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A Dozen Big 'Terra Nova' Questions (With Some Answers from a Dino Drama Insider)

by Maureen Ryan, posted Sep 26th 2011 10:01PM
'Terra Nova,' which I reviewed here, has been one of the most anticipated television programs of the year, and if you're like me, you had a number of questions once the two-hour pilot ended.

What's up with the Sixers? How crazy will the people vs. dino battles get? Will the teen son become less annoying?

As luck would have it, I spoke to 'Terra Nova' executive producer Rene Echevarria in August, and I was able to ask him some of the questions I had (I'd only seen the first hour of the pilot at that point, or I would have asked him more).

In any event, here are a dozen of the most pressing questions I had, and I'd love to get your answers to those queries, as well as your theories or predictions about where the show will go from here. And of course, I've included Echavarria's answers to various queries where relevant.

Spoilers ahoy, obviously. If you haven't seen the 'Terra Nova' premiere, stop reading now.

A Dozen Burning 'Terra Nova' Questions:

1. Will we ever find out who supplied Jim with the money and resources he needed to both break out of prison and get his daughter? I know we saw his wife get him the tool he needed to break out of his cell, but, in a short period of time, he then gathered a huge amount of cash and also managed to arrange get his daughter to the Terra Nova embarkation station. How'd he pull that off? Are we just supposed to accept that he did and move on? I guess it wouldn't be the end of the world if that were the case, but it strikes me that it might be an interesting character note to find out that Jim had some underworld contacts and was willing to use unorthodox methods to get what he needed. Or maybe when he needed money to get the proper documents and his daughter, he just robbed a bank and that's that.

2. Is Nathaniel Taylor's son one of the leaders of the Sixers? How likely do you think that is?

3. What were those symbols on the rocks all about? And why doesn't Taylor want anyone to see them? Any guesses?

4. Can you foresee an arc in which the Shannon family eventually realizes the Sixers have the right ideas and goes off and lives in that settlement? Or do you think that's unlikely to happen, given how potentially subversive that story line is? (Plus, it's worth noting that Fox already spent a fortune building the Terra Nova settlement we saw in the premiere.)

I didn't ask Echevarria that exact question, but he did say we'd see the Sixers' camp when I asked him if the Sixers are "the bad guys" of the drama. "As the season unfolds, we will start to get to know them better and [have] scenes with them in their camp and start to see what they're about," he replied. "You know, bad guys never believe they're bad guys, they always believe they're doing the right thing for their own reasons."



5. Will we learn more about the political structure of Terra Nova? Related to that, will anyone question the idea that Taylor is in charge of both security and the government? If he's the only law of the land, that could be a very bad idea, unless he's the second coming of William Adama.

6. Did you want the dinosaurs to eat Josh Shannon? I don't blame the kid for thinking that his father hitting that population-control cop was really terrible idea, but we all know how I feel about STPs (Stupid Teenager Plots). Much of the second half of the 'Terra Nova' pilot was STP on dino-steroids.

Whatever your feelings about Josh, Echevarria indicated that the teen's story line will evolve after the pilot.

"I think in the pilot, he was asked to bear the load of the family strife. I understand some people didn't connect to him," Echevarria said. "He's a wonderful actor. And we pretty much leave that [strife] behind after the pilot. He's got a point of view -- he left a girl behind. He promised her he'd get her [to Terra Nova], that becomes a huge story for him, very romantic, and it turns out, it takes us right into the heart of the conspiracy."

7. Who sent the Sixers? Did they get on that transport all on their own, or did they have help?

Well, Echevarria's use of the word "conspiracy" above seems to indicate that the Sixers may have friends in high places -- and I was glad to hear they would be a major part of the story going forward. As I said in my review, I thought the potential clash between Taylor's settlement and the Sixers has some real dramatic potential.

"This conspiracy involving the Sixers, we're going to pay it off this year," Echevarria said. "You're going to find out why they're here, who sent them and what they're about, and that all climaxes with the arrival of the eleventh pilgrimage."

And we'll learn about "what their agenda is," he added. "We have a bartender who you meet later in the [season], he's sort of an entrepreneur who says, 'This place is going to make somebody rich, and it's going to be me.'" The bartender's name is Tom Boylan, and he has a history with Taylor. The men served in the military together, but Boylan didn't re-enlist, and that has caused some friction between the them, Echevarria said.

