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October 13, 2015

'Terra Nova': Beautiful From Afar, Not-So-Pretty Up Close

by Stephanie Earp, posted Oct 3rd 2011 2:00PM
No matter how much bad press the pilot of 'Terra Nova' received, I had to watch. When someone spends $20 million on a pilot, you watch it. But in all the negativity around the show -- the exorbitant price tag, the repeated delaying of the premiere date -- everyone seems to agree that the visual fabric of this show is top-quality. The 'Blade Runner'-esque state of ruined future Earth, the super-sized 'Stargate' portal and the CGI dinosaurs are indeed convincing, as they should be at that price.

I actually warmed to the show on second viewing, but I was overwhelmed by the number of details included that seemed to contradict each other, or just confuse the issues. Besides the bone structure and eating habits of the local dinos, I wonder how much the writers really know about the monster they've created. Here are some things about 'Terra Nova' that just aren't sitting right.

The Infirmary
Dr. Elizabeth Shannon seems to have access to the best technology the 24th century has to offer -- like transparent iPads and hospital beds equipped with force fields -- yet she says she's practicing medieval medicine, and has to pull a giant leech from a patient's back. She takes the time to explain the leech; it "must remove excess oxygen from the blood," she says. Apparently newcomers to the past can't handle the relative purity of the air or food. They get oxygen-sick and have to drink milkshakes for the first few days. A lot of detail on the surface seems to paint a complete picture, but to a more scrutinizing eye, is contradictory.

The Local Infrastructure
Why is there a fruit and vegetable market in the middle of Terra Nova? How can a free market system possibly be the best way to distribute food to such a small population in such extreme circumstances? Why do the main and outer buildings of the settlement appear to be built from bamboo, yet there's no bamboo growing in the forest around them? I know it's a picky point, but the set designers clearly went to a lot of trouble to give us an impression of a sustainably-made compound -- so why did they build from a substance not found locally? And for that matter, why are they painting the places? They don't have more important things to do besides decorate?

The Costumes
It felt to me that the design crew for the show had been given a healthy budget and a broad outline of the show, but not enough specifics. For example, the costume department obviously enjoyed dressing characters across a chasm of 85 million years, but they didn't think it out. The Terra Nova security detail are wearing hi-tech uniforms that would be more at home in a WWE performance, while the citizens of Terra Nova appear to shop exclusively at Anthropologie. These same citizens left Future Earth wearing army surplus and rags not 24 hours ago. Sustainabilty comes up here too: What's the point of showing the audience the smug little wind turbines on the edge of the living area if the clothes worn by the prisoners are clearly made in the over-populated hellish future?

The Back-Story
One one hand, the government of Future Earth punishes illegal reproduction with up to 6 years in a maximum security prison. And the prison conditions are akin to a sewer. It's hard to imagine that the same government would be running the Terra Nova project so loosely, recruiting rather than drafting its pioneers. In fact, it's hard to imagine any governing body running an important project in such a laissez-faire manner.

Speaking of the government aspect of this show, I was pretty excited about this. In fact, it reminded me a little bit of 'Battlestar Galactica' when it became clear that the sixth group of 'Terra Nova' pilgrims were sent back as agent provocateurs and sowers of dissension. Finding out more about their mission, reasons and beliefs and who sent them seemed like a great season-long mystery. But alas, that was too simple -- the last scene complicated it by throwing in ominous cliff drawings, a crazy prodigal son, and a conspiracy to control the future.

Let's just get right to the heart of it: what is the point of the Terra Nova project anyway? Will they eventually move enough of the population to the past to relieve the pressure on Future Earth? If so, why aren't they building up the past faster? By my count, they've sent less than 1000 souls back -- hardly enough to make a dent.

Despite all this, I am interested enough in the story to want to see more, but I'm really wary of getting pulled into another hopelessly complicated drama that asks more questions than it answers. (Speaking of questions, here's one more: what is the deal with that silly little fence around the place? It clearly won't keep determined dinosaurs out -- and it doesn't seem to keep annoying teenagers in.)

What do you think of 'Terra Nova' thus far?

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I couldn't make it 15 mins. into the pilot. They expected me to believe this was 100 plus years in the future and everyone was wearing the same clothes and had the same hairstyles as today. BS, in my book look at the changes in the last 20 years! I turned the channel on that insult.

October 09 2011 at 9:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Billy Jones

Hell i love the show!

October 09 2011 at 5:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Nowadays we have too many media/hollywood types who view themselves as experts on critiquing every new show that comes on TV. They make a living doing it without regard to the fact that the rest of us just plain like once in a while like to watch a sci-fi show for the sake of pleasure. We don't care if the whole premise leaks like a sieve! We just want to watch a little bit of "take your mind off things" TV that interests us! It sure beats all these crappy "reality shows" that are on to keep the uneducated masses from realizing they are "stupid" (these also let a lot of producers and idea guys make lots of money with no intelectual effort!). They canned Star Trek when I was a teenager so yeah...they don't get it right all the time, in fact they just DON'T GET IT! Leave the show alone and let a part of the viewing public have ONE show that is not just idiotioc drivel!

