Terra Nova: Season 1 Episodes 1 & 2 – Genesis (Parts 1&2)
Creators: Craig Silverstein, Kelly Marcel
Starring: Shelley Conn, Jason O’Mara, Landon Liboiron, Noomi Scott, Stephen Lang
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
Terra Nova has been hyped to the max, with all this talk of a new Dinosaur TV show with Steven Spielberg involved as executive producer. Thoughts of a Jurassic Park kind of quality were built up, I mean, Spielberg is involved so what could possibly go wrong? Well, we’ll get to that…
The double episode for the shows debut began well, with superb special effects and set designs, we are in the year 2149, the human race and all its resources are dying, and there is numbers control on families where they can only have a maximum of two children. We soon meet the Shannon’s, Father Jim is an ex cop, a job which almost destroyed his marriage, wife Elisabeth who is a brilliant doctor, a children Josh, Maddy and Zoe! Yes, they have three children, which is illegal and in a superb, tension filled scene, police knock on their door and search the premises, only to find little Zoe hiding in a small cupboard. Jim is locked up after attacking the police in order to protect his family and some two years later, Elisabeth plans his escape from prison. Why? Because she has been granted the chance to go back in time to a new world, a new beginning and a new project where the human race will get a second chance at life, a second chance to get it right…
We’re merely ten minutes in and the jail breakout and consequent run up to the ‘will he or won’t he make it’ scene involving the time machine is fantastic. It would appear that Terra Nova is living up to the hype, in a big big way. This is fantastic stuff, really exciting and I can’t wait to see what’s in store once we go back 85 million years to this new colony of experts and hand picked residents, intent on changing the future for the better. To be honest, the colony itself is a dramatic change from the dark and moody colours of the future, everything is bright and, sadly, it looks way too much like a film set. It is once we go back in time that the show starts to lose it’s edge, it’s brilliance. The family begin bickering, Son Josh hates his Dad for getting himself locked up, there is not enough beds for little Zoe as families should only have two children, Josh decides to start breaking the rules, and Jim manages to get himself on the security team, much to the annoyance of wife Elisabeth. Dinosaurs do appear, and sadly the big spectacle of their first appearance is lost as we have simply been too spoiled with Jurassic Park. At times they look OK, others, incredibly CGI and fake, which is a shame as the Dinosaurs would appear to be the main reason people are watching this. The shows creators have promised new, never before seen Dinosaurs every week, and we have new Dinosaurs here called Slasher’s and to be fair they’re pretty nasty. They’re a bit like Velociraptors, but more vicious and create one of the highlights of the show during the time we have so far spent in Terra Nova itself.
A new plot is also created, as there is another colony of humans, these guys, called “Sixers” are not as friendly as our colony, they want war and have guns and ammo and there is a constant battle between them and our colony of “peace” loving humans who believe war is bad and want to avoid it at all costs. That’s not to say they’re not prepared for war, as the security team brandish guns and appear fearsome, and this is the team Jim has joined. His skills are likely to come in very useful, and you can pretty much guess where these two episodes will go from the minute we arrive in Terra Nova, and here lies the shows main problem. Predictable is an understatement, it is so predictable it becomes very boring very quickly, characters are clichéd beyond belief and the show very quickly loses impact. A further plot is added in the shape of Josh and some locals who like to ‘sneak out’ of Terra Nova and enjoy the paradise of waterfalls and the like. No one really stands out from this group as yet, and the children of the family have fast faded into the background. Father Jim is a strong character, as is Mother Elisabeth, but it feels like their characters are limited and so I worry that the show will not be able to keep its momentum as we slow down and get into more character development.
The shows one big saving grace is Commander Nathaniel Taylor (Avatar’s Stephen Lang), he runs Terra Nova with an iron fist, but is also kind and considerate to his fellow men. He is a powerful character with a history in Terra Nova which allows someone to state “he IS Terra Nova”. He wants it to work, and will do anything to make it happen, so I predict him either turning bad or making some wrong choices later on in the series. Whatever decisions he makes, he is the driving force behind his show, macho beyond belief and proud of it, he towers over the rest of the drab cast and makes the show worth watching. Hell after these first two episodes, he even outshines the Dinosaurs! There is also a back story involving him and his lost dead/alive Son and some mysterious marking in rocks in the jungle. I am sure these will all come into play and be properly explained at some point, but hopefully not too soon, and here lies yet another issue.
There seemed to be way too much happening in these first two episodes, as if the makers were desperate to get everything moving, desperate to cram as much as they could into 1 hours and 25 minutes and sadly, made the whole thing feel rushed and unfocused. There was a real lack of patience and care in giving its viewers a gentle, well crafted build up. I feel the show suffered from a little too much too soon. That, along with the weak characters, is giving me cause for concern. However, as with all TV shows, they often get better as they move forward and there is still a long way to go. We can only hope this will start to get better.