“Instinct,” the second episode of Fox’s new TV series Terra Nova, is a distinct improvement over the first episode. It’s still not great and still suffers from some serious problems, but it shows that there might be something to the premise and that possibly, just possibly, the powers that be won’t screw it up entirely.
Our story opens with a single vehicle delivering supplies to a distant point at night over an unpaved surface. If you think this seems like something of a bad idea, you’re right on the money, as the vehicle gets attacked by something airborne.
Back at the camp, the family is continuing to settle in. Elisabeth (Shelly Conn), is reunited with an old colleague/love interest (Rod Hallett), Jim (Jason O’Mara), is continuing his work for Taylor (Stephen Lang), and Josh (Landon Liboiron), is interested in buying a new guitar. He doesn’t have the money for it, which does bring up some interesting questions about what Terra Nova’s economy is based on.
Anyhow, not surprisingly, it isn’t long before the camp finds itself under attack by strange airborne dinosaurs; a new species of pterosaur, to be exact. It seems that our happy little colony was built on top of their spawning grounds. Apparently someone noticed millions of eggshells in the ground and their only thought was what great fertilizer the eggshells would be.
This leads to our major problem of the week, which is how to get rid of the pterosaurs. The investigation into them was interesting, though the fact that the capture of two specimens and the eventual implementation of a solution were things that happened completely offscreen was a bit annoying.
This episode in many ways owes more than a little to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, and several scenes of the pterosaurs attacking the camp are more than a little reminiscent of that film. The overall “feel” of that movie is also invoked by the fact that the pterosaurs kind of come across as pissed-off seagulls (though really, is there any other mood for a seagull?).
This was an overall decent episode. The script wasn’t great, but it got the job done (though as a longtime Star Trek fan, a little shudder went through me when I saw it was co-written by Brannon Braga), and the characters are starting to gel a bit and become more interesting. I did feel that the confrontation between Jim and Malcolm, Elisabeth’s old flame, was more than a little forced, and I really hope the show isn’t planning a big love triangle theme. I also very much hope it doesn’t turn out that Malcolm is the Sixer mole that gets mentioned in the story.
I also remain very underwhelmed by the special effects. When Jurassic Park came out an astonishingly long time ago, the effects were groundbreaking and impressive, and even then the best way to show close-ups of dinosaurs was at night in the rain. Now nearly two decades later and this show is having to use the same trick. The only time the creatures look even remotely convincing is at night, in the rain. There’s one close-up of a pterosaur that really looks unconvincing as hell. I know this seems like a minor complaint and yes, I realize that the TV budget won’t be as big as what movies have, but when you build an entire show around the concept of seeing dinosaurs every week, you need to make sure your dinosaurs are convincing. That’s just not the case so far.
Still, I did enjoy this episode. All the characters were better, we didn’t see any shots of that horribly stupid future, and the plot was able to hold my interest. I do hope that future episodes are more than just “dinosaur of the week,” but even if they are, at least it worked for this week.