October 08 2011 at 10:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

IMHO the teenagers should be allowed to get past the fence so they could be eaten up by the dinos and thus the show would have been a more interesting. Otherwise it is a RAG!

October 07 2011 at 5:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I really enjoyed watching this show and honestly didn't really notice or care about any of the inconsistancies. It's a fictional show and not just a fictional show but science fiction where by definition reality and rationality can be stretched a bit to make the show more interesting. That being said a couple of thoughts on some of the incosistancies talked about here. The giant leech in the infirmary makes sense if you think about it, ideally these people are going to become completely self suffcient. They need to figure out how to survive if something happens and they run out of supplies or loose contact with the future. Better they do it before its an emergency situation. Also complaints about the fence being easily breached by the kids. Every time a dangerous dinosaur is coming at the gates the guy in charge starts yelling at the guards on the walls (who by the way have large guns) to activate something. The impression I got was that the walls are basically a giant electric fence that they only turn on when something dangerous is spotted. Hence the escaping kids but no non flying carnivores.

October 04 2011 at 7:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think your nitpicks are a little on the...well.... nitpicky side. I feel like the issues raised in the comments are more problematic (like the danger of there being another extinction event, and their conclusion about the alternate timeline being based off of a probe not appearing where they sent it, when in fact it could have been destroyed, etc). One of my biggest problems personally was with the inconsistency the time portal itself showed. Apparently the leader of the expedition went through first and was there for 116 days while the second group only experienced a second (at most, he actually said the blink of an eye so like 1/4-1/3 a second). Yet in the beginning we saw the father get separated and go through the portal a few seconds after his family, but by the time he came it had surely been less than a year. If the portal randomly messes with time then it wouldn't be plausible that so many people could end up in the same general century as to have a settlement of even 1000. Even if it was only a day between groups, that's still like 86,400 seconds, or (counting a full second as a blink of an eye) 10,022,400 days, or 27,458 years between each wave.

I suppose they could have altered the time delay somehow, but it seems like manipulating the actual point in time people go back to would be possible if that were the case, so why go back to the time of dinosaurs when you could go back to simple precolonial times or something.

The only other thing I could think of (which is a realistic possibility, to be honest) is this alternate timeline (which necessitates a completely alternate Universe, I believe) may be the equivalent of the present day for that world and it's literally just a (interdimensional) spatial bridge and the group isn't going back in time at all (and the original delay was fixed by adjusting the "length" of the inter dimensional space bridge somehow), which would make the mysterious portal more akin to a black hole on the dystopia's future and a white hole on the Terra Nova end (which would also explain why they can't go back by just walking backwards through wherever the portal was) . I wager this will be a plot twist if the show survives. Just to make it a little more "Lost" and a little less Lame. Although this makes the daughter's observations about the moon a new inconsistency if I happen to be right. ARGH, I hate time travel, how does Doctor Who make it look so easy?!

Sorry for anyone who reads the comments and gets offended by how much I just nerded it up. Or any physicists whose profession I just insulted with my rudimentary analysis of spacetime and/or quantum mechanics.

October 04 2011 at 1:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Haven't seen episode 2 yet, but based on the pilot I thought it was pretty good. Not trying to be critical of you or your post, but I just watched it and enjoyed it. I think any show can be picked apart, but why is this one being overly criticized? Falling Skies should have received this kind of criticism and I don't believe it did.

No show is ever going to be BSG, and I certainly wouldn't expect Fox to have a show ask and answer deep questions like BSG did. Sorry but I was entertained for 2 hours, but you do bring up some food for thought.

October 04 2011 at 1:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I kinda liked it btw...

October 04 2011 at 11:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, I thought the point they were hinting at was a limited number of people were sent back in time to change the prior civilization, therefore change the future and prevent the blight of the earth that was going on in the 23rd century.....you know, if a butterfly lands here, you were never born......if they send back these people to recreate the past the same mistakes wont be made, the future civilization wont be in the same trouble....did I read too much into it?? I felt like thats where they were going....

October 04 2011 at 11:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm sure you don't nitpik any doctor or police show that you see on tv. I am sure every single thing you see is plausible. In 24 (a show I loved) I knew Jack wouldn't get dowloads to his phone in 6 seconds. I knew the traffic wouldn't allow him to get across town in 5 min. It's meant to be entertainment. Enjoy.
If it's not to your taste, just say I'll pass. Personally I will keep watching.

October 04 2011 at 9:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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