Saturday, December 3, 2011

Terra Nova

Written by Joe the Revelator

A new show has cropped up about the end of the world; Our depleted, overpopulated, husk of a world, as it dries up like an old raisin. And like many works of fiction the answer isn't to fix our world, it's to send colonists to new, ripe worlds. Except for this go-around it's a quest to colonize Earth yet again. A do-over. Back in time. With dinosaurs.

A quick note about the end of the dinosaurs, even though the show's era is Triassic (single-continent world), about 200 million years ago, and not hardly the end. Many evolutionary scientists agree that the death of dinosaurs was a good thing, as it allowed mammals, like us, to thrive and take over the world. With dinosaurs for natural predators, we wouldn't be here. So unless the plan is to find a natural equilibrium between carnivorous lizards and homo-sapiens, one death by T-Rex for every two human births, I'd imagine sending a colony to live with dinosaurs would be the last thing the government would ever want to do.

So future dying Earth starts a lottery, which selects an inordinate amount of attractive people, so they can be sent to populate the giant food bowl known as Terra Nova. They are joined by engineers, military personnel, scientists, and a ton of red-shirts.

Spaghetti Western + Dinosaurs

The truth of Terra Nova, thus far in the first season, is that the dinosaurs are incidental to the story. You could replace them with landsharks, vampire bats, or sandworms, and the show would be the same. Terra Nova is a frontier town, struggling with issues of frontier justice, infighting, and hands-on-your-gun politics. The dinosaur attacks are brief and analogous to any other natural disaster, which keeps the plot interesting and character driven. Timmy didn't fall down a well, he got treed by a raptor.

The colony is led by Commander Taylor, played by Stephen Lang. If you've seen the movie Avatar you'll know him as the cookie-cutter marine hardass. He seems to have gotten lost on his way back from Pandora, and stumbled into the old CGI folders from Jurassic Park. As an actor he's solid and keeps the show moving, not quite stealing every scene, so much as bludgeoning it and using it to wipe off his combat boots.

The Young and the Useless

I have to wonder if young men (14-22) will find this show vaguely insulting. If you're paying attention, all the male characters who aren't grizzled veterans or hardened cops with families are portrayed as useless twits. I'm not saying this isn't accurate to life. But it's been ten episodes and hardly one has gone by without an adolescent male being knocked out, beaten, or banished from the colony for his stupidity.

Would I recommend this show? Yes, but only with the warning that it's a middle-step between Jurassic Park and Land of the Lost. At this point Terra Nova has that 'new show' smell, but it's teetering on the edge of using time travel to explain plot holes. I'm afraid that soon the viewers will be inundated with time paradoxes and dimensional portals, and mysteries so deep it'll keep the suckers watching for six seasons (I'm look at you, Lost.) But if you get on board now, you'll have a basic grasp when the plot gets so twisted around it feels like a T-Rex ate a physics lab and shat it on your television.

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