Tag Archives: Television

Primeval – Series 3, Episode 9 – Review, Spoilers

Well, New Zealand are out of the World Twenty20, so it’s time to review this episode of Primeval I overlooked. (OK, I intentionally overlooked it the first time around.)

Synopsis

We open with a peaceful, pastoral countryside, suddenly disrupted by horrifying freaks of nature: A camp full of young people with ATVs. But there’s more than just modern horrors in the woods, there’s also embolotherium. A prehistoric rhino-like creature. In fact, there’s a whole heard of them and they don’t half make a mess of a guy on an ATV.

Meanwhile, Danny Quinn is following up on the mysterious woman from the future who was captured by Christine Johnson’s military. Despite Lester’s warnings, Quinn breaks into Johnson’s facility after he sees the woman being held captive inside.

Under interrogation, the mystery woman reveals that, in the future, everyone is dead. Killed by the predators, but she doesn’t know where they came from. She also reveals that anomalies are rips in time, and that they are “everywhere”, but that some of them are invisible. She indicates that she knows how to find them, but she must talk to the people at the ARC. She is also in possession of a device which she refuses to explain.

Danny breaks her out.

At the campsite, the rest of the team go through the typical plot complications trying to get the embolotherium back through the anomaly, which closes before all of them are through.

Danny arrives with the mystery woman just as a stampede causes the embolotherium to thunder towards the unsuspecting campers. Just as all looks lost, the mystery woman uses the device to open an anomaly right in front of the camp and sends the herd through.

Dumbstruck, Danny takes her to the ARC, but not before stealing her notebook and giving it to Sarah to decode. The mystery woman, in turn, steals a gun.

Johnson hasn’t been taking Danny’s intrusion sitting down, and is at the ARC serving Lester with a warrant for Quinn’s arrest and the surrender of the artifact.

Danny arrives and is arrested, but then the mystery woman reveals that she is Helen Cutter using future disguise technology. She explains that she had to kill Nick Cutter to save the world, but that it didn’t work, and so she has to make sure it works next time. She kidnaps Johnson, takes the artifact and heads back to Johnson’s headquarters and her private anomaly.

She tells Johnson that she specifically is the civil servant that caused the entire destruction of the world by the predators, and she takes her through the anomaly, where she’s killed by a future predator. Helen also closes off Johnson’s anomaly after she’s dead.

Danny Quinn vows to chase Helen to the ends of time to stop her.

Analysis

I purposely didn’t write this one up because there’s so little to recommend this episode.

The episode adds a new piece to the equation: That there are lots of anomalies everywhere, but that they are somehow invisible/inaccessible. The device Helen has seems to be able to locate and open them. Also, for the first time, there’s some indication that Conner’s anomaly detectors experience some form of crude interference when near a closed anomaly. There’s never been any mention of this before and they’ve been standing next to several closed anomalies in the past. Even still, when the interference is introduced into the show, it’s not very clear what it is or why it is important. It’s not used or mentioned again.

It’s somewhat interesting that, when Helen killed Cutter in an earlier episode, she blamed the ARC for the release of the predators and the destruction of the world. In this episode she blames Christine Johnson. Is she just guessing? If she was right, did she create a new kind of time paradox by taking Christine into a future that she created and killing her there before she could create that very same future? Is Helen just bat-shit crazy?

Perhaps it will all make sense in the next and final episode? (Don’t hold your breath.)

Death of Economical Writing?

For those who don’t know, I’m supposed to be in England this week, getting ready to watch the ICC World Twenty20 Final on Sunday, but I’m not and therefore I’m in a grumpy mood, so rather than take it out on England’s mostly rubbish performance (Seriously, they lost a cricket match to the Netherlands?) I’m going to continue to pick on Primeval for a while.

ITV, the people who commission and broadcast Primeval, are loosing money. Ad revenues are down, and Primeval is an expensive show, even though its ratings are good enough to deserve a renewal. ITV has decided to concentrate on “post watershed programming”.

