New Fall TV: “Terra Nova” Review (Spoilers)

Terra Nova has been one of those upcoming shows that has been talked about non-stop since Stephen Spielberg’s name was attached to the project. And it does sound cool. And although I am not particularly keen on dinosaurs, I was interested in the science fiction elements of the show, which starts in the future, where humans have exploited all of earth’s resources and are now living on a dying planet. The solution? Go back in time to before we’d ruined earth, all the way back to the age of dinosaurs.

That could work for a plot, right?

I have to begin my review by stating that I really have no interest in dinosaurs. It’s one of the main reasons that I never got into the British series Primeval, which many of my friends really like. But dinosaurs are cool and so is Stephen Spielberg, so I sat down to watch the 2-hour premiere of Terra Nova on Hulu Plus.

The show starts out entertaining enough. We’re in the future and things are looking pretty bleak. We get to meet the Shannons, a family who apparently doesn’t understand birth control and has one child too many for the law. Even better? Jim, the dad, is a cop. A cop who apparently is always breaking the laws, though. So we meet this family and then there’s a banging on the door. They hurriedly hide the extra kid because we’re given the impression that having more than two children is not only against the law, but also a serious matter. It’s population control, after all. And the population control people are now checking in on the Shannons.

I’ll stop right there. Okay, realistically speaking, if population control were as serious as Terra Nova would have us believe, I think that people would be sterilized after two children. I mean, wouldn’t that make more sense? That was my first thought. And I felt this was a huge plot hole.

Anyway, the population control cops discover the extra kid, and it looks like they’re going to grab her and take her away and do something malevolent. But Jim gets into a fight with those cops and ends up in jail. But we’re led to believe that this is all that happens. That extra kid? She gets to stay at home. I don’t even think the family got a fine for that.

In fact, that whole thing bugged me so much throughout the entire episode. We keep getting told how serious a matter overpopulation is and why this law of only having two children is so important, but no one ever really does anything about it.

Shelley, wife and mother, gets recruited to go to somewhere called Terra Nova, where humanity can start over again, with her two children (she is told that the third would have to stay). Of course, she concocts this scheme to break her husband out of jail and leaves the third kid in a backpack so that he can grab her and can sneak through to join them. Which is what he does.

I know it’s a lot to ask for some believability in a show like this, but really?

All I can say is that this city where the Shannons live is particuarly lax in security. And common sense.

So the family arrives in Terra Nova. And then things actually get interesting. There are some cool dinosaurs and some scary ones and we see the family stereotyped as Caring Mom, Overzealous Cop, Rebellious Teenage Son, Genius Daughter and Cute Little Girl. I really hope over the course of the series, we see more character development, because right now, I could care less about these people. And I think the show is going to need to rely on that human element to succeed.

One question that is answered, though. Why did they pick prehistoric times to live in? Well, we’re told that a crack in the universes occurred and that was the only thing available. But even better, this is not the same universe (as the brainiac daughter tells us, being the person who gives us all the exposition in the show), so humans have a chance to, more or less, screw up yet another reality.

There is also a group that has split off from the main group and they’ve declared war on the original group. Of course. More interesting is the son of the commander of Terra Nova that has gone missing, because apparently, he knows something that we don’t (which we’re more or less told about).

I will probably watch the second episode of this show, but it’s not really very smart science fiction. These plot holes are big enough to drive a spacecraft through. And there is so much exposition that it leaves out the mystery that I really wanted to see here. I really wanted something more akin to Lost, after all.

We see these strange markings and suddenly, our imagination wonders who left those. Another species? Other creatures on the planet? Aliens? But no, we’re actually told what these are and it takes all of the fun out of that whole storyline. All we get is that the man who left the markings is trying to tease his dad because he knows something. At this rate, we’ll know it, too, in a week. I don’t like everything explained in science fiction. That takes the imagination out of it!

So let’s call this dumbed down science fiction and move on.

This show has potential, but not if it continues on the track it set in the first episode. I’ll give it another shot next week and see what happens. But this is definitely not a replacement for Lost.

I will say one thing. I really liked Stephen Lang’s portrayal of Commander Nathan Taylor. This man oozes bravado and has a very Chuck Norris quality about him. When he’s onscreen, the show is a lot more interesting.

What do you think? Did you watch it?

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