Terra Nova (or as I call it Ever Nova..the Everwood of dinosaurs)
By Jessica Dwyer
Ah Terra Nova. You would think combining things like dinosaurs, time travel, and Steven Spielberg would be a combination for something amazing. It’s the stuff blockbuster films are made of right? So a TV series with all these elements and the added bonus of Stephen Lang and his mighty biceps of doom should be even better…right? I mean we’re going to get to see things like dinosaurs having to face off against humans with futuristic weapons in a fight for survival because this is the only way humanity is going to make it. Right?
Well…sort of but not really.
Terra Nova at its core is a neat concept but nothing original. In the future humanity has managed to wreck the planet (Avatar much?) so thanks to the handy dandy discovery of a rift in time (which is supposedly an alternate timeline so humanity going back in time to the days of dinosaurs with all of their advanced weapons doesn’t screw anything up…yeah think on that) mankind can go to a clean and safe environment (except for the giant leeches and even bigger dinosaurs that are walking around wanting to either eat you or stomp on you.)
Reading this you would think it would be something along the lines of a survivalist sci-fi action fans wet dream. But for whatever reason the shows creators and writers went with a different sort of vision. The decided that there wasn’t enough teen angst and family drama on television and so, Terra Nova becomes Everwood with Dinosaurs. The characters are so bland and uninteresting I’m not going to even name them…they are going by the titles Dad, Mom, Older Daughter, Older Son, and Young Daughter.
Our main characters are a family who have three kids, two teens (a boy and a girl) and a young toddler daughter. This is bad family planning though as in the future we are limited to only two children. They hide the little girl in a venting duct (no really) when population checks happen. This apparently has worked for 3 years (how we have no idea.) The father is a cop and the mother is a doctor…so maybe a blind eye was given to them due to their “status.” Their apartment looks tiny, so why they felt the need for a wailing toddler I have no idea. I’m also wondering how mommy and daddy got alone time to make said child since the room looks like they’d be stacked on top of one another.
But I digress. Dad gets ticked at the man who finds his extra kid and decks him. He winds up in jail. Flash forward two years later and somehow mom is loaded (this is never explained…she has a LOT of money now but before they seemed to be living in a run down apartment building with like one room) Mom shows up and bribes a guard and somehow she smuggles in to her husband a super compact thumb drive laser inside a breathing mask. Because they wouldn’t have super high tech scanners that could detect that sort of thing in the future. It’s while she’s visiting that she tells she’s been chosen to be part of the Terra Nova project since they need doctors. Only she and her two legal kids are being allowed to go through the magic rift of time to the new utopia of Jurassic Park though, but (wink wink) there’s always a way.
Dad escapes in a sequence we don’t see. Mom is a smart little smuggler and has managed to get him a fake ID, even more money for bribes and a super hefty sized backpack. In a long and drawn out sequence we are forced to watch (supposedly to create tension) Dad is reunited on the other side with his family and the giant backpack which holds his now 5 year old daughter.
No joke, he was lugging the kid around on his back, jumping through portals and risking getting shot. We have no idea where the kid has been or how mom got her smuggled into a backpack either. We just go with the flow down the fracture and into DinoLand.
If you are like me, only like twenty minutes in (honestly that’s how fast they got us through all of this) you’re already rooting for Team Dino. And you really start rooting for Team Dino once the teen angst starts out of the blue. The Son is bitchy because he left behind his girlfriend (the trip to the past is a one way deal) and he suddenly blames his dad for everything. He decides to rebel…by hooking up with a new girl the first day through. Long mourning period.
Stephen Lang is introduced telling everyone a big pretty welcome speech while also subconsciously saying “Jessica look at my arms. Keep looking because they are far more interesting than the rest of this show is.” He’s basically the nicer twin brother of his character in Avatar.
The Older Daughter is apparently a science geek (and surprise…socially awkward.) And within moments of being there it seems that the young daughter is the DinoWhisperer. Instead of freaking out when she sees giant mammoth lizards she feeds them and they actually eat right out of her hand (try this with a raptor. Please..)
Oh and that’s the other thing…Terra Nova’s settlement is encircled by a pretty tall fence but there’s no top cover. So the really tall (thankfully vegetarian) dinos can reach their heads right down and eat out of the little girls hand. Does anyone else see the issue here?
Things happen…more teen whining….and we find out that there is an offshoot of the settlers who decided to rebel and run off on their own because they didn’t agree with how things were ran. This group is led by a (gasp! shock!) tall, beautiful, African American woman with long braided hair. Zoe Saldana wannabe is the enemy of Stephen Lang! SURPRISE! She’s strong and confident and a warrior! She wants her freedom! (so do I at this point.)
So as we plod through this lame mess we come the major plot point of the episode. Older Son decides to rebel as stated, and the way he does this is he hooks up with the Party of Five who are teenagers living alone with the HotGirl. They do things that are daring like go out into the jungle alone so they can brew their booze. Using Fruts (actual line “they’re like part fruit and part nut…so I call them Fruts.” The kiddies have put together a still in the jungle. So basically the entire second half of premiere is about the perils of teen drinking.
Wish I was joking.
In a bit of parable writing that would make Stephanie Meyer envious, Older Son and his rebellious friends wind up outside with giant bloodthirsty dinosaurs trying to eat them while they are trapped in a vehicle. Its up to Stephen Lang’s mighty biceps and Dad to save the day. And somehow this happens even though one of the kids is Quint’d out of the vehicle and dangled by his leg (which remains attached even though there should have only been the memory of a knee cap there.) One of the annoying teens ran through the jungle in the dark of night and only wound up with scratches. Just…I can’t…my brain…it hurts. All because they needed to make themselves some booze.
There is only one dino related casualty in the show and it happens during a chase scene. Stephen Lang at this point flexes…hehehehe…his acting muscles and decides to face down one of the big lizards. I was all set for him to punch the thing in the face, but that doesn’t happen. It should have but didn’t. Instead he hops back into his transport and gets back into the sort of safe but not really settlement.
So…Terra Nova…as I suspected is trying to jump on and leech off (yes, leech humor) Avatars popularity by casting the best actor in the film in the series and then ripping off parts of the film in other ways. But the thing is, Avatar wasn’t exactly an original movie and neither is Terra Nova at all original. So imagine what you get when you try to add that to already recycled material? What made Avatar fun and took it above the rehash of plot were the exciting parts. The pretty that James Cameron brought to it. Terra Nova manages to even screw the pretty up by having horrible green screen and mediocre EFX.
Terra Nova does nothing to add much in the way of action either. The action is lame when it happens, and has nothing special in the way of style. And that’s surprising considering one of the main guys from 24 is writing these episodes. What we get is a bunch of characters who are as bland and generic as we could have asked for and a bunch of teen drama that is out of place here. The demographic that Terra Nova was supposed to be gunning for (the geeks like myself) don’t want teen drama. We want action and cool sci-fi with dinosaurs eating people. Seriously. That’s what I was promised, not Dawson’s Crustacean. I want BIG DINOSAURS AND GRIZZLED BUFF SOLIDER GUYS PUNCHING THEM IN THE FACE!
SEE EXAMPLE ABOVE
My best guess here is that it will last six episodes before FOX pulls the plug. The show is expensive to produce (although where the budget goes I’m not sure) and already viewers are letting their displeasure be known. Avoid Terra Nova and if you want to watch a fun show about scientists taking on dinosaurs check out the great BBC series Primeval on Netflix streaming. You won’t be sorry.