8. Will we ever see present-day Earth again? Or is that aspect of the show done? Got any theories on that?

UPDATE: Writer and SFX editor Tara Bennett, who recently did a feature on the show, said that 'Terra Nova' executive producer Brannon Braga told her we would see future Earth again.

9. Will we ever find out why the Shannons chose to have a third kid? That seems to be an important point and more context on that would be appreciated.

UPDATE: On Twitter, Time critic James Poniewozik said that in an earlier version of the pilot, it was indicated that the third kid was an attempt to save a troubled marriage (I haven't seen any earlier versions of the pilot, I should say that up front). But having another kid to save a marriage under those kinds of conditions is kind of odd. In a nearly apocalyptic society, one would think adding to a family would only put it under more strain.

TVLine's Matt Mitovich added that Jason O'Mara, who plays Jim Shannon, now says the third kid was a "testament" to the couple's love. The exact quote from an interview that Matt will be posting Tuesday morning: ""The honest answer to that is Elizabeth and Jim are very much in love." So how do you account for the signs of strain between them that were still somewhat evident in the pilot? In any event, the idea that they had a kid to commemorate their love -- in that particular society -- seems a little weird as well. Would you really pay tribute to your love with an action that would put your entire family in danger? But maybe that's just me.

In any event, if the show fails to address the third kid, it'll be a problem for me. Given that the existence of littlest Shannon put a lot of what we saw in motion, shouldn't we understand what motivated her parents to bring her into the world? And I'm inclined to agree with something Poniewozik said in our Twitter conversation, "That's the sort of thing that undercuts my faith in a show--they took out something interesting and replaced it with... nothing." Yes. If the answer is, "They had a third kid ... just because. Don't question it," I'll be disappointed. A reader named Erin put it very well on Twitter, "I wish they'd left in the reason for kid #3. Without it, (so far) they've just done something dumb for...no reason at all? Hmm."

10. How many dinosaurs will die?

Echevarria said one of the show's executive producers, Steven Spielberg, had weighed in on the subject of humans killing dinosaurs. "Mr. Spielberg has said it's not something he wants to see characters do lightly. If there's another way, you take it," he said. "I think our characters feel that way -- certainly Taylor feels that way. They consider themselves guests in this world, in a weird way, and they are not there to exploit the place."

11. It's clear that Fox has high hopes for 'Terra Nova,' but you never know what will or won't click with viewers. I have a feeling 'Terra Nova' will do at least all right, especially at the start, but still, will the season conclude in a way that'll give fans closure if it only gets one season? Or will it end with a cliffhanger?

"I wouldn't call it a cliffhanger, but we're playing out the arc that we've set in motion," Echevarria said. "We're going to change it up at the end of the season and leave the characters not in a cliffhanger situation, but in a new situation that they have to deal with."

12. Bonus nerd question: How do the colonists communicate with the Earth of 2149?

Echevarria said they can only communicate with the Earth of 2149 when the portal is open and new colonists are coming through. They can order supplies and relay information during those periods, but whatever the colonists ask for, they have to wait eight months to get it -- supplies only arrive with next group of settlers.

'Terra Nova' Season 1 airs Mondays, 8PM ET on Fox. And if you haven't seen the pilot, you can watch it on Hulu now.

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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Miguel Gaspar

when it comes the second season of this show?

December 26 2011 at 5:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
braser45

Amazing that technology is able to transport you 85M years to the past, but can not fix polution.
Just too stupid show, or do not ask questions show. I love scifi but we need some reality check.

November 08 2011 at 12:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
larry

just enjoy the show there where a lot of holes in star trek an this earth my not be our earth i mean a different time line an do u people nit pick every show get a life

October 05 2011 at 2:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
SlackerInc

I find it fascinating that so many people are bewildered by the fact that they broke the law and had a third child. They are speculating on various explanations, when I think it's much less complicated than all that. I have three kids and am working on a fourth; and it's not set in stone that it will be the last. Some people just really like kids, and I'm one of them: some of us even get what is called "baby fever". Here's an article about that "fever"--note that the author has had eight biological kids herself:

http://pregnancy.about.com/b/2011/08/29/baby-fever.htm

And sure, it's a different situation in the premise of the show because they are actually defying the law (not just the consensus opinion about what's right). But look what has happened when the government banned alcohol and other drugs. Prisons are full of nonviolent drug offenders, but people still keep using them. I have experimented with this and that, and I can tell you that at least for me (and as I say, I know I'm not alone) the pull of having kids is far stronger than the urge to drink, smoke weed, etc.

