Monday, October 3, 2011

Halloween Festival Of Lists: October 3: THREE Reasons To Watch Terra Nova

One of the television shows I was rather skeptical about trying out this year was the big budget popcorn series Terra Nova.  But since I knew Spielberg was one of the producers, and there would be dinosaurs involved, there was really no other choice than to give it a wee chance. 
No matter what anyone else thinks, I will profess my love of all things Cretaceous from here until eternity.  I've loved dinosaurs since I was a little girl, and though I was a tad depressed to find out it wasn't really feasible to become a paleontologist in my hometown, I've still carried a torch for the big lugs ever since.  I loved Jurassic Park and tolerated the two sequels (Jurassic Park 4 coming in 2012!) because of the dinos, so it was a no-brainer to check out the lavish undertaking that is Terra Nova. 
And so here are my top three reasons that you should check it out as well. 

1) Did I mention the dinosaurs?  The single most significant reason for me to watch.  Those lovable carnivores (and herbivores as well) don't get nearly enough screen time but I can only assume that will change as the weeks go on.  As it is, we were introduced a group of Apatosauruses (or were they Brachiosaurus?) feeding just OTG (outside the gate), an Allosaurus (similar to T-Rex), and something called Slashers, which are apparently similar to Velociraptors but have an extremely dangerous barbed tail (instead of those nasty killer toenails the Raptors boasted) that can be used as a tool if you're lucky enough to kill one.  In previews of future episodes it looks like a flock (would we call them that?) of Pterosaurs show up.  Pterosaurs and Pterodactyls, to me, are the scariest goddamned dinos out there.  That hulking mass of giant bird in Jurassic Park III - ahhh!  Still have nightmares of that thing.

Really not sure what this is..?
Though I believe they are mixing some dinosaurs from the Jurassic period in here with the Cretaceous, I can give them a pass.  Also of note is the fact that these monsters are scary.  The producers are apparently not afraid to show a little gore, as there was more than just a few bodies mangled by the hefty predators.  They have the "Slashers" hunting in packs and behaving very similar to Raptors, and it's beyond me why they had to create a fictional dino and didn't just use the real thing.  Especially with Spielberg on board.  Who knows more about trying to create an authentic prehistoric period than the Jurassic king? 
In any event, the high cost of production (said to be over 4 mil an episode) should ensure even more primeval adventures.

2) Time Travel.  The main gist of Terra Nova is this:  In a dystopian 2149, the earth is dying from pollution and people can't even be outside without masks to breathe.  The discovery of a "fracture" in space and time allows people to travel back 85 million years to prehistoric times and attempt a new existence.  Basically, there is a lottery which determines who gets to travel back in time, and there are also certain people who are recruited to set up society (doctors, policemen, etc.).  So far, there have been ten expeditions to Terra Nova, and the human colony is well on its way to being settled.  As in any society, there are issues of discord and animosity.  One of the pilgrimages, the sixth to be exact, has separated from the colony at Terra Nova and broke off onto their own, apparently setting up camp in another location.  This group - cleverly called the "Sixers" (yawn) -  is the show's antagonists (besides the pissed off dinos) and will no doubt be causing the majority of non-dino complications.
Though why these aggressors even time-traveled to Terra Nova is beyond me if they really don't like it there.  But that's another issue.  It's a one-way ticket to Terra Nova.  There's no way back. Or at least that is what we are led to believe.  I am under the impression that the colony holds a whole helluva lot of secrets we have yet to discover.  Hmm, shades of LOST, eh?

3) Characters.  Though the cast still needs a little fleshing out, it's only one episode in so it's hard to determine the importance of some of the roles.  However, the principle cast members are pretty favorable in my opinion, though their story lines can be somewhat predictable.
Jason O'Mara plays Jim Shannon, patriarch of the family and former cop who spent two years in jail simply for hiding the fact that he and his wife Elisabeth (Shelley Conn) had a third child (there was a two child limit in 2149).  When Elizabeth, a brilliant doctor (of course), is recruited to go to Terra Nova, Jim breaks out of prison with her help, sneaks their youngest daughter Zoe (Alana Mansour) into a large backpack (!), and stows away.  The other Shannon children are teenagers Josh (Landon Liboiron) and Maddy (Naomi Scott).  Josh is pissed at his dad for having been away for two years so he is rebellious and problematic once at Terra Nova.  He had to leave his girlfriend behind but amazingly finds a new love interest quickly in Skye (Allison Miller), whose parents have supposedly been killed.  Maddy is a brainy, scientific tidbit-spouting nerd who also happens to be quite cute and ready for love when the first attractive teen other than her brother comes along.

Rounding out the prominent cast is Commander Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang), the guru of Terra Nova.  When Jim ends up saving his life from not only an foiled assault by a disgruntled Sixer but also a dino attack, he gets promoted from Agriculture duties to a Security detail. 

The two hour premiere (on September 26) did prove to be both action-packed and somewhat confusing, trying to piece together everything that happened as events buzzed by.  But with the bones of the story firmly planted in sci-fi and yet stocked with prehistoric adventure, I think it could be one of the most promising new shows this year.

Terra Nova is not without its problems though.  Television isn't film, and the dinosaurs aren't quite up to Jurassic quality if you know what I mean.  They also need to do a bit of work to keep the story lines fresh.  We don't really want to see a television reboot of Jurassic Park without the quality being up to par. It needs to be better than just a 2011 version of Land of the Lost.  The time travel element and the Earth in apocalyptic ruin is intriguing, and if they can move beyond it looking like they just rearranged the sets of LOST, they might make a go of it.  If, and I mean IF, they can keep the momentum going and provided the relationships don't prove to be too sappy and sentimental.  We shall see.
But for now at least, those dinosaurs are gonna keep me coming back.

Terra Nova is on Fox at 8pm (EST) Mondays.

1 comment:

Budd said...

the show has potential.