Thursday, September 29, 2011


In this Spielberg-produced adventure mystery, Earth's atmosphere is barely breathable and its inhabitants are trying to escape it. When they discover a way to travel back in time to a prehistoric era where dinosaurs are at the top of the food chain and not one spec of land has been ravaged by human civilization, they begin settling there in batches. The series follows one particular family, who seem more desperate than any to relocate to the New World. After breaking the population control laws by having a third child and assaulting the cops who search his home, Detective Jim Shannon (Jason O'Mara from "Life on Mars") is sent to prison without a protective rebreather mask. Two years pass and his doctor wife Elizabeth (Shelley Conn from How Do You Know) is offered a job in the New World with permission to take their two teenage kids Josh (Landon Liboiron from "Life Unexpected" and "Degrassi: The Next Generation") and Maddy (Naomi Scott from Lemonade Mouth), but not their 5-year-old daughter Zoe (Alana Mansour) or him. The only way they can stay together and stay alive is if he breaks out of prison and smuggles Zoe through the portal.

After a little resistance from the authorities, they all make it through, emerging like newborns into a new atmosphere, barely able to breathe, walk, or see. It is here in this new place that they get a fresh start: a new home, new jobs, and new friends. It seems like a true Utopia—the dad even manages to avoid reimprisonment, especially since there's no way to go back. But as with all new regimes, there is conflict, secret alliances, and false prophets.

The leader of Terra Nova, Commander Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang from Avatar), was the first to explore the region, surviving on his own for 100+ days. He regulates its expansion, the protection against the creatures, the security of the perimeter, and much more. He seems to know everything, but claims he doesn't know the real reason his employers sent all of them back, and that a rebel group known as the Sixers that broke away from the compound on the 6th pilgrimage have an agenda of their own.

Watching the fight from both sides makes it difficult to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys—or the pawns from the misguided. Upon the exposition of golden mathematical hieroglyphs, which are being hidden from the settlers by the Commander and are allegedly left for him by his estranged son who ran away, it becomes clear that the Commander isn't as ignorant as he pretends to be. There's speculation that there might be powerful people on present-Earth who are trying to alter their current situation by sending mercenaries back to change the past. However, the reason Terra Nova was sanctioned was because they discovered proof that the past they travel to is a completely different timeline that doesn't affect present-Earth. If that's a lie, that could explain why the Sixers turned against them. It could also explain why the Commander's son ran away. But after a quick overview of Internet theories, I'm liking the idea that it's possible they're not even on Earth, and my theory that the lost son is actually further in the past and is communicating with his father through time by leaving artifacts to be found. But I don't think his messages are friendly. I think they're warnings and proof that something terrible could go wrong if they keep manipulating time.
This is all speculation at this point, whose side to be on is a crap-shoot, and who to trust is an even bigger gamble. Even the seemingly sweet Skye (Allison Miller from "Kings"), who helped Josh acclimate, seems a little shady. Behind the Commander's back, she questions his secrecy and his agenda, and brakes his laws, but when she's with him, she plays the Little Orphan Annie card and acts coy about her knowledge of the restricted areas in the jungle. Mira (Christine Adams from "Pushing Daisies"), the leader of the Sixers suggested that one of the Commander's inhabitants was a traitor, and my money's on the possibly vengeful orphan, whose parents died on his watch and who has surprisingly effective leadership and survival skills for a teenager.

Despite the comparisons to Avatar, Jurassic Park, and "Lost," based on scenery, design, isolation, divided agendas, the time traveling, and the recurring theme of "The Others," and the critic-consensus that the dialogue is lacking, it might be interesting to see where they go with this. My only hope is that there is more of an emphasis on the mystery and the action, and not the family drama and teen romances, which is to say, I hope it's a little more Syfy and a little less ABC Family.

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