Primeval – making good use of the roar materials

As the prehistoric sci-fi returns to ITV for a fifth series, Mark Braxton looks at where we are now - and what's to come

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For terrestrial fans of Primeval, the waiting is over. After a 16-month hiaitus on ITV1, the colourful, dino-flavoured sci-fi caper is back on Saturday nights where it belongs.

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Series Five, which aired on Watch last year, sees the comely crew of the Anomaly Research Centre tackling big burrowing insects, ship-sized liopleurodons, a raptor, a T rex and a battalion of other beasties. 

And time portals whisk the ARC angels off to Jurassic oceans, Victorian London and a scary, toxic Earth of many years hence.

Primeval is bigger and bolder than ever, in other words, and to think it could all have been so different…

In 2009, after three series, and despite healthy ratings, Primeval looked as dead and buried as a fossilised trilobite. Cancellation! But a rescue package saved the programme from extinction and gave us two more seasons – Four and now Five.

So where are we now? Well, “Previously on Primeval”: mystery man Matt revealed that he was from the future; his fancy woman Emily returned to the 19th century; and squillionaire scientist Philip Burton was exposed by Danny as a bad egg who’d been in cohoots with femme fatale Helen Cutter. Remember her?

In Saturday’s opening episode Philip introduces Connor to his “philanthropic” plans for mankind. It’s a hit-the-ground-running reintroduction to a series that has grown in confidence, and put more time and energy into developing a story arc. This run of episodes really builds to a terrific, life-or-death crescendo.

But it’s not all roar-and-claw. There are cute romances, plenty of laughs, thanks to Ben Miller as sardonic pinstripe James Lester, and stacks of CGI-bolstered action.

As for the future, ITV is remaining tight-lipped. A spokesman did recently volunteer, “We haven’t commissioned any more episodes.” Which sounds a bit ominous. But when I pressed him as to whether that meant the show was cancelled, he gave me an emphatic “No”. 

And don’t forget the Canadian spin-off, Primeval: New World, which began filming in March.

So for now, Primeval is alive and well, and quite possibly thudding down a high street near you…

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Primeval is on Saturdays at 6pm on ITV1