October 2, 2011

Terra Nova fails... kinda.

Real Sci-fi these days is hard to come by, so hearing about Terra Nova gave me a little bit of hope.  I didn't expect it to be hard sci-fi like Star Trek, but I figured it has the potential for some good story telling that makes the view think a little bit.

The premise for the hour and a half long premier is at least somewhat interesting.  Jim and Elizabeth Shannon are trying to raise their children in a world where the environment is shot to hell and there's a quota on children, which of course they've decided to break.  Jim's in jail when the family has been given the opportunity to go to Terra Nova, a settlement 85 million years in the past, accessible due to the fact that it's a split to a separate universe.  They conveniently sneak everyone through to a paradise surrounded by dinosaurs and fresh air.

So I watched the premiere.  It's decent, I guess, but I don't think I'm going to go past that.  Its not the acting.  It's well cast (take a look, they all have decent careers), and I'm definitely loving Stephen Lang as Nathaniel Taylor, the tough leader of Terra Nova who survived in the Jungle 181 days before any other civilization joined him.  Stephen Lang brings some smarts to a character that could easily be brushed aside as a musclehead in the wrong hands.  Also so happy to see Allison Miller back after her great short showing on Kings.

It's not really the setting either.  There's a lot of interesting stuff you can do when you go all they way back 85 million years, where humans have a plentiful jungle and countless resources alongside some hugely dangerous monsters. The way cultural naturally evolves would be interesting to look at too.  There is a lot I can think of that would be great to think about in the show.

But right now it seems like it's kinda full of cliches in the writing.  A lot of the cliches are in the character relationships, and they're not all ones that you would recognize in a heartbeat (thankfully no star-crossed Romeo and Juliet b.s. just yet), but you definitely could sit at the story and think "huh, I've seen that a hundred times before."  You probably have. And it's something that I'm discovering on a lot of new shows, that now certain things that used to be considered unusual are being played out.  Again, it's mostly in the character relationships, but you also feel it in the threads of separate plots that spill out of this first episode.  They just give 5 different ideas of what could be popular, and you can tell they're just waiting to see which ones will increase ratings.

Of course there's little nitpicky things too that you wish weren't glossed over.  The Shannons never really explain why they decided to break the child quota with their aptly named daughter Zoey.  They never show how Jim breaks out of prison even through he was stuck their for 3 years.  There's not a lot of build-up for the glory that Terra Nova is in this not-so distant future.  And part of me is willing to gloss that over, but another part of me is reminded that this is a symptom of lazy writing.

It could just be the pilot, but I honestly don't care enough.  There are smart shows out there like Fringe that I need to catch up on and fulfill my nerd tv needs.  If you want something entertaining, I'm sure Terra Nova can fill that void.  The cast carries the show well and of course parts of it look GORGEOUS.  But it doesn't have the brains I'm looking for in particular.


  1. I haven't seen the show yet, but the nitpicky things you mentioned seem more un-revealed than just lazy writing. Personally, I like having the facts doled out over time rather than exposed early on.

    But, like I said, I didn't watch it. If it doesn't seem very smart, then I'd venture to guess that explanation was cut due to "too boring; needs dinosaurs." (Hey, maybe that will catch on... tb;nd. Nah.)

  2. They lost me when the son started whining about his dad, right after they arrived in Terra Nova. Boring.