Monday night saw the long-awaited two hour premiere of Terra Nova, a big-budget sci-fi series on Fox created by Kelly Marcel and Craig Siilverstein and produced by Steven Spielberg. It’s a gorgeous show, and incredibly ambitious in scope for a television series, but if you want a single tagline to sum up this feature film length series premiere, it’s this: Terra Nova is a show that’s absolutely unforgettable for its visual appeal populated with absolutely forgettable stock characters and unexciting dialogue.
In the year 2149, an overflowing human population has left the planet nearly unlivable, with temperatures soaring, the air choked with pollution and most of the planet living in overcrowded squalor. And then scientists discover a rift in space and tie in a place called Hope Plaza in Chicago, where they’ve built a sort of a Stargate to an alternate universe 85 million years in the past during the late Cretaceous. The powers that be have decided to start humanity all over again among the dinosaurs of prehistory in order to save the human race. And in order to do that, they’ve picked a small group of about a couple hundred people to become colonists.
The show follows the Shannon family, picked to be one of the 10th wave of colonists. The only problem is that only the wife Elisabeth and two children, Josh and Maddy are authorized to go. The planet has a two child-per-family rule and the Shannons had a third child, the youngest girl named Zoe. And after a population check on the Shannon household, the father Jim is arrested for punching out a police officer and is thrown in jail. Through an all-to-easy looking montage, Elisabeth manages to break her husband out of a high security future prison, where h then has to break back into the facility where the wormhole is. He’s nearly caught, but runs into the wormhole, knowing that it’s a one way journey and once he goes, there’s nothing they can do about it.
Also, Obama is on the $10,000 bill in 2149 (Via)
How did the Shannon family get chosen, since it should have been on record that they had one illegal daughter and a father in prison? Because the mom was a doctor? It’s really kind of poorly explained, but the real story isn’t in 2149 anyway…
Also, pretty much like this except different
So the family’s now in Terra Nova, the human colony that will eventually repopulate the world, but hopefully this time in a responsible way. It’s a highly secure compound with giant steel fences right out of Jurassic Park to keep the dinos out.
Once the Shannon family arrives in Terra Nova, the remainder of the premiere is an orientation for them and for the audience, as various members of the family meet new people, explore the compound (and a little bit beyond), meet dinosaurs, see gorgeous pristine primeval landscapes and what have you.
Again, it’s an absolutely visually stunning show, shot in southeast Queensland, Australia, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. And in its first two hours, it brings up a couple intriguing and unexpected plot points that will keep me keeping up with the show at least for a little while, but the dialogue was pretty mediocre and sometimes soap opera-ish, with many of the characters being pretty two dimensional. Out of the two hours, it took me almost an hour for things to get really exciting, when the idyllic Terra Nova starts to look not so idyllic, but it doesn’t negate the fact that there just weren’t many characters that I really felt much for.
I really liked Stephen Lang as the battle-hardened Commander Nathanial Taylor, the leader of Terra Nova, but even then, the character is a fairly cookie cutter gray-haired military commander that was nearly identical to the character of Colonel Miles Quaritch that Lang played in Avatar. I’m not kidding. Fucking identical except for the addition of a beard.
Terra Nova, produced and inspired by Steven Spielberg, definitely feels like later Spielberg in terms of the amazing big budget effects— like I said, much of the style of the Terra Nova colony and the look and feel of the dinosaurs feels like it’s right out of Jurassic Park, but Spielberg is a legend because he not only is a master of action directing, but he’s got a great knack for having memorable and unique characters that feel so alive you wouldn’t be surprised to see them walk right off the screen, the main thing that is really, really missing from this show so far. Terra Nova is definitely worth watching, and I’m really intrigued with where the show goes from here, because the premise is incredibly intriguing and the writers left plenty of room for some really good possibilities. But it’s also equally likely that after a few episodes or a season, they could completely screw the pooch and squander a good thing.
I’m giving it 2.5 stars, simply because its mostly lifeless and partially recycled cast and script is tempered by amazing visuals and the promise of some very interesting future episodes, which comes out to about average overall.