Primeval - The show that kept evolving

It’s not uncommon, these days, for a cancelled program to find new life online. There was Community’s sixth season on Yahoo Screen; Arrested Development returning on Netflix; Amazon picked up Ripper Street after the BBC gave up with it, and so on and so forth. Each of these shows evolved, in a way, to survive – but none of them would have managed without the opportunities afforded to them by the internet.

Which makes it all the more impressive that Primeval managed to live on, dodging the threat of extinction many times, all without the aid of internet streaming giants.

Created in 2007, Primeval was ITV’s answer to Doctor Who; a high concept programme incorporating time travel elements. Portals through time, known as anomalies, were opening across England, and allowing all many of prehistoric creatures to roam free – the series began following the work of Professor Nick Cutter as he attempted to solve the mysteries of the anomalies, a matter of both scientific curiosity and personal concern. It was described as being more “realistic” than Doctor Who – debatable, given the time travel and dinosaurs, but, in any case, it was clear that a closer comparison was perhaps the one made by Douglas Henshall (Nick Cutter) himself; Primeval was akin to The A Team, with an ensemble of specialists having to work together to achieve their aims.

Over time, though, the show began to change; the second series saw our team go from a ragtag group to a fully-fledged secret organisation with the backing of both the government and the military, as well as having to face a larger threat for the first time. The third season brought with it another near-reboot, as Douglas Henshall decided to leave the show; gone was our professor of zoology, replaced with an ex policeman played by Jason Flemyng, and the show gradually became more action oriented. It grew grander in scale, too, and saw the team coming up against potentially world ending threats.

It was also cancelled. And ended on a cliffhanger.

ITV had endured a rather large loss, and were cancelling programmes – Primeval included – in an attempt to save costs. Three months after the initial cancellation announcement, though, it was revealed that Primeval would return for a further two series, in a joint co-production with another channel. It would be, though, another two years before the show would come back – and with somewhat different cast, two, as both Laila Rouass and Jason Flemyng would be unavailable to return. Thus it was time for Primeval to evolve once more, shifting to place greater focus on Connor Temple, one of the show’s long running supporting characters, as well as introducing a host of new ones.

As it goes, Primeval’s return was a relatively successful one; the fourth season received ratings in a similar league to its immediate predecessor, suggesting further success for the fifth. That wasn’t the case, in the end, with season five having dramatically reduced viewing figures; ultimately, the show wasn’t renewed for a sixth season. (Again, it ended on a cliffhanger!)

Still, it wasn’t quite the end of Primeval’s story. In 2012, there was a Canadian spinoff series – Primeval: New World. Arguably it was too derivative of the original series, but it was entertaining enough; still, though, it struggled to maintain the views, and was ultimately cancelled after just one season. (Which also ended on a cliffhanger. They never learn!)

It’s now been four years since the last time we saw any Primeval content, but the show still rumbles on; there are dedicated fan pages on Twitter, for example, and the cast still go to conventions on the back of Primeval. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if Primeval did return again someday, in some shape or form; it’s a show with a built in audience, a recognisable brand, and an extremely versatile premise. A few years back, Warner Bros bought the rights to make a movie – it’s always possible we’ll see that in cinemas, somewhere down the line.

After all, it wouldn’t be the first time Primeval came back from the brink of extinction.

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