Premise: A group of people travel back to Earth’s prehistoric past to start a new civilization as the planet is dying in 2149 in this sci-fi drama.
I’m a fan of Jason O’Mara, but man is he cursed. I first saw him on the fantastic legal drama, In Justice, where he played an ex-detective who now works for an organization overturning legal rulings that are proven to have been incorrect. The show was brilliant and was cancelled after one season. He then showed up as Albert Wesker in the Resident Evil series of films, where he turned in a passable performance but was replaced in the sequel by another actor. Then he was in the US version of Life on Mars, where he was a convincing Sam Tyler but the series as a whole was disappointing and the show was cancelled after one season.
Now he’s putting in a co-starring role in Terra Nova, a sci-fi show by FOX with no less than a DOZEN executive producers including Steven Spielberg (yay!) and Brannon Braga (boo!). Brannon Braga is better known as the other half of Rick Berman, the two captains of the Star Trek franchise that drove that poor space ship into the ground so deeply that it took J.J. Abrams to dust off the fossil record and give it life again.
Terra Nova, however, looks promising.
The pilot starts in the future, early in the 22nd Century, it says. Apparently the Earth has been ruined by man and now barely supports human life, forcing everyone to use rebreathers to move from building to building, and for strict family size laws to be enacted to slowly reduce the population. The hero of the show Jim Shannon, played by O’Mara, is an ex-cop who had a family of five, one more than allowed by law, and is sent to prison for attacking the officers who attempted to seize the child. Jim’s wife, Elisabeth, is a renowned doctor and is offered a position at Terra Nova, a human settlement 85 million years into the past. It’s a one-way trip for anyone who goes, as not even communication can be sent back, and she realizes its their one chance to be a family again.
Jim breaks out of prison with Elisabeth’s help and they, along with their three children, escape through the portal to Terra Nova. Once there, the leader of the settlement, Nathaniel Taylor, doesn’t care very much that Jim is a convict, and puts him to work as a farmer. But shortly afterwards there is an assassination attempt on Taylor that Jim foils, earning him a place on Taylor’s security team.
Meanwhile, the rest of the family has plots that resemble an episode of Saved by the Bell. I’m not joking. The son is immediately hit upon by an attractive girl (who is mysteriously related to Taylor) who drags him into an adventure outside the walls of Terra Nova. Naturally, that adventure goes awry when they’re attacked by dinosaurs and Taylor’s security detail needs to rescue him.
The eldest daughter, meanwhile, proves to be the studious one, going to Orientation when her brother ditches, and learning tons of facts while caring for the youngest daughter. Oh, and randomly she is ALSO hit upon by an attractive older boy, making sure everyone has a love interest less than two days into their stay at Terra Nova.
So… yes, the plots of the children are a tumor that need to be extracted. But Jim and Elisabeth at least seem to be suffering the more interesting parts of adjusting to a new life with few rules, and dealing with the ‘medicine’ of the era.
Finally, a J.J. Abrams-esque plot is revealed where strange scratchings are found along the rocks at a waterfall, clearly left by intelligent life that isn’t from Terra Nova, and it’s learned that Taylor’s son went missing years ago and it’s implied he’s connected to the scratchings “and the truth about why we’re here.” Woooo.
Ultimately, this show has promise. Despite the cancerous plots of the children, the show is well written and acted, with special effects that rival those of most Hollywood feature films. At a price tag of 35 million dollars for 10 episodes, they better be. I’m impressed that FOX invested so much into this series, given that the per-season cost can only rise from here as actors become more famous. Maybe they’re hoping to catch the Battlestar Galactica lightning in a bottle again, and if this is the show that does it, power to them. Me, I’m entertained, but I’m holding off on fully endorsing it until I see more of the season.