DDOY Review: Terra Nova “Genesis Part I & II”

I’ve been anticipating the premiere of Terra Nova since it was first announced in 2010. How can you go wrong with time travel, dinosaurs, all wrapped up in a family drama executive produced by Steven Spielberg? Folks would point out that Terra Nova is on FOX, which has for one reason or another has been very unfriendly to the science fiction genre during their existence (with Fringe being the recent notable exception).

With a production budget upwards of $4 million an episode, FOX took a big gamble when they cast aside the traditional pilot system and went ahead and made a 13-episode first season order. The 2-hour premiere episode is very lavish and just feels expensive, considering a good portion of both Earths are constructed with CGI. It tells the story of the Shannon family as they join the 11th Pilgrimage to Terra Nova.

Very early on in the episode, we learn that population control is in effect and families are limited to just four people. Jim Shannon, a police officer knows this and put love ahead of the law and he and his wife had a third “illegal” child. The initial point of conflict results in his sentence to prison. Will he escape prison in time to join his family? Or course he does, it’s been spoiled in pretty much every preview I’ve seen.

I will admit, my biggest problem going into this series was the time travel component. Being an ardent science fiction fan, I was concerned about how the show would explain the paradox of traveling back in time to the Earth’s past. If they traveled 85 million years in the past wouldn’t they inadvertently create ripples in the time-space continuum, ultimately causing adverse affects to the future they just left? I won’t spoil the way they explain this away, but they do in a very off-hand manner be sure to pay attention to the “probe”.

Many of the reviews and Twitter reactions I’ve seen tend to describe Terra Nova as a hybrid of ‘Lost’, ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Swiss Family Robinson’, and ‘Avatar’. I won’t necessarily say that those comparisons are a bad thing, however there are elements present in the series premiere that I wasn’t particularly a fan of. Two hours into this series and the weakest point has to be the angst and generally douchey eldest Shannon child, Josh.

He’s written as the typical angry white kid who lashes out at his father for no other reason than the writers decided to make him do that. His characterization is very similar to Tyler from the recently canceled ‘V’. Like in Tyler’s case I want him to get eviscerated by a bad guy as soon as possible.

Terra Nova is a lush CGI heavy entry which has a lot of promise and has the potential to fill the void that ‘Lost’ on broadcast television for genre television. I’ve set up my DVR for a series recording, and I’m hoping that some of the mystery set up in the premiere pays off later in the season.