Review: Terra Nova (Television 2011)

I’ve watched the first four episodes of Terra Nova, so I’m going to do a broad review of the show’s beginning instead of an episode by episode review. I know there are a lot of haters out there, people who expected something other than campy fun from a sci/fi show about dinosaurs and people traveling 85 million years in the past to a different time line. (Why they expected something different, I’ll never understand about the nerd/geek/dork mind. Maybe I by-passed the “THINGS NEED TO BE REALISTIC IN THE WAY THAT I WANT” gene, or maybe I grew up a lot faster than most people. Or maybe I’m just more jaded. Or you know, maybe I’m more realistic, and decided to let go of preconceived notions about what I wanted from a show and instead enjoy what is good about something as long as what is bad about something doesn’t out weigh it. And I think the fun involved in watching this show far out weigh some of the problems it has.

Dinosaurs
Screen Still from Terra Nova

My main concern with the show was how were they going to deal with the butterfly effect, causal paradoxical effects of past selves on future selves, and until they came up with an explanation for that, I wasn’t going to buy the show. Now, is their solution, that the rift in time sends people back 85 Millions years to a different time line, the best solution. I don’t know, and I don’t care. They attempted to explain why it works, and that is frankly good enough for me for a fun sci/fi show that has decent CGI and teenage angst with a Sheriff Carter-type (EUReKA) protagonist. One beef I have with the show is that they’ve set it up that there is communication from Terra Nova (the encampment housing people who have traveled 84 Million years in the past) to future earth (2149 AD) but the rift in time is a one way portal to Terra Nova, no one can go back to 2149. So you can what? Send paper messages? Sonic waves? Morse Code it back to 2149, but not people? Either the people at Terra Nova are being lied to and people can go back to 2149 or they’ve screwed up and I’ll have to suspend my disbelief. I’m betting on the lied to which will be established in season 2 to a small group of people “in the know” or some such shit. OK, so I’m hoping that is the case.

As far as characters go, I like the Shannon family. Jim Shannon is played by Jason O’Mara who I’ve liked since seeing him on the U.S. version of Life on Mars. I see his character sort of like Jack Carter on EUReKA, where this down to earth police type dude is surrounded by a bunch of scientist and researches on a walled-in community, where he has to constantly save the day. Jim Shannon is not funny, and frankly I don’t know many actors who can do comedy so perfectly like Colin Ferguson can each and every week, and the show is not a comedy so Jim’s angstyness is more apropos. Jim Shannon is a bit of a loose cannon in Terra Nova as he arrived as a stowaway following his family through the portal even though he was supposed to be in prison in 2149 because he and his wife Dr. Elisabeth Shannon (played by Shelley Conn) decided to have one more kid than they were supposed to, little Zoe Shannon. When Elizabeth gets invited to join the colony at Terra Nova she is determined to go there with her two oldest children, Zoe is put in foster care?, and Jim is in jail. But in spite of these difficulties the family manages to arrive to Terra Nova together and intact. Then the fun begins.

Shannon Family
Screen Still from Terra Nova

The colony at Terra Nova is safely ensconced behind large walls (yet which certain dinosaurs and prehistoric animals can encroach, what no force fields developed in 21249 and transported technology back to Terra Nova?). But the colony is not only fighting for a place to survive and live, with a plan to make a better earth than the smoggy one they left, they must also contend with the Sixers. Each year selected person form 2149 get sent back in time and space to Terra Nova, each group is given that year’s number. The Sixers all rebelled (well most of them) and now live out in the wild having seceded from the colony. There is tension between the two groups, Terra Nova led by Commander Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang) and the Sixer’s led by Mira (Christine Adams). Why the seceded, we don’t know and no one will tell Jim. What the Sixers are up to is part of the mystery I guess. It has something to do with communication back to 2149 and Taylor’s son who draw weird designs on rocks.

Commander Taylor
Screen Still from Terra Nova

Mira
Screen Still from Terra Nova

While Jim is trying to figure all out all the relationship mine fields he is suddenly in the middle of, he must contend with the tension in his family from h is two years being imprisoned. His son, Josh Shannon (Landon Liborion) is the proto-type of stupid oldest son’s as angsty teenagers. His character is a bit one dimensional and boring, frankly. The writers are trying to give him a story line with his girlfriend back home verses the girl in Terra Nova, but it seems forced. Hopefully, this side character will eventually take a back seat. Maddy Shannon, is a different story. I like her quirky nerdy self, and hope her character gets more developed over time (… that sounded wrong). Her character knows a lot of the whys of how things work, so she gets saddled with a lot of the exposition. Which is too bad. I think that Naomi Scott has a lot more depth of character up her sleeve if given the chance to play Maddy as more than a smart mouthed nerd. But my favorite interaction on the show so far is Jim’s with the Commander. Budding bromance here. Plus, I like how the Commander is extremely tough person making all the hard decisions, yet he isn’t a hard man. His back story seems like rich ground to explore and I think if the writers develop his character and story more and more and have the family drama with the Shannons as background noise, it could be an awesome show.

I see a lot of potential avenues that this show could follow, some of them awesome, and some of them not so much. I think that is why people get upset with shows, they see the potential and it is never realized. But if I sit and think about what the show has accomplished so far, its pretty OK and pretty entertaining. Would I like to see more of the drama between Terra Nova colony proper and the Sixers, yes. But if they continue to bombard me with the Shannon family I’m not going to stop watching the show. I find it rather addicting drama, set in a time periods I find fascinating, and fully of quirky characters. The show has a few faltering steps but if it gains its feet I think it could be around for a while.

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2 thoughts on “Review: Terra Nova (Television 2011)

  1. Washington is Taylor’s badass (and hot) second in command played by Simone Kessell. The leader of the Sixers is Mira, played by Christine Adams.

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