Spielberg! Time Travel! Grey Facial Hair!... Count Me In!
After years of waiting (Eighty Five Million to be exact!) "Terra Nova" is finally here! If you're a Spielberg fan, like myself, then you've been waiting for this over budget, special-effect whore of a show since it's first commercial ran during Super Bowl XLV. At the time, we weren't exactly sure what we were seeing. What was this "Avatar" meets "Jurassic Park", sci-fi phenomenon that we had to wait until May to see? As May rapidly approached, we sadly watched the premier get pushed further and further back, to this fall. It seemed "Terra Nova" would never arrive, as production was delayed due to torrential rains and budgets were met building over 250 elaborate sets. The entertainment world felt the show was dead in the water. Luckily, FOX felt differently and immediately ordered a full thirteen episodes. Now, here we are kicking things off with a two hour premier! My thoughts coming up after the break... but first let me find out why they call them Slashers!
Before we get too deep into the episode, let's discuss some of the key players behind "Terra Nova". You obviously have the great Steven Spielberg as poducer, who needs no introduction. Directing the pilot is Alex Graves, who's work as a producer on shows such as "The West Wing" and the short lived "Journeyman" may not impress you but those "Fringe" fans (no matter how small in numbers they may be, myself included) will praise his work as executive producer and director. Brannon Braga will serve as show runner, who's work on the "Star Trek" franchise and the recently deceased "FlashForward" seems like a nice match for any time-travel series, however like any good writer, he has his haters. Seems fans of "Star Trek" tend to think he ruined the series and was the reason for the ultimate cancelation - let's hope that's not the case here! One more person of interest to add here is Jack Horner, the real life inspiration for Dr. Alan Grant, brought in to help create the dinosaurs as he did for "Jurassic Park" all those years ago. Okay, so with that out of the way let's get down to brass tacks!
In a lackluster of an opening, we find our main characters living in a world gone to shit from pollution and over population. Forced to have no more than two children per family, we quickly find our main character, Jim Shannon (Jason O'Mara from "Life on Mars"), to be quite the rule breaker, getting caught with a third small child, which has a punishment of life in prison. How this progresses our story, I'm not quite sure, as this has nothing to do with why they travel 85 million years in the past, to the new (old) world of Terra Nova. Jim's wife Elisabeth is a trauma surgeon and asked to join the 10th pilgrimage to Terra Nova, but only with her two oldest children leaving the third and her jailbird husband behind. Again, with or without Jim being locked up, wouldn't Elisabeth still have been offered this opportunity, strictly based on her medical reputation? But, the situation gives us an excuse to see some action in Jim's escape scene, before we get to the surreal Terra Nova. So where's the hook to keep me after the commercial break? - You got me there!
I could see such a large budget production, starting things off differently. Maybe starting in Terra Nova and "Tarantino-ing: it with some flashbacks of 2149 (or flashforward, depending on how you look at it), to give us some background on our characters or how they ended up here. Which actually brings me to Commander Taylor, one of our more interesting characters (at first), based on the fact, that we know so little about him to start. However, "Terra Nova" is quickly staying away from being branded a show with more questions than answers, as we learn Taylor is a pretty swell guy (or is he?). Tyalor was the first to arrive in Terra Nova and although others followed immediately after him, they didn't arrive for 118 days. Taylor was left alone to live in the jungle, fought to survive, and came out on top. He comes across as a natural leader, only giving us the mystery of who his son is and why has he disappeared.
Our other members of the Shannon Family, are son Josh and daughters Maddy and Zoe. Josh is the typical teenage son that rebels and hates his father. He ultimately breaks the rules and goes OTG (outside the gates! - so damn creative), with some of the other teenagers, to skinny dip and drink homemade moonshine. Of course this conveniently leads to the only real drive of the episode, forcing a convoy of men, lead by Taylor and Jim, to rescue the kids from Slashers (another creative name given to fictional dinosaurs, with a large blade on it's tail that can slice through pretty much anything - "Now you know why they call them Slashers"). So basically Josh is the same agonizing character, as the son from "V", and anyone who gave that show a chance knows how bad you wanted the aliens to eat him! Now, Maddy on the other hand, while given little to do here, is somewhat intriguing. She's obviously very smart and I have a feeling she's going to come in handy later down the line (more on that in a minute). Zoe, Zoe, Zoe... what can i say? Her sole purpose is to be cute and she succeeds, showing us the first interaction with the dinosaurs, in a "Jurassic Park" like scene, feeding the giant Brachiosaur (if only they sneezed on her!). Was this dino scene supposed to be our hook?
We are also given the introduction of the Sixers, men and women that came over on the sixth pilgrimage (that's why they call them Sixers... duh!), only to separate from Terra Nova with an alternate agenda. What the agenda is, remains a mystery. Speaking of mystery, what are those crazy circle/graph drawings on the rocks? We do learn that Taylor's long lost son may be the one responsible for them but, what do they mean ("Control the past to control the future")? I have to make an early prediction and guess that Maddy may be able to solve this at some point, otherwise what the hell is her purpose, other than crushing on some nameless cute guy? Maddy also had the pleasure of explaining the convenient way around the "butterfly effect". After some technical crap ("English Doc"), it seems that while traveling to the past, they have actually created a new timeline or perhaps an alternate universe (An Alternate 1985!)
So basically we have a family looking for a fresh start, while trying to survive the elements (dinosaurs). I'll try not to be too quick to judge, but so far the family dynamic is not that strong. The dialogue is weak and forced, the only time feeling the least bit realistic is in the interaction between Jim and his daughter Zoe. I still want to have faith that the show can rebound, but we will check in again next week to see if the Orange is worth the squeeze.
A couple quick observations/questions to wrap things up:
- The Use of Circles - writing on the rocks, the Terra Nova compound, the time machine...
- Time Machine Resembled the LHC - which is what makes time travel possible!
- Obama Money!! - HA!
- What is Meteoric Iron used for?
- What's the deal with Oranges?
- I like how they gave thought into how their bodies would react to new enzymes in the food, but how could Josh drink the moonshine then?
- Re-Breathers! Carnos! Slashers! OTG! - Come on with these F**king names!
So what did everyone else think? Should the son be killed off the show immediately? Will you be back again next week? If so, is it for the Shannons or the big budget Dinos?