Tag Archives: UK

Doctor Who – The End of Time – I’m still not going to review this mess…

…but,, here’s someone else’s review that hits on about 1/3 to 1/2 of the things that really irritated me about this dismal failure of a regeneration story.

From Behind the Sofa – Return of the Fan****king

Yeah, I welled up. Incredibly, I was still crying when I noticed that the glass doors weren’t even sealed. There are clearly gaps between the panes of glass so how the radiation is contained is anyone’s guess. But I went with it anyway. I was practically chewing the carpet in anguish when the Doctor started raging about how it wasn’t fair, and how a part of him really wanted to just leave the old fart to die. But when he bravely opened that door I was blubbing like a baby. And then he died… a bit like Spock (and Spock dying always makes me cry) and then… and then…

Look, I’m happy to cry as much as the next fanboy, but I can’t do it for 20 minutes straight. It’s too much to ask of me. If the Doctor had regenerated there and then I would have been happy. Well, infinitely sad, but you know what I mean. So what if the preceding 40 minutes had been utter nonsense, at least that moment would have been unforgettable and beautiful and simple and timeless – but no. Oh God no. Instead we get 20 minutes – 20 MINUTES – of Russell T. Davies slapping himself on the back in a self-congratulatory coda that simply beggars belief.

Move over Graham Crowden, this death goes on for so long you’ll need two YouTube links to see it all.


Please… go read the rest of it, so I won’t have to write anything about this episode. Please. Don’t make me write about this. Please…. the drumming, the ceaseless drumming in my head!

Ahhh, suddenly I’m fondly remembering the skill and panache of the Baker => McCoy regeneration.

Waters of Mars

Can you believe that the BBC would have the audacity to show a new trailer for Waters of Mars at the San Diego Comic Con – which is, I might point out, in the flippin’ United States – and then post the damned thing to their website and make it UK-only?

That’s over-the-line – and also totally ineffectual. Here it is:

Oh, and John Simm is back as the Master.

Torchwood – Who are the monsters? (Er, Children of Earth) review, spoilers

I loathe Torchwood. It is the Slitheen of the Doctor Who universe… oh, wait, the Slitheen are the Slitheen of the Doctor Who universe. In that case, Torchwood are the fart jokes of the Doctor Who universe – crude, boorish and juvenile. (While, at the same time, attempting to be all grown-up. “See, I can tell fart jokes, I’m an adult!”)

A program so awful that, after series 2, episode 1, I just gave up, and apart from a few clips here and there that I’ve seen on TV or online, I banished it from consideration of watching ever again.

…and then along came the reviews of Torchwood: Children of Earth. Reviews so positive and glowing, from blogs I generally trust to be reasonably compatible with my viewpoint, that it seemed impossible to reconcile with the train wreck that was Torchwood, series 1 and 2.

Well, I just had to see for myself.

Torchwood: Children of Earth is more of a mini-series than a normal year’s worth of episodes. It is one single story, aired (and told in five parts) over 5 consecutive days.

Brief Synopsis without a lot of the details

Nasty aliens come to Earth. They’ve been here before in the 1960’s and the British government gave in to blackmail back then and gave them 12 orphaned children to make them go away. Now the aliens are back and have announced themselves by “stopping” every child on Earth and speaking the words, “We are coming back.”

The first order of business: The British government must find a way to cover up what they did back in 1965, that begins with killing everyone that might talk. One of them, the man who actually handed the children over, was Captain Jack Harkness of Torchwood. Torchwood, being what it is, an organization that investigates alien threats, must also be eliminated.

Captain Jack, being immortal, cannot be killed. Or can he?

A bomb is planted in his stomach (they have to kill him twice to get the bomb in him) and then he, and Torchwood’s HQ are blown into tiny parts. Ianto, Gwen and her husband Rhys go on the run from the assassins.

The aliens arrive and demand 10% of all children on the planet Earth. The alternative: the total extinction of the human species.

Jack pulls himself together (literally), so they encase him in cement, but Ianto and Co. rescue him.

The governments of the world reluctantly agree to the aliens’ terms and begin planning how to deliver 10% of the children to the aliens. Meanwhile, Torchwood uses the last of their Torchwood technology to record what’s being discussed regarding the plans. They use this information to blackmail the British into letting them fight the aliens.

