Television Review: Terra Nova

Printby Michael D. Pederson

 

Terra Nova
Fox

Oh, television—always copying, never learning. Here you go again…

Fox has been really really trying to make their new “science fiction” show work. Bringing in Steven Spielberg to produce sounded like a good idea, although his bright and shiny version of sci-fi seems at odds with the show’s premise. Debuting the pilot in the spring to build buzz over the summer was a good idea, but that didn’t happen because the show still needed overhauling (never a good sign). And they tried promoting the crap out of it but usually all that does is create unreal expectations.

For anyone that may have missed the media blitz of promotion, Terra Nova is a colony established 85 million years in the past (they get there through a “crack in time”) to escape the damage that we’ve done to the planet in the near future. Our POV is the Shannon family—a Cretaceous Swiss Family Robinson—led by Jason O’Mara (Life on Mars, not the good one). Here’s where the show seems to want to place its focus. It seems to want to be a family drama, but the family is nothing but clichés: father and son are in conflict because they have similar personalities, mom is an overachieving doctor, middle sister is smart (we know this because she constantly spouts trivia on every subject imaginable, yeah, that’s what smart people are like), and the youngest daughter is cute. Yawn.

Maybe the show wants to be an adventure story. But that’s not well thought out either. Nobody seems to be interested in exploring, they all seem happy to stay in their fenced-in compound. And when they do go out, half the time they use completely open vehicles. Well, in all fairness, they only use those ATVs when they want to kill a character off to remind the audience how dangerous things are.

They clearly don’t want to be a science fiction show because they’ve shown nothing but contempt for science. When a flock of pterosaurs attacks, they conclude that it’s a mass migration; drawing conclusions from a single data point is not science, it’s guessing. Later in the same episode, the head of the science team names the pterosaurs after himself and everyone has a good laugh at the vain scientist even though any respectable scientist would know that that kind of ego trip is generally unacceptable. But, hey, it’s fun when you can laugh at scientists.

For a brief moment I had a glimpse of hope. When the colonists and the pterosaurs were fighting for the same piece of ground I really thought the subject of simply wiping out the invaders would come up. Argument: They’re going to go extinct eventually. Counter: Any disruption of the ecosystem could have unforeseen repercussions. But no, the characters (and, even worse, the writers) would have to think too much for that to happen.

If all you want is mindless entertainment you could do worse. But not much worse.