Terra Nova: The Complete Series (Fox) is another exhibit in case against the big networks launching big budget science series. While they tend to have big budgets and an eye for spectacular (at lest for the small screen) images, they also have a tendency to chase big audiences by dropping high concepts into familiar formulas and narrative formats.
In this case, the premise is simple: in a future polluted and overcrowded to the point of near social breakdown, a wormhole to the prehistoric past has allowed small groups of hand-picked citizens to escape the dystopia and colonize a pristine prehistoric world. Jim Shannon (Jason O’Hara) and his family are essentially stowaways to the past, escaping not just the pollution and crime but the restrictive laws that limit family size. Three kids is apparently a felony in this future.
With Steven Spielberg on board as an executive producer and a concept evokes “Jurassic Park” as the new frontier, the producers of “Terra Nova” play up the visual promise of human beings living in a dangerous jungle world of dinosaurs (thanks to a handy time travel gimmick). The human colony (and it is a colony, self-sustaining and essentially cut off from the poisoned future) is part military outpost, part communal village carved out of lush jungle wilderness, part Swiss Family Robinson theme park, and every episode features at least one visit from a prehistoric creature, large or small. There’s no secret where the budget is going.
What’s so disappointing is that, with all the potential such a premise offers, the story comes down to a civil war between the colony, led by old-school military man Commander Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang, essentially playing a warmer and more morally ambiguous version of his “Avatar” character), and a rebel faction that stages raids from their refuge in the jungle.