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tv & radio: Wild things.

Byline: by Roz Laws

IT has a Saturday night timeslot, a stylish look, fantastic monsters and a good British cast including a teen pop star-turned-actress.

But this isn't Doctor Who, though ITV are clearly hoping to achieve the same ratings with Primeval.

The new drama combines 21st century technology and very special effects with pre-historic creatures. A crack team of scientists headed up by Professor Nick Cutter (Douglas Henshall) are recruited by the government to investigate a series of dinosaur sightings.

Long-extinct creatures are tearing through a series of rips in time. The team, played by Hannah Spearritt, James Murray and Andrew-Lee Potts, have to cope with everything from giant spiders and flying reptiles to dodos and a sabre-tooth killing machine called a Gorgonopsid.

Like Doctor Who assistant Billie Piper, Hannah Spearritt was a teen singer - she was one of S Club 7.

She says: "I have no qualms whatsoever about being compared to the gorgeous Billie. I mean, who would? Look at how well she's done! If comparisons are going to be made, that's certainly one I would not want to discourage."

Ben Miller, who plays a villainous government official, says: "I'm a huge Doctor Who fan, and other Doctor Who fans will enjoy this as much. But it's a whole different experience.

"It looks even more amazing than I ever thought it would. They played me a scene where something suddenly bursts out of the water, and everybody in the room screamed and leapt out of their seats. It's so exciting!" The first episode is sure to give a tourist boost to the Forest Of Dean in Gloucestershire, with eager children flocking to the Midland beauty spot in the hope of spotting dinosaurs.

Viewers are repeatedly told that that's where the action is taking place - although it was actually filmed within the M25, in woods near Pinewood Studios. It was a location further away which caused the most problems for Douglas Henshall. They went to the Canary Island of La Palma to film at the top of a volcano, which Douglas was dreading as he's scared of heights.

"For someone who is playing an allaction hero, I have a number of phobias which aren't particularly tough or heroic," he confesses.

"I'm a bit claustrophobic and I have vertigo. I had to confront these fears in front of the entire cast and crew.

"First I had to go diving in a huge tank at Pinewood. I thought 'Oh God, I'm supposed to be this Indiana Jones kind of can-do figure and I'm a total wuss who can't get down to the bottom of the tank!'.

"But filming in La Palma was even worse. They wanted this beautiful panoramic shot of me walking around the lip of a volcano, 6,500 feet up.

"I was aware it was going to look great and there was a whole crew of people who had climbed all the way there specifically, and I was absolutely terrified. "As an actor, you're not really allowed to have vertigo. What was I supposed to say, 'sorry guys, I can't do this, I'm off home'?

"It was hideous because every single fibre of my being was going 'I don't want to do this because I'm totally sh***ing myself'. "I froze up, but I realised I'd passed the point of no return and it was going to be as bad to go back as forwards.

"I was also battling a terrible guilt as I didn't want to let anyone down. I just tried not to look at the terrifying drop beneath my feet.

"Filming in the woods at Pinewood was much more fun. There was our cameraman sitting on a quad bike, which was doubling as the Gorgonopsid chasing us through the woods at 30 miles an hour.

"That was the day I thought 'Here I am, pretending to run away from a 30-foot dinosaur - this is absolutely what I signed up for'."


SCARY: Mark Wekeling and the team flight off the giant spiders; ANIMAL MAGIC: Hannah Spearritt as Abby Lister with flying reptile Rex; STARS: James Murray and Hannah Spearritt (left), Douglas Henshall, who plays the professor who heads the team, villain Ben Miller and Lucy Brown
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Feb 4, 2007
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