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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Terra Nova is Almost Good

This show is more interesting and mysterious than it looks. The creators really tried to be appealing and spent a lot of money. The Event was being compared to LOST last season, but this show is much more similar. Put LOST, Jurassic Park, and some generic family drama/action movie together, and you get this. We are pretty interested. For a pilot, it was great, but it has to get better to really draw us in. We will be sticking around for a while. But this was a promising start. Sometimes this show bordered on “stupid,” but it always came right back to “entertaining.”

It’s 2149, and the Shannon family is living in a world with too much pollution and population control laws. No, China didn’t take over. But the hippies lost. The air quality forces people to where mask and filter the air in their home. The Shannon family has one kid too many, and they are hiding her. Sadly, she is discovered, her father flips out and attacks the police to keep them away from her, and he goes to jail for the next two years. Since “a family is four,” with the dad gone, the family gets to keep baby Zoe.

Two years later, Mrs. Shannon (Elizabeth) is recruited to go to Terra Nova, a new settlement 85 million years in the past, because she is a doctor. She is able to get her husband a laser that can cut through metal so that he can escape and join them, with Zoe. This works, because the world is so chaotic, dirty, and overpopulated that things like basic security have all gone to hell. The dad, Jim, joins his wife, five-year-old Zoe, and his teenagers, Josh and Maddie in Terra Nova and immediately gets put on agricultural duty. He is lucky that he wasn’t thrown in the brig for hitching a ride on the time portal, escaping prison, and smuggling over a kid he wasn’t allowed to have. Jim wants to be made into a cop (he’s an ex-cop), but for some reason, he is not trusted enough for this job.

Terra Nova is a pretty nice colony. They brought the best technology to the nicest prehistoric jungle ever. Everything is clean and big and beautiful. The houses are as nice as anything we’ve ever lived in. It’s full of other settlers and fruits. But it’s not perfect (thank God, or this would get boring). There are the Sixers, led by a tough woman named Mira, and these are settlers that broke off from Terra Nova to form their own colony. They steal from Terra Nova. There are also the carnivorous dinosaurs. Yes, people, there are men getting eaten by dinosaurs on this show, thus making it more awesome than most of the new shows in and of itself. There might also be a fever later too.

Josh is upset because he had to leave his girlfriend forever. He’s also upset with his dad for punching cops and leaving the family to “fend for themselves.” As we found out that Elizabeth Shannon is a doctor with the means to become rich in the old world, that’s not really such a bad offense. She does alright. But Josh isn’t in a reasonable mood.

Josh soon meets Skye, a daredevil orphan teen who looks like a young Melora Hardin (Jan on The Office). They sneak out of Terra Nova and go running around in the wilderness. They bluff jump and drink some moonshine with Skye’s other friends. Weirdly, the fashions of the 22nd century are a lot like today’s fashions. Skye still wears a bikini that you could go find in a mall right now. We guess plaid shirts are also never going out of style. Skye shows Josh a bunch of symbols carved into rocks.

The leader of Terra Nova is Nathaniel Taylor. Jim saves him from being shot by a Sixer and finally gets made into a cop. That didn’t take long. Taylor had a son, but he went missing a few years ago. We learn that Taylor Jr. is the one leaving the carvings on the rocks. "Every time he gets closer to an answer, he puts it here for Taylor to see," says Mira. "To remind him the real reason of Terra Nova's existence: control the past, control the future. These are the key to everything."

Meanwhile, Josh and Skye’s vehicle has been stripped of its power by Sixers, and all the teens are trapped outside. They are now a possible feast for “Slashers,” dinosaurs that only hunt at night. Taylor realizes the kids are gone and he, Jim, Dr. Elizabeth, and others go out and save them. We’re liking Elizabeth Shannon. She’s capable, smart, and she doesn’t just stay home when her son is in trouble when her husband tells her to.

Maddie is like a less cool version of Hermione Granger, but her love interest is cute, so we will accept her. There’s something we don’t like about Mr. Shannon, but we can’t put our fingers on it. We question why that character would have an eight pack after two years of nearly choking to death in prison. We're not sure if we like the "family" element of this show. It may never end up being gritty or scary and may always be lightweight entertainment. We liked the pilot, but it needs to keep delivering.

We also like that this is a whole new time stream, which means that the future of the world isn’t set in stone. There are some logic gaps and science holes in this one, but you just have to go with it. It’s hard to fill in every crack during a two-hour, expensive pilot that’s just trying to show off and make a hit. The names of the dinosaurs kind of annoyed us. They are explanatory, but there are actual names for dinosaurs we can use. Ten year olds everywhere are going to be telling their science teachers about the deadly “carnatorous.”

Question: Does anyone else think that Josh looks like a morph of the guys who play Neville Longbottom and Harry Potter in the HP movies? (Answer: No, because he's Declan from Degrassi: The Next Generation. Duh.)

Episode Grade: B+


  1. Not bad. I thought it was more entertaining then the trailer made it look and also made more sense. The family drama needs improving, though.

    I would want to be a dinosaur. Surviving all those bullets would be awesome. :D

    How beautiful was this show? Seriously wouldn't mind not seeing a dinosaur in a couple episodes when I can look at how beautiful the place is..

    I hope the ratings somehow increase next week. I want this show to survive! A big budget sci-fi show needs to survive. (unless it ends up being bad...)

  2. Agree. And the show will be fine if it manages to keep most of its audience that it had last night. If everyone comes back, it will be good. Word of mouth can help, so spread it around. It needs time for the drama aspects to grow.

  3. Yeah, I kinda liked it. The logic gaps and science holes really bugged me though. I just need to go with it I guess.

    Did it explain how they communicate with the future? I couldn't figure that one out.

    If anything, the mysteries will keep me watching. I want to find out what the Sixers are up to, and what happened to Taylor's son.

  4. They didn't explain how they communicate. We hope they will soon. LOST had spirituality to fill its holes (and give it an ending). We think the best sci-fi and fantasy ventures into the spiritual, in some way, but this doesn't look like it's going to. So it's going to have to hit the science a little harder.