After having been in the doldrums up until a few years ago (ie virtually non-existent) British TV science fiction seems to be going through something of a renaissance at the moment. The revitalised Doctor Who is going from strength to strength (even though it's not a patch on the old series - or at least certainly not on a par with the golden age of the show, the Jon Pertwee/early Tom Baker years of the early to mid-1970s) as is its spin-off series Torchwood -not to be confused with Touchwood the toad, Catweazle's familiar. Incidentally Geoffrey Bayldon the actor behind Catweazle (for the unitiated - a wizard from the middle ages who accidentally leaps forward in time to the 1970s - with hilarious consequences) was the apparently the original choice to play Dr Who, and what a fine Doctor he would have made - but I digress.
ITV's Saturday evening sci-fi drama Primevalseems to be their attempt to rival "Who", and a rather feeble attempt at that. It resembles a cross between "Who", The X-Files and Spooks, but its problem is that it takes itself much too seriously. Doctor Who was always primarily a childrens programme with a substantial adult audience. Primeval on the other hand, although transmitted well before the "watershed" is more "adult" in content. Sub plots involve characters copping off with each other with the obligatory sprinkling of sexual tension. "Who", by contrast always had an implied tongue-in-cheek style to the extent that you could enjoy it without taking too seriously.
Primeval is in some ways reminiscent of Jon Pertwee-era Doctor Who - a mixture of earthbound sci-fi and political intrigue, but fails abysmally to match up to Who's standards.
Apart from the ludicrous plot of this particular episode - a bunch of giant prehistoric man-eating worms running amok in a London office block - it never really got off the ground. Inevitably the worms were defeated in the end, but there was no explanation as to how they got there. In some ways it was similar to the 1970s Dr Who story The Green Death which featured giant maggots spawned as a result of pollution by a chemical company run by a megalomaniac computer. The spoof horor film Tremors also springs to mind.
The Dr Who equivalent character in Primeval is a dour Scottish scientist with strawberry blonde hair (and presumably a troubled past) who bears a fleeting resemblance to the tennis player Boris Becker.
The CGI-generated worms were even a disappointment - and not even as effective as the traditional rubber or plastic models of the pre-computer era. Given that Primeval is essentially about prehistoric creatures finding their way into the present day and wreaking havoc, it may well go the way of the dinosaurs if its future episodes are like this one.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Posted by CW at 9:46 PM