I had the luxury of finding Primeval when it was already done – three seasons had been filmed and aired and the show had been cancelled and then saved. So, I knew going in that there would be more episodes and I would be as caught up as everybody else. I found the show after fangirling over Andrew-Lee Potts as Hatter in Syfy’s Alice last winter, and marathoned DVDs of the first three seasons over about ten days when the rest of the planet was watching the Olympics.
While the show was chock full of Potts, it was also a smart, funny, sci-fi show about a ragtag team of dinosaur wranglers. The setup for the British series (which reaired in the United States on BBC America and Syfy and is now airing on BBC America) is that space-time “anomalies” exist – passageways where time bleeds occur and things from the past jump forward and things from the present jump backward. In the context of the show, that meant a T-Rex stalking a modern London mall and prehistoric sea beast swimming in the Thames.
What most impressed me about the way the show had been done up through the third season was that pretty much the entire cast – except Potts, who plays Connor, Hannah Spearritt, who plays Abby, a zoologist brought into the team as the voice of reason about the animals, and Ben Miller, who plays James Lester, the formal head of the Anomaly Research Centre (ARC) – was expendable. Connor was initially a graduate student of the show’s original lead character, Nick Cutter, a paleontology professor who died at the hands of his nutbar wife, Helen, a presumed-dead fellow paleontologist who’d actually been time-trotting all over the universe and losing her mind.
Prior to Helen’s return, Cutter had been wooing, and then was devastated to lose, a government official, Claudia, who was part of the team. When he returned from one of the anomalies, he found that the universe had altered and he was the only one who knew she’d ever existed. In a tricky bit of casting, the actress came back in another role, Jenny, and Cutter had to keep correcting himself that his Claudia didn’t exist anymore. Jenny departed after Cutter was killed. The show also lost another original crew member, Stephen, when he sacrificed himself to save Cutter after realizing he’d been duped by Helen, with whom he’d previously had, and then resumed, an affair.
When the show rebooted in its third season, it had a new military-type head investigator, Danny, and a new historian, Sarah, who joined the group after they found an anomaly in her museum. The final new addition was a soldier named Becker who was the ARC’s go-to arms guy, a sweetheart built like a tank. When season three closed, Danny, Connor, and Abby had gone through an anomaly after Helen, who was on a quest to go back to the dawn of man and eliminate the human race. Danny jumped a second time and caught up with Helen; she was killed in a fall and he was left stranded. At the site of the first jump, in the Cretaceous, Abby and Connor were stranded in a treetop in the middle of a swarm of prehistoric predators, and the characters reconciled their friendship, which had taken a beating after he declared he loved her when he saved her life, and then backed away from the confession. And that’s where they left everybody.
More than a year after the third season ended, season four kicked off on New Year’s Day on BBC America in the United States and ITV in the UK. It’s been 12 months in the show’s timeline, and the ARC has gone on with new players. Lester is still in charge, and still grieving his team’s losses, but he’s also gotten into bed with a private financier and inventor because the events that lost Connor, Abby, and Danny, and we learn, killed Sarah, led to a government request for private oversight. There’s a new techie, Jess, and a new lead investigator, Matt, who seems to be in the pocket of a larger agenda. Becker is still in charge, militarily speaking, but he’s hesitant to break new ground in weaponry at the risk of losing anymore of his friends.
We pick up with Abby and Connor in the Cretaceous, friendly and flirty and desperate to go home, but otherwise safe and sound. Abby is seemingly fracturing from the stress- she secretly weeps while Connor’s out gathering food. When she overreacts about one of the creatures stealing her blanket, they track it to its nest and find a missing, but nonworking, anomaly device. After they argue a bit about rebooting it like a TV remote (remove batteries, put back, and shake), it fires up and an anomaly opens. They shoo off a couple of the dinosaurs, jump through, and find that they’re in a city but they’re not sure when and where until the ARC’s cavalry of black SUVs tears around the corner. They’re taken down to the ground by a group of commandos and then Becker arrives, asking where the hell they’ve been and sweeping them into a hug.
Their joy is tamped when one of the creatures comes though behind them, and they give chase before send him packing (proving that their year away hasn’t made them at all rusty at what they do) only to return to the ARC and find out that the new regime has no place for them because they’re essentially civilians. Connor goes off about it and the new private head, Philip Burton, who’s big enough in nerd circles that Connor geeks out about his involvement, tells them to use the ARC apartment to catch their breath and then they’ll reconvene. Later, Matt has a chat with professorial-looking fellow who seems to be running a separate agenda and they agree Abby and Connor know more than anyone else and the ARC needs them.
We close on a sunrise view over the city as Connor wakes up alone. He sees Abby outside on the balcony and goes out to her, asking her if she’s still keeping watch for predators, and offering to take the next shift. She smiles up at him in an “old habits die hard” sort of way and says no, she’s happy there with him. They kiss, and she nestles into his chest as they both look out over the city. Home. Now what?
I’m a complete 12-year old because my take away from the show’s return was happiness that we know for sure Abby and Connor are a couple, none of that undefined bullshit. Yay! I thought the action clicked along like always but we spent way too much time on the ARC newbies (there was a whole opening tease with a creature loose inside the ARC before we got to Abby and Connor). I get it, though, because once we pick up next week, we’re going to have them all on board for cases. I’m curious to see what they do with Abby and Connor now that they’re back in reality. They were always sort of in love with each other under the guise of BFFs before they were stranded, but neither one could pull the trigger on it, and yet they finally managed to have a relationship when they were the only two people in the world.
BBC America in the United States and ITV in the UK will continue airing season four simultaneously on Saturdays, and you can catch the episodes afterward on iTunes. Be warned, the commercial breaks on BBC America are choppy since they’re timed differently from ITV. Season five was ordered with season four, so we’ll get those eventually, too.
Photo Courtesy of ITV/BBC America