|written by Craig Silverstein, Kelly Marcel, Brannon Braga & David Fury|
(story by Kelly Marcel & Craig Silverstein) / directed by Alex Graves
starring Jason O'Mara, Shelley Conn, Stephen Lang, Landon Liboiron & Naomi Scott
The show itself isn't totally disagreeable, it's just crushingly rote and predictable. The first hour's the best because there's a sense of discovery as we're introduced to the smoggy Blade Runner-esque future (where everyone has to respire through "re-breathers", fresh fruit's a rarity, and you can be arrested for having more than two children), and I even found myself warming to the Shannon family thanks to O'Mara and Conn's appealing performances. Even the kids struck me as cute and not hugely annoying. Then, having arrived in the Cretaceous period (via a time-portal "journey" that embarrasses Stargate), most of the budget is up there on-screen in the form of luscious location filming in a rainforest, a very convincing human settlement (far outstripping a similar idea in the BBC's recent Outcasts), and eventually some very decent dinosaurs (if slightly too cartoonish for my tastes). Unfortunately, once you quickly get accustomed to the gorgeous vistas and general feeling of the expense, the show has to start relying on its characters and story to keep its viewers hooked. It doesn't quite manage to.
In its second hour, Terra Nova became surprisingly boring very quickly, and Landon Liboiron slipped into being just another annoying teenage character who, no surprise, has a tense relationship with his father, gets himself into serious trouble, then has to be rescued so his daddy's issues can be addressed. There's barely a single moment in Terra Nova that doesn't come from the Big Book Of Sci-Fi Clichés, or unashamedly cherry-picks ideas from better shows/films. There was a chance that some clever writing, unexpected surprises, and a charismatic group of actors could have pulled this through the mire, but that doesn't really come to pass. I still like O'Mara, Conn and Lang, but they're working with material that's too thin and uninvolving.
Overall, Terra Nova offers plenty of spectacle (although the average episode of Primeval provides twice as much dino-carnage with a fraction of the budget), but there's nothing that feels fresh or interesting enough to latch onto on a deeper level. I won't write it off just yet, knowing the problems the production faced, but this was a very expensive pilot that desperately needed more attention on the story and characterizations, but instead looks to have made the age-old mistake of thinking visuals and CGI are all anyone cares about.
- What is it with Spielberg-produced sci-fi and giant parasites attached to people's spines?