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September 28, 2011

5

Terra Nova Discussion

Posted by on Sep 28, 2011

The highly (or not so highly, depending) anticipated pilot of Terra Nova premiered last night.  All of us here at NNAR went into the premiere with differing expectations.  Jon thought it was going to knock it out of the park.  Wade and Chris expected it to be horrible.  Third really, really likes dinosaurs, so… yeah.  And Tom… well, Tom went to go see Drive instead – a respectable decision.  So once the pilot concluded, the four of us and our fellow nerd Jacob convened online to discuss.  Below is our review of Terra Nova’s pilot – conversation style, and edited to save you from the abundance of childish banter, fart jokes, and Third-provoking comments.

Overall First Impressions

Chris: So, how about we start out with 1 sentence each to describe the show?
Jon: “Too much too soon.”
Wade: “The show I probably want more of is back in the future.”
Chris: “Overly cliched, predictable, expensive cancel-bait.”
Third: Before I deliver my one sentence: I’m the only one who liked it at all, aren’t I? Generally I’m thinking: “Lots of cool ideas, some of which are rather silly in scientific terms, and some characters that are interesting, but a few that are also pretty cheesy. Basically, I think this show could be good, and I’ll let it stay there.”
Chris: I’ll give you the cool ideas Third. I just think they weren’t done well. For instance, who can tell me why the first 15 minutes of the show existed? I get that they had to come from somewhere, but why all the drama about population controls, the father being in jail, etc.
Jacob: Allusions to Communist China, duh.
Third: Also, Ender’s Game.
Chris: So now they’re fearbaiting the American populace?
Jon: We also didn’t see how Jim actually escaped. He was just there all of a sudden, found the bag, and then was… under that car… and then found the bag with Zoe…. and then ran through the portal.
Third: Well, you had to make the jump through the portal exciting. Otherwise it’s just “Hey, there’s a big circle, let’s walk through.”
Jacob: Throwing the main character in jail for 2 years sets up the angsty son well… and by well I mean it accomplishes it poorly.
Third: Oh, the son was awful. He was Harry Potter in the fifth book, and I hate Harry in the fifth book.
Jon: George R. R. Martin needed to write this episode and kill the son.
Chris: The son was one giant cliche.
Third: So I think we’re all agreed that the son’s character is awful.

Aspects of Time Travel

Chris: So speaking of throwing them through the portal with drama – what do you think is up with the time travel and the whole “time stream” explanation?
Wade: Well I for one don’t think it’s time travel. I think everyone thinks it’s time travel but it’s not. If it were, why do we have different plant life and dinosaurs than our actual history? I think it’s a different planet.
Jacob: I buy that.
Third: On the different plant and animal life, Steven Spielberg admitted to making up dinosaurs.
Jacob: Slashers? Worst name ever. At least call it a Slashasaurus.
Chris: Also, did anyone catch where Avatar man also said “I don’t want to talk to anyone in the future until I know what the Sixers want”? Can they actually talk to people in the future, because they said at the beginning that you can’t actually go back?
Third: I have a theory. First, I thought I agreed with Wade and it was actually another planet or another dimension. But then when the Sixers leader, Mira (I think), said “Control the past, control the future,” I realized: this is actually a government conspiracy, and there is no alternate time stream. They really are attempting to change the future.
Chris: If they’re changing the future, why aren’t they affecting the future right now?
Jon: Valid question. There have been ten trips back already. If it was changing the future you’d think it would have done something by now…
Third: That’s what makes me think the writers messed up their time-travel theory. But that’s just me.
Wade: Ok, here’s my thing: This whole premise seems strange to me in the first place. According to the discussion about the probe, which they apparently sent back to see about the time travel. It never came back. So then they decided based on that fact that it must be an alternate time stream. Why did they decide that it’s that instead of, oh, I don’t know, that people disappear forever when you go through it?
Third: Good point Wade, I don’t know.

Jacob: I think that they definitely have some way of connecting to the future.
Jon: Yeah, they have to. Taylor hinted at as much.
Third: Unless Taylor is lying to everyone.

So... how does this work?

Chris: So maybe this confusion is intentional, in which case there’s something crazy going on but they don’t want to let people know what it is. Unfortunately they’ve done it really badly, so now everyone’s having the same conversation we are about how none of it makes any sense.

