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Terra Nova – Genesis

Terra Nova made up for all the delays and bad press that spurred skepticism by delivering a strong two-part premiere. "Genesis" wasn't perfect, but it conveyed a distinctive sense of desperation while in the 22nd century and an appropriately restrained sense of awe when introducing the Late Cretaceous. In addition, the second part laid out enough for us to actually care about what will happen to our settlers of a new kind.

A few minutes into the episode, the show was already impressive, featuring strong performances by all cast members and fine attention to details in the rendition of the 22nd century. However, it must be said that between the obviously fake moon shot right at the beginning and the baffling raid of the Shannons' apartment, things didn't start that well. What was baffling wasn't that the raid happened at all, but how clumsily the family tried to hide Zoe despite clearly having anticipated the event. Everyone apparently assumed the toddler would understand the situation and stay quiet! A similarly contrived premise was used when in Terra Nova (the settlement), the teenage son, Josh, suddenly started acting up by showing anger toward his father, though none of that was apparent while in the 22nd century. The two events seemed to have happened only because the writers desired the consequences: get the father in jail and justify a rebellious behavior.

Shannon Family Arrival in the Late Cretaceous
Fortunately for the show, the scenes before and after the jump were well crafted. To make things even better, details like the "rebreathers" and shots of 22nd century city life successfully prepared the viewers for a memroable moment before the jump with a procession of selected people. The futuristic set and the orchestral music really enhanced the sense of desperation. The arrival in the Late Cretaceous (85 million years ago) was just as good with an exciting scene involving the "package." It was smart to subtly contrast both worlds right away through a few remarks from the characters and simply showing the wonderful natural world after shots of the desolate-looking future.

So far, all cast members have acted well, but a few are emerging above the fray. Shelley Conn is portraying a very compelling Elisabeth Shannon, Stephen Lang is an impressive Cmdr. Taylor, and Naomi Scott is giving us an endearing Maddy Shannon, who has systematically stole the thunder in that department from her younger sister, Zoe. The show seemed bound to throw the young Shannons into relationships right away and made it a point to keep Jim (the father) out of Elisabeth's bed. Although Skye, the pretty and adventurous girl, is proving to be a valuable character on her own, Maddy's soldier has been rather annoying. We don't yet know what the writers have in mind with the parents, but the wrong kind of family drama might be distracting in this setting. The relationship between Taylor and the Shannon couple has been neat, