TV Review - Terra Nova

The show set itself as the weekly Jurassic Park show. This is a problem because as a weekly TV series, it doesn't have nearly the budget as that Steven Spielberg epic. It's already selling itself short. It helps that the show has a gorgeous cast and is filmed in a gorgeous area, that of Queensland, Australia.

Jason O'Mara stars as Jim Shannon, a cop living in the year 2149. Apparently, in that year, things are really crappy on Earth. The air is polluted, so that a constant yellow smog hangs over everything. There's apparently an issue of over-crowding on Earth because at the top of the first episode Jim gets into trouble when he's discovered as having three children when the law says you can only have two.

In order to solve the problem of pollution and over-crowding, a new program called "Terra Nova" has been enacted. What's known as a time fracture has been discovered that can transport people 85 million years into the past. The government decides to send people through the fracture to establish a colony in that distant past. Jim and his family through official and unofficial means go through the fracture.

Jim's family is integrated into the colony and start to make new lives for themselves there. All this is well and good, but there are a lot of questions that the first two episodes left unanswered and the way the show is going I'm not sure if those questions ever will be answered.

First off, the premise of the show is that these people go back in time to the dinosaur age to try to find a solution to Earth's future problems, but characters say things that contradict this premise. For starters, Jim's daughter Maddy, a gorgeous yet certified geek, says that the time fracture doesn't really take them back in their time. It takes them into an alternate reality of sorts that just happens to be set in the past.

Another character says that once someone went through the fracture, there was no going back, which begs the question if time travel is a one-way trip. The military leader of the colony, Commander Nathaniel Taylor, played by Stephen Lang, most recently seen playing a similar role in Avatar, indicates that he's in communication with the future but it's never shown how. If there's no real communication or ability to go back, then how is this colony supposed to help the future?

Once this question arose, then more questions arose and it became clear to me that the main writers for this show, Brannon Braga, David Fury, Kelly Marcel and Craig Silverstein, didn't do enough world-building. World-building may be tedious. It may require exposition, but it's the stuff that explains the rules or establishes the parameters for the setting or environment for the characters. Often time, world-building is essential. It can be sloppily done, but here it seems as if it's not done at all.

This is in opposition to Michael Crichton and David Koepp who did excellent world-building for Jurassic Park (1993). For example, in that 1993 film, there is a very informative and even cute scene where an animation explains how scientists created the dinosaurs from the mosquitoes in amber. There is even the sequence where you see the characters going on a tour where they literally see the parameters of the park.

The writers for Terra Nova do this to some degree, but they skate over a lot. In their dystopian future, it's illegal for a couple to have more than two children, but what about for gay couples who adopt? The overwhelming pollution, the yellow smog, is never explained. What caused it? What about the Kyoto Treaty? There simply is no sense of how the colony is going to help the future. There's no sense of an end game or what the point or goal of it is.

But, the show does have a very good-looking cast. Even from actors who have small roles like Dean Geyer and Jason Chang who are natives of Australia to the two leads Shelly Conn and Jason O'Mara who are British, each person here is one to watch. The fact that in the premiere and in the second episode O'Mara spends an extended period of time shirtless is proof that at least the TV producers agree to O'Mara's charm and attractiveness.

O'Mara definitely has what it takes to be a leading man, but he gets short-changed here, especially in the second episode. The second episode entitled "Instinct" has Jim battling a large flock of flying dinosaurs with sequences that mimic Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. Twice in that episode, twice, instead of following O'Mara's character on a battle or chase, the TV producers decide not to depict these battles or chases and instead cut to something less exciting.

Not only does it take away from the leading man and heroic status that O'Mara's character could build but it also undercuts any sense of thrill or terror that this show could have. The series is only meant to run for 13 episodes, but as of now, it's not made me interested in seeing what's coming next.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Mondays at 8PM on FOX.


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