I can see btw how it can come across to some as a sort of right wing individualist meme, like "screw you, I'm keeping my SUV". But I see a big difference between creating and nurturing human life, and owning expensive, polluting toys. It strikes me as unlikely that the writers of this show are anti-environmentalist given the way they portray the unhealthiness of 22nd century air.

And who among us can claim perfect purity when it comes to the environment? I know (as in, personally know--they live near me) some people who live in a commune without electricity and grow all their own food, but this is vanishingly rare. No doubt many people reading my comment have already judged me as feckless in my disregard for the environment due to my big family; but guess what? We don't own a car and bike or walk everywhere (on the rare occasion we need to go out of town, we take Amtrak). And our kids are being raised to be environmentally conscious and generally progressive.

Getting back to the show: I thought it was fun. It's no "Breaking Bad", of course; but what is? Its universe is well thought out (I have noticed a number of supposed "plot holes" people have complained about were actually just misunderstandings or unwarranted assumptions on the part of viewers), and the characters are interesting and engaging. I'm in for the duration (which may not be all that long given the high cost of the show and its mediocre ratings thus far).

September 30 2011 at 4:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to SlackerInc's comment
K-42

I totally respect your position, SlackerInc. Yet, you are living in real life 2011, not in fictional 2149. If you were told that having another baby could kill another person, would you be fine with that? Do your baby fever would be worth the life of a stranger? And even more, what if they told you that having another baby would mean risk the life of your other children AND the baby itself?
Plus, having a third, illegal baby in fictional 2149 would mean sentencing him or her to live as a recluse, never been able to get out of your small apartment for his/her entire life, or at the very least his/her entire childhood. This prospect should overcome pretty much any baby fever, right? I mean, who could have a baby just to watch him/her suffer, suffocating in a world with no more breathable air?

September 30 2011 at 7:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to K-42's comment
SlackerInc

Those are all good points, K-42. And I definitely can't say what I would do if I were actually in that situation. But I'd go back to the use of illicit drugs (a side note: I found it dubious that there would still be "narcotics cops" in 2149, as I'd expect the "war on drugs" to be as outdated as alcohol Prohibition by then). People not only have to interact with a shadowy black market that could be indirectly connected to violent criminals, and risk getting in legal trouble, they also are often risking their ability to get work since so many employers do drug tests. Yet millions still do it. I had a roommate who was on parole from prison for selling marijuana, and who was subject to random drug tests with only a few hours' notice, and he sill smoked weed daily. So, as I say, the impulse to procreate can often be stronger than the desire to use drugs and therefore while I would expect a lot of people in these circumstances to obey the law, it just doesn't strike me as utterly baffling that someone might not. The dad's comment that it "seemed like a good idea at the time" also hints at the notion that they didn't think through the implications for making the daughter a recluse for years and years. Maybe they thought they would just be able to present her as a fait accompli, pay a fine, and be done with it?

October 01 2011 at 8:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
K-42

Re: your first question, Taylor said that Elisabeth was accomplished enough to buy a wealthy life for her and her family, like most of her doctor colleagues did (which isn't too consistent with the Shannons living in that small apartment, but maybe in the nightmarish future that was considered luxurious). Elisabeth also told both Jim and her sons that she had thought everything through with the escape plan, so I'd go with her planning the entire thing, and those being just their own money. After all, they wouldn't need money in the Cretaceous. They made it kinda "Third world illegal immigrant family buying themselves a new life giving up all they own to smugglers in order to clandestinely crossing borders".

Re: the third child, I actually find it infuriating that they just treated the whole thing so lightly. In a world dying by overpopulation, violating the family limit equals to an unbelievable level of selfishness. It's not opposing a dictatorial decree, it's a criminal act against the world itself. They seem like they are trying to make it pass for an act of love, but it's not. It's a subtle political statement about the individual having the rights to just be obnoxious to the society, in the name of wrong-placed concepts. It's not different that defending the rights to own more SUVs, more greenhouse gas-emitting hairsprays, and such.

I have two big questions of my own you didn't address there.

1. The Blade Runner-ish soft female ad voice said that the time fracture was the casual result (an "unexpected phenomenon") of some experiment. I get that they later managed to harness this and open/close the "portal" at will. Question is: did the fracture lead inevitably to that time 85 millions year in the past? Is that the reason they chose it, since they didn't have other options? If that's the case, this would settle the issue about why in the hell they chose to rebuild human society in a dangerous, dinosaur-filled time. Yet this would raise the question of how they can have separate colonization waves coming in months/years apart: if the portal is linked to a single istant in time, they would end up all together at the start, no matter what.

