Now that we’re already a majority of the way through the first (and very likely only) season of ‘Terra Nova’, I’ve decided that I might as well just stick it out to the bitter end. In order to do so, I’ve had to come to terms with what the show is, and is not.
‘Terra Nova’ is decidedly not great television, destined to be remembered as a classic years hence. It’s not a particularly good character drama. It’s not particularly good science fiction. Despite the budget, it’s not a particularly good action adventure or visual effects showcase. What ‘Terra Nova’ is, and was always intended and designed to be, is a TV show for children – especially young children in the 6-8 years-old range who are still in that dinosaur obsession phase but aren’t old enough to handle violence or complex storytelling. The show is safe, it’s conventional, it’s simplistic, and (as noted by reader Thulsadoom in the comments to my last recap) it’s frequently pretty lazy and half-assed. These are problems that kids aren’t likely to notice or care about. All the show really needs to be is tolerable for adults, and that’s basically as much as the writers and producers bother to strive for.
This is really a shame, because it’s perfectly possible to make entertainment that both children and adults can enjoy equally. (Pixar does it all the time… this present year excluded, of course.) It doesn’t take a lot of extra money to write a decent script. It just takes a little effort, and a little caring. But, ultimately, the show is what it is, and it’s unlikely to get much better in the handful of episodes that remain this season, so we can either choose to accept that and find some modest entertainment in it, or we should just move on. I suppose that I’ve decided to accept it.
With all that said, last week’s episode (called ‘Proof’) isn’t half bad, by this show’s standards. In the main storyline, Jim’s teenage daughter Maddy suffers from a major case of hero worship for a renowned geologist named Ken Horton. Unfortunately, after taking an internship with the man, the more she talks to him, the more she notices that the details of his story don’t add up with what she knows of his history. Maddy suspects that he isn’t who he claims to be. So, she plays Nancy Drew for a while and figures out that the real Dr. Horton was murdered by his research assistant back in 2146, who then had some surgery to take on his appearance so that he could come to Terra Nova.
It’s kind of nice that the teenage girl gets a storyline where she just isn’t a lovesick idiot. She does some real detective work and solves this mystery all on her own. The solution also comes with a bit of moral ambiguity. Despite being a murderer, the fake Dr. Horton actually achieved some important scientific work in Terra Nova, including saving the colony’s apple crop from a pestilence. By imprisoning (or exiling) him, the colony loses an important scientific mind. That’s a nice bit of dramatic irony for a show otherwise so simplistic.
On the other hand, once Horton figures out that Maddy is on to him, he kidnaps and threatens the girl until Jim rides in and saves the day. I’d like the resolution to this storyline a whole lot better if Maddy could have found her own way out of danger.
In the B storyline, Jim’s annoying son Josh is finally called upon to do that favor he promised the Sixers. He has to steal a batch of medicine from his mother’s infirmary. Before he’ll do so, he demands proof that the Sixers can actually smuggle his girlfriend to Terra Nova as they claim. Sixer leader Mira establishes a holographic link with the future and lets him talk to the girl for a few minutes. Josh steals the medicine, but then feels guilty about it and ‘fesses up to his parents and tells them everything. Thus, Taylor and Jim learn that Mira can communicate with the future.
In the final plot thread, Jim and Taylor go fishing. The CGI marlin-osaur that Jim catches looks super fakey. When Jim heads back to the colony, Taylor skulks around in the jungle for a while looking for Curran, the soldier he banished a couple episodes ago. Jim fears that Taylor plans to kill Curran, but basically just leaves him to it. When Taylor finds the man in pretty bad shape, he protects him from a ridiculously cheesy lizard-osaur and recruits him for a deep cover mission to infiltrate the Sixer camp. This is the least interesting storyline of the episode, but the prospect of Taylor having a mole within the Sixers is an interesting development.