Terra Nova: Episode 3

So we haven’t actively been ignoring Terra Nova. It’s just that I couldn’t quite figure out the recap angle, until I realized something: This is the most unoriginal Sci-Fi show to come out in a very very long time. That isn’t to say that it’s uninteresting, unwatchable, and/or unworthy of attention. Good lord have there been plenty of Sci-Fi shows that fit those requirements that I’d still watch religiously! It’s just that it’s all entirely been done before, and here’s where…

Jurassic Park: Clearly we are dealing with a television show that can’t help but be compared to that great 1993 film. It’s impossible not to. Terra Nova at least fiddles with the fossil record (or more accurately, imagines some of its real life gaps) so as not to reproduce dinosaurs we’ve already seen before [and better]. Despite the nearly two decades of technological achievement, Terra Nova’s special effects are still not as good as Jurassic Park’s. It’s mildly criminal, really. Maybe in a perverse way, animatronics would have been better put to use here, since they’d require the imperfect movements of human operators. But it’s not just that. The chroma key effects are simple not good enough. Plus, there aren’t really that many dinosaur shots. Maybe they’re saving up? We’re not talking about some crappy Syfy made-for-TV movie here, though; these episodes cost millions of dollars each. Where is that money going?! Australia. Probably Australia. Also, shouldn’t there be more feathers? Like a lot of feathers.

Stargate: Obviously, the pilot set up the premise that a wormhole exists in the near future that connects with the very distant past, albeit in another “time stream,” AKA alternate [but still very similar] reality. In this sense it both is and isn’t time travel; there are no consequences for the writer’s actions, essentially. Already this is so technically implausible that it can be derived from few realms other than the Stargate universe. But that is not even where it borrows heavily from Stargate the most! Where it [and I’ll be generous and say affectionately] riffs on the franchise is in its dramatic and unbelievable use of hokey pokey scientists to solve the problem of the week. In the second episode it was the as yet unknown species of pterosaurs who suddenly decided to return to their home (Terra Nova) and increasingly bite its inhabitants almost to death. What to do, oh what to do! Naturally, you ask your scientists to devise a solution, impose an arbitrary deadline, and then pester them an hour before the deadline approaches because surprise surprise, the deadline is now even more arbitrarily ending sooner than expected! Stargate Atlantis was the biggest abuser of this conceit. Over and over again, Rodney McKay would have to figure out how to stop time or reproduce an extinct species of aliens or discover a new method of interstellar propulsion. In hours! In the third episode suddenly the scientists are now also brilliant pathologists. I don’t know much about medicine, but I imagine that is akin to a German language professor being asked to solve complex mathematical theorems. Still, it always seems to work out in the end! I hope Terra Nova doesn’t rely on this too much, because while I appreciate scientists being the heroes, it can so quickly and easily devolve (pun intended) into an incomprehensible mess of jargon and bad writing.

Star Trek: I could say the same things about the many Star Trek comparisons, because it too had its fair (unfair?) share of overly technical solutions to every episode’s problems. What really reminds me of Star Trek in Terra Nova, though, is the casualness of all of the technology. Sure, the prehistoric settlement somehow seems to preserve its inhabitants [for the most part] with basic analog fences, but it also manages to seamlessly incorporate quite a bit of futuristic consumer technology. This I actually really like, but not just that fictional technology is involved; it’s more that the technology is so casual and unimpressive to the characters. Sure Star Trek had its own internally fantastical tech, but it also presented numerous examples of amazing stuff that the characters couldn’t care less about. Digitally reproduced edible food and drinks? Totes normal. Completely believable photorealistic holographic environments? Duh. Instantaneous long-distance teleportation? Whatever.

Lost: So here’s where it gets both interesting and mildly annoying. In my opinion Lost forever ruined the subtle mysterious reference to something not readily apparent that would/should eventually pay off. Now, and Terra Nova is certainly not unique in this regard, it’s like any genre show no matter the context must throw in one humdinger mystery after another. To pay off at some point? Spooky cave paintings just randomly thrown into the pilot, I’m looking at you. Hey, maybe these will be explained soon. Here’s hoping.

Earth 2.0: Seriously, Google it. This is that show. Instead of an earth-like alien planet, it’s earth but in an alien reality. Primitive surroundings somehow necessary for humanity’s survival mixed with sporadic use of technology and new world thinking? Totes. Terry O’Quinn playing a seemingly all-knowing, potentially villainous, definitely self-promoting mysterious figure? Oh wait, that was another show.

So even after the third episode, we’re still left with quite a few questions, and not in the literal sense of the plot. Where is this show going with all this? Who are we rotting for, the Terra Novans? All of humanity? The Sixers (who are once again conspicuously absent in this episode)? The dinosaurs? Will Commander Taylor’s dye job improve? (Meh, I’ll give him a pass; he probably did the best he could with the absurd amnesia writing.) Will there be an episode as boring as this one?

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