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Terra Nova: High Concept Show meets Generic Storytelling

 

There was a point in last night’s debut of Terra Nova where I sort of threw up my arms  and thought, well this does not bode well.

It’s at the point where rebellious son Josh –really, was this the only way to create this character, by giving him the typical run-of-the-mill Daddy issues? –leaves Terra Nova with the attractive daughter of a missing (which is a hint that will see her father down the road) scientist and ventures into HIGH DANGER AREA. You got the sense –or maybe it’s just me- that things were going to go to hell before the next commercial break (and let us not mention that until Josh appeared, the rest of the “rebellious” teen gang never seemed to be in danger when leaving Terra Nova. So now we know how the cadre of executive producers on this show –I counted 12- will heighten the danger every week by putting the petulant and very stupid young man at its center).

While the concept is cool –It’s the year 2149 and all life on Earth is threatened with extinction due to dwindling worldwide air quality and overpopulation. Scientists discover a rift in space-time that allows people to travel 85 million years back in time to the Late Cretaceous period on the prehistoric Earth of an alternate reality (which conveniently affords the creators away to dispel time paradoxes, even though they don’t really explain it), offering a chance to save humanity.

Cool idea, really. But to be honest, this Steven Spielberg production resembles the first two Jurassic Park films (siblings Josh and Maddy are basically the same characters, albeit grown-up,  as Tim and Lex from the Park franchise) so much, that I seriously doubt the show can overcome its good premise and not fall into the trap of predictable storytelling to save on the expensive start-up cost of the two-hour opener. I’m not expecting much from show runner Brannon Braga, who ran Star Trek: Voyager and that franchise into the ground with bland stories, utopian style management and silly action set pieces. However, there might be hope with Star Trek veteran writer Rene Echevarria  on board (though where the show could have gone had Buffy scribe David Fury, who was to be co-show runner with Braga, not departed the series after the opener due to “creative differences” we’ll never know).

But the show will need to be something more than a heavy use of CGI dinosaurs and having hunky, yet sadly generic, son Josh getting himself and Terra Nova into trouble every week. I mean, yeah you need action and stupid sexual situations to keep the demographic interested, but what about the issues that brought the planet to its knees in 2149? Are the “settlers” going to try and understand how they fit into the environment and not repeat the same mistakes, or will that be ignored? I realize that jumping onto a complicated idea such as this may make the series less interesting to FOX’s demographic and I’m sure this show is supposed to be popcorn fun and not thought provoking, but I would hope that the writers pay attention to at least the potential idea (though, this was Star Trek’s greatest flaw in its later years. When their metaphors got too complicated, they simply abandoned them hoping no one noticed it).

Of course, they’ve set up several arcs, the sixers for one, and lost son of Nova leader Nathaniel Taylor and the mysterious man made markings all over the place. But the show will need to overcome some serious clunky writing and paint-by-number characters to be worthy of a weekly view for the next 13 weeks (which due to the cost and what not, season 1 will only have that many episodes).

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