Terra Nova, Fox 8pm EST Mondays

Hopefully, if you were interested in Terra Nova you watched the season premier this past Monday (9/26/11).  If not, keep in mind that this review will give away a lot of the plot so if you don’t want spoilers, just skip to the last paragraph if you want the up or down vote.

I decided to watch the 2 hour season premier of Terra Nova purely out of curiosity, as the idea of starting civilization over again by going back in time definitely appealed to me.  What tempered my enthusiasm, however, was that sinking feeling that producers were going to use a really good idea and turn it into two hours of telling us how we are mucking up the Earth and eventually we will destroy it.  However, now having actually watched the show, I have to say it was pleasantly light on the “people suck” messaging .

Now, there is an element of “the Earth is doomed and it’s all our fault” in the very beginning of the show, but it doesn’t last long and that is not the focus.  Rather, the show follows the Shannon family in the year 2149, struggling to deal with living in an overpopulated world (they even have limits on how many children you can have, in this case 2 — which unfortunately isn’t a new concept) and where the air is so bad, people have to wear small gas masks when outside.  Sounds a little preachy so far, I know, but the thrust of the first third of the show really is on the family and the fact that they get caught having violated the child policy.  Anyway, off dad/Jim (Jason O’Mara) a former cop, goes to prison for the child law violation.

The rest of the show picks up 2 years later with dad still in the clink, and with mom/Elizabeth (Shelley Conn) and the two approved children having been picked by the government to go to Terra Nova.  They don’t get into what Terra Nova is explicitly (you have to hear the announcements in the background) but you figure out that somehow they have found a rip in time which allows people to travel back in time to Earth (before all the planet-ruining people came along) but in another time stream.  I won’t belabor the whole normal time steam versus new time stream thing because I have a feeling we will hear a lot more about that in future episodes.  As for the third, unapproved child and dad, well yada, yada, yada, he escapes from prison and manages to get the entire family onto/into Terra Nova, from which there is no way to get back to 2149.

I was surprised — in a good way — to see that a large portion of the premier takes place in/on Terra Nova.  This is important because they needed to and did set some expectations for potential trouble in their new-found utopia.  Problems on Terra Nova include, but are not limited to:  man-eating dinosaurs (some of which didn’t exist in our real past, but remember, this is a different time stream so they can really make up whatever they want), big ass bugs, another settlement of people (called Sixers, that also came from 2149) that for some reason (the premier didn’t explain it yet) are at odds with those living within the gates of Terra Nova, and some mysterious etchings on some rocks outside the gates of Terra Nova.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable and solid premier.  The characters are likeable, the sets were beautiful both in 2149 and on Terra Nova, and the story is engaging.  These days, it gets pretty hard for me to enjoy shows and movies that spend most of their (and my) time preaching about one issue or another and don’t spend enough time on the characters and the story.  I am happy to say that is not the case with Terra Nova and I am glad I watched it.  Sure, the entire concept is built around people being the cause of the Earth dying a slow and painful death, and I am pretty sure we will hear some more of that in future episodes, but it’s not so over the top that I couldn’t enjoy it.  I mean, after all, all doomsday scenario shows and movies have to have a bad guy, and I can live with it if it’s us once in a while, so long as the story is a good one, and in this case it is.

Tech Note:  There are a few technical flaws with the show, such as a few windmills and solar panels being able to generate LOTS of electricity for their futuristic medical equipment, the entire village and whatnot, but again, I can overlook that.  In fact, I giggled quite a bit during one scene, when you first see a windmill (it’s literally one lonely windmill in the background) and I imagined it crying “Help me!  I can’t do this all by myself you idiots!”  Anyway, it’s Sci-Fi and sometimes you gotta let fiction be fiction and just enjoy the show.  

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