Thursday, September 29, 2011

The "Genesis" of Terra Nova

     FOX's Terra Nova premiere, "Genesis," begins in 2149, with the Earth dying because of human mistakes. Mankind has begun a new colony 85 million years in the past, in an alternate timeline. Dr. Elisabeth Shannon (Shelley Conn, Mistressess) is recruited as part of the tenth wave of settlers, but she is only allowed to bring her two eldest children, Maddy (Naomi Scott, Life Bites) and Josh (Landon Liboiron, Degrassi: The Next Generation). This is because in 2149, having three children is illegal, and this applied to Elisabeth's youngest, Zoe (Alana Mansour). Elisabeth helps her husband, Jim (Jason O'Mara, Life on Mars) break out of prison, where is serving a sentence for assaulting the police when they find Zoe. Together, all five Shannons make it through the rift.

     Once at the new settlement, Commander Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang, Avator) decides to allow the Shannons to stay together, since he needs Elisabeth, and doesn't care about laws that have not been invented yet. Jim, a former cop, is assigned to the agricultural team, but soon proves himself more than capable to join Taylor's security force. This comes in handy when Josh, upset at his father for being gone all this time, meets an attractive girl named Skye (Allison Miller, Kings), who leads him outside the gate. The teens are attacked by dinosaurs and robbed by members of the Sixth, rebels who split away from the main group. Jim must rescue his son.

     Terra Nova is a family friendly show that should appeal to a broad base. There is the sci-fi aspect of time travel and alternate universes. There is mystery in why the Sixth split off, and why Taylor's son draws pictures on rocks. The leader of the Sixth, Mira (Christine Adams, The Whole Truth) seems devoted to some cause. Skye and Josh have the beginnings of a teen romance. There is a group of teens that live apart from their family. Little Zoe is cute as a button. Taylor and Jim will have to solve crimes, while Elisabeth will face new medical cases. Plus, dinosaurs and involvement by Steven Spielberg! Which should satisfy just about everyone.

     Which might be the problem with the show. Don't get me wrong; Terra Nova is certainly one of, if not the, best fall premiere so far. But its widespread tone means none of those things get primary focus. Not knowing which writers to hire to really capture all of these different elements, a great story is slogged down by bad dialogue. The special effects look fantastic, and there's an exciting adventure present. A little tweaking on some lines, and Terra Nova could quickly set itself apart from the pack.

     That's why I recommend you keep watching. The actors are good, and the plot is fairly original. Until proven otherwise, Terra Nova is new and different, and thus, worthy of viewership. The best elements involve the family trying to settle in, finally back together, and the mysteries outside of the settlement walls. These would be good to focus on, as well as revisiting the future, shown too briefly in the beginning, considering how intriguing this time and place are.

     Oh, and it would have been nice to see Jim escape from jail. Yeah, there's a lot to cover in "Genesis," but it feels like a little bit of a cheat to have Elisabeth visit Jim, and then suddenly he has made it to the transport station. Might there be a few things missing in there?

     Anyway, be sure to watch Terra Nova Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

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