For Americans who read my blog, the watershed is a curiously quaint British television concept. Before the watershed is time for family programming – cute furry animals, Doctor Who and lots and lots of gardening shows. After the watershed, which I believe starts precisely at 8:23PM each night, they are allowed to talk dirty and show naked women’s breasts in the shower with water erotically cascading off their nipples. (Hence the origin of the term, “watershed”.)

(In America we solved this problem by evolving a television industry that never makes any program than anyone would ever want to watch.)

If ITV wants to concentrate on post-watershed programming we can conclude one of two things. People are more likely to be home and watching TV later at night, or more people like to watch women in showers. (You can decide that one.)

Primeval, being pre-watershed, doesn’t make was much money as ITV would like. They could solve this problem in one of three ways (or a combination of all three.)

  • They could have kept Jenny (and/or Claudia) and write in plot devices that would involve herself taking more showers, thereby forcing a move to post-watershed scheduling.
  • They could write high-quality and compelling scripts to increase viewership.
  • They could learn to write economically.

I’m going to address the later, because the other two are self-evident and before anybody says, “You’re not a scriptwriter, you don’t know what you’re talking about”, I’ll just interject the disclaimer, nope, I’m not a professional scriptwriter, but I have studied the craft of scriptwriting and I’m paraphrasing the words of people who do know what they’re talking about.

Writing is an art. Scriptwriting is a craft. This is because scriptwriting is a part of an overall production, be it stage, radio, TV or movies. If the script is not produced, it is a failed script. Part of being able to write a produceable script is to understand the limitations of the target medium and write accordingly.

Prolific scriptwriters learn this and turn in scripts that producers read and say, “I can make this on my budget.” Producers, in turn, remember this and come back to those same writers for more work.

Part of the writing process is for the author to take a critical look at each and ever scene of his/her own script and ask if it really advances the plot, and, even if it does, will it be difficult to produce. When a producer receives that script, he’ll do the same thing – or he ought to.

I contend that the writers of Primeval could easily produce a few episodes (not back to back) which did not have an incursion by an expensive CGI creature from the past or future, or even an open anomaly. They had a ensemble cast and an overarching mystery. Time could have been spent on those issues. An episode of Primeval without an anomaly should be much easier than an episode of Doctor Who without the Doctor – and the Who production team pulled that off with varying degrees of success.

In one episode of Primeval, they appeared to cut cost corners by not showing the anomaly being locked and unlocked, despite the fact that it made for an awkward scene without the visual. Yet repeatedly, they waste their FX budget on Conner and Abby’s adopted prehistoric animals, which virtually never advanced the plot in any meaningful way. If they needed a pet for comic relief, get a dog. They’re much cheaper.

I’m not saying that a program like Primeval doesn’t require expensive FX. It does. It simply wouldn’t work without the credible threat of time-traveling creatures, but the judicious use of them could have helped save the show from extinction.

Claudia Brown and Pedigree Collapse

A recent comment post on this blog got me thinking about the series Primeval’s Claudia Brown.

Fans of the show will know that Claudia Brown was a character who was becoming romantically involved with Nick Cutter. The main series villain is Nick Cutter’s wife, Helen, long missing, thought dead, but actually just traveling through time.

Very soon after Claudia and Cutter expressed their feelings for each other – which Helen was aware of – Cutter travels with Helen back to the Permian period (299 – 251 MYA – at the end of the Paleozoic era) to recover a future predator and stop it from destroying history. When they return, not realizing that they’ve left baby predators alive in the past, Claudia Brown no longer exists, and no one knows who she is, except for the returning Nick and Helen Cutter. Helen then craps all over Cutter, revealing that, before she disappeared, she was having an affair with his best friend Stephen. Clearly she does this to hurt Cutter, and it’s not unreasonable to assume that a vindictive Helen, with her time-traveling knowledge, may have engineered the disappearance of Cutter’s new love interest.

But is that what happened?

I don’t think so, but then, Primeval can be so ill-conceived at times you never can tell if some intentional is so poorly executed that you can’t discern it from background noise.

