Terra nova series premiere Review

Posted: September 28, 2011 by Tony Polanco in REVIEWS

Well this is surprising…I’m doing a review for the Terra nova series premiere. Why is this a surprise you ask? Because just until a few short days ago I had written this show off as a Land of the lost rip off (the original tv series, not the Will Ferrell movie). Why did I have a sudden change of heart? After mulling it over I decided to check out the premiere because I like science fiction, I like dinosaurs and there aren’t really many good shows on tv anyway so why the hell not? Things could have gone horribly wrong but alas Terra nova turned out to be a pretty cool, if flawed experience.

The premise of the show is interesting but not wholly original. In the future, humans have ruined planet Earth by throwing too much gunk into the air. Yeah, I know…BORING, but it gets better I promise. Anyway, the future is all sorts of messed up and the only salvation for humanity lies in traveling 85 million years into the past to restart civilization and hopefully not screw it up again. At this point your head may be exploding at the thought of the giant time paradox that sending humans back in time and possibly corrupting the time line would bring but the show does explain how the future cannot be altered by humanity’s actions in the past. To be honest the explanation is kind of overly complicated and convenient at the same time. My personal explanation of tectonic activity and the extinction level meteor that killed the dinosaurs wiping out all traces of humanity from the past made more sense then what the show presents. But I would think that wouldn’t I?

The premiere was actually the first two episodes of the show which were cleverly called “Genesis” part 1 and 2. Things are pretty crappy for the people of 2149. They can’t leave their homes without using a rebreather, it’s almost impossible to find fresh fruit to purchase and worst of all, people aren’t allowed to have more than two children. This last part gets our protagonist Jim Shannon (played by Jason O’mara) into hot water but before the thirty minute mark he and his entire family are reunited in a strange new but old world. These episodes emphasized family above all else and while this was good for establishing Shannon as a heroic and loving father I have to admit that it got a little hokey at points. But since these are the first episodes and new shows tend to overemphasize certain characteristics of the protagonists I’ll let it slide.

The politics of the show are pretty intriguing and have the potential to give us some very cool stories. The future is a dystopian wasteland and the past is an authoritarian paradise. I know that authoritarian sounds bad and in most cases is but it’s the best way to describe the social structure of the city state of Terra nova. Commander Nathaniel Taylor  (played by Steven Lang) is in charge of the city and at the end of the day it’s his rules that must be followed. We’ll cover Taylor a bit later. For now let’s talk about what’s going on in Terra nova besides people trying not to be a dinosaur’s snack.

There have been ten pilgrimages to the past and for reasons not entirely known to the Terran novans or the audience, the people of the sixth pilgrimage or “Sixers” as they are popularly called have some hidden agenda and are at war with the city of Terra nova. The Sixers are the terrorists of the show and will no doubt cause all sorts of problems for our heroes as the series progresses. Why people would want to fight each other in a world filled with dinosaurs that would be more than happy to eat them all is kind of crazy but mankind does love to fight among themselves. Human behavior can’t be changed no matter what the geological time period is I suppose.

Now let’s get to Steven Lang because to me he is one of the standouts and is my personal favorite of the show. Unlike his character in James Cameron’s Avatar, Lang’s Commander Taylor is a very likeable leader. He may have supreme power over Terra nova but he is no evil fascist and seems to want what is best for the Terra Novans. He is also a complete badass. Commander Taylor was actually the first person to cross the time rift and although the people behind him went in right after him he actually had to fend for himself in this dinosaur filled world for nearly four months. I guess the kinks of time travel weren’t ironed out with that first trip. Anyway, if you can survive for that long on your own against carnivorous monsters then you are unquestionably hardcore. Some doubt is cast as to what Taylor’s real goals are but at least for the premiere, he is the consummate warrior king.

Okay enough with the humans, let’s talk about the real hook of this show…the dinosaurs! As I said before, I like dinosaurs. How could I not? They’re real life (if extinct) monsters! I liked dinosaurs as a kid and I still like them. If you have a problem with that then tough. The dinosaurs don’t look as good as those of the Jurassic park movies but they look spectacular nonetheless. Famed paleontologist Jack Horner was brought on board to come up with dinosaurs that may have existed during the Cretaceous period. Yes I realize that making up fake dinosaurs sounds like heresy but considering that we’ve only discovered about 10% of the dinosaurs that lived during this period it’s okay to come up with ones that could have plausibly existed. I have to admit though that the “Slasher” dinosaur that was prominent in these episodes seemed kind of insane. It was basically a raptor sized T-Rex with a sharp tail. Having sharp stuff on the front of a predator is bad enough but to have some more on the back seems like over kill. As preposterous as this species may have been it served its purpose of giving the second episode some exciting and terrifying sequences.

Terra nova’s premiere was an entertaining one. Although a lot of the plot points are not original they were used very effectively. Like most modern genre shows there seems to be a larger mystery going on and it will no doubt be unfurled slowly over time. I’m honest getting tired of the giant mystery angle that these kind of shows are indulging in now but as long as Terra nova doesn’t pull a Lost and let questions go unanswered for too long or worse yet, not provide ANY answers then I’ll be a happy camper. This is a science fiction program on Fox so I’m not expecting this show to make it past season 1 but I’ll definitely stick around to see how the story unfolds for however long the show does last. It has the potential for greatness but it can also fall flat on its face and be eaten alive by a hungry dino. We shall see.


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