When I was a young spud, TV was more than a bit different than what it is for young spuds today. For starters, we didn’t have a billion channels to flip through in order to find something remotely interesting. What we did have though largely thanks to the 1960’s and early 70’s was a fair amount of fun-centric sci-fi themed shows that would tickle the young mind … especially the young boys’ minds. The space age was all the rage, and, with STAR TREK and LOST IN SPACE, every one of us wanted to be astronauts. Those who didn’t? Well, we could roam the depths in VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, or we could race through time in TIME TUNNEL. These programs went a long way toward fueling our imagination, largely populating them with various monsters and other oddities that would keep us glued to those silver screens as well as keep us awake at night for fear that they were coming to eat us alive.
Hats off to the folks behind PRIMEVAL: NEW WORLD for returning to those sentiments, even if it was only for a scant thirteen episodes of men, monsters, and the mayhem resulting when they met.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
New age wunderkind Evan Cross has lost the love of his life to the most curious circumstances imaginable: while exploring an abandoned building to track down a magnetic anomaly, the two lovebirds can face-to-face with a lumbering Albertosaurus who munches down his would-be bride. Now committed more than ever, he uses knowledge and his personal wealth to put together a crack team of scientists/adventurers willing to go head-to-head with these prehistoric creatures slipping through portals in time in order to terrorize the world as we know it.
For those who didn’t know, this version of PRIMEVAL is a kinda/sorta spiritual refashioning of a U.K. show of the same name. This property was set and filmed in Vancouver (where else?), and it was graced with the guiding presence of Judith and Gar Reeves-Stevens. (This can be good, but, with good, there also comes some bad.) If you’ve never heard of them, then you’re probably no fan of STAR TREK fiction as they’ve cooperated with William Shatner in bringing some of the brightest and best adventures to life on the printed page. When it comes to their work in episodic television, however, they haven’t been as fortunate. While their contributions genuinely feel inspired, their explorations lack the massive narrative scope they’ve successfully mastered in their prose.
For all its strengths – and there are plenty – PRIMEVAL never quite escapes that dead weight sensation of feeling derivative. While I’m unfamiliar with its predecessor show, methinks I would be a comfortable waters stating that it’s probably superior in several ways; however, I’d put money that the latest digital enhancements in filmdom probably gives this modern incarnation the edge in storytelling. Therein lies the fatal rub: as the technical grows, it becomes more and more affordable to bring special effects to television audiences, and this unfortunately has produced the net loss of creative storytelling. After all, when you can fix everything in post-production, why start with a perfect script? This has plague more TV shows than just PRIMEVAL, mind you, as any network executive will remind you; and I suspect it’ll continue to cause ratings’ nightmares for quite a few more in the decades ahead.
Don’t let that reality interfere with your giving PRIMEVAL a fair shot for your entertainment dollar. Populating a show with a team of scientists who all look like underwear models probably wasn’t a great way to make kids want to grow up and study physics, but it will bring in that much needed teen and young adult demographic. The show had a somewhat groovy vibe – a nifty undercurrent – that escapes most short-lived productions, especially those you’ll find on Syfy: the science was more like what you’d expect from INDIANA JONES or JURASSIC PARK and less like what you find on the National Geographic Channel … so there’s something to be said for that.
You want tongue-in-cheek fun? You could do far worse than PRIMEVAL: NEW WORLD.
PRIMEVAL: NEW WORLD (THE COMPLETE SERIES) is produced by Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund and Omni Film Productions. DVD distribution is being handled by Entertainment One (aka E One). As for the technical specifications? Hell yeah! The show looks and sounds pretty awesome with some state-of-the-art CGI doing wonders where other programs have come up a bit short. As for the special features? It’s a slim but worthy assortment: you can “Meet the Cast,” go “Inside the Tank,” and enjoy 13 episodic behind-the-scenes features – one for each episode that made this ‘complete series’ what it was for viewers.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. I’ve a history of being pretty hard on many of the series that come to the masses via Syfy, but that’s only because FARSCAPE really was the cat’s meow; everything since has been a pale imitation. Still, it was hard not to accept PRIMEVAL: NEW WORLD as exactly as its writers, producers, and talent intended – a middle-of-the-road monster series with prehistoric creatures given central focus. Sure, it’s probably plagued by as much saccharin writing as the next series retread / reboot, but the little kid trapped somewhere inside of me still liked it an awful lot. Thumbs up … but modestly disappointed to learn it wasn’t picked up for more.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Entertainment One (aka E One) provided me with a Blu-ray DVD copy of PRIMEVAL: NEW WORLD (THE COMPLETE SERIES) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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