Consider: Helen and Cutter enter the anomaly to the Permian, Claudia Brown exists. Helen and Cutter return, thinking they have succeeded, but not realizing they’ve left future predators behind. Claudia Brown now no longer exists. If Helen, 251+ million years in the past, was able to hatch a plot that, by leaving random agents (the predators) behind, exhibited so much fine-grain control that it could pluck one single person out of existence… well, if she could do that she was incredibly good. She might as well be trying to fire a bullet around the planet with a rifle and hitting Claudia on the 251,000,000 circuit around the planet. (Actually, it’s even more improbable than that.)

No, I think she was unaware that Claudia was gone.

Further, you might argue that Claudia may have been there when Cutter and Helen returned and she just wasn’t mentioned and wasn’t in camera shot and that it wasn’t until after she jumped back into the anomaly that Claudia disappeared. If that were the case, Cutter would have forgotten her as well as everyone else had, so that seems unlikely, too.

Let’s, for a moment, consider the likelihood of Cutter and Helen’s mistake of leaving the baby predators altering the timeline enough to erase Claudia.

With 251 million years to compound changes in the timeline, it seems that if significant changes were wrought, that the world would be a completely unrecognizable place, likely having no similarity to the world we inhabit today.

It’s all hypothetical,of course, but here’s one way to look at it. The answer may lie in a concept called Pedigree Collapse.

People have a lot of misconceptions about… well, for the want of a better term, I shall call the Mathematics of History. Most people, for example, view their history as a binary tree. I have two parents, they each have two parents, therefore I have four grandparents. Each of them had two parents, therefore I have 8 great-grandparents. The progression goes like this: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128…

Simple, you say? Obvious? Yes, and completely wrong… or at least wrong inasmuch as people tend to assume these are all distinct people. You don’t have to go back many generations to realize that your number of ancestors will rapidly approach a number greater than the total number of humans who have ever existed on this planet. How can this be? Answer: Kissing Cousins (wink wink nudge nudge say no more!) There’s a lot more of that going on than people think.

The further you go back in you ancestors the more inevitable it is that multiple people occupy multiple places on your ancestral chart.

If a single human – or, more specifically a single human being who had offspring – far enough back in time were wiped out, huge swaths would have been cut in our ancestry and it seems unlikely that any of us would be here. (And I mean here biologically. As beings made up of the same genetic material, not the ridiculous “gosh, Jenny Lewis is the same person as Claudia Brown with a different history.) Presumably a missing person on the chart would result in others filling in the holes, leading to an ever expanding web of genetic changes.

If the future predators impacted the course of life on the planet, the changes would have been massive. And, of course, this web would have been unravelling since long before humans, mammals or even dinosaurs existed. That’s an inconceivably long period of time.

It is not at all inconceivable that a disturbance back 251+ million years would completely end the world as we know it.

On the other hand, it’s also possible to go too far back in time to have any effect.

We have to consider the misconception of continuity of life on this planet. Virtually every creature that has ever existed on this planet has already died. The vast majority of species that have ever existed are extinct. That’s a whole lot of dead.

Since 251+ million years ago, there have been at least two major planetary extinction events and lots of smaller ones. Ice ages, deserts, droughts, asteroids, mountains, seas, oceans and continents have come and gone.

Over such an immense time scale, it’s very likely that the doomed future predators’ changes would be wiped clean long before they reached the Mesozoic era, let alone the Cenozoic.

Aside: There’s 3 (if I recall correctly) baby future predators, without mother, in an unfamiliar and hostile environment. They’re mammals, therefore dependent on mom for milk (assuming they haven’t been weened.) There are no other mammals in the Permian, therefore it’s doubtful they could be raised, Romulus and Remus fashion, but some other beneficent creature. It’s likely that some or all of them will be killed before adulthood. Even if all three survived, their genetic pool is too shallow to have a long-lasting colony. There’s nothing even close for them to cross-breed with. They’re doomed in short order.

The baby predators conceivably wipe out an entire species or even more than one, but if those species were already going to die out, the effect could be negligible.

