Primeval was an ITV series about a team of various specialists who discover that time portals called ‘anomalies’ are appearing all around the country, allowing prehistoric animals into our present-day world. The team spent their time trying to stop these creatures from causing havoc, while investigating the anomalies and trying to determine their exact nature so they could be predicted and contained. The show started out very positively: the main team had a good dynamic going, and adventures with prehistoric beasts were always going to appeal to a dinosaur enthusiast like me – even though, funnily enough, there were no actual dinosaurs in the first series. It instead featured a gorgonopsid, giant invertebrates, mosasaurs, pterosaurs, and dodos infected with lethal parasites. (OK, birds technically are dinosaurs, but whatever.) It wasn’t until the first episode of the second series that the team had to hunt down some raptors.
Things went downhill later on, however. ITV cancelled Primeval after the third series – right after ending it on a massive cliffhanger where three of the main characters were trapped in the past! They did eventually bring it back for two more series, but compared to the first three, these were a damp squib. The new characters were boring, the old characters weren’t as likeable, and after three seasons’ worth of action, they were clearly struggling to find new things to do with their ‘monster of the week’ formula. Primeval was eventually cancelled again, and a spin-off called Primeval: New World didn’t fare any better.
My biggest grievance with Primeval, however, concerns a plot twist from the end of the first series – a twist that was never actually explained.
Through the first series, the main protagonist, biologist Nick Cutter, began forming a romantic relationship with civil servant Claudia Brown. In the final episode of the series, Cutter, along with his estranged wife Helen and a team of expendable soldiers, go through an anomaly into the Permian Period, where they end up fighting a predator that came through another anomaly from the future. After the Future Predator and all the soldiers are killed, Nick and Helen go back to the present – while the audience sees that some of the Future Predator’s babies are still alive in the Permian, implying that their presence may change the course of history.
In the final moments of the episode, Nick faces his team and notices that Claudia’s not there. He asks where she is – and none of them have even heard of any Claudia Brown. Cliffhanger!
In the second series, it turns out that Claudia hasn’t completely vanished; she’s transformed into Jenny Lewis, a woman played by the same actress (Lucy Brown), with a different background and personality. Not only that, but the team’s headquarters has changed and there’s one or two new associates as well – and nobody but Nick thinks that anything’s amiss. So how has this happened? How is it that a few specific things change and everything else stays the same? How could Claudia Brown become a completely different person?
Nick spends much of the second series trying to investigate this, but he gets nothing except some vague non-answers from Helen. And then in the third series, the whole matter pretty much dies a death. In 3.3, Nick is killed off. In 3.5, Jenny leaves the team, returning for a single episode in the fourth series. So there’s no reason to dwell on the interference to the timestream any more, and the team place all their focus on other issues.
I was really annoyed by this. Given that what happened to Claudia formed the cliffhanger for the first series finale and therefore seemed like a pretty big deal, it deserved a proper explanation. Even more unfortunately, it doesn’t actually make sense based on the laws of time travel in the show.
You see, before his fateful journey through the anomaly into the Permian, Nick had already gone through that same anomaly before, in the pilot. On that first trip, he was confused to discover signs of human activity, and even a human skeleton. Upon going back, after the anomaly had closed and then opened again, Nick realised that the anomaly had actually re-opened at a point several years earlier (though still in the Permian). The remains he found the first time had actually been left by him, Helen and the soldiers.
This would indicate that the expedition involving the Future Predator had already happened, or rather, was always going to happen. So how could leaving those Future Predator babies in the Permian change the future, when events in the past technically haven’t changed? As for how events millions of years in the past could change the present in such a specific and limited way, that would require further discussions about the space-time continuum that the show didn’t bother to have at all.
I have a terrible feeling that the writers and producers of the show didn’t really know what happened to Claudia themselves; that they just threw it in at the end of the first series because it made for a cool twist, then realised they had no satisfactory way to explain it and quietly dropped the whole thing. If so, that’s just sad.