Terra Nova Week 2: Deja Vu All Over Again

Watching Terra Nova last night, it struck me that pilots are really not good indicators of what a TV show is actually going to be like; they’ve got too much to do in order to set everything up to have time to actually demonstrate what the show is going to be like on a week-to-week basis. And, judging by last night’s episode of the new series, what we’re going to see on a week-to-week basis is very, very familiar indeed.

I can’t have been the only person who thought that last night’s Terra Nova lacked the purpose of the pilot, seeming more like a bad episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation than the time traveling, confusing dystopian escape that we’d been sold the week before, right? I can quite believe that it’s what we’re going to see in the show moving forward: A mix of mystery-of-the-week, some family soap opera and the slow moving subplots about the truth behind Terra Nova and the Sixers, all blended together more than a little awkwardly. But that doesn’t feel like the same show that we watched last week.

It’s not that I particularly wanted to see a retread of what was in the pilot, but there was something there – More of an element of danger, perhaps, or of conflict between main characters that didn’t necessarily have an easy resolution (Said conflict, of course, was completely ignored this week: The teenage son’s simmering resentment of being abandoned by his father while he was in jail? Gone!) – that suggested that the show would be more than just the sum of its parts. This week, it felt exactly the sum of its parts, and something that we’d seen many times before on the Syfy channel but with more gusto. It’s not even as if the CGI dinosaurs looked that much better than what we see in the average episode of Sanctuary, for that matter. If someone had created a generic show based around a survey of “What America wants to see in its science fiction,” the result would have been this episode, and that’s the problem: It was tonally inconsistent, and didn’t feel in any way individual or even that interesting. It felt like focus group television.

There’s something about Terra Nova that, before it premiered, seemed to hint that it would be extraordinary. Perhaps in the “surprisingly good” sense, perhaps in the “stunningly bad” sense. Maybe it was the Spielberg producer credit, maybe it was the amount of money spent on the pilot and the numerous reschedulings of the debut episode… But what last night’s episode demonstrated was that this show is all about the ordinary, the comfortable and the familiar. As such, it may make for a good enough way to kill an hour, but it’s not anything that is likely to inspire the kind of rabid fanbase that will cause enough noise and fuss when it comes to renewing the show next year.

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Comments

  • http://twitter.com/MrRandyWatson1 Randy Watson

    This show is awful.

  • Ultras28

    It’s also boring.

  • ATK

    I agree it does feel very generic. Falling Skies had some of the same feel in the first couple of episodes but I felt it got better and by the season finale was holding it’s own. I hope the same will apply to Terra Nova but I doubt it. The show feels almost too forced and the “mythology” parts of the premiere seemed thrown in as an afterthought. The show has yet to find it’s direction beyond the “wouldn’t that be cool” phase. I think what i’m really trying to say here is that I miss Dark Angel.

  • CJ3

    I have not seen this episode but I must admit this show looked like it had potential.  I was hoping for more Jurassic Park mixed with a good evolving story and the pilot made that come off great.  But if this episode is the family wandering around a gate arguing about family ties, then this show will do horrible.  I can’t imagine that a family could not resolve it’s petty issues quickly being in a new environment, albeit with hungry giant dinosaurs etc.  It better pick up quick and get back to what the pilot brought us.

    I guess what I am saying is that I miss Flash Forward, since that show went off the air, the only show I look forward to is Fringe.  Oh and Falling Skies looks the better of the two so far.

  • TMS

    If they made it as a cross between Deadwood and BSG it might have legs, but I doubt Fox or any network would have the balls to go forward with something that different or challenging.

  • Wildstorm

    This show reminds me of Earth 2

  • Tpk1019

    It was a boring “The Birds” remake. But it IS only the second episode. All shows have to feel their way in the beginning and the potential is there. I’ll stick around.

  • starhammer

    Bring Star Trek back now!!!

  • Cinemafantasica

    Firefly…..

  • RunnerX13

    Yes, not too excited about the “crisis of the week” road this show is taking.  These birds and their nearby orgy will never be referenced again.

  • BDMob

    I’m giving the show a bye week this week.  Not that I especially liked this episode- it was pretty much just what you said it was- but because, after the expensive pilot I think they just wanted to get an episode out the door.  There were several places where they just skipped the shots that would be dino-laden
    No heavy lifting, just a new crisis, and one that still supported the show’s themes- that they don’t know everything about the spot they picked, and unexpected things can still arrive. (and I did like the reason the birds were coming in, even if the resolution was hand-waving)
    I think that there was enough thought put into the pilot (and bits of this episode) that I’ll give it a few more episodes to get the stories started, but then again, Spielberg doesn’t have a great track record in that kind of long form storytelling.  And the buddy I watched it with said he was already done….

  • Anonymous

    ^^^ I was about to say the same thing. ^^^