Primeval: New World reaches the penultimate episode of its first season with this, "The Sound of Thunder, Part 1", the twelfth episode. This was definitely one of the highlights (if not *the* highlight) of the first season, and had a lot of really neat things in it. The plot of this episode goes something like this: When Toby is stung by a Brontoscorpio, Evan turns to Ange – and Project Magnet doctor and scientist Mara Fridkin – for help. To save Toby's life, Evan and Dylan are forced to enter an Anomaly to retrieve a venom sample. Mac stays by Toby’s side as her condition worsens at an alarming pace and doctors at Project Magnet struggle to keep her alive. On the other side of the Anomaly, Evan and Dylan discover an Anomaly junction – hundreds of Anomalies leading to hundreds of times and places. Including one leading to Evan's own past – and a terrible temptation. With Evan and Dylan stranded in the past, Toby's life hangs in the balance.
Primeval: New World promised to take the concept of the original British series and make it darker, more adult, and (perhaps) more realistic. It accomplishes this in "The Sound of Thunder, Part 1" possibly more through the latter, by copying over a story from the first series of Primeval UK, specifically the second episode, pretty much wholesale, but adding a grander sheen to it with helicopters, bases, and more time hopping through Anomalies. However, it also plundered Primeval Series One for something even more exciting that the original failed to capitalise on, and wrapped it up in some intriguing plot strands for a conclusion that made it, if not not as exciting as the lead-up to the conclusions we got to Series Two, Three, and Five of the original UK series, still a pretty solid, full of energy, episode with danger, tension, and threats galore.
The previous week's episode, "The Inquisition", was all about laying the groundwork for the major change to the game that the series has been all about so far, but this episode made it very clear that the energy behind the series' writing and production cranked up for this, the first of the two-part season (hopefully not series) finale. "The Sound of Thunder, Part 1" was the most ambitious episode to date, bigger in creative scope and in its visual canvas, than any of the previous eleven episodes. With the opening volleyball sequence in which one of the annoying hunks is shockingly killed by what appear to be a giant scorpion, through the events of the conflict between Ange Finch and both Ken Leeds and Evan Cross, to the new Anomaly junction and the final sequences with Toby seemingly dead of a Brontoscorpio sting, Evan trapped in the Silurian era in the cave with the creatures, Dylan on the run back to the Anomaly with the "cure" for Toby, and... well, you get the picture... this episode had pretty much all the elements that one could hope for in the first of a two-part season ender.
There were some lovely moments in this episode that I can't fail to mention here. First off, the sequence in the beginning with the volleyball stuff, where at the end the poor jock finds the ball at the edge of the woods, only to be stabbed from above by the giant scorpion tail. I actually jumped out of the chair at this, as it really took me by (tense) surprise. Second, the moment when Evan, Dylan, and Leeds walk through the Anomaly and find themselves in an(other) Anomaly junction. A warm feeling came over me at this sequence as it was reminiscent of a lovely bit in the original Primeval series with the dodos in which Stephen Hart went through the Anomaly after Helen only to find himself in the Spaghetti Junction of Anomalies. Then there's the sequence where Ken Leeds trusts Ange Finch with the information about why the Project Magnet team shouldn't go through the Anomaly because it leads to the junction, and what Colonel Hall could do with such access to the various time periods. Ange's reaction was marvellous, hurting Leeds like a blow to the gut with his misplaced trust in her, and wondering what the ramifications of this will be in Part Deux. The pleasure I felt seeing actress Lexa Doig as the Project Magnet doctor/scientist treating Toby Nance for her injuries, and feeling her sense of helplessness as the episode went on. The sequence where Ange took advantage of Toby's weakened and dying condition. There's a nice piece of character development as they talk about how they met, as well as blocking Anomalies and whether it would ever be possible. Toby also lets slip about the presence of the detector with Angelika holding her over a barrel about revealing the location, with the knowledge that if Evan doesn’t build the Colonel something, then he’s off to prison. Toby agrees to tell her but we don’t know if she does, as her health fades. Ange always struck me as being good at what she does and somewhat manipulative, but this sequence just brings this point home, and shows us where Ange's affinities truly lie.
As mentioned above, Lex Doig appears in this episode as Dr. Mara Fridkin, working for Project Magnet in the capacity of a doctor and seemingly a scientist. The actress is familiar to many tv sf fans as the Andromeda Ascendant from Andromeda, Dr. Carolyn Lam in Stargate SG-1, and more recently, Sonya Valentine on Continuum. She did a good job as Fridkin, being business-like for the most part, but having the emotional element that all good doctors require. Given the injuries and wounds that are certain to arise with dinosaur and prehistoric beast hunting, her skill set would be useful for the team, and I hope we'll see more of her in Season 2 (hopefully, since a second season hasn't been announced yet).