Jack takes a valiant stand in front of the aliens, telling them that we’ll not give them our children and that we’ll fight. They aliens respond by killing the entire human race. Or they would have done if Thames House (where the aliens are represented) hadn’t been a bio-hazard lockable building. Instead of killing the whole world, they just kill everyone in the building, including Jack and Ianto.

Jack gets better. Ianto doesn’t.

Beaten and depleted, Torchwood gives up, and the government begins a campaign to round up 10% of the children, who will not be killed or eaten by the aliens, but will be permanently attached to the aliens’ bodies as a form of narcotic, where they will live as possibly still-sentient children indefinitely.

The round ups begin, and Gwen and Rhys try to save Ianto’s niece and nephew and several other neighborhood children from the cull. Meanwhile Jack’s daughter convinces the one-time assassin who was trying to kill Jack that he is the only one who can save the world. They spring him from prison and he hits upon an idea that could kill the aliens, but it will require a sacrifice. He send a signal back at the aliens using the brain of a child and the only child available is his grandson.

He saves the children of Earth by using his grandson and kills him in the process.

The story ends with Jack leaving the Earth, perhaps forever.

Analysis

Here’s a series that is saved – no, lifted up – by some truly awesome performances.

The supporting cast in this story, particularly the members of the British government, are exceptional. I can’t think of a better word for it. They are deep and nuanced in a way that has for decades set British acting above the rest in the world. Not the performances of the one-dimension heroes, but the performances of the “ordinary” people caught in extra-ordinary circumstances. Director Euros Lyn has also provided them a tight, dramatic canvas to work within and it comes off perfectly.

If there’s a weak spot, it’s the story logic, but even that isn’t bad and it’s punctuated with moments of real, human dialog that rings so real as you might think it was surreptitiously recorded from strangers rather than scripted.

Let’s get a couple things out of the way first before we get into the big questions. This series should not be set in the Doctor Who universe. This has become a major problem with the Doctor Who spin-offs. We can forgive the Doctor for not showing up for every Earth destructing event, but where was Martha Jones? Answer: on her honeymoon and Jack is forbidden to call her by Gwen. I must say, Martha’s husband’s “technique” must be mightily overwhelming that he was able to keep her totally oblivious to all the children on the whole planet stopping and chanting over the period of five days! For cryin’ out loud, didn’t those two at least stop to eat meals? Surely long enough to make a quick phone call to the Doctor. (I told you that damn inter-time, inter-universe cell phone was a stupid plot device that would kick them in the ass later, didn’t I?)

What about Sarah Jane Smith. She’s got a kid in that age group, she hangs out with kids in that age group. Didn’t she notice? Where was Mr. Smith identifying the aliens, or at least the location of their ships or just finding ways to block their signal?

No, this story needed to be isolated to convey the full menace of the situation and it wasn’t sufficiently. Further, by bringing up the Doctor once or twice, they reaffirm the interconnectedness of the whole thing.

From this point forward, I’m going to grant them their isolation and pretend the rest of the Doctor Who universe doesn’t exist.

A lot of the commentary I’ve read about this story revolves around the question of, “Who are the monsters?” That’s what I want to concentrate on mostly.

The argument goes that the British government (and presumably the other governments of the world, too) are the monsters in this story, because of their machinations or perhaps Jack is for killing his own grandson. I want to be very clear on this point – The aliens are the monsters.

The aliens come to Earth, threaten to kill everyone and demand blackmail. For the sake of this story, we have to take it as read that the alien threat is credible and that there is no doubt that they would follow-through. Also, we have to recognize that there is no time to craft an adequate defense plan. In the five days since the beginning of the incident, the knowledge of the aliens obtained is virtually nil. We don’t know where they’re from, how many there are, what the total of the defensive and offensive military might be. There’s no one to fight, no time to fight them, nothing to fight them with and no second chance.  Given that premise, what would you do?

It’s all well and good to say, “Yeah, I’d fight back.” Jack started to do that, and it was foolhardy and stupid. What was he going to do? Pose until the aliens we awed by his movie-star good looks?

Sometimes in this world you’re beaten and the phrase, “He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day,” is never more relevant. Sometimes capitulation is the only option.

To give up 10% of the children to be used in what promises to be a horribly agonizing not-quite-death is distasteful (putting it mildly) but is that worse than condemning those same children to certain death, along with the other 90% and along with the rest of the planet?

