26
Sep
2011
Terra Nova: Season 1, Episode 1
Genesis
Sam Lindauer
The debut of Terra Nova this week was a full two hours and I don't feel like breaking down every single little part. First let me say, you SHOULD watch this show, it's worth checking out even if you don't end up liking it. To keep this post at a reasonable length I'm going to cut to the chase about what works and what doesn't. Taking a post to explain two hours of story (something that this premiere almost solely consists of) is a waste of both my time and yours. So excuse the brevity of the following summary but I promise it will suffice.
In about 150 years we destroy the planet and a select few are chosen to go back in time and start fresh. We go back to the time of the dinosaurs for some reason and make a colony. Some people who went back are good, some are bad (they're called "Sixers" as in they came over on the sixth pilgrimage). There are dinosaurs to shoot at which is nice and the main focus of the show is the Shannon family. There's a mom, dad, daughter, son and a youngest daughter whose existence is against the future's four to a family law. Sometimes they're going to need to shoot dinosaurs and sometimes they'll need to shoot bad guys. Who is bad and who is good is something they have already purposefully made ambiguous.
OK so let me tell you what I think. I think this show needed to be more like Friday Night Lights. Yes, I watched the first five episodes yesterday making any other pilot I watch look downright boring. The acting on Terra Nova ranges from "bad action movie" to "cut scene from Command and Conquer". What I couldn't stop thinking about was that mottos that FNL so often repeats, "Clear eyes and full hearts can't lose." It's not only true for the Panthers but it's also true of a good television show. Clear eyes as in, the show knows what it wants to accomplish, it knows the identity and story going forward. Full hearts is about having realized characters who people grow to care about. FNL looks to be a show with both of these and with that, it can't lose. Terra Nova seems to be heavy on eyes and light on heart.
Living in a post-Lost world, everyone knows the "drop some mysteries to solve the later" type show. So when Terra Nova tells us about a long lost son or strange markings on rocks or the "REAL" reason behind Terra Nova, we just know that these are things that the show will slowly explain to us down the line. This is all well and good (and also expected of a pilot such as this) but the major problem I have is that I can't really describe any characters beyond their name or physical appearance. The son, Josh, is kind of whiny but that's it. No one is fun, no one has a personality. Terra Nova never took the time to have the characters sit down and introduce who they are and what they're thinking (except whiny Josh who is mad at Dad for leaving for two years cause of breakin' the fucking law).
I actually think Lost had an opposite problem. It had some cloudy eyes and very full heart. As the show went on it became clearer that the writers didn't really have much of a plan, but the show still worked because of its pulse. The characters were so well realized that it was still fun to watch. I'll take Locke over Nathaniel Taylor (Terra Nova's old man tough guy) any day. Of course it's unfair to sink Terra Nova at this point.
Let me give you a reason to check out Terra Nova. It can be a fun show. The budget put into this must have been astronomical as there is great production value. I don't think the SFX are up to movie standards but for television this is tough to beat. There are also lots of guns and dinosaur attacks so if you think that sounds fun, they've got that covered.
I may not have return to terra Nova if I didn't have to, but it just felt like a bad Lost rip-off. While Lost may not have been so great at planning all of its storylines, they made them few and far between so we had time to get to know the crew. Terra Nova spits everything at us already assuming the sort of cult devotion that Lost worked for. I don't care about people's girlfriends or alliances or secret motives. I don't know these people. Clear eyes, full hearts can't lose. But clear eyes, no hearts certainly can.

C+
Tags: Terra Nova
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