Problems we had with the Episode

Jacob: Well no matter how intriguing or how much we debate, the whole episode was so poor it’s just tough to care. Jon and I were discussing that the great thing about Lost was they took forever to develop the Others. You heard all about them for episodes on end but never saw them; here you see everything immediately. It’s all thrown right at you.
Wade: Yeah, consider how many story lines we had in this (granted, double length) episode: 1) Introduction to the future, where extra children gets you thrown in prison; 2) Introduction to Terra Nova; 3) The complex connection between those two; 4.) Tensions inside the family; 5) Mysterious math scratched on rocks in the jungle;
Chris: Did you also notice how amidst all of that, they went out of their way to set up all the love triangles?
Jacob: Yeah, it was so forced. The first character each child met was a love interest.
Chris: That was actually a major issue with all of the character work. I could totally predict what was going to happen.
Wade: We just sat on the couch shouting out the next actions as we saw them coming.
Jacob: It was so obvious. Any bets on what episode the son becomes a Sixer in? I’m voting next episode.
Jon: I think it will happen in episode 4. Ok, another thing: I was really upset at how quickly Taylor accepted Jim Shannon. It was 6 hours after he met him and clearly distrusted him (with good reason), and he goes and turns around and adds him to the security detail.
Wade: Honestly, I get that. It’s all about utility in a world like this. If he sees that potential in helping the expedition survive, I think he’d go for that.
Jon: Maybe, but I still think he’d be like, “OK, I see you have utility, but I still don’t trust you.”
Wade: To be honest, of this episode’s many sins, I personally think this is the the jaywalking equivalent.
Chris: Fair point.
Jon: Yeah, that’s fair.
Third: Okay, that is fair.

One thing is agreed: Josh is the worst.

 

Things we liked

Chris: Now, on a positive note, I actually have to give them some credit for the world itself. Things like the leech medicine thing were well done. I actually thought they had the “Futuristic people living in a basic society thing” down pretty well.
Jon: Yeah, I guess I agree with that.
Wade: That’s the issue. I think the world is cool and has potential but the story and writing doesn’t hold up.
Wade: Ok, I’d really like to focus on the perceived good for a bit. Third, you said you enjoyed a fair amount of it, and Jon you said parts got you going too. Tell us why.

Jon: Ok. I mean, I honestly didn’t think there was much that was good on the acting side. Taylor was solid and good as a main commander character, and I thought the daughter was far and away the best of the Shannons. She’s nerdy, nervous, a pretty typical 16 year old.
Visually I thought it was pretty great. The world was cool: the top down views of Terra Nova were awesome and the environment in terms of wildlife was pretty well set up.
I think that having the Sixers exist was good too. They gave away too much too soon, but I think it’s a solid development in general.
I also liked the futuristic world, but wish they had developed it more. We really don’t know what is really going on. For instance: Why is the air bad? What do people do? How does the lottery/recruitment for Terra Nova work?

Jacob: Hopefully they’ll do flash backs and stuff to answer a little more about the future world and give us more and more as we go on
Third: I’m sure they will.
Jacob: Good. I have to say I thought the last 5 minutes was more redeeming than the previous 2 hours. It was actually quite intriguing at the end.
Wade: Of course they are doing flashbacks. It’s a show about time travel with an opposing faction based on an island.
Jacob: That was my next point. How much more can you try to be like Lost? Another tribe? Crazy symbols? A world we know little about or why we’re there?
Any bets on whether they’ll go back to the future and bearded Jim will make them come back to the past?
Bottom line, I was constantly frustrated by the progression and the predictability thus far.

Jon: OK, Third, what do you think since you seemed to like it the most?
Third: Well, first, I do have to start by saying something: I wanted to be a paleontologist when I was little. I knew how to spell paleontologist when I was 7. I had to correct my teacher on the spelling. So if I was more excited about the dinosaurs than I was disappointed by the poor writing, I do apologize.
I will agree that a lot of the writing was pretty poor. The angsty son annoyed the hell out of me, the convenience of immediate love interests for everyone was unfortunate.
Scientifically it was lame how the predatory dinosaurs did not give up after being shot at (or even shot) multiple times. Predatory animals are lazy and cannot afford to be injured. You bang pots and pans to make bears go away. A shark will flee if you punch it in the nose. 