It’s not a simple economic equation but, to Russell T. Davies’ credit, that’s the point of the whole story. People making very difficult decisions makes for good drama. And when the difficult decisions have no good answer, the drama can be even more intense. This choice between 10% of the kids and the entire species isn’t reality. It’s an absurd exaggeration that allows writers to explore human nature. That is, at its best, what Science Fiction is all about – the ability to play out scenarios that simply cannot happen and deconstruct the human element.

The discussion around the cabinet table about how to choose the children was the high point of the show. It rang so very real and, given the lack of time, I probably would have come to a similar solution. Given more time, other solutions (whole or partial) might come to mind – children dying in hospital, families with many children who really are on the dole, starving children in third-world countries. Again, nothing tasteful, but recognizing the reality of the situation and trying to minimize the overall damage as much as possible.

All that is to the writers’ credit (and what’s up with a single story being written in parts by different people?) for using the medium of Science Fiction to its potential.

But… Why did the aliens go about things the way they did? Did that really make sense? They can make the kids all stop and talk and point. It seems reasonable that they could make them walk. We know that have some level of granularity over their control because they can make different nations’ children speak different numbers. Why did they need to go through the ambassadorial rigamarole? Why not just walk the kids to collection points and hoover them up before anybody could even figure out what they were doing?

And, assuming they had some reason to go to the government, why establish quotas for each one? Why not go to India or China and force them to turn over 50% of their kids?

I think the answer is that this is just a contrived convenience to try to tell the story about the British government (oh, ahh, that’s obvious.)   

Obvious though that may be, it does make the alien threat seem more implausible. Rather than just do the job themselves, the aliens are forcing all the governments to do the dirty work, despite the fact that the approach would be inefficient and unlikely to achieve their goals in the shortest length of time, What if one single government refused or failed? Would they kill the whole human race? Would another government cough up additional children to make up the difference to avoid annihilation? Would that be more wrong than turning over the 10%? Does that then raise the issue of “not my kids” as was raised at the cabinet?

No, I’ll argue that the solution that the cabinet came up with does not make them monsters. What was monstrous was the attempts to cover it up. Oh, I don’t mean the false inoculation program, obviously the had to lie in order to get the children, but the unwillingness to stand behind their decisions, difficult though they were, made the Prime Minister, in particular, abhorrent.

So let’s turn, finally, to Captain Jack Harkness – immortal man.

One of my complaints about Torchwood is that Jack is… wrong. I don’t mean wrong in the same way a Time Lord just feels he’s wrong, but wrong in the sense that he isn’t portrayed accurately. This is not an indictment of John Barrowman.

Consider: As the series has progressed, we know more and more about how old Jack really is. I gather he was buried under Cardiff for a thousand years or so, but I’m not sure if he was conscious, but at the very least Jack has 150+ years of consciousness, and he’s used to seeing everyone die around him. It’s hard to imagine that Jack would behave recognizably like a human at all. The fact that he does act, for the most part, normal, leaves a deceptively false sense of familiarity.

Jack’s solution to the alien 456 is to destructively use his grandson as a weapon. Is that morally different from being willing to sacrifice 10%? Jack wasn’t willing to give up the 10% to save the others, but he was willing to kill one. The moral dilemma is the same, but his choice is the opposite. What changed his mind? Recognition of the futility of his earlier position? Revenge for the death of Ianto? Or a different perspective on death? Does he see a moral difference because in both cases he chose to fight? If he could have poisoned the 10% of the children so that they would have killed the 456, would he have gone along with that?

Heroically, I have no doubt that Jack would have laid down his life (such as it is) to save the children. I’m sure Gwen or Ianto, or perhaps even Froebisher would have laid down their lives too.

But that wasn’t the choice available to any of them.

Does the immortal Jack Harkness even comprehend death as we do? A mortal man could easily imagine that, in the normal course of life, his children or grandchildren will outlive him. Not so with Jack. He knows that it is just a matter of time before the boy dies anyway. Does that perspective change the morality of his decision?

In this, ultimately, the writers of Torchwood: Children of Earth have left us with more questions than answers and they have given us the chance to look, briefly, into the depths of the human mind.

For that reason, I recommend this series as an exceptional throwback to the days Nigel Kneale and John Wyndham.

But whatever you do… Don’t watch Torchwood series one or two!

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.