In the year 2149 the Earth is dying, and people, including convict Jim Shannon and his family, travel back in time to a prehistoric version of Earth, where dinosaurs roam, to join a settlement called “Terra Nova”. Unfortunately, a squadron of people called “The Sixers” oppose the settlement, working with different corporations to lay waste to the environment for economic gain.
Terra Nova truly is a show ahead of its time. In 2011 when it was made, it had one of the biggest budgets in television history. Game of Thrones had just come out, and Netflix hadn’t started producing original content just yet. There weren’t a ton of high budget or cinematic series’, making Terra Nova among the first of its kind—though that doesn’t make it good. Sure, it’s the first show to have a high budget, but that doesn’t mean it’s high quality. In the case of Terra Nova, this distinction is important.
The concept for Terra Nova is interesting. Especially in an age where climate change is becoming a huge issue, this concept really works. The show plays into the human fears of a dystopian future society, miserable due to the effects of overpopulation and climate change. The settlement “Terra Nova” offers a solution to that problem, which us, as humans, inherently want to protect. We all would want to be in “Terra Nova”, and thus we see ourselves in the main characters. Also, in an era where people complain about unoriginality in media, Terra Nova offers a premise that’s never before been done.
While the concept is excellent, the writing is neither here nor there. The show doesn’t have a ton of quotable moments. A lot of the dialogue is generic, and rarely is something said in a way that’s never been said before. Oftentimes, I saw myself knowing exactly what the next line was going to be before it was said. The plots for certain episodes, however, are interesting; the universe allows for storylines that are really intriguing, and the show’s writers often take advantage of that, especially in the episodes where the story doesn’t revolve around the series’ main antagonists, and instead on the issues arising from the dinosaur-ridden universe.
Part of the writing’s mediocrity comes from the fact that the characters are all generic. In the cast, you have a generic male protagonist, his boring wife, their brooding teenage son, bookish older daughter, and average cute child younger daughter. This next part contains mild spoilers, so if you don’t like spoilers, skip to the next paragraph. Throughout the series, these characters go through all the arcs you expect them to go through. The bookish daughter learns to be more outgoing and meets a cute boy. The son learns to be less broody. They become the characters we expect them to become. This is especially clear for the villains; I never ended up caring about any of them. The leader gets a backstory at one point in the series, but only a brief one. For the rest of the series you have no reason to believe the villains are anything more than moustache twirlers.
The acting was also about as good as the writing. With the exception of Christine Adams, who played Mira, the leader of “the Sixers”, and Stephen Lang, who played Commander Nathaniel Taylor, none of the actors stand out.
The series’ production design didn’t always succeed. Besides a few clipping issues sprinkled throughout the series, all of the backgrounds looked good. You could tell they put some amount of care into them. However, the CGI dinosaurs looked like cartoon dinosaurs. There wasn’t a ton of detail added into them and their movement was janky. Unfortunately, the budget just wasn’t high enough to make the dinosaurs look real.
This next paragraph contains spoilers, so if you don’t want spoilers, skip to the next paragraph. For a show that was supposed to have multiple seasons, thankfully, Terra Nova didn’t make the mistake of having an open ending; almost all of the questions that were asked in the beginning were answered. It was hard for me to imagine what they would’ve even done for a second season. There is one romantic subplot that doesn’t get fully realized at the series’ ending, but there’s an implication of it playing through the way you want it to.
In the series, it’s against the law to have more than two children, yet the Shannons have three. This left me with the question: why did the Shannons decide to have a third child? They knew it was against the law to do so, yet they did it anyway. This question is brought up at one point in the series to Jim, and is answered with “it seemed like a good idea at the time”. Why did it seem like a good idea? This detail wasn’t really important but was mentioned enough times that it ended up bothering me. There was no reason for it to be included. Were they trying to make a statement on China’s one child policy? If that’s the case, the problems that they brought up in the series weren’t problems with the one child policy.
This series has a great concept with a passable execution.
Terra Nova: High Budget, Okay quality
Writing - 7.5/107.5/10
Storyline - 8.5/108.5/10
Acting - 7/107/10
Music - 7.5/107.5/10
Production - 7.3/107.3/10
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