Terra Nova is the new, 2011 new, drama & scifi tv series by Fox that was based on an idea by British writer Kelly Marcel. In the 22nd century all life on planet Earth is threatened with extinction due to dwindling worldwide air quality, overpopulation & scarcity of vegetation. Humans have been unable to find an alternate planet fit for living. Scientists discover a rift in time located in Chicago that allows a one way trip back in time, 85 million years into the past to be specific. In order for humanity to survive, Earth starts sending people based on lotteries in big groups, known as pilgrimages, through the rift. A large colony, Terra Nova, is established by the initial group sent to create a settlement and shelters for survival against the predatory animals, including carnivorous dinosaurs.
Along with the dinosaur man Steven Spielberg, the production team has the show runners Rene Echevarria & Bannon Braga – the duo behind a lot of Star Trek shows among other stuff; indeed the overall look of the show looks a lot like Star Trek : Enterprise. which Bragga co-created. The average episode budget is about $4 million, compared to an average of $3 million for broadcast network dramas.
The pilot, shown in most regions as a single 90 minute episode, is set in the year 2149 and focuses on the Shannon family trying to get to Terra Nova and start life anew. Jim Shannon is in prison on an 8 year sentence for assaulting an officer after they searched their apartment for having a 3rd child – the law strictly enforces a 2 child limit per couple on Earth. His wife Dr. Elizabeth Shannon has been chosen to go to Terra Nova in the 10th pilgrimage but she can’t take their 3rd child, daughter Zoe. Jim breaks out of prison and takes Zoe in a bag and makes his way to the portal. As Elizabeth and their two older kids, son Josh & daughter Maddy, enter with the group, Jim fights of two soldiers and runs through the portal and joins the rest of his family. The 10th group is met by Colonel Nathaniel Taylor who is in charge of the settlement and his second in command Alicia Washington.
Now the settlement is well protected but the threat from carnivorous dinosaurs and flying ones is real. But not only do the humans in Terra Nova have to fend of the dangerous creatures, they also have to watch out for the Sixers. The Sixers are a group of humans who came to Terra Nova. They appeared to be ordinary citizens, but they separated from the main colony for a yet unknown purpose, becoming an added menace to the citizens of Terra Nova. Their name is a reference to the Sixth Pilgrimage, of which all current Sixers are from. The Sixers are led by Mira and are aided secretly by Col. Taylor’s son Lucas Taylor, a technological genius, who was presumed missing from Terra Nova & probably dead. He seems to have a grudge against his father and the colony.
While handling agro duty initially, Jim comes to Taylor’s notice while tackling a wild Sixer who was injured and being treated in the colony. Knowing that he used to be a cop in 2147, Taylor makes him part of his team, in an official police role, kind of like the sheriff of Terra Nova. While his wife and two daughters seem to be adjusting well to their new life, Jim has to face hostilities and some resentment from his son Josh who left a girlfriend behind on earth. He, with help from a girl called Skye, who he befriends, Josh is looking for a way to bring his girl to Terra Nova. The settlement makes a new life for themselves, fighting the occasional legion of Pterosaurs, raptors and a T rex or two and being one step ahead of the Sixers. Highlights are the lush CGI enhanced terrain, lots & lots of dinos and some techno dazzle.
Overall a good show and helmed well by the producers. But I’d like to see some more dark stuff; the show seems to mark themselves out as a family show. Acting is on the average and I think the casting is good overall although how 35 year old Shelly Conn can realistically be the mother of a 17 & a 15 year old kids is beyond me. And she looks very young too! And there’s a lot of brown people in the show – Shelly is half English & half Sri Lankan, the super cute young actress who plays her daughter Maddy, Naomi Scott, is half Gujarati and half English while little Australian Alana Mansour looks like she too had Indian or Pakistani blood. Funny enough for an American family of 5 non of the actress are American – the father is played by Irish actor Jason O’Mara, while Canadian Landon Liboiron plays son Josh.
It’s still too early to predict the impact & staying power of the show. Initial reports are very good. Once the remaining 7 of the 13 episodes of season 1 are done, I’ll post a follow up.