2. How a society that's letting the Earth die that way is capable of going 100% eco-friendly? I mean, why TPTB should even care? They could just rebuild an industrial world from scratch, spent couple centuries polluting a fresh environment, then go back and start again. Because, you know, that would be yet another timeline, so they will not meet the first settlers. The humankind would just go ahead spreading through parallel universes.

Btw, they said there's no return from Terra Nova, but Echevarria's answer to your question #12 tells us there is: if they can send back supply orders when the portal is open, they could also send people back. I reckon this is how we will see the Blade Runner rip-off again, when the Annoying One will go back to fetch Random Girlfriend.

September 29 2011 at 5:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ren Santiago

Hell yeah! I was hoping for that annoying and incredibly stupid Josh Shannon to be eaten by the Dinosaurs! TV has too many annoying kids like him! And his character's stupidity and foolishness made me decide not to watch this series ever again! (unless the dinosaurs do get to bite his head off)

September 28 2011 at 9:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John Browning

90 minutes of program & 90 cliches, one a minute.
1. Exactly why was he sent to prison for kid #3?
She had the baby, she should have gone to prison, so this was current political correctness gone mad.
2. Teen son loses hot girlfriend when he leaves, finds hot new girlfriend in Terra Nova. In a bikini yet!
3. Just how does he know how to swim? Presumably, Lake Michigan is polluted beyond hope & nobody is going to swim in the Chicago River & I doubt there are pools!
4. Isn't it convenient that the fence around TN is just short enough to allow the vegetarian dinosaurs to bend over & reach the people?
5. Not only are there rebels, but the rebel leader is hot!
6. Any bets that Mira was once Taylor's lover?
Far too many more for me to list.

September 28 2011 at 5:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to John Browning's comment
K-42

Re: your #2, that's actually one of the most realistic parts of the episode. Teen Male Brain: "I'm so mopey about having to leave behind my girlfriend, she was so sweet and...". Enter sassy smiling hot girl in short skirt. Exit sassy smiling hot girl in short skirt, exposing her sassy smiling hot girl's cute little ass to Teen Male Eyes. Teen Male Hormones: "Sorry, buddy, you were saying something?". Teen Male Brain: "Uh... dunno. What was I saying again? Whatever, let's just move."

Btw, I didn't read any critics saying anything about Skye, but I think she was the only interesting character (and not just because of her dressing code), and the actress was good enough, if typically 10 years older than the character.

September 29 2011 at 5:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
K-42

Forgot this. Re: your #1, the father wasn't sent to prison just for having a third child. The Annoying One said that would have just result in a fine. It was sort of aggravated assault against law officers the issue.

September 29 2011 at 5:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to K-42's comment
John Browning

But it makes no sense to not have a serious punishment violating the two child limit. I agree with K-32's reply to ValRea that sterilization would undoubtedly be required of any woman that had a second child & most likely the father would also be sterilized.
A fine for violating this would never make sense, the wealthy would just buy their way out & have numerous children.
And just how did she hide the pregnancy? She would have to have taken a four to five month leave at her medical job & that's where the family's real income came from.
I'll watch at least one more episode, but it's on thin ice with me as it can't do the one thing it must do to succeed: Suspend my disbelief!
There are far too many plot holes here, I'm betting that it will last the entire season, but only because Spielberg is the exec producer & Fox needs to keep him happy. Then they will "mutually agree" to cancel, "due to the high cost of production" & not mention the constant dropoff in the ratings every week.

September 29 2011 at 8:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
ValRea

Perhaps the 3rd child was an unplanned pregnancy but as a testament to their love they chose to keep their child.

September 28 2011 at 4:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ValRea's comment
K-42

I can't buy unplanned pregnancy in a world with strict birth control policies. If anything, people would just undergo sterilization after the second child, just to make things easier and safer for themselves.

September 29 2011 at 5:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Norma & Georgia

I agree we can get our fill of obnoxious teenage behavior on many, many other shows. I was disappointed
in Terra Nova's premiere. Ratings may start out strong,but unless they do something about the insipid writing
the program will not last.

September 28 2011 at 12:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gene

I'am a Star Trek fan, if you look at the original episodes, you have to wonder how in the world it ever got past the 1st week, the actors grew as the series went on. I'am hoping the same with Terra Nova.

September 28 2011 at 7:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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