Ending this year’s “Fourth Doctor Adventures” run is The Primeval Design, a story that sadly is neither here nor there. It has some good characters and a few decent ideas, but it’s not exactly a roller coaster of excitement. Want more detail? What’s that? No? I’ve already told you what it’s like so why bother? Oh… Well, I mean, I do go into a bit more detail, but fair enough I guess…
Dorset, 1830. The Doctor has taken Leela to meet Mary Anning, the noted paleontologist, but the duo immediately stumble into trouble.
A body has been found in unusual circumstances. Attacked by an animal… but one of a size unknown in the area.
It turns out some things might be better off staying buried.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
I always like a “Doctor is a fan of historical figure” storyline, so The Doctor wanting Leela to meet Mary Anning (played by Lucy Briggs-Owen) is a fun one to start the story off with. Mary is a good character and I enjoyed her throughout the story, as her eyes were opened she managed to keep steady and often acted as a pseudo-companion to The Doctor while Leela was off elsewhere.
I liked the backstory of the main threat, a large skeletal dinosaur-looking species, but only because the race was sent to the planet millions of years ago to wipe it clean of the dinosaurs so it took a form that could stand up to them. When the asteroid (or later known as a Cyberman-filled Freighter) wiped the dinosaurs out it also took out these things, but they lived on as psychic energy in the bones. So basically they were “living” T-Rex-like skeletons, with a long-winded but enjoyable reason for them to be like that rather than existing purely because “that would be a scary enemy for The Doctor to run away from”.
Great cover as always, though it does look a bit like Leela is threatening a tiny Mary with her knife…
The story does take an age to get going, and far too much attention is given to young couple Lizzie and Jim (Charlotte Bate and Joe Sims, respectively), the former of which is pregnant and the latter of which is your classic slow-witted country boy. They supposed to be sympathetic, but a lot of the times they were just really annoying reasons for The Doctor and Leela to not being confronting the main threat of the story. The only other character of note was Dr. Richard Numan (Ian Conningham), who was just your standard “mad man controlled by the alien threat who in the end breaks free of their control and dies trying to atone for his uncontrollable actions”. He does it well, but it was so predictable that I just never got invested.
Generally though the pacing is the problem, by the time The Doctor was riding a giant dinosaur made up from all the small ones I’d been worn down to the point I was just waiting for it to finally end, which is a shame because that’s quite the mental image!
Not a lot. Leela mentions have met dinosaurs before, which is a reference to last month’s “World Traders”. Also the sentient bones all coming together to form one giant bone creature reminded me of the rather embarrassing “Bone Lord” from the Eighth Doctor story “Army of Death”. Why I still remember that despite having only listened to it once many years ago I can’t tell you…
The Primeval Design is a mixed bag. It has some good ideas and characters, but also some really long stretches of nothing but annoying or predictable characters that seemingly only exist in order to stop the plot for actually moving on. Just about average, then…