by Carrie Lowe
The second episode following a relatively successful pilot always falls under close scrutiny. The question of whether a show with an intriguing initial premise that translates into a strong first episode can maintain that quality through an entire series must be asked and sadly, “Terra Nova’s” answer is an unfortunate “no,” at least so far.
While the pilot had its plot flaws, it also showed potential. This week’s episode squandered all of that promise within the first few minutes, when the children of the settlement participated in a wilderness-training class – learning skills as complex as building a fire and determining which direction is North – reminiscent of cheesy 90’s children’s camp films. The indoor set, which could be easily overlooked in the mostly outdoors-set pilot, was reminiscent of a ride at Disneyland, complete with the fake props and wholesome atmosphere.
The plot does not fare well either. This week on “Terra Nova,” small, pterodactyl-type dinosaurs attacked the settlement, killing a group of soldiers and harming innocent shoppers at the settlement farmer’s market. They are surprisingly vicious creatures, though they look somewhat like duplicated baby Norberts from the first “Harry Potter” film. The species has never been seen before in the area and the leaders in the settlement have no idea how to handle them, causing a settlement-wide lock down. This lockdown occurs after a huge swarm of the creatures, which are apparently migrating towards Terra Nova because of a sudden change in temperature, descends upon the camp. Eventually, Dr. Elisabeth Shannon and a new character, researcher Malcolm Wallace (Rod Hallet), synthesize the creatures’ pheromone, allowing Taylor and Jim Shannon to lure the creatures to another breeding zone away from Terra Nova.
The entire plot is one giant sci-fi film cliché, complete with a tension-filled scene of the creatures attacking the settlement as Elisabeth and Malcolm attempt to synthesize the correct pheromone. They even manage to throw in brawny security guards putting pressure on the brainy researchers.
The subplots are equally ridiculous. Malcolm is a former flame of Elisabeth’s and Jim is suspicious of the supposed coincidence that landed the two together in the compound. Josh is reluctant to let go of his girlfriend back (or forward) in 2149 while battling his feelings for Skye. Maddy asks her embarrassed father for advice about whether a boy likes her. Zoe buys a plant and looks cute and helpless. Not a single original or fresh story line is present in the entire episode.
FOX wants this show to appeal to the family masses, so it keeps stuffing episodes with wholesome family-friendly plots. Yet the appeal of the show doesn’t lie with crowds who enjoy those kinds of stories, as the family-focused plots just aren’t cutting it. Plainly put, there should be more nerdy, science-fiction-laden plots to appeal to the viewers who are trying to find a replacement for “Lost,” and enough impressive visuals to attract a wider audience. Then, “Terra Nova” could sustain a large enough audience to make the purportedly large budget a worthy investment.