When I was a kid, they brought animatronic dinosaurs to our local science museum. Cool. A few years later, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park hit theaters, bringing along the most realistic dinosaurs anyone had ever seen. Very cool. This week, FOX brings us (again from Spielberg), the action-adventure series, Terra Nova, and all its cool dinosaur-vs.-people goodness. And you know what? Those dinosaurs are still cool.
The rest of Terra Nova, however, is a bit less cool. While a lack of coolness is not altogether a bad thing for viewers, it does make one worry about the future of this expensive show.
You can’t argue that the premise of Terra Nova isn’t intriguing: In the year 2149, the Shannon family leaves behind their polluted, dying world to travel to a colony 85 million years in the past, thereby giving humanity a chance at a future. Of course, not all is perfect in this dinosaur-surrounded utopia — and not just because of the dinosaurs.
While Terra Nova is not cool, it is many other positive things.
The show is beautiful. The lush, jungle-like environment of the colony stands in incredible contrast to the grey and smoky future we see at the beginning. Add in gorgeous lighting and a generally laid-back mood, and anyone would want to visit this paradise.
Terra Nova also benefits from solid acting and storytelling throughout. You understand what motivates the Shannons — a family consisting of cop dad Jim (Jason O’Mara), doctor mom Elisabeth (Shelley Conn), rebellious teen Josh (Landon Liboiron), nerdy daughter Maddy (Naomi Scott) and baby-of-the-family Zoe (Alana Mansour) — to leave everything behind in search of a better life. And you understand their failures to achieve that ideal perfection. The story also quickly introduces some human bad guys, the Sixers, giving the entirety of Terra Nova more than just a man-vs.-nature urgency.
And then there are the dinosaurs. Yes, we’ve seen CGI dinosaurs before, but that doesn’t make the prehistoric residents of Terra Nova any less fun to watch. From harmless plant-eaters interacting with children to full-on carnivorous attacks on unfortunate settlers, you won’t be disappointed by the dinosaurs.
But Terra Nova, as a whole, never manages to capture the coolness of its dinosaurs. Why?
- The future is more interesting than the past. We get only a brief, tantalizing look at the dying future world in the pilot (although we might see more in future episodes).
- The story is familiar and basic. A good and virtuous family making a new start is nice but not original.
- Some of the subplots — most notably that of Josh and his new, rebellious-teen friends — come off as kind of dull.
- There are hints of coolness, particularly in the Sixers’ motivation and the hidden origins of the Terra Nova colony. But they’re only hints. The mysteries, as of now, are not all that compelling.
Still, even with these flaws, Terra Nova is totally watchable and has the potential to turn into the grand epic production FOX so obviously wants it to be. Plus, the show has one great attribute that could easily bring in and retain viewers: it’s family-friendly. Other than some perilous situations and dinosaur-on-person violence, this is that rare show an entire family could easily watch together.
And if you need it to be cool, you can always watch Terra Nova for the dinosaurs.
Check out the BuddyTV Terra Nova Insider Page for even more on this dinosaur-filled show!
Terra Nova premieres on Monday, September 26 at 8pm on FOX.
(Image courtesy of FOX)