Coming into the new season of fall television one of the most anticipated premieres was the new FOX show Terra Nova. With Steven Spielberg listed as an executive producer and the large amounts of money being spent on it many people were hopeful that it would be the new must see show. The two hour series premiere aired on Monday and I think that it has great potential.
Terra Nova begins in the year 2149 on an Earth that is on the brink of destruction from pollution and overpopulation. Thanks to a rift discovered in the space/time continuum groups of people are being sent to an alternate reality 85 million years in the past. These people are attempting to start over with a settlement called Terra Nova. The show follows the story of Jim Shannon and his family as they go on this journey to the past.
I feel I have to mention that there are more than a few similarities to the show LOST. I almost felt like the creators were among the group of LOST fans who believed the smoke monster was a dinosaur and this show is the result of their disappointment when that proved to be incorrect. Just in the pilot we were introduced to mysterious symbols, a group of “others” they call the Sixers, and the hint of a secret agenda among the people funding this initiative (yes, I used that word intentionally). Not to mention the jungle setting and the fact that the actor who plays Jim Shannon looks a little bit like Matthew Fox. If the show is able to create compelling plots and sympathetic characters, I will be able to overlook its derivative start. Right now I am on the fence about whether or not it will be able to do this.
Most of the characters are, at the moment, common prototypes. Jim is your stereotypical cop; his son Josh is an angry, rebellious teenager; Mira, the leader of the Sixers, is hard and humorless; and Commander Taylor, the leader of Terra Nova played by Stephen Lang, is nearly identical to the character he played in Avatar. In spite of this I found many of the characters to be likeable. I really liked Jim’s wife and his two daughters, and I am intrigued by Commander Taylor and Mira. I understand that it takes time for a new show to introduce and develop its characters, so I will give it the benefit of the doubt for now.
In spite of the similarities to LOST, the mysteries introduced were interesting enough that I want to find out the answers. Why did Commander Taylor’s son run away and what do the equations he is writing on the rocks mean? What is the secret agenda of the sponsors of Terra Nova that Mira alluded to? How much does Commander Taylor know and is he trustworthy? Who are the Sixers working for and what are they trying to accomplish? It was very smart of the show to introduce these questions as early as they did. I worry that the danger presented from living amongst dinosaurs is going to lose its effectiveness before long. The show will need to have other avenues of conflict to keep it interesting and these questions should fulfill that role.
In the end, Terra Nova did not leave me on the edge of my seat with excitement, but it did whet my appetite. I am curious enough to want to tune in again and optimistic that it will improve as it progresses. Ever since LOST ended there has been a void that many have attempted to fill. I believe that Terra Nova has the potential to fill that void as long as it allows itself to become its own thing rather than just a LOST with dinosaurs.
What about you? Did you watch the two hour pilot? What did you think of it? Was it too derivative or was there enough originality to set it apart? Let me know in the comments!