Aside: Let me go on the record stating I am in favor of strict copyright law. I know piracy is evil, the music industry is hurting, and I am very nervous about Google’s tendency to grab at the rights of every thing that isn’t nailed to the floor of the International Space Station.
However. I am terribly, terribly vexed with both Netflix and Hulu at the moment. Netflix because they’re losing content but want to charge more for the same service. And Hulu because of this stupid 8 day delay they’ve instituted for certain shows.
Pretend for a moment that you desire to watch a show: a new show premiering on Fox. If you missed the pilot, but wanted to watch it before deciding to watch the second episode, you can’t. Until the day after the 2nd episode airs. Because that makes sense. Of course you could pay for a subscription to Hulu, but if you’re a graduate student on a tight budget isn’t $7.99 a month just a little much to watch one pilot for a show that I don’t even know is good? Wouldn’t a five day delay make more sense? Give the advantage to the people who pay for a subscription but don’t hurt the show’s chances for success.
Anyway, thus concludes my rant. So lets get to the review of this terribly original new show on Fox which I completely saw in a legitimate fashion…
Terra Nova is bright and shiny. It features dinosaurs. And time travel. And secret groups of “others” who want to hurt the main colony. Unfortunately it’s flash more than substance. And half the flash comes from ripping off every other SF tv show that was ever made. For every good character, you have two bad ones. For every moment of surprising–hmm–for every moment that’s not terribly cliche, there’s another of mind numbing stupidity. It’s still leaps and bounds above Falling Skies, but that’s an embarrassingly low standard.
Since I can’t rewatch the show without breaking about 20 intellectual property laws, a short (for me) summation of the plot and other points of boredom will have to suffice:
In the future, we’ve ruined the environment and the only hope for anyone, anywhere is to go through a time fracture to hang out in the Jurassic period. Not our Jurassic period, it’s a separate time stream. Did you get that? Because they’ll tell you it’s a separate time stream again and again and again. It’s like they fear you will slip into your own separate time stream in which no one has told you it’s a separate time stream and if it’s not a separate time stream then NOTHING WILL MAKE SENSE.
So people in the future keep sending ‘pilgrimages’ back in time to grow a colony. There’s some hand wavey science about event horizons but it’s nice and subtle: aka no unobtanium. Sadly it’s the last moment of subtlety in the entire show. Also, you’re not allowed to have more than 2 kids and if you break that rule, you get sent to prison.
Oh wait, you only get sent to prison if you beat up a cop who finds your hidden third child in an air duct because she’s incapable of stuffing her face full of magical hidden orange and not cry. The third child thing is only important because it puts the father: Jim Shannon in jail which makes it necessary for him to break out of jail and also smuggle his daughter through the time rift with the rest of his family. All in all it’s a ridiculous plot point for multiple reasons A) Why did they decide getting pregnant for a third time against the law was a good idea considering the DIRE DEATH THAT EVERYONE FACES IN THE WORLD B) How did they conceal the pregnancy? C) Other than the pilot, how is this relevant to anything ever again?
There’s some other vague angsty stuff between the son and father once they get to the Land Before Time Featuring the Group Dynamics of Lost but it makes no sense. Son is mad because father was in prison. He seems to think that if the father hadn’t assaulted the cop then he would’ve gotten away with a fine. Umm. Seriously? In an overpopulated world the worst you get is a fine? Then why the scary death squad people tearing apart the apartment? And later, when the mom: Elisabeth Shannon is recruited for Terra Nova, she’s not allowed to take the secret third child because they don’t want to reward people for breaking the law. Huh?
That’s not to say the concept is dumb. Overpopulation is a serious thing. Rules, consequences, the brutal conditions for prisoners–all serious things. So why not explore them? If the whole point of the pilot was to get the family–and you know the whole family was going–to Terra Nova then why not just START in Terra Nova. The only reason to start elsewhere is to establish things which will have repercussions down the line. But there aren’t any, except for the angst, but the angst comes out of nowhere and is stupid. Personally I think the whole first season should have been in future world–with Terra Nova the pay off at the end. Then the writers could have explored humanity in humanity’s darkest hour: the family dynamics, the dystopia despite advanced technology… Terra Nova would have been the dream: a fresh start all bright and shiny and hyperoxygenated… At the very least you could have spent half the season… a half dozen episodes… TWO episodes.
Anyway, why is this a big deal? Because once you get over the ‘Hey cool! Dinosaurs!’ you need something else to drive the plot. What drives the plots of dystopian SF shows? Strife between people. So the show gives us this “other” group of colonists, people that broke off from the colony and are called Sixers. And there’s the Commander’s son who is carving equations and geometry into the rocks to taunt his Dad, buuut… that’s not going to last very long. And we have nothing to compare it to. Is it supposed to be tragic because they escaped a terrible, terrible future and now are repeating themselves? I don’t know because I didn’t really get to see much of the other world–but saw enough that I’m perplexed why they would set it up and not deal with it.
Ugh. Anyway, the only saving grace for the whole show is Commander Taylor. He looks and acts like the typical tough guy military officer–you remember him best as General Sourface from Avatar. No really, it’s the same guy. He doesn’t rant about smurfs this go round–and he’s considerably softer–more human. He wants the colony to survive and since it’s not at the expense of anything you want him to win. Clearly there will be some friction with the other group–what their agenda is I don’t know but I’ll bet it’s not so much evil as morally ambiguous. The main leader said something about ‘control the past, control the future’ which made no sense considering the 18 hundred different times we were told we were in a different time stream. And I know that’s correct because if we WEREN’T in a different time stream, then the show would be over by now. You know how I know that? Because sending a human settlement back into its own time would dramatically alter the present. And also because sending a human settlement back into a time before a giant Extinction Level Event (I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a pet velocirpator) is incredibly stupid.
But then again, this is network SF TV. On Fox, aka the same idiots who did that thing that shall not be mentioned because it makes me unhappy.
I don’t like to be unhappy.