American networks have a reputation for making a mess of adapting British science fiction series for audiences across the Atlantic.
Despite this, there were good reasons to be optimistic about Primeval: New World. It’s a spin-off not an adaptation and as a Canadian show ought not to be tainted by Hollywood’s past failures.
What’s more, except for Brit newcomer Danny Rahim, its cast and crew have ample experience from other genre series shot in Vancouver. Nonetheless, it still looks likely to go down in history as yet another transatlantic dud that got cancelled after one season.
Another Primeval revival was always a gamble given what the law of diminishing returns has done to the UK series. A new cast of young and mostly non-British characters was also going to be a tough sell to the fanbase.
On home soil Primeval: New World’s setting and the goodwill many Stargate and Sanctuary fans feel towards the personnel involved were in its favour. The same sentimental attachment to the continent’s sci-fi alumni doesn’t exist in Britain, though. Moreover, local icons like a Canadian Tire store have no cultural resonance in a country where fewer people are familiar with Vancouver than with the King’s Lynn shopping centre bearing its name.
On its own merits Primeval: New World is a decent slice of uncomplicated entertainment. The problem is that it doesn’t do enough to shake up or shake off its origins.
Touted as a more visceral take on the franchise, it still adheres to the original series’ dinosaur-of-the-week format and light-hearted tone. Yet, that only makes the profanities, body parts and sexual openness feel misplaced. To its credit, it is less tepid than Terra Nova. It is also one of the few genre shows that refreshingly avoids entangling its characters in an ever-deepening mythology.
Unfortunately having them say “shit” on a regular basis is unlikely to satisfy either lovers of Saturday tea-time telly or someone who wants some meat on the dinosaurs’ bones.