The British sci-fi show “Primeval” has survived a lot of bumps and scrapes in its six-year history. It ran for three seasons (on ITV in England and BBC America across the pond) before being canceled in 2009. In three short seasons, various characters suffered fatalities, leaving the cast in constant flux. The show was miraculously revived in 2011 and ran for two more seasons. Now Syfy Channel is giving us “Primeval: New World,” a North American spinoff produced by Canada’s Space Channel (the Canuck equivalent of Syfy).
The original cast has been replaced, and the setting has been moved to Vancouver. The basic premise remains the same, however: Bewildered scientists battle dinosaurs with a bad habit of popping through unstable time anomalies and into the modern world. A similar idea worked for “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “CSI: Miami” and “CSI: New York.” But this new version might as well be called “Primeval: Someplace Cheaper to Shoot.”
The new show basically replicates the first season of “Primeval,” with a bunch of boffins (Brit slang for “scientists”) discovering the existence of flashy time holes which occasionally allow big-ass dinosaurs through. The hastily assembled team of dinosaur hunters attempts to figure out ways of combating these giant beasts, closing the holes and covering the entire thing up for an unsuspecting population. Though it’s nice that the series is continuing, “New World” has a distinct been-there/done-that vibe.
The British team spent five seasons becoming polished dinosaur stalkers, battling world-ending threats and developing all sorts of cool, Ghostbusters-style gear for combating the prehistoric monsters. With “New World” we’re back at square one watching a bunch of noobs say, “But dinosaurs are extinct!” a lot.
There are a few strong characters: Dylan (Sara Canning), a conservation officer skilled in hunting predators; Toby (Crystal Lowe), the team’s resident computer expert; Lieutenant Leeds (Geoff Gustafson), the nerdy liaison from Canada’s version of “The X-Files.” But the cast isn’t nearly as charismatic as the original. A brief cameo by Connor Temple (Andrew-Lee Potts) from “Primeval” in the show’s first episode only reminds fans how sorely missed the original characters are.
It takes a mere episode or two for “New World” to fall into a familiar pattern. After all, there are only a certain number of basic dinosaur types to battle. If you’ve never seen “Primeval” before, “New World” is an OK place to start. It’s like a cheap, weekly version of The Lost World: Jurassic Park. But longtime viewers may find themselves saying things like, “Oh, this is the episode where they have to fight the aquatic dinosaur” or “Oh, this is the episode where they have to fight some version of a pterosaur.”
To tell the truth, “Primeval: New World” only lasted a single season before going extinct. While you might eke a tiny bit of dino-style satisfaction out of it, you won’t get anything beyond the 13-episode run Syfy is now airing. But hey, it might give you something to do while hoping and praying for the revival of the original series.