TERRA NOVA: 1.1 “Genesis Part 1”
Terra Nova, Fox’s long delayed, star-crossed series finally debuted last night with a 2-hour pilot. I watched it. It was… okay? Two hours is a lot of time to invest into a brand new scripted TV drama, especially one with a sci-fi bent. I felt my attention going in an out throughout the entire episode. The idea of starting society over in some kind of primeval wilderness is a really interesting one and it could lead to all sorts of interesting ancillary ideas and plot lines. For example, what sort of government runs the Terra Nova settlement? Is it essentially a dictatorship, run solely by the commander? What would happen if people started protesting this arrangement? It doesn’t seem like there is a lot of job mobility in this society either; people seem to be assigned to a job based on their skills. What if this process is flawed, and puts people where they don’t belong? What happens when people want to pursue a career outside of the path they’ve been assigned? How would gender relations change in a society in which population growth is suddenly a positive thing, rather than a detriment? What would motivate a group to separate from the Terra Nova colony and maintain its independence? I’m sure the show is going to try to answer these questions through the Sixers, but the entire first episode made me doubt that these answers would be at all elegant, interesting, or unique. The oh-so-tired “rebellious teenager getting lost and stirring up trouble” plot was so played out that I could barely stand to watch it; the over-expository conversation by the Sixers about the mysterious drawings on the rocks, a conversation that repeatedly reminded the viewers how important these symbols are and how they will decide who controls the past and the future, drained any fun sense of mystery out of them.
What I think bothers me the most about this show is that it seems too focused on the spectacle. There’s too much focus on the dinosaurs, and too many suggestions that the conflict between the Sixers and the Terra Novans is somehow connected to the dystopian future we saw in the first twenty minutes. I don’t care about that future. Terra Nova is latin for New World: let this be a new world! Let humanity struggle to define itself and its values against the backdrop of a savage environment. Show us people creating a new society; don’t complicate things with silly conspiracy theories about why people want to control Terra Nova and how it could impact the future. Cut us off from that smog-choked world; sure, it can live on in peoples thoughts and influence how they approach their new environment, but don’t let it directly affect the “New World.” Instead, let the colonists fight amongst themselves and the environment to define a new meaning of civilization. I fear, though, that much like the rebellious teenager plot, the series will tackle these ideas only in the most superficial and tired manner. I will watch again, if only to see what might change, but I don’t feel too confident about it.