TV Review: TERRA NOVA 1.1, 'Genesis' Part 1

They mostly hunt at night. Mostly. I’m not really sold on this show yet, but I’m willing to entertain some more of the sales pitch.

rating: 3

They mostly hunt at night. Mostly. Let me start by saying that I really, really hate the fundamental premise of the world where everyone comes from in Terra Nova. Thankfully, the world appears to have been left behind and there€™s apparently no way to return, so most of my problems kind of went away shortly into the pilot. That said, I€™m still going to complain, but I€™ll get it out of the way at the end of the review. The show centers on the Shannon family, a group of five who live in 2149. They€™re supposed to be only a group of four, because apparently having more than two children is illegal due to overpopulation. There€™s Jim (Jason O€™Mara), the father who works as a cop, Elisabeth (Shelly Conn), a doctor, teenage cliché Joshua (Landon Liboiran), nerdy daughter Maddy (Naomi Scott), and second daughter Zoe (Alana Mansour), who doesn€™t get to do much other than tug at our heartstrings. Anyhow, due to some silliness, dad gets thrown into jail. This doesn€™t appear to actually matter in the greater sense of things, so I€™m not sure why it happens. He€™s gone for two years, and during that time, the family gets an offer to go back in time 85 million years to live in Terra Nova, a settlement that€™s been founded back there. They jump at the chance, spring dad from prison, smuggle an illicit child along back and go for it. When they arrive at Terra Nova, they meet Commander Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang), who runs the place. After saving the man from an assassination attempt, Jim is given a job as, essentially, a police office. The rest of the episode establishes the setting we€™ll be spending the rest of our time in. It€™s a beautiful, lush world full of bright colors. It€™s Eden, it€™s a paradise. But is there trouble in paradise? Of course there is. In this case the trouble takes the shape of a group called the Sixers who have broken away and established their own settlement. They survive by stealing supplies and resources from Terra Nova and generally exist to cause trouble. We also see that there€™s a set of mysterious signs and symbols drawn on rocks far out from the camp. These drawings look suspiciously old, and are clearly meant to be a setup for feature episodes. The show looks great, as I said, but there is an exception to this greatness, and that€™s the CGI dinosaurs. They look just terrible in most shots, particularly in one chase scene where they didn€™t appear to be at all in the world. I was really completely unimpressed by them. As for the story, it was acceptable, doing a decent job of introducing the setting and getting things ready for the inevitable conflicts. Less spectacular are the characters. With the exception of Taylor, none of them were even remotely interesting to me. But this was just the pilot, after all, and hopefully this is a problem that can be dealt with in future episodes. Overall, the show moved quickly away from the future sequences, which I really hated, and the new world they find themselves in shows a lot of promise. I€™m not really sold on this show yet, but I€™m willing to entertain some more of the sales pitch. And as a bonus, here are my problems with the future world of 2149: it makes no sense. It€™s highly unlikely the world will ever be that polluted. It certainly won€™t ever suffer from any real problems of over population, as the population of Earth is expected to top out in about 40 years and then level off somewhere around its current level, even if it were a problem, limiting families to one child instead of two would make no sense. I don€™t buy prisons without light. I don€™t buy the completely monochrome apartment that has an entire family crammed into what appears to be one room. I don€™t understand why people nearly 140 years in the future look, act, dress and speak exactly like we do now, I don€™t get how oranges can be an endangered species and lastly I don€™t quite understand why everyone wasn€™t issued sunglasses before going into the portal if bright sunlight was likely to be an issue for them. For the record, all of these problems could have been cured by simply setting the story in the present, or in the very near future. You don€™t need a crapsack world for people to be escaping from; all you need is to give them the chance to play pioneer and even modern day people would jump at the chance.
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Chris Swanson is a freelance writer and blogger based in Phoenix, Arizona, where winter happens to other people. His blog is at wilybadger.wordpress.com