Primeval’s Top 5 Characters
By David Selby
In the time that the ITV time-travelling, dinosaur-busting drama Primeval spent on the air, the cast frequently changed, to the point of New World wherein no original characters took the lead. Some say this was for the best; others prefer the original ensemble. Either way, constant changes in cast meant that over fifteen different characters served some amount of time on the team. These characters included power-mad megalomaniacs, gentle animal lovers and pushy professors. Here, I’ve picked my five favourites from the entire show.
5. Ken Leeds (Geoff Gustafson)
He’s one of the few characters who I never formed a proper opinion on, but I appreciate that his character has almost a split personality. I partly despise him; treating the creatures the way he did, permitting Project Magnet to conduct such immoral experimentation – yet in other ways, I oddly took to him; the way he seemed so happy to help, and ended up gallantly taking the blame for others’ actions. Ken Leeds always managed to shock me week on week and left me wondering what he’d do next.
4. Matt Anderson (Ciaran McMenamin)
Matt played one of the most enigmatic and question-raising characters in the whole show; beginning as an audacious fighter, until his story gradually folded out. Is Matt good or bad? The question on everyone’s lips back in 2010. Matt was particularly influenced by his backstory; what he’d seen gave him more determination than most other characters would have. He managed to elicit pathos with his Father’s death which triggered a massive step forward, as Matt began to go against the team and turn characters against one another – a rebellious decision; evidence of Matt’s determined ideas.
3. Jenny Miller [Jenny Lewis] (Lucy Brown)
Whilst, like most people, I was fond of Claudia Brown, her alternate personality, Jenny Lewis (introduced after Cutter changed the course of history) was infinitely more complex and I daresay likable. Jenny began as a thoughtless civil servant; ignorant to danger, in a careless relationship with her fiancée, and introduced to a man who appears to know everything about her. Cutter’s death was the catalyst for Jenny’s exit: finally, Jenny realises that the only way to relinquish a life she never lived is to relish the one she is already living.
2. James Lester (Ben Miller)
Lester started off as a cynical bureaucrat, yet grew to be one of the most lovable, benevolent and actually heroic characters of the series. His selling element has always been humour, usually dry, sarcastic humour (“I trust him about as much as I could throw a stegosaurus”/” Well this could be tricky to explain to the next of kin. Good news he’s not technically dead, bad news he’s turned into a mushroom”). When he does show compassion, therefore, it’s more unexpected; thus the moment is more heartfelt, and actually more realistic. Lester didn’t apply for the job to get his hands dirty, yet he was tested on numerous occasions (even having a one-on-one encounter with a future predator at one point) in some of the most dangerous incidents in the series. Lester, whilst appearing superficially moody and insensitive, has a soft side; a concealed empathy, often conveyed in a crisis (like the Convergence in Series 5, or Cutter’s death in Series 3). Lester’s father-like relationship with Jess brought a new, easy-to-warm-to dimension to the character.
1. Nick and Helen Cutter (Douglas Henshall and Juliet Aubrey)
These two characters formed the basis for Primeval: a lost scientist who makes a remarkable discovery, driven by the idea that his dead wife may still be alive. Nick Cutter often appeared to have magnanimity that knew no limits; even heading back into a burning building to save someone who had just tried to kill him. Nick’s exploits led him to in due course choosing humanity over science (“You call yourself a scientist?” was Helen’s insolent question – “I call myself a human being”, replied Nick, insinuating his wife’s lack of basic morals).
Helen, meanwhile, whilst once being in a loving relationship with Nick (but apparently not a perfect one; having had an affair with one of her students), displayed traits contrary to Nick’s philosophy. She was a utilitarian, trying to do what was best for the bigger picture, but an idealist, an advocate of nature – worse than that, a nihilist. She aimed to destroy humanity to stop Earth’s impending downfall – a process which eventually lead to her brutal death. Whilst Helen’s intentions were good, they were twisted by her unhinged principles. Helen’s horrific discoveries led to her growing further away from her husband – a man she believed responsible for the coming apocalypse.
Helen’s insanity stemmed largely from Steven’s death – a situation she’d gotten him into. Helen planned to continuously alter the past in order to change the future, a deranged vision, as Cutter tried to tell her. The saddest thing about Helen killing Cutter was that she still loved him, and he still loved her; yet, despite her ‘good’ objectives, her attitude, her timing and her after-actions were deplorable.
Primeval was a journey that Nick and Helen went on together; experiencing different perspectives, ultimately leading to two diverse demises.