal wormholes and combat dinosaurs are a paleontologist, an assistant zookeeper who may or may not bother to wear pants when opening her front door, and a kid in a pork pie hat. Who only sometimes remember to bring weapons. We’re also supposed to accept that the team has managed to keep all of this, up to and including a mammoth appearing in the middle of a crowded highway, out of the press in an era of ubiquitous camera phones and social media.

I forgot that the series was back on and missed the first three episodes of the new season, but it appears that they’ve killed off the paleontologist and gotten rid of the hot public relations officer. Sadly, Pants-Free Girl and Pork Pie Hat are still around.

The overall plot, in which the batshit-insane ex-wife of the now-deceased paleontologist has been using the anomalies in pursuit of some unknown goal, has never quite coalesced for me. There was a bit of weirdness at the end of the first season in which the timeline was altered, giving the heroes a new base of operations and somehow replacing one of them with a new character who, despite having a different last name and presumably different parents, is played by the same actress. To my knowledge, they’ve still never explained that one. And now it looks as if they never will.

Sorry to see you go, Primeval. As a drama with a “plot” and “characters,” you weren’t much, but you certainly were a prehistoric treat for every dinosaur-obsessed schoolboy.

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