Well, well, well. It seems the success of Doctor Who has inspired ITV to commission its own Saturday evening drama with a time travel link. But Primeval, at least on the strength of last night’s first episode, is something quite different. No mysterious alien travellers popping in to save the world here, just ordinary humans encountering the unexpected. Perhaps more like Torchwood than Doctor Who, only without the sex and swearing, as it’s going out at 7:45pm.
It all began in a promising enough manner, with a pre-titles sequence involving a woman being chased through a supermarket car park by what appeared to be a quite large predatory dinosaur. As you’d expect, the dinosaur was very nicely done, with work being done by the same team who worked on Walking with Dinosaurs.
Eight years later, and something else has been happening in the Forest of Dean. Blurred photographs in the press suggest a large animal is loose. Professor Nick Cutter, whose wife disappeared eight years ago, is approached by Connor Temple, one of his students, who shows him the pictures. Connor manages to persuade Nick and his assistant Stephen Hart to investigate.
Meanwhile, reptile expert Abby Maitland, just about to lose her job at the zoo, goes to see a young boy who has an unusual pet lizard that he found in the forest. The pet, which the boy has named Rex, turns out to be very unusual indeed. It’s later identifed as a Coelurosaurus, which is far too extinct to be hanging around in the Forest of Dean.
And so it goes. Naturally, the government gets involved when it becomes clear that there really is something nasty in the forest – namely a Gorgonopsid, a “mammal-like reptile” from the Permian period.
A further investigation is required when a strange sparkly thing is found. The anomaly, as it’s soon named, turns out to be a gateway through time, which is where Rex, the Gorgonopsid and a rather less ferocious Scutosaurus came from.
Accompanied by the traditional Gulf War veteran special forces guy appointed by the government, Nick goes through the anomaly into the past, where quite apart from seeing lots more creatures, they find the remnants of a camp, a human skeleton and a camera that belonged to Nick’s missing wife Helen. Nick wants to stay to search for her, but is dragged out just in time, as the anomaly closes.
It’s all wrapped up when Stephen shoots the Gorgonopsid, and everyone goes home. Nick’s working at his desk when he’s disturbed by a noise. He looks around, but doesn’t see anything. Returning to his desk, he finds someone has left him a present – an ammonite. Only unlike the familiar fossils, this one is still alive. He looks to the window, and in the distance he sees a woman – is it his wife?
All good fun, and a promising start to a six-part series. I was impressed that the makers didn’t go for the obvious dinosaurs, and instead showed us some less familiar creatures. I was also surprised by the anomaly closing. I was expecting the series to continue with the Permian period, but instead it seems each episode will involve creatures from different times, which has more potential for an ongoing series. According to the website, we can look forward to giant spiders and a dodo, amongst other treats.
Oh yes, and did I mention the Gorgonopsid having a bit of a rampage in a school? That was fun, though a few hundred terrified kids would have made it more entertaining
 So we presume she was the one having trouble in Asda’s car park
 As the Cat from Red Dwarf would have called it