Primeval is a British science fiction television programme produced for ITV by Impossible Pictures. Created by Adrian Hodges and Tim Haines, who previously created the Walking with...documentary series. Primeval follows a team of scientists tasked with investigating the appearance of temporal anomalies across Great Britain through which prehistoric and futuristic creatures enter the present.
First broadcast in the UK on 10 February 2007, it has since expanded to an international audience. Overall reception of the programme was positive during the first and second series, maintaining a 25% audience share in the United Kingdom during both series to date. Before it was broadcast on 9 August 2008 on BBC America, the programme received generally positive reaction from American critics as well. The third series, which ITV announced on 30 January 2008, began on 28 March 2009. In the US, series 3 premiered on 16 May 2009 on BBC America.
On 29 September 2009, it was announced that a deal had been struck between ITV, BBC Worldwide, Watch, Impossible Pictures and the German broadcaster ProSieben to produce two new series of the show for transmission in 2011.
Five webisodes were announced prior to the fourth series of seven episodes, which started airing on New Year's Day 2011 on ITV (ITV1/STV/UTV) in the UK and on BBC America in the US. The fifth series of six episodes aired on Watch in May 2011 and will be repeated on ITV later. Impossible Pictures has made no announcements about the show's future since production of Series 5 wrapped in November 2010. A Canadian spin-off, titled Primeval: New World, was announced on 15 September 2011, with production beginning in the winter.
Cancellation and Survival and Spin-off:
In May 2009, The Sun had reported that Primeval was to be axed owing to ITV's recent admission of a £2.7 billion loss (though not solely as a result of Primeval's budget). ITV strongly denied this claim, with a spokesperson stating "It's not true, it's not going to be axed, it just hasn't been recommissioned and it is not unusual to wait for a series to run before considering recommission". However, by June 2009, ITV confirmed the show was axed. On 15 June 2009, ITV announced that they had cancelled the show and that there would not be a fourth series. At the same time, it was suggested that the production team would attempt to keep "Primeval alive in other ways". An ITV spokesman is quoted as saying:
"After three very successful series of Primeval there are no plans at the present time for it to return to ITV. High-quality drama remains a key part of the ITV schedule although our current focus is on post-watershed productions."
A likely contributing factor to the show's cancellation was ITV suffering severe financial troubles during 2009, reporting a £105 million half-year loss. As a result some of its other popular shows including Heartbeat were axed. On 29 September 2009, it was announced that two new series of the show would be produced for transmission in 2011, retaining most of the Series 3 cast; Laila Rouass stated that she will not be returning.
The new deal meant the seven-part series four aired on ITV1 in early 2011, before being repeated on UKTV’s Watch channel, while the six-part series five will get its debut on Watch before showing on ITV1. Filming for series 4 and 5 of Primeval started on 22 March 2010 and finished in November 2010, with January 2011 set as the new series 4 airdate. Filming for series 4 was confirmed to have finished on 25 June, with filming for series 5 starting immediately.
On 7 April 2010, three new regular characters were announced for series four and five. These were scientist Philip Burton, to be played by Alexander Siddig, Matt, the new field leader, to be played by Ciarán McMenamin and Jess, played by Ruth Kearney, who will run operations from the ARC Control Centre.
On 8 June 2010, in an interview with the only Irish director involved with the fourth series, Robert Quinn stated that in episodes 5 and 6 of series 4, one would feature creatures that would terrorise a seaside village (filmed in Wicklow) and in the other, creatures would attack a castle (filmed in Luttrelstown castle).
Plans for a feature film version of Primeval were announced in May 2009 by ITV with Warner Bros. Having acquired the screen rights with Akiva Goldsman and Kerry Foster named as the producers. On 15 September 2011, Primeval: New World, a Canadian spin-off of the Primeval series, was announced as being in development for the Canadian television channel Space. It is a co-production between Omni Film productions, Impossible Pictures, and Bell Media. Production began in Vancouver, British Columbia, in the winter of 2011
TV critic Charlie Brooker reviewed Primeval in the final episode of his BBC Four show Screenwipe, and gave it a rave review saying that it was "far better than Torchwood for instance" commenting "I hope you're listening, Russell T Davies". "Unashamedly Saturday night populist viewing for the masses" with "some of the best special effects [he'd] ever seen... in a British TV show" he went on.
First broadcast on BBC America on 9 August 2008, Primeval met with generally favourable reviews among American critics, earning 73 out of 100 on the aggregate review site Metacritic. Calling the show both child-friendly and entertaining for adults, Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune noted the unusual date of the American première, stating that "most networks...have shied away from launching shows during August, when the Beijing Olympics are expected to dominate the TV landscape." Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette praised Primeval's special effects and sense of humor. Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times criticized the music and emotional direction of the narrative, saying of protagonist Nick Cutter "I know your wife has been missing for years, but ye gods, man, that's a bloody dinosaur."
Comparisons have been made between Primeval and the popular BBC series Doctor Who, which is famous for its use of time travel. The producers of Primeval have consistently resisted comparison of the series with Doctor Who, callingPrimeval more "reality-based." Actor Douglas Henshall instead compared the series to The A-Team, calling Primeval an ensemble piece featuring characters with different backgrounds who must work together. Torchwood creator and former Doctor Who head writer Russell T Davies commented on the show in 2007, criticising Primeval's lack of ethnic casting as "shameful," but then adding "apart from that, I think it's excellent". Sarah Page, played by the Moroccan-Indian actress Laila Rouass, joined the show temporarily as a member of the main team for Series 3.