Primeval (TV Series)
©2007-2011 Impossible Pictures/BBC
Behind cool government labs and sneaky cover-ups, the British government hides the biggest secret in human history: dinosaurs are back. Created by Adrian Hodges and Tim Haines (creators of the Walking With Prehistoric Life documentary series), Primeval uses high-end CG effects to bring the prehistoric past to life. The British series launched in 2007 and went on to gain an international audience. Primeval’s fourth season aired in 2011 on ITV, BBC America, and SyFy.
When paleontology professor Nick Cutter discovers an anomaly linking present day with prehistoric eras, the opportunities for scientific discovery abound. But these mysterious, sporadic anomalies also let in dangerous extinct creatures. By stepping into the present, these creatures – a few evolutionary steps behind interspecies tolerance – not only mess up the natural evolutionary order, but also eat whomever they can find. Cutter joins a team of scientists and government officials who set out to return wayward prehistorics (preferably before anyone gets eaten) and discover the secrets behind the anomalies.
Primeval is mostly about people running away from dinosaurs. However, the characters sometimes stop running and discuss deeper questions. The series portrays multiple aspects of atheism. Cutter clearly advocates naturalism, believing that the anomalies must be stopped before they can irreparably damage the natural evolutionary order. Another character takes a relativistic stance, asking if anyone can tell what the natural order is anymore. The show never answers their questions, but it subtly sides with Cutter. Episodes focus on restoring the evolutionary balance and humanity’s survival by being smarter and more evolved than other species.
Besides unquestionably accepting a Darwinian view of the universe, Primeval contains strong naturalistic streaks. All the characters are atheistic; Spirituality or the supernatural is so outside the “natural order” that it isn’t even considered. Nature or evolution is the only guiding force, and survival of the fittest is a central theme. Interestingly, the dinosaurs’ hapless victims are usually the unlikable, greedy, or socially unfit.
Primeval also displays postmodern elements. The show often has a snarky, irreverent view toward prehistoric attacks and situations in general. In several episodes, the team journeys through an anomaly to a bleak, post-apocalyptic future where a highly-evolved species has destroyed the human race. While Cutter accepts this as evolution’s natural course – saying evolution can’t be bent to human will; however, his estranged wife, Helen, says they can change evolution and must because nature doesn’t care about them. Eventually, Helen decides humans are ruining nature and tries to prevent humans from evolving. However, characters usually stay hopeful and positive, believing they can figure out the anomalies and preserve prehistoric life.
Although Primeval dabbles with postmodern relativism and despair, the show clearly presents a naturalistic worldview. Primeval suggests humans are the fittest and will progress, as long as they stay one step ahead of the dinosaurs.