No. What Nick and Helen Cutter did back in the Permian could not have lead to Claudia Brown becoming Jenny Lewis.
So what could have? Still working the premise that Helen did this on purpose, let’s see what she could have done. For starters though, let’s consider this bit of biology: A human being is produced by the combination of a single egg and a single sperm. Mom produces one unique egg per month for her adult lifespan, dad produces millions in a single toss (so to speak.) For Claudia and Jenny to be the “same person in a different reality” as the show intimates, Jenny had to be the product of the exact same sexual act as Claudia. Considering the number of sperm working towards their goal, they’re couldn’t have been even a seconds’ difference in the act. It couldn’t have been on the kitchen table instead of the bed or the nearby park bench or the back of a car because that would have changed the result of the sperm race.
Therefore we have to conclude that not only are Jenny’s parents the same, but that her conception and the events that lead up to it were identical. That means whatever changed Claudia into Jenny happened after she was conceived.
Here’s what I consider a likely scenario: Mr. and Mrs. Brown conceive a baby. Very shortly after this moment, Mr Brown is removed from the picture, by some means, and before what would have been baby Claudia is born, Mr, Lewis marries the ex-Mrs. Brown and they raise the baby entirely as their own child. Jenny would almost have to be completely ignorant of Mr. Brown’s role in her formation, as she’d likely put 2 and 2 together when told the name of Claudia Brown. (“Hey, my mother’s first husband was named Brown, too! What a coincidence!”)
We also make some assumptions about the “normal flow of time.” We naturally assume something that didn’t happen in our timeline did happen in Jenny’s. But is that our natural tendency to see normality as a still stream that gets disturbed by a pebble. What if it is the reverse?
We don’t actually know that much about Claudia, and her history was erased, so perhaps the opposite happened in her universe. Mr. Lewis and Mrs. Lewis were biologically the parents and Mr. Brown came along to do the paternal duties. She may very well have known, but never mentioned this aspect of her family background because it was largely a trivial matter to her. There’s no way to compare it to Jenny Lewis until after the timeline change, and then the only people who would know what happened, Claudia is gone, and anyone who knew her family has forgotten her.
In this later scenario, it’s even possible that Claudia Brown was orphaned and adopted. Any of a number of things that might have led Jenny to becoming Claudia in our own timeline could have happened and we can never know – unless, of course, Helen knows, and if she did she probably took that with her to her grave.
And now, the entire program, Primeval, has taken that to its grave, too.
None of that explains the creation of the ARC, although it’s possible that, with no Claudia as government liaison, the alternate reality government team behaved differently and helped create the ARC. Perhaps the evil Leek (Claudia’s replacement) somehow pushed this entirely for his own machinations.
So what have we got? If Helen engineered Claudia’s disappearance, she did something after Claudia was already conceived, which seems a completely stupid approach. The alternative is, as I suspect, that Helen was not involved and that the writers just didn’t bother to think things through, insulting the audience once more in the process.

Do they really listen to me?! – Primeval, Series 3, Episode 8 – Review, Spoilers

Synopsis

An anomaly opens at a test track, the crew dispatch the scene, and encounter a giant bug, which is luckily killed by a car. The anomaly is closed.

Abby’s brother Jack (hereafter referred to as Jack-Ass) pokes through his sister’s purse and finds the anomaly detector. When she won’t tell him what it’s really for, he (quite naturally, it seems) steals it. (I mean, what else would somebody do if they’ve been told to mind their own business?)

At the anomaly site, two of the dumbest soldiers ever put on this earth are killed by a second insect without even raising the alarm.

Back at the base, Abby performs an autopsy on the dead bug and proclaims it to be related to an ant or a wasp and that it’s stinger has mutated into an ovitube – capable of implanting baby bugs inside hosts – like humans. She also notes high levels of selenite. Sarah realizes that the artifact was also covered in selenite, therefore they must come from the same place. (Logical really, there’s only a whole planet and 4.6 billion years (plus all the future) of time for these two things to have come from, so finding a similar substance must be conclusive proof, right?)

About this time, Jack-ass has peddled his little bicycle right to the anomaly, where he finds the two dead soldiers, now hatching baby bugs. Conner calls the soldiers to warn that they are returned, but Jack-ass picks up the phone lying on the floor. Conner realizes what’s happened, just as the big bug attacks Jack-ass. Sadly, Jack-ass gets in the car and escapes. In the process, he breaks the anomaly locking device, and drives into the future. It’s clearly the same place where we earlier saw the artifact retrieved from. He drives a short distance in the ruins, then gets out of the car and falls into a big hole.