Third: See, I realize you guys may have convinced me about this episode, but I still have hope for this show, and if I can, I’ll explain why. I went into this knowing it was a pilot looking to establish a whole hell of a lot about the world in which the show is set. As a pilot in general, and as one with those goals in particular, I wasn’t really looking for fantastic writing. Pilots suck sometimes, but it wasn’t all bad: I liked the conversation with the father and the little girl – the first time. The second time they did it I was like “Okay, they need to stop now.”
It also hinted at being willing to work with a lot of different relationships right out of the box. Granted, it was all really fast, but I see it more as developing a palette from which to work throughout the series. Now, if they continue at this pace, it will suck, but I guess I thought they just wanted to get it all out there so that you’re aware of all the different factors.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I saw all this as an exposition dump.

 

It looks like Third versus the rest of the group might be more exciting than the actual show. “Will he crack? Will he doubt his own reasoning and resort to impugning Wade’s manhood? Only time will tell…” Whether we do it as a group or not, we’ll definitely keep an eye on Terra Nova now that we’re all so invested in (or eagerly anticipating the demise of) the show. And since Fox has already committed to 13 episodes, no more no less, in the first season, we can guarantee there will be plenty to talk about.

  • Jon Avery

    I watched the episode with the girl friend. She usually cares little for this type of show. She doesn’t know about Lost, she has never heard of Ender, and she thinks Game of Thrones involved Kate Middleton (editor’s note: ZING), but between looking at her laptop and talking to me, this show did catch her attention. She could be convinced to keep watching, so take that for what it is worth.

    Now as a television nerd in general, I have heard plenty of stories about high concept tv shows getting mucked up in the development process. I read that this pilot was reshot, recut, and edited heavily. It makes me think this episode had a lot of “notes” and “focus group” input. I say give it a few more chances to catch it’s stride. A comedy, Parks and Rec, took an entire season (some argue longer) to get consistent. I trust Steven Spielberg with family stories, dinos, and science fiction. I am tuning in next week.

  • Jon

    Yeah, I hear you about the mucking up in the development process.  And, like Third was saying, in a Pilot with a premise as complicated as this one, they want to be able to get information out there so people know what is going on.  If the writing and information revelations continue to occur like they did in the pilot, however, this show is going sink. 

    Although, on your point about Parks and Rec (also, Roy Hibbert is making a cameo appearance this Thursday – awesome), the best shows really do not need a season, or a certain number of episodes to get consistent and hit their stride.  All of my favorite shows were generally great right from the get-go.  I was really hopping that Terra Nova would be one of those.  But we will see if it can redeem itself.  

    • Tom

      The pilot episode of Lost is the single best two hours of television ever made.  That’s all I really have to add.

  • Tom

    Chris, pursuant to our earlier conversation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A-series_and_B-series. It doesn’t really get into the relationship between the different theories of time and time travel as McTaggart saw them, but, basically, (as my simple, simple mind understands it) it’s unfeasible for the people in Terra Nova to communicate with the future.  Time travel would necessitate a multiverse scenario, in which case, the idea of going back in time to an Earth (not THE Earth) that is both not ravaged by pollution and inhabitable for human life is an astronomical crapshoot.  And, even if they could communicate with a future, it wouldn’t be THE future they came from.  I think.

    My head hurts.

  • Bojalil

    Well i juts finished watching the pilot and I agree with some parts of teh review, and i’m gonna make some observations of my own to maybe complete…about the communication…if it is the earth’s past there’s one way to coummunicate with the future and that’s like having a way to input some data in some way that can last for millions of years..then in the future you just digg it up…and then send a message to the past..but like I said it should need a preservation method for keeping it for lots of years!!…or just maybe they are hiding the real communication method!!…..The whole symbol Nazca style..kind of remind me of some alien stuff….plss Mr. Spielberg do’nt’ mix Dinos and E.T…..Pleeeeeeeeeeeeease!! but it’s something that we all gonna found out sonner or later with Taylor’s Son……and the thing that intrigued me the whooooooooooooooooooooole Pilot….The Butterflie…go to the past and kill your grandfather stuff…What about the Timeline….you step on a Butterflie and the Dinos rule the world…so..does anybody care about thaaaaat fact?….That’s the whole thing with time travel..even Marty Mcfly new it…I hope the explaint it later…and start having some real changes in the future!!…over all it was a good show..not a Great show..just a Good show!!