At the end of the first episode of series 4, I turned to my wife and was like, "Actually, that was pretty good." Then at the end of the second episode, I did it again. And then again in the third! I don't know what exactly happened-- production moved to Ireland to save costs, but as far as I can tell, the head writer stayed the same, as did most of the freelance writers and directors. Yet with series 4 came a higher level of seriousness and more of a focus on character that had been lacking from the show, as well as a feeling of reality. It's hard to explain, but the show became suddenly, noticeably better. And not just better than it was in the bizarre series 3, but better than it had ever been. (I know some people out there aren't big series 4/5 fans, but I find that perspective unfathomable.)
|On the other hand, the webisodes have this|
whole thing about how they aren't going to
wear black uniforms in the field anymore...
and they still do.
The main cast is definitely one of the most prominent areas of improvement, and given that the plots on Primeval were never exactly things of genius, this is a pretty essential area. The two worst characters from series 3 don't come back-- team leader Danny Quinn and historian Sarah Page. Danny was lost in time at the end of series 3, and series 4 keeps him out of the way by reiterating that, but series 4 actually kills Sarah off with a quick line about a mission gone wrong! I didn't particularly love her character, but whoa, harsh!
|Cutest moment of series 4: how worried Lester is for these|
Lester annoyed me in the first series, but each series has found a way to make him a little bit better than in the previous-- 4 and 5 get the mix of humour, affection, and pompousness just right for Britain's best bureaucrat.
There's a really good moment in one episode that shows how the writing of series 4 is much more character-based: with one team member stranded in the past, there's a debate about whether to go through the anomaly to rescue him or to lock the anomaly to reduce the danger. Becker thinks a rescue can't be risked-- thinking about the death of Sarah on a similar mission. Abby, fresh from a year-long exile to the past, thinks every chance has to be given for a rescue. Each has their own, perfectly reasonable perspective. It's not a big thing, but it's more sophisticated than previous seasons gave us.
That said, the new characters are great. A new team function is added with Jess, who stays back at the base and co-ordinates while everyone else is out in the field. As a result, she (usually) doesn't play a big role in missions, but she was a fun character. (Weirdly, there's a subplot set up about her, Abby, and Connor all living in the same apartment which never comes up again. As this would be the third Connor-rooms-with-another-team-member subplot in four seasons, maybe this would be for the best.)
|First team leader on this show I'd actually trust with my life.|
(Danny does make a one-episode return. This didn't exactly fill me with cheer, but it does tie off an old dropped plot, and the writers purposefully/deliberately foreground his ridiculousness, as he immediately begins fighting prehistoric creatures with a giant stick named "Molly"! Jenny also returns for one episode, which was a lot more welcome.)
|Oh my, Julian!|
If you'd asked me at the end of series 3, I might've suggested on giving up on it all-- or only watching it to delight in the bad television of it all. But I persevered, and series 4 and 5 turned out to be a pretty solid team-based adventure show. If only they'd kept this set-up going! But other than a short-lived Canadian spin-off, that was it for Primeval.
(Series 5 needed more Rex, though.)