The team arrive again at the anomaly and, without any form of back, proper equipment or the slightest bit of common sense, enter the anomaly to help Abby find her worthless turd of a brother. Sara stays behind to get the second locking device working, unaware that there are still baby bugs waiting for her.

In the future, predators are everywhere, and the team slowly advances towards Jack-ass’s car.

They find him, hoist him up, get him out, burn the bug hill, start a fight between the giant bugs and the predators and escape, but not before Quinn sees one of Christine Johnson’s carrying out an operation to retrieve a woman.

Analysis

So why do I say they must have been listening to me? No because this story is any better, but because at least throughout the episode they kept pointing out how incredibly stupid they were being. At least they’ve given up the pretense that they’re not morons.

Once again, I’m not going to go into a deep analysis of the implications of this episode. I’ll not bother pointing out that insect size is limited by their physiology and their environment. They don’t have lungs, so they absorb oxygen from the environment. Bigger bugs means higher Oxygen content. Oxygen levels high enough to yield bugs as big as this episode showed would mean a highly combustible atmosphere- easily detonated by Becker’s gunfire (not to mention Quinn’s flare.) I’ll not linger on Jack-ass’s twisted worldview – “If you hadn’t lied to me about things, I wouldn’t have to steal your stuff to find out what you’re lying to me about.” Clearly this boy’s quest for knowledge is epic in its proportions. I’ll not bother mentioning (yet again) that the predators just aren’t that dangerous. They’re nothing that a well-equipped group of soldiers couldn’t handle and yet Conner says, “If they got out, mankind wouldn’t have a chance.” Rubbish.

No, I’m going to concentrate on a pointless exercise in analyzing what we saw of the future. What does it tell us? (Honestly, I don’t really believe that the vision of the future will be at all internally consistent when they get around to revealing it, but, “What the heck?” It’s fun to speculate.

Let’s start with the architecture and the technology. Ignoring the artifact and the fancy dohicky we see in the previews for next week, everything looks contemporary. Contemporary cars, contemporary buildings. I don’t recall seeing any signs or license plates to see what kind of language was in use.

The streets are lined with stopped cars, the doors flung open, as if the entire city was trying to escape and the traffic jam stopped them, so they took to their feet. It was a massive, immediate crisis, not a slow incursion of predators. (Unless a huge number of predators arrived all at once, which would imply they came from another anomaly.) Similarly, the insects seem like an unlikely reason for a sudden evacuation.

Although the buildings show some sign of decay, it isn’t more than 100 years worth, and the cars would have deteriorated faster, leaving the conclusion that the evacuation may have only been 20-50 years ago (relative to the anomaly) and since the cars are contemporary, that puts it, lets say 30-60 years in our future. 100 years at the outside.

Not enough time for super bugs to evolve, for the atmosphere to beef up enough oxygen to produce the bugs (oh, wait, that didn’t happen) and not enough time for the predators to evolve.

But wait, there’s more – the mountains have risen up under the cities (or did valleys fall away?) I think we can safely say it isn’t London. Any timescale long enough to produce ruined cities atop spiring peaks would have either been long enough for (a) Cars and technology to have advanced beyond anything recognizable or (b) human city and car ruins to crumble to dust long ago.

Any way you slice, their view of the future is all wrong.

Primeval – Here’s a twist I never expected!

From Variety:

In a high-six-figure deal, Warner Bros. has acquired screen rights to “Primeval,”the ITV series that airs in the U.S. on BBC America and Sci Fi Channel.

Akiva Goldsman and Kerry Foster will produce through Goldsman’s WB-based Weed Road banner. Emily Cummins will also be involved in a producing capacity.

Goldsman, who scripted the Ron Howard-directed “Angels and Demons” withDavid Koepp, will hire a writer to draft “Primeval.”


Movie? Primeval? Why do I almost fear this more than the Land of the Lost movie?