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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Primeval: Volume Three (Blu-ray)
Primeval: Volume Three (Blu-ray)
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // January 10, 2012 // Region A
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted January 12, 2012 | E-mail the Author
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The Series:
 
I really enjoyed the first three seasons of Primeval, especially the third where the show really hit its stride.  So I was naturally giddy with anticipation when Primeval Volume Three - Season Four and Five, was announced and on Blu-ray no less!  Unfortunately my excitement soon faded as I made my way through the 13 episodes.  What was once a gutsy and daring show that wasn't afraid to kill off main characters and really explore that ramifications of time travel quickly devolved into a monster-of-the-week show, and not a very good one at that.
 


The world has changed, only most people don't know it.  All of a sudden, without explanation, "anomalies" have started to appear throughout England.  Looking like a shiny moving circle of broken crystals, these anomalies are actually doorways into time:  Two-way doorways which allow dinosaurs and prehistoric monsters to enter our world with often deadly results. 
 
These anomalies are tracked, and the 'incursions' by dinosaurs controlled by, the Anomaly Research Center or ARC for short.  Two of the main operatives for the ARC are the geeky but intelligent Connor Temple (Andrew Lee Potts) and zoo worker turned dinosaur expert Abby Maitland (Hannah Spearritt), who are trapped in the past at the end of season three.  That leaves Captain Becker (Ben Mansfield) still with the ARC which is run by civil servant James Lester (Ben Miller).  To fill in the missing members, the mysterious Matt Anderson (CiarĂ¡n McMenamin) joins the ARC as new team leader and Jess Parker (Ruth Kearney) is brought on as the team coordinator. 
 


As season four opens a year has passed since the events at the end of season three trapped Connor and Abby in the far past.  The pair of time-lost adventurers are having a hard time staying alive in the Cretaceous Period.  They've had to rely on each other and grown very close, but they're also at the end of their rope and it's only a matter of time before some creature devours them.
 
Luckily they discover a device, albeit broken, that can open anomalies, fix it while running from a Spinosaur, and manage to leap back to 21st Century London.   There they discover that the ARC has been rebuilt and upgraded with the latest technology.  This is because it's now a join government/private enterprise endeavor with the capital coming from wealth, genius entrepreneur Philip Burton (Alexander Siddig).  Having put a lot of his company's money into the project, he has a lot of say in what goes on, and that doesn't always sit well with Abby.  Connor, on the other hand, has admired Burton for years and is amazed when his idol asks him to help with some top secret research into anomalies.  Even though he has to keep it a secret from everyone, including Abby.
 


These two seasons are mainly stand alone creature-of-the-week shows, where some dinosaur will come through an anomaly and the team will have to push it back through.  There are a few competing subplots that make the show a bit more interesting however.  Aside from Burton's secret research into the nature of anomalies, a big mystery is just who Matt is and what he's doing at the ARC.  He has clandestine meetings with an old man who cautions him not to get close to anyone and warns him about a disaster with anomalies that will soon take place.  Just how does he know this, and what is Matt supposed to be looking for?
 
While these subplots help propel the series, it's a pale shadow of what it was in earlier seasons.  Instead of really pushing the boundaries of TV SF as it has in the past, the show has become pedestrian.  At the end of season one, for example, the main character changed some things in the past and when he went back to the 21st Century everything was different.  He had changed the course of history, and it was a permanent change.  While that's a common theme in written SF, it's very rare in SF made for the small screen.  By contrast, when the past is changed in these seasons, there are no ramifications at all. 
 


What's worse is that this set of shows falls back to standard TV fare.  Matt's big secret is mysterious, but ultimately the fact that it's a secret is incredibly stupid.  If he would have revealed everything from the beginning he would have made everyone's life much easier, and there was absolutely no reason for him not to have let the members of the ARC in on it.  When all was said and done, that whole subplot made no sense at all.
 
Then there's the way that dinosaurs act.  They'll eat and kill anyone who is not a main character, but when the corner someone who gets their name in the credits they snarl and growl for a long time, until, deus ex machina-like, an unseen protagonist can arrive just in the nick of time.  They took this to ludicrous extremes at times.  In one scene a woman's ankle is shackled to a pole and a large, angry, prehistoric avian creature attack her.  Instead of actually biting her it stand in front of the woman while she hits it over and over again with a wooden club until it's knocked unconscious.  It never once attacked!  A T-Rex gets hit in the leg by a speeding SUV, gets up, and then runs at the driver (now out of the vehicle).  Instead of biting his head off it roars in the drivers face a few times while the man repeatedly shoots the dinosaur in the face with a taser-like gun.  No wonder the dinosaurs went extinct... they wouldn't fight back when attacked.
 


The creators went so far as to even get rid of the great cliff-hangers that capped off the earlier seasons.  This time around they are very lame.  They're so unsuspenseful that I didn't even realize that I had finished season four until I was part way through season five.
 
The Blu-ray Set:

 
The 13 episodes that make up seasons four and five come on four Blu-ray discs that are housed in a fold out book.   This is housed in a nice slipcase. 
 
Audio:
 
The stereo audio track first the show well, thought it would have been enhanced by a 5.1 mix.  The show is centers the dialog on the screen, but I couldn't help imagining how much more intense some of the dinosaur scenes would have been with a full surround mix.  The voices are clean and clear, though there are one or two times when it's hard to understand every word from a rapidly delivered speech due to the accents.  Luckily there are optional subtitles.
 
Video:
 
The 1.78:1 1080i image is fine, though it's not extraordinary.  It is a step up from the SD DVDs that the earlier seasons were released on, with the colors being brighter and the lines tighter.  There is some aliasing in several scenes, mainly when they're panning across a cityscape, where diagonal lines will have a stair-step effect and shimmer slightly.  The special effects looked better this time around too, which I was a bit surprised to see.  I expected the HD format to make the flaws even more evident.  When all is said and done this is a solid looking TV show.  Just not reference quality.
 
Extras:
 
This set is pretty light on the extras.  There are a series of five short webisodes on disc two that serve to fill in what was going on at the ARC during the year that passed between seasons three and four, which are enjoyable but would be more effective if they were at the beginning of the first disc.  All of the events that transpire in these webisodes is mentioned in the regular series, so watching it afterwards (as I did) is a bit anticlimactic.  There's also a two part making-of featurette that's about average. 
 
Final Thoughts:
 
This show has jumped the shark.  It's still enjoyable to watch, but when I was at the end of the set I felt let down rather than eager for the next season.  Fans of the previous seasons should check it out, but only with lowered expectations.  This would make a good rental.
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