Terra Nova is a science fiction drama television series that premiered in September 2011 and ran for one season. The legendary Steven Spielberg was attached to this show, Falling Skies, and Cowboys and Aliens, making an impressive trifecta of stellar sci-fi. It’s hard not to be drawn to this show when the director of Jurassic Park is attached to the project. It also can’t hurt that the villain from Avatar makes an appearance as well.
Terra Nova offered a season full of action, wonder, discovery, heart, and suspense, despite its limited run. This show delivers a cinematic feel on a small screen, a precursor to big-budget television like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.
The series follows a family living in a dystopian future where overpopulation and declining air quality threatens Earth. Luckily, scientists discovered a way to time travel to a place in the past similar to the history of Earth. This so-called parallel time stream allows the lucky chosen to go the Cretaceous Period. For obvious reasons, not everyone can make the trip. However, the show follows the Shannon family as mother, wife, and brilliant medical mind Elisabeth is chosen to make the journey. Her skills are of use in the new world of Terra Nova. Due to overpopulation, her husband Jim was imprisoned for having a third child and assaulting an officer. The family makes a daring escape to Terra Nova. They run into the leader of the new World, Commander Nathaniel Taylor, who spares the Shannon family. Luckily Stephen Lang has a heart of gold this time around away from Pandora and uses Jim Shannon’s skills as a former cop.
Terra Nova features an amazing cast, including Jason O’Mara (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Christine Adams (Black Lightning), Naomi Scott (Lemonade Mouth, Power Rangers), Stephen Lang (Avatar), and Dean Geyer (Glee). The audience follows the Shannon family as they navigate this new world full of Jurassic Park vibes. The family dynamic is not perfect as it offers some dramatic yet heartfelt storytelling. We get to learn more about the world left behind, why this new world is worth fighting for, and why some others might want to exploit it. It also goes into depth about why paradise is never a perfect vision.
The chemistry between Scott and Geyer was electric. Maddie Shannon is trying to find her place in this new world while avoiding trouble, and she makes it easy to root for her thanks to her lovable, dorky, and clumsy self. She becomes smitten with Geyer’s character, corporal Mark Reynolds. Imagine if God copied the personality of Steve Rogers and a twinge of Christopher Reeve’s Superman into a dashing, loyal and good man under Taylor’s command.
Allison Miller and Degrassi’s Landon Liborion were great additions to the cast. Skye is charming and street smart, but you can tell something dark is hovering over her head, and we find out not all is as it seems. Josh Shannon is rebellious and arrogant. He is not happy leaving his life behind for Terra Nova, and it doesn’t take long to find out why. I was impressed by how the show handled his character and explored what he is willing to do to get his life back.
Stephen Lang is the leader of this new world, and he makes me think about my favorite line from Black Panther:
You’re a good man with a good heart. And it’s hard for a good man to be king. -T’Chaka
We see what a strict but fair leader Commander Taylor is. But old sins cast long shadows as we see the lengths he was willing to go to make Terra Nova a reality and the impact it has had on his family. Before Black Lightning, Christine Adams went head to head against Taylor as Mira, leader of the Sixers. She is not a fan of this new world, and she wants to throw as many curve balls at Taylor as possible.
I loved how Terra Nova took huge risks. When you look at the visual effects for the dinosaurs, the aesthetic for the show’s timeline of 2149, and the set design for the location of Terra Nova (which took place in Australia), you can deduce this was an expensive show to make. The production had to accommodate the dystopian future set, which was most likely a green screen. The amazing sets in Terra Nova looked like something out of a Michael Crichton novel and featured many dinosaurs throughout the season. I am sure Spielberg could do a T.E.D. Talk about bringing dinosaurs to life, and it is no easy or cheap task. Even though this show only lasted a season, I believe Terra Nova was a fascinating experiment to see how cinematic storytelling could fit into the small screen in the comfort of your living room.
Game of Thrones first aired in April 2011, while The Walking Dead in October 2010. This was a whole new territory in television. Now fast forward to the Arrowverse, Umbrella Academy, The Boys, and Stranger Things, it seems ever more possible to tell stories on the small screen without limits of a budget. I speculate if the story and the characters are compelling, then the networks should invest in the project, hoping to reach a wider audience. Since Terra Nova was a whole new world, I believe some viewers felt the storylines were left unresolved, or the characters fell short. Maybe people enjoyed the concept, but not enough; in my opinion, it was worth sticking around to the end.
Another thing to consider is that this show was really expensive to make overseas. Ratings were strong, but investing in another season with this much production value probably worried the network. If Fox decided to take a chance with season 2, this show would have reached higher ground.
It’s a captivating show and let’s say this new world is not without its setbacks. It’s a wild ride, and if you have a minute after the finale and I hope he didn’t delete it, Jason O’Mara’s Youtube channel is ripe with some amazing behind-the-scenes moments offering a heartfelt throwback. It is a true delight to have watched this show. I miss it.