Terra Nova Season 1, Episode 9: Vs. It took long enough but the FOX series “Terra Nova” finally succeeded in breaking a plot arc. The mystery of “the equations” has been brewing from the very beginning of the series. Almost immediately viewers we teased with mysterious symbols found scrawled on rocks near a waterfall that Commander Taylor had ordered off limits to the Terra Nova Colonists.
Many (including Particleshock) formed theories about the nature of the equations. Now we know the computations describe a means by which the time rift could allow bi-directional travel. previously it was only possible to travel from the future to the past.
Terra Nova fell flat despite having vast potential to immerse viewers in a strange prehistoric world filled with untold dangers and countless mysteries. The Series ignored the obvious (and most desirable) plot concepts which would have centered around the unknown nature of the world around the colony. Instead, Terra Nova resorts to some rather cliché character driven story arcs.
So far we’ve already seen:
- The love triangle.
- The Hidden Agenda.
- A Spy in our camp.
- The natural disaster/blackout.
- Locked out of the Camp.
- Wrongfully Accused.
None of these plots are unique to Terra Nova. They can be employed in almost any situation where there are more then three people divided into at least two factions. That’s every war drama, most cop shows, a lot of comedies, and most sci-fi. It’s been said there are only about seven unique plots and that any story can be distilled into one of them.
Unfortunately, Terra Nova makes no effort to make these stories unique to the series. At least LOST had elements which were unique to the island. While we may not have known who organized “the sixers”, we have always known exactly who they are and where they came from. Do you remember on LOST how mysterious “the others” were? In the end everything you thought you knew about them turned out to be wrong anyway. I officially recant my previous statement about Terra Nova possibly being the new LOST.
Every series needs solid character development. Some amount of time must be spent exploring who these people are because it’s difficult for an audience to become invested in two dimensional characters with no background. The problem here is, that Terra Nova began to move forward with very personal stories about characters the audience knew next to nothing about.
The love triangle episode where Dr. Shannon encounters her old flame Malcolm is a perfect example of over-reaching on the part of the writing staff. The audience knows very little about the status of the Shannon’s marriage after Jim went to prison. We know that Elizabeth hadn’t seen her husband in years. Its safe to assume that she hadn’t previously visited him as she was quite surprised by the conditions in the prison. We also know that Jim hadn’t seen his daughter Zoe since his arrest.
Yet somehow Jim Shannon is portrayed as being overly jealous of Malcolm. Wouldn’t anybody wonder if their spouse had remained faithful over a six year separation? It only adds to Jim’s existing insecurity when he learns that Malcolm recruited Elizabeth for the Terra Nova Project, knowing that her husband was incarcerated.
If we had seen a little more background about Elizabeth’s dedication to her husband (or lack thereof) while they were still living in the future, we might have been able to either laugh at Jim’s insecurities or feel some contempt for Elizabeth. I have always hated Malcolm. I’ve had nothing but contempt for him since his character was introduced.
I don’t anticipate that Terra Nova will be picked up for a second season. In fact I’m hoping that it is not renewed. But you have to give Fox credit for taking a chance on a number “science fiction” series. For every “Earth Two” or Terra Nova that fails there is an hit like “The X-Files” or “Fringe” that I wouldn’t miss for the world.