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TERRA NOVA’s Genesis Does Everything Right
I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a huge sucker for science fiction shows with an air of mystery to them. That’s not to say that I tune in to every single one of them. I never watched The Event, for instance (thank goodness). I keep my eye out for intriguing stories, making particular effort to ignore any show that tries to be the next Lost. When Terra Nova was announced, I was mostly interested in seeing how well a show about dinosaurs with a TV budget could do. I honestly wasn’t expecting there to be any mystery to it, just a family living 85 million years in the past.
The two-hour pilot, “Genesis,” sets up so much for the series’ first season. What’s impressive is it sowed the seeds one at a time throughout the premiere and then tied them all together right at the end. It’s rare to have these types of shows give you answers so quickly, so I was very surprised to learn this early that Taylor’s son is alive and was the writer of the math equations on the rocks. But those were just a couple answers. We’re still left wondering what the equations really mean, besides a quick throwaway mention that Terra Nova was created to control the future. And what about the Sixth Pilgrimage? Who sent them? My curiosity is piqued thanks to the careful placement of these mysteries.
As a network show, this is by far the most visually stunning series I’ve ever seen. Even Lost, with it’s tropical setting, doesn’t come close to what Terra Nova shows us. We open in 2149, where the world’s ecosystem is near collapse. The skies are covered in a cloud of dirt, brought on by humans. The scenario is terrifying. It’s not an unlikely future for our race. But the dying planet serves another purpose: juxtaposition for when we finally go back in time. Going from dark and gritty future to bright and luscious green past gives us a sense of what it must be like to actually go from one to the other in real life. As soon as we arrive in Terra Nova, we get beautiful location after beautiful location. This easily one of the biggest selling points for this series.
Another big draw in is the dinosaurs. You have to keep in mind this is TV. Anything you see on here won’t be as good as what you might see at the movies. That being said, the CG dinosaurs still look really good. They’re a long shot from blending perfectly with the live action footage, but this is the very best work you can get for television.
As for the characters, it’s tough to say. Everyone did fine jobs acting, but the only real stand-out was Stephen Lang as Nathaniel Taylor. He has a great presence and really looks like he belongs in the jungles of prehistoric Earth. The drama with the Shannon family worked well enough, but I really hope it doesn’t last much longer. It was fine for the pilot, but I could grow tired of Josh’s (Landon Liboiron) teenaged rebellion if goes on too long.
As far as pilots go, this is the best one I’ve seen so far this fall. It looks good; the plot was tightly written and appropriately tense or touching when it called for either. This is the show to beat this year.