The Premier of Terra Nova was more like a movie than a long episode. It was complete with a compelling introduction and character set-up, several problems to overcome, both in a personal and military fashion, and generally kicked the series off with a bang. The only question is whether the writers can build on the start they have given themselves or doom their efforts to a SGU style end.
Even though the series as a whole doesn’t appear to center too predominantly on the dystopic future from which the heroes escape, the episode does an amazing job of setting up an exquisitely dystopic environment complete with Orwellian style population control. This world building flowed seamlessly into the compelling plight of the main characters who have knowingly broken the ‘two child rule’ and are now subject to an unknown and ominous fate.
While I won’t give the particulars of the heroes escape, I will say that once they finally arrive on Terra Nova we are presented with a few character issues that normally, with cliché and soap opera style writing that has encroached on Sci-Fi lately, would have been problematic and doomed the plot to a petty and uninteresting fate; distracting from more interesting plot points and the general sci-fi nature of the plot. Fortunately some eloquent plot development, dialogue, and action scenes provided some touching and exciting solutions for the triple Cs that (Character Creation Cliché’s) ‘plot’ driven science fictions fall victim to.
After several failed science fictions such as SGU (please don’t lynch me) I have become exceedingly leery of modern science fiction as having become little more than soap operas in space. The Terra Nova intro gives me hope. They were concise, going directly to the point, didn’t use too many deus ex machina solutions, and provided several short and long term problems and conflicts for the characters to overcome. The world building of Terra Nova continued into the creation of stunningly beautiful scenery, weapons, and machines. Marred only by some slightly cheesy CG, I was entirely engrossed in the universe as it was presented, and was forced to smile by a bit of stylistic homage to Firefly.
The Commander was the cherry on the top of this little cake. He embodied everything good about the strong military leader that has been belittled, condemned, or ignored in a heck-of-a-lot of science fiction lately. Unrelenting in his drive to protect his people, pragmatic, and generally likeable in a cowboy-rally the marines sort of way. My only fear is that they will turn to the classic and tired fallback of ‘oh, by the way, the commander is evil… he has ulterior motives, therefore he must be evil.’
This is an example of underdogma, or belief that the little guy is always in the right. Personally I don’t want to root for the ‘6s’ as portrayed in the story, I want to root for a strong force of good guys fighting for survival against terrible odds… and then kicking the crap out of those odds.
That being said I know they need more complications than straightforward struggling and conflict and I am sure the ulterior motives and subtitle hints of temporal tampering will lead somewhere interesting. I just hope that they don’t take away from the fun of the show for some inane plot twist that doesn’t fit with the story and no one wants anyway.
All in all Terra Nova was well done, great fun to watch, and should be greatly engaging for any geek or nerd who loves sci-fi, fantasy, or a mixture of both. I give Terra Nova a solid four stars for strong plot development, well done action, and beautiful world building.