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Feature: Primeval

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Behind the scenes of ITV’s new Sci-Fi show!

Page 1ITV’s new six-part Science Fiction series Primeval shatters the boundaries of Space and Time, and brings dinosaurs into the present. Starburst explores this ground-breaking production, and talks to the writer, producer, actors, effects experts and many members of the production team…

Page 2It begins at night in an Asda car park. A trolley drifts along the tarmac, a gentle breeze rustles the trees, and then a ferocious scaled beast – a Gorgonopsid – bares its teeth with a deafening roar. A young woman tries to hide behind cars; vehicles are thrown into the air, she runs for her life. Then the Gorgonopsid closes in for the kill…

Page 3ITV’s brand new Science Fiction series Primeval is based on an irresistible premise: that the modern world is rocked by visitations by long-extinct creatures from the Earth’s past. “Some force out there has ripped the boundaries of Space and Time to shreds,” observes Professor Nick Cutter. And it’s these anomalies that allow dinosaurs into the present – and Humans into the past…

Page 4The series began life almost six years ago, when its co-creators met while working on The Lost World, a TV adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story about an expedition to the Amazon that discovers prehistoric monsters. In a break between filming producer Tim Haines, who had been the driving force behind the BBC’s Walking With Dinosaurs, was chatting to the writer Adrian Hodges, and they discovered a shared passion for the Science Fiction genre.

Page 5“At that time there wasn’t any Fantasy on British TV,” Hodges tells Starburst. “I really felt it was a big gap. I’d done a lot of work at the BBC that were historical dramas, and I don’t think anybody had associated me with wanting to write a different kind of story. I leapt at the chance of creating a Fantasy story with Tim, and he had this idea that was the essence of Primeval.”

Page 6“At that stage it was called ‘Cutter’s Bestiary’,” Haines confides to us. “In mediaeval times they made bestiaries of strange creatures, and Cutter is interested in this area. One of the problems was that in America it was assumed that ‘bestiary’ was something you did with animals that you got arrested for!

Page 7“Adrian came aboard and started to do more work on the characters, who they were and what they were about.”

Page 8Hodges continues: “I said, ‘Look, if you’re willing to let me bring in a slightly different storyline, we could work on that together’. We got on very well from the word go.”

Page 9Hodges and Haines crafted the story of Professor Nick Cutter and his team, who are called to investigate strange animal sightings in the Forest of Dean, but find themselves face to face with a few strays from the Permian Era of 250 million years ago.

“It went through a lot of different drafts,” reveals the writer. “I guess the original pilot was written a dozen times in different versions. That’s fine, that’s part of the process. The original version was rather solemn and I wanted it to be a bit lighter, more humour in it. I didn’t get the characterization quite right.

“At one time we thought the show was going to be a one-off with a possible series and so I wrote it with a closed ending.”

Yet, even with a strong script in place, initially finding a backer for a Science Fiction TV show that strongly relied on CG effects wasn’t easy.

“Early on the BBC were involved,” reveals Haines, “but things change.”

by David Richardson

Read much more about Primeval
Starburst #347

Images © Visual Imagination, Primeval © ITV
Feature © Visual Imagination 2007. Not for reproduction

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Starburst #347
March 2007
ships from Feb 7 2007
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