The bitter truth

TV extravaganza

The bitter truth

Stellar: The cast of Terra Nova. ‘There will come a time when we will have no water left on the planet; you will end up washing your face with orange juice,’ I remember my father yelling at me, telling me not to waste that precious liquid. While growing up, issues like global warming or the end of the world seemed mythical. Their plausibility was questioned. All those thoughts came rushing back to me as I sat and watched the first episode of Terra Nova. For two hours, I was transfixed, overwhelmed by its story.

The show takes you ahead in time, to 2149, when our planet is nothing like it should be — overcrowded and overpopulated. You cannot see the sky or sunlight beyond the thick, smoke-filled clouds; the air is thick; a majority of the plant and animal life is extinct, and humans are struggling to survive.

Based on the original idea by British writer Kelly Marcel, Terra Nova has a long list of executive producers behind the project — Steven Spielberg, Peter Chernin, Brannon Braga, René Echevarria and Aaron Kaplan, and Alex Graves, who is also the director of the series preview. It’s when scientists unexpectedly discover a fracture in time, that they create a portal and transport humans 85 million years back to prehistoric earth and resettle them in the past to give them a second chance to rebuild civilisation and hopefully, this time, get it right.

Terra Nova revolves around the Shannon family as they join the ‘Tenth Pilgrimage’ of settlers to Terra Nova, the first colony established in a beautiful yet forbidding land. Jim Shannon (Jason O’Mara), a devoted father and an ex-police officer, guides his family through this new world. Jim’s wife, Elizabeth Shannon (Shelley Conn), is a trauma surgeon and is the latest recruit in Terra Nova’s medical team. Josh Shannon (Landon Liboiron) is their 17-year-old son who isn’t happy leaving his life behind. Maddy Shannon (Naomi Scott), Josh’s 15-year-old sister, hopes Terra Nova will give her a new chance to reinvent herself while her five-year-old sister, Zoe (Alana Mansour), endangers their place in this colony.

In this idyllic setting, they are introduced to Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang), the heroic leader of the colony, who calls the shots. “We blew it back then,” he says and adds, “this time, we need to get it right.” He warns these travellers that despite Terra Nova being a new beginning in their lives, it isn’t as peaceful and serene as it appears. Beyond the clear blue skies, waterfalls cascading down towering mountain tops and lush greenery surrounding them, there are a bunch of renegades who threaten the very existence of Terra Nova. Called ‘sixers’, they are led by Mira (Christine Adams), who is against Taylor and his leadership.
A few minutes into the episode and you are reminded of Spielberg’s earlier projects like Artificial Intelligence, Jurassic Park, and the epic series, Lost, which generated a similar amount of curiosity before it went on air in 2004. A whopping four to five million dollars was spent on each episode of Terra Nova, which is clearly reflected through the production values of the show. They are impressive, so are the locales — episodes are shot across Australia, particularly in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and its surrounding areas.

The pilot episode is packed with special effects and they are brilliant. You will also get to see dinosaurs munching on grass and humans, but sadly, they don’t seem as real as those dreadful monsters we saw in Jurassic Park. Also, the characters seem to be ridden with clichés; a little contrived. There is the no-nonsense Nathaniel Taylor with his body-hugging tees; the fearless Jim Shannon, who gets through the most challenging of situations with ease and panache; the attractive mommy of three who looks like she is just out of college and has the intellect that can put many to shame, and of course, the kids — one a rebel, the other a endearing geek and a munchkin for that cuteness quotient.

But, these flaws need to be overlooked, for Terra Nova should be applauded for being ambitious and entertaining. The little instances where the characters gawk at an orange, are in awe of the clear skies and clouds wafting by or when they savour the taste of milk after years, are interesting. The central characters build an instant connect and are believable; the background score and action sequences are thrilling. Above all, what matters is that the intent of Terra Nova is genuine. It questions our way of life and its ramifications if we continue to have a blatant disregard for the resources we are gifted with. It is a series to watch out for on television which is currently plagued with shows that have neither content nor entertainment value to boast of. 

The series premieres on October 8 at 9 pm on Star World.

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