Terra Nova was better when it was called Earth 2 – notable considering how silly and mundane Earth 2 was. But, at least that show was original.

The series concerns a group of American pilgrims who have fled the pollution-filled planet that Earth had become via a Stargate-type device which has taken them 65 million years into the past at a time where dinosaurs still ruled the Earth. Conveniently, this Earth exists as part of an alternate timeline meaning that any changes or developments the pilgrims make will not impact upon their own timeline. The focus of the series is the Shannon family, whose patriach ‘Jim’ is currently in prison for attacking a police officer after it was discovered that the family had broken the law by having a third child. With the family opting to join the prehistoric colony to forge a new life for themselves, Jim breaks out of prison and makes the trip with his family to their new home.

Much has been made of the high budget of the series with each episode estimated to cost approximately $4 million. While the expense of the series is evident on screen with a number of large-scale sets constructed for the series along with a number of quite decent special effects, it feels like it has all gone to waste. We’ve seen Terra Nova before.

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Computer-generated dinosaurs are nothing new to viewers. With three Jurassic Park films and TV series like Primeval already in the public consciousness, the interaction with dinosaurs on screen for Terra Nova offers nothing new or particularly impressive. While the special effects are of a very high standard and are far superior to Primeval, that show had already established that half-okay dinosaur-themed special effects can be delivered on a TV budget.

The tired dinosaur aspect of the series would be fine if the series had anything of substance to offer, but it doesn’t. Concept-wise, we’ve seen variations on the shows premise time and time again over the years across all sorts of failed sci-fi TV series. Earth 2 being the most obvious. The characters are also obvious and hackneyed. The two almost-perfect parents who are worried whether they’ve done the right thing by the family, the moody teenage boy who has a great heart and love for his family but struggles to adapt to his new surrounds, the teenage girl who is highly intelligent and invested in the excitement of her new surrounds, and the cute four year-old girl who is just so darn adorable.

While Terra Nova is a family-orientated action adventure series (translation: set your expectations low), it just doesn’t deliver enough to get it over the line. We’ve seen it all before. There is seemingly little potential for the show to develop thematically beyond where we’re at in the pilot and the show is going to burn off any viewer goodwill toward it as a result. It’s not that Terra Nova is a bad series. Terra Nova is a slick looking TV series that is technically very well produced. The problem lies completely with its premise and execution. Not enough is done to make this series a distinct product.

Due to the cost of production and its profile, I’d expect to see this picked up for a second season (in part to recoup the costs of producing such lavish sets), but I wouldn’t have high hopes to see the show last any longer than that. It’s a perfectly pleasant and amiable series, just not a terribly interesting one.

Terra Nova premieres on Channel Ten on Sunday night at 8:30pm.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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