- Prof. Nick Cutter: Douglas Henshall
- Jenny Lewis: Lucy Brown
- Abby Maitland: Hannah Spearritt
- Connor Temple: Andrew Lee Potts
- Sir James Lester: Ben Miller
- Sarah Page: Laila Rouass
- Helen Cutter: Juliet Aubrey
- Captain Becker: Ben Mansfield
Written by: Steve Bailie. Directed by: Tony Mitchell. Co-Creators and Executive Producers: Tim Haines, Adrian Hodges. Series Producer: Tim Bradley. Air date: May 16, 2009 on BBC America.
Plot Summary (Contains Spoilers)
When an exhibition of ancient Egyptian relics comes to London’s British Museum, an anomaly opens in a mysterious monument called the Sun Cage. A creature emerges from it -- a Pristichampsus, a kind of monstrous crocodile that can run on two legs. This creature, which comes from a past much more distant than the Egypt of the Pharaohs, somehow became worshipped as a God in that civilization, and is now portrayed in the hieroglyphics on the Sun Cage.
The murderous creature wreaks havoc in the museum before escaping into the city. Helped by Sarah Page (Laila Rouass), the smart and sexy archaeologist at the museum, Cutter and the team attempt to track it down -- but not before Connor begins to believe he’s the victim of the legendary curse attached to the monument.
Meantime Cutter is impressed by the museum’s archaeologist and Page is invited to join his team. The experience with the Pristichampsus and the Sun Cage also give Cutter and Connor new ideas about how to approach their encounters with the anomalies.
Where (and When) the Wild Things Are
Primeval started out from an interesting premise -- using actual creatures from Earth's past as monsters thrust into contemporary Britain -- and developed around it a strong show mixing adventure peril, high-tech conspiracy, and human backstory. Now starting its third season, Primeval has matured enough to seek some intriguing fresh angles on its basic structure, and the first episodes of season 3 promise a formidable season that's far from being all about this week's dinosaur.
The most useful innovation is the storyline involving Helen Cutter (Juliet Aubrey), the nemesis (and estranged wife) of team leader Nick Cutter (Douglas Henshall). After the failure of last season's scheme to breed prehistoric creatures, Helen has a new focus: having seen a catastrophic future she blames on Cutter, she and her army of clones (played by the doughfaced Tim Faraday) are now pulling out all the stops to end Cutter's work, creating a through-line tying together the entire season. Aubrey, fortunately, manages to play Helen in a way that reveals her insanity without sacrificing plausibility.
Helen isn't the only villain: Cutter's boss, sardonic Home Office rep Sir James Lester (Ben Miller), is getting interference from a MI5 troublemaker, Christine Johnson (Belinda Stewart-Wilson), who clearly has her own agenda regarding the anomalies; and the obnoxious journalist Mick Harper (Ramon Tikaram), last seen digging into the mammoth rampage, is back to try to expose everything.
Characterization has in the past been uneven, but it has deepened; Connor still has the greatest inherent potential.
New Team Members
Meanwhile the anomaly team, which has always seemed rather small given how huge a problem you'd think dinosaurs wandering through London would be, gains new members. Archaeologist Sarah Page (Laila Rouass) offers new insights into how the beasts have appeared among past cultures; Rouass, though not as convincing a scientist as she might be, meshes nicely with Cutter and Connor (Andrew-Lee Potts).
More interesting, though, is loose cannon Danny Vernon (Jason Flemyng, Thomas from Benjamin Button), an obsessive cop introduced in episode 2 who involves himself in the team's business for personal reasons, whether they want him to or not. Flemyng adds a bit of grit to this baby-faced bunch, which is mined both for heft and comic contrast. There's also a new straight-arrow security chief, Captain Becker, adeptly played by Ben Mansfield.
What's best about Primeval is that, like Doctor Who, it knows how to pack adventure and humor into the same 45-minute episode. While the giant crocodile in the first episode is fairly routine -- it serves mainly as a vehicle to inaugurate the new storylines -- subsequent episodes are stronger. Episode 2 features a camouflaging beast from the future whose terrorizing of a country house haunts a number of characters, and episode 4 brings on a super-sized T. Rex, the Gigantosaurus. But the biggest monster of all might be Helen, whose extreme campaign to save the world causes escalating calamities for the anomaly team.
If the focus and balance shown in the early episodes holds true, season 3 may just be the best season of Primeval yet.