The creature of the week, the Brontoscorpio, was rendered quite well with the CGI in this episode, and was highly effective in the scenes that it appeared in. The old mining complex and buildings where the team tracked it down to was really perfect for its nests, and the whole climbing ability of the creature heightened the creepiness. The Brontoscorpio was able to come from anywhere in the setting, and ensured that nothing went as planned when forcing the creature back through the Anomaly. Kudos to the chooser of locations for the episode, as the pipe-strewn factory was great as an environment that isn't just generic tunnels but a genuinely creepy and surreal layout, and the Anomaly looked totally convincing.
However, the Brontoscorpio was only part of the story of "The Sound of Thunder, Part 1". The conflict between Colonel Henderson Hall and Evan Cross continues (even though the two characters don't actually come face-to-face in this episode, iirc), but more importantly Ange Finch turns out to be in charge of civilian operations for Project Magnet, thus bringing her into conflict once more with Evan about matters. She also comes into conflict with Ken Leeds, despite convincing the Colonel to bring him back, dropping all the charges, and returning his rank, seemingly as the liasion between Project Magnet's military and civilian operations. Leeds seems to be pretty loyal to Evan Cross, but his telling Ange of the Anomaly junction gives a nod to his trust in her, a trust that is seemingly misplaced, as she still opposes Evan's philosophy as it pertains to the Anomalies and temporal damage that can result from the timeline being interfered with.
There are several plot hooks that are raised in this episode, which will hopefully be resolved somewhat or perhaps in full in the season finale. First off, in an already on-going plot, Toby tells Mac that she's discovered that the ARC stands for "Anomaly Research Centre", and that it exists in the UK. I have to wonder that Project Magnet will make some sort of deal with the ARC as the New World series goes on, but given that Connor Temple is going to appear in the second part of the story in London, I'm not sure where things are going with this sub-plot. There's the matter of the Anomaly junction. I liked the fact that it was relevant to the plot, and the show even managed to throw in some scientific jargon and reference string theory so it’s expanded on nicely. Now that Leeds let the cat out of the bag about the Anomaly junction to Ange, and that information is now in Colonel Hall's hands, it will be interesting to see what happens with the junction now. Then there's the wonderful bit where Evan goes through one of the Anomalies and finds himself back on September 15th 2006, six hours before his wife, Brooke's, death. The argument Dylan and Evan have about how messing with the timeline could change events and history was superb, but I can't help but wonder if the "sound of thunder" of the title of this two-parter is yet to come, with Evan trying to prevent Brooke's death.
As I mentioned earlier, "The Sound of Thunder, Part 1" borrowed quite heavily from the original Primeval UK, with its key plot elements lifted from Primeval Episode 1.2; this created a bit too much of a sense of familiarity, but it built a larger sense of scale around them with plenty of tangible elements of fear and danger. The allegiances of the characters are tested and everything seems to pull together. The hints at next week’s episode – the discovery of an Anomaly to before Evan’s wife was killed and the building of an identical looking hand-held detector from that time – are intriguing, and certainly make me look forward to the final part, alongside the return to an Anomaly junction, which makes up for the lack of any huge, over-arching excitement for the conclusion. The storyline surrounding Toby is tense and while I don’t know which way it will go, I don't think they're going to kill Crystal Lowe's Toby Nance off, and it’s going to be the larger arcs of Colonel Henderson Hall and Evan's wife, Brooke, that will take centre stage.
Overall, "The Sound of Thunder, Part 1" certainly boasted some great set pieces that created a sense of scale to the universe and some good CGI for the creature, but the Brontoscorpio didn't get too much of a chance to shine, and there was a nice mixture of monster-of-the-week with the established plot lines. This definitely wasn’t the most exciting penultimate episode that six series of the Primeval tv series have given the viewers, but it had enough in it to whet my appetite for the season’s conclusion next week. I'll be interested to see how much the producers and writers of the series wrap up, and whether certain plots (such as Howard Kanan, who went back in time) are brought back into the story, and how the creation of a detector that can measure the time left before an Anomaly closes allows it to deviate from the capabilities of the original ARC team. However, I suspect that many of these questions won't be answered until a second season of Primeval: New World comes along. In the meantime, I'm just looking forward to seeing how the first season of this shows comes to an end.