Posted: 16 Nov 2011 03:34 AM PST
It's probably the most expensive TV series in history. With its CGI dinosaurs and time travel premise, it promises viewers a good watch ... or maybe not.
IT is the 22nd century and the world is dying. Population numbers have exploded to such an extent that it is now a crime to have more than two children. Also, the environment is so polluted that people need gas masks to breathe.
So, not a pleasant place to be this future Earth. That is why people are being sent millions of years back to the past so that mankind can have a second chance.
This is a dynamite of a premise – dinosaurs, time travel and dystopian futures. Seriously, this story should have been epic. Tragically, Terra Nova ends up being one of the world's most expensive and boring family drama ever made. (The pilot is rumoured to cost US$20mil/RM60mil.)
The first mistake was to create a cast of characters so bland and clichéd that you're nodding off as they interact on screen. The main family are the Shannons, a family as wholesome as apple pie, though their entrance to Terra Nova is more dramatic than they'd like.
There's Jim Shannon, a former cop who joins the expedition illegally after escaping from prison, and his wife Elisabeth, a doctor. They have three kids: two annoying teens and a third which they had to smuggle to the past in a backpack.
The Shannons are a bland bunch, but the biggest offenders are a bunch of teenage characters that pull you away from plots that matter so that you can pay attention to their pointless "me, me, me" problems.
Never mind that there are dinosaurs at their doorstep that can disembowel and peck them to death. Never mind that the colonists probably have compromised immune systems that should not have been able to withstand the deadly array of bacteria and viruses in their new environment.
It doesn't even matter that they now have to build a civilisation from the ground up without the government or the technological trappings that they were used to. No, what's more important and apparently more urgent are the love lives of these sullen teens. For variety's sake, we sometimes get doses of the adults' love dilemmas lest you think this is a teen drama set in Dino land.
You can see that the writers have put a lot of thought into creating this world. No, I'm being sarcastic. What I meant was this world's foundation is as solid as a house made from pigeon feathers. Why give humanity a second chance to live in a time when dinosaurs will be wiped by a meteor shower sometime in the future?
If there's no way to communicate with the future once you're on the other side, how sure are you that the colonists that were sent back – mind you, the best and the brightest people that the future Earth probably needs – survived? The lazy writing is mind boggling.
Here's another question: how is it possible that a sci-fi show about dinosaurs and time-travelling humans be so achingly boring? I'm going to restrain my bitter Trekker heart and try not to point the finger at one of its executive producers, Brannon Braga, who headed sci-fi shows that started out with great potential but became bland clunkers. (Star Trek: Voyager and Enterprise, which is why he is known as the "guy who ruined Star Trek" in Trek fandom.) Instead, I'm pointing out its numerous flaws and letting you be the judge.
In the brutal world for debuting TV series, it is highly important for the first few episodes to not just be memorable but meaty enough to stand above the fray. Unfortunately, Terra Nova has none of these.
Its first few episodes are recycled stories from other shows. A mysterious virus that causes amnesia (done to death in sci-fi dramas), a bad rip-off of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds ... and then there's an obscene amount of minutes devoted to teen shenanigans.
For a show set in an era teeming with creatures the size of skyscrapers, it certainly doesn't utilise its setting much. Instead of exploring the new, fascinating world and its deadly creatures, or how a fledgling society contends with a new and dangerous environment, the characters are walking around their utopian-looking village like its summer camp. Tension comes in the form of "the Sixers", colonists from the sixth wave of migration that, for reasons unknown, have rebelled and left the village to form a resistance group.
The storywriters are taking their sweet time in telling us why these sullen adults have such a grudge against the shiny happy people at Terra Nova. Honestly, I've stopped caring why and wish that they'd be wiped out by a pack of velociraptors.
Not only are the antagonists not interesting they are, heck, not even a big enough threat to be taken seriously. Give us something that will make our hair stand or something that will make us care, will you?
Seriously, why spend huge amounts of money on CGI dinosaurs if you're not even going to use them as an integral part of the storyline? Instead, the CGI dinos are used for the occasional character elimination. It would have been far more economical – and probably more interesting – if Terra Nova was set in some other time. I vote for the Roman times. Swords and sandals with time-travelling future Earthlings? I can rock with that.
Now, all I can do is fantasise how the series could've turned out if it had been in the able hands of real masters like Lost's JJ Abrams and Battlestar Galactica's Ronald D. Moore. I'm having chills already.
> Terra Nova airs every Saturday at 8.55pm on Fox (Astro Ch 710).Full content generated by Get Full RSS.
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