Recap: 'Terra Nova' Premiere - 'Genesis'

Few shows debuting this Fall have gotten more ink than "Terra Nova." Its production problems? Legendary. Its proposed scale? Immense. The impulse towards schadenfreude? Even greater. But now, the time for analysis shifts away from everything behind the scenes towards what’s actually onscreen. And what’s there is…well, it’s more simplistic than many would like, yet offers some glimmers of potential promise underneath the Spielbergian gloss.

So much of the difficulty in analyzing the pilot comes from the fact that it offers little in the way of what a typical episode of "Terra Nova" might actually be. There’s a ridiculous amount of heavy lifting in tonight’s two-hour premiere to set the stage for events to come. Sure, there are hints of an overall mythology laid out that could form the narrative backbone of the series. But the majority of tonight’s two hours lays the groundwork for the dystopian future in which the show starts, the introduction of "fracture" technology that gets us 85 million years in the past, the various factions that exist there, and the interpersonal dynamics of the family that will serve as our view into this brave new/old world. That’s a lot of ground to cover, and there are only so many sweeping, computer-generated shots to cover said events that the show could produce in order to actually air this episode before 2149 in our own time stream.

So, what should be a two-hour pilot often feels like a two-hour film that will eventually have a television series produced in the same fictional universe. All of the "Blade Runner"/"Minority Report" shots look fantastic, and are rich with visual detail. But it’s unclear how often we’ll actually return to that world in the show’s future. Maybe the show will employ flashbacks that flesh out certain relationships, or maybe we’ll learn that the trip to Terra Nova isn’t as one-way as thought. But while all of those scenes in 2149 give us context, it also feels like a LOT of hand holding. It’s a future full of as much exposition as smog, with the audience often choking down scene after scene in which characters explain things to each other for the sake of the audience watching at home. (When Elisabeth Shannon says that she hasn’t seen an orange for ages, it’s not as if her family wouldn’t already know that.) Read More...


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