Welcome to Terra Nova

“The world you left behind fell victim to base instinct, greed, war, ignorance. We destroyed our home. We blew it. But we have a second change to start over. A chance to get it right. Welcome to Terra Nova folks. Welcome home.”

In 2149, the greedy self-serving humans have ravaged Planet Earth. Life is difficult and dreary – everyone breathes through oxygen masks and families must adhere to a “Two Child Policy”. Small things we take for granted, like oranges, are a big a freakin’ deal!

Married couple Jim and Elizabeth Shannon were so very much in love that they couldn’t stop at two little ones. When their other children, Josh and Maddy, were nearly in their teens, they had Zoe. Keeping her hidden from the authorities is a continuous struggle. When she’s eventually discovered, Jim lands himself in jail for assaulting a police officer.

While Jim is in the middle of a 5-year prison term, Elizabeth (a doctor) gets the call that most future-dwellers only dream about. She has been recruited to Terra Nova, a fledgling settlement 85 million years in the past – accessed through a fracture in the fabric of time. But it’s a one-way trip for Elizabeth, Josh and Maddy. She’s not allowed to take Zoe. Somehow, the Shannon’s orchestrate an elaborate plan to get the family back together. Jim breaks out of prison, disables his tracker, picks-up a backpack full of cash, trades it for a larger one containing 5-year-old Zoe, sneaks onto the launch deck, and sprints through the portal to join his family in Terra Nova. Whew!

Now the Shannons have settled down in a ‘gated’ community at the centre of a lush green jungle; in a world where clouds are still visible, stars light up the night sky … and you might just get your head ripped off by a rampaging carnivorous dinosaur. Welcome to Terra Nova!

The Players

Jim Shannon: The patriarch of the family. He’s trying to reconnect with his children after spending 2 years in the slammer, especially Zoe who barely remembers him. A former cop, he’s initially relegated to agricultural duty but quickly wins a spot on the security team when he thwarts an assassination attempt on the Commander. Jim is played by Jason O’Mara who was fabulous in the short-lived American adaptation of Life on Mars.

Elizabeth Shannon: A medical doctor who was recruited to Terra Nova. She’s motivated by the desire to provide her children with a brighter future. Her first day on the job she’s attacked by a knife-wielding patient; a member of a rebel group living outside the gates of the settlement.

Josh Shannon: The eldest Shannon sibling, a 16-year-old who develops a major attitude problem as soon as the family arrives in Terra Nova. Maybe he’s bipolar or perhaps it was poorly scripted, but the chip on his shoulder came out of nowhere. I guess teenagers are no less moody in the pre-historic era, but I really wanted to shove a sock in his snarky mouth. Or as my boyfriend put it, “Shut up Ephram! ” (He refused to watch Everwood solely because of how whiny and moody Ephram was and now uses him as a barometer for annoying teenagers on TV). Josh’s reckless behaviour lands him in serious danger after an unsupervised trek OTG (outside the gates) with a beguiling new female friend (Skye) ends with him stranded after nightfall in Acceraptor (aka Slasher) territory.

Maddy Shannon: A shy, pretty 15-year-old girl with a passionate interest in history and science. She’s so cute! I think her awkward mannerisms and nervous verbal spewing is adorable. After two brief scenes together I’m already more interested in a potential romance between her and a cute, unidentified boy than anything between Josh and Skye. I hope Maddy gets some juicy plotlines.

Zoe Shannon: A precocious 5-year-old who lived in a world that never had room for her. She delights in her new surroundings.

Commander Nathanial Taylor: The grizzled older man who runs Terra Nova. He was the very first person to cross through the time fracture and spent months surviving in the jungle alone. He believes strongly in the dream of a better tomorrow. Taylor’s son joined him on Terra Nova in the 2nd pilgrimage, but went missing several years ago.

Mira: The leader of the Sixers, a rebel group named for their place in the 6th pilgrimage to Terra Nova. Soon after their arrival, it became clear that they had their own secret agenda. They high-tailed it out of the community and have set up camp outside the gates, periodically raiding Terra Nova for supplies.

The Setting:
Thinking about time travel makes my head hurt … so I avoid it at all costs. Thankfully this show quickly introduced a simple solution to the mind-fracking ‘butterfly effect’. After discovering the time fracture, scientists sent back a probe back with a beacon inside, but it never arrived millions of years later. They realized they were dealing with a new time-stream, making it possible to settle in the past without disrupting humanity’s current existence. A little too convenient? Sure. But I’d rather sweep the issue under the rug with a simple solution than deal with endless inconsistencies and frustratingly long-winded explanations about the nature of the time space continuum. K.I.S.S!

The Danger:
Jurassic Park proved over 17 years ago that we could realistically bring terrifying dinosaurs to life on screen. But after 90 minutes of repetitive chase, escape, chase, escape scenes … I was over it. Terra Nova has already served up two Slasher attacks in the space of a two-hour premiere. If they plan on playing that card that every week, it’s going to get old fast. Monsters with giant teeth are scary, but I’ve been there, seen that and I need a new angle.

I’d actually like to see more of the ‘nice’ dinosaurs. A creature doesn’t have to treat humans like snack food to be compelling. The scene where tiny Zoe feeds leaves to the brachiosaur was beautifully done. Great ‘wow factor’ with the reveal of the massive scale of the dinosaurs as they leaned over the fence to munch on trees.

The Mystery:
Now THIS is the angle that just might hook me. It’s clear that the Sixers have an agenda, but Commander Taylor doesn’t know what they’re really after (or at least he claims not to). If someone from the future sent them back for a secret purpose, whom can he really trust?

Josh’s love interest, Skye, discovered mysterious geometric markings on rock formations near a waterfall outside the gates. They look like equations that have been there for awhile, but who could have put them there? The whole area is off limits and when Commander Taylor discovers that Skye has been tramping though the jungle, he grills her specifically about whether she went near the waterfall. Clearly he knows something that he’s keeping close to the chest. There’s some insinuation that his missing son might be connected to the Sixers and/or the mysterious rocks.

At the end of the episode, Mira and several other Sixers meet up at the rock formation. They’re aware of its existence, but is it connected to their mission?

Will I Continue Watching This?:
I think so. Not all of it holds my attention, but I’ll give it a few more episodes and if the mystery continues to grow and develop, it could prove very interesting.

Terra Nova managed only third place in its time slot with 9.03 million viewers for the first hour and 8.97 for the second. It was bested by Dancing with the Stars on ABC, as well as CBS’ comedy block (HIMYM, 2 Broke Girls, Two and a Half Men and Mike and Molly). Those aren’t terrible numbers, but this show is insanely expensive and high profile. I don’t think anything below 10 million will cut it.

Photo Courtesy of FOX

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