If someone elevator pitches a television show as being “like Lost but with time travel and dinosaurs”, you’d just write them off as a crazy person and go have a martini. If Steven Spielberg is on board with a $20 million dollar budget, you start to take notice. If Stephen Lang of Avatar fame is cast as the star of the show, you start to reconsider your own sanity. If Brannon Braga and René Echevarria are executive producers, you start to hyperventilate. When you actually sit down to watch it and it’s filled with a post-apocalyptic cityscape complete with re-breathers, fancy scanners, high-tech gizmos, and a freaking Stargate, well… ladies and gentlemen these are the steps in forcing a geekgasm.
I know that we will most likely never see modern post-apocalyptic Earth again but it was a really strong start. The extras and all of the added detail really made me feel like someone sat in a room and tried to figure out how to impress me individually. They literally sold me on the show with the re-breather. Before the pilot aired I had no idea that Brannon Braga and René Echevarria would be involved with the show. I saw their names in the credits and let out a squeal of delight. Braga has been involved in shows such as: Star Trek: Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, Threshold, 24, and (forgive him) FlashForward. Echevarria has been involved in my favorites like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The 4400, Castle, and others like Dark Angel, Now and Again, Medium, and Teen Wolf. These two guys involvement gave me hope that Terra Nova‘s storytelling would be handled in a way that I would love. By the second episode, I started to feel that Braga/Echevarria influence. Terra Nova had already started to feel like Deep Space Nine in that a crew takes over a foreign place and has to adjust to it, deal with its previous inhabitants, and learn how to survive in that environment. The only drawback with this style of storytelling is that it feels like the old Star Trek model in that they feel that they can take their sweet time building the story in the first season and have seven seasons to tell the story. TV doesn’t work that way anymore and I feel they should have picked up the pace a bit. We’re a nation with a short attention span, you have to grab us hard and shackle us to your story early on.
The biggest surprise of Terra Nova is that they dinosaurs don’t look lame. The CGI is decent enough for TV and they aren’t gimmicky or over-used. They aren’t really central to the story. In fact, because of the way they use the dinosaurs in this story they could have used aliens or zombies and the show would have been pretty much the same.
The cast was picked with a heavy multi-cultural hand but it’s something that I’ve always loved about the shows that Braga and Echevarria have been involved with. Jim and Elizabeth Shannon don’t have the best chemistry as a married couple and at times Jim doesn’t seem like a family man at all. His demeanor is wrong for it. That being said, I certainly don’t mind when he takes his shirt off. He should do it more often. As for Jim and Elizabeth’s crime of having an additional illegal child, I think this idea was not well thought out. It doesn’t seem reasonable for a cop and a doctor to go against society in this fashion. In fact, it seems downright irresponsible of them. The fact that they all escaped to Terra Nova and didn’t get punished or even have it brought up again or suffer any consequences is something that bothers me but I’ve let go of.
There are other things that bother me about the show; little nitpicks that I feel may never be addressed. The probe in the middle of the city was supposed to be the probe that was responsible for finding Terra Nova but I thought that the reason they knew of Terra Nova’s existence is because the probe was lost. They say that Terra Nova is a parallel Earth but how do they know that they just didn’t travel back in time? If they traveled back in time or at least a parallel Earth shouldn’t they have picked at time after the dinosaur extinction event… or if this is a parallel Earth will that never happen? Why are the Sixers so friggin’ angry? If Commander Taylor has done something wrong wouldn’t it be better to tell the newcomers and let them decide for themselves? Why is Commander Taylor’s son being so cryptic with the cave drawings? It’s like going on a hunger strike; you are hurting yourself not the people that are doing wrong by you. Also, no one has ever gone into detail on how Terra Nova will be free from pollution like old Earth. If anything, they are getting an opportunity to pollute the Earth earlier thus resulting in the planet being overrun with by pollution faster.
Those nitpicks do not take away from my enjoyment of the show. I think sometimes it’s good for the writers to screw up or appear as if they have screwed up. It leaves them an opening to weave in back-stories or make way for something new. Terra Nova is a solid, enjoyable hour of television. There is family, danger, action, and adventure to be had every week.
Terra Nova saw 9 million viewers for its premiere but the numbers have been declining each week. As of last week, the viewing numbers have dropped to about 6.8 million. Fox will only air 13 episodes this year followed by a big gap and possibly the rest of the episodes next fall. This type of news never bodes well especially for a science fiction show on Fox. (No, we still haven’t forgiven you for Firefly.)
Listen to us talk about Terra Nova on the Sci-Fi Party Line Podcast.
Terra Nova airs Monday nights 8/7c on FOX.