NYCC: Maybe Terra Nova Deserves Another Look
While perusing the list of panels for NYCC, Chris, Wade, and I saw one simply titled ‘Terra Nova.’ Looking at our schedules for what we wanted/needed to see this weekend, we saw that we all had time to go see this panel. We also were SUPER excited about simply watching Terra Nova get torn to shreds. However, we were in for a big surprise.
A little backstory: Before the Premier of Terra Nova, we here at NNAR were very split in terms of what to expect. I was pumped and optimistic – Wade and Chris were nervous that it would suck. We then watched the pilot, discussed our disappointment and reluctantly stayed on board to watch the next two. Until yesterday morning, we had pretty much decided that we were going to stop watching the show completely. So far, the character development has been non-existent, the characters extremely cliché and poorly written (topped off with some poor acting performances), and the plot lines of each individual episode are stand-alones – they have nothing to do with the larger Terra Nova situation and plot.
The three of us waited in a surprisingly long line of people waiting for the Panel. There were a decent amount of children, which made us wonder if this show is appealing to a younger crowd due to its simplicity, and children’s greater tolerance for poor writing. However, the line really wasn’t that big compared to the size of the theatre. When we saw Eliza Dushku and Joss Whedon present Doll House here a couple years ago, the place was 100% full. And it’s a damn big theatre.
So, the panel. After a one minute introduction and the promise of Steven Lang and Jason O’Mara as panelists afterward, they showed us the entire 4th episode, which is to be aired this coming Monday. And when I say episode, I actually mean a real, well done TV episode. They finally did it right.
I’m not sure what idiot is in charge at Fox, but they’ve been showing us terrible episodes for the past two weeks, and this one was actually pretty good. It actually dealt with developing the story of the Sixers a little further. It even managed to do it in less of a ham-handed way than they had done before, giving us hints at plots changes and twists, and teasing you into thinking that maybe things weren’t quite what they seemed. In other words, they did a good job of making a TV episode that was interesting and enticing.
Without dropping too many spoilers (‘cause I actually think you should watch this one), the fact that there was only one dinosaur in this was a real boon for them as well, since the scene containing it was really well done; I think they needed the time to really make it look right, and it paid off. It’s also possible that relying less on the ‘wow’ factor of dinosaurs made them focus more on the characters and story.
Harkening back to my post on what makes good Fantasy, it really comes down to two things: solid, real characters developing in a believable and realistic plot. These two elements finally emerged in this 4th episode. We begin to see why Mira and the Sixers do what they do; we see some tension arise between Jim and Taylor, and a real plot line that involves the struggle between the Sixers and Terra Nova. In short – we see some quality television.
The reception after the episode seemed to confirm that we were not the only ones who were pleasantly surprised by the episode. Interestingly enough, both Lang (who is freakin’ hilarious) and O’Mara kept mentioning how good this specific episode was – the first three episodes weren’t talked about at all.
O’Mara also mentioned about how most of an actor’s performance (in a show like this) is dependent upon the editors and on the visual effects guys. It was particularly refreshing to see the actors acknowledge that CGI can make it really hard to act realistically, because you’re running away from ‘dinosaurs‘ that are actually stagehands with cardboard dinosaur heads on sticks.
On a side note, Lang gained the favor of the audience when a fan asked the title of one of his previous projects, at which point he announced with a straight face: The Amazing Panda Adventure. In this film, he apparently worked with Verne Troyer, who eventually up played Mini Me in the Austin Powers franchise (who was playing a panda in this particular film), and at one point he tossed him, telling us “I have been a dwarf tosser!” When asked about type casting, he (again with a straight face) told us that if he is being type cast into the role of a “Charismatic, Macho, Silver Fox Old Guy,” then he had no problem with that. Stephen Lang is the man.
Either way, it seems like the show is finally on a track that everyone involved, and the fans, can be proud of. We’ll tune in next week, and if they can keep it up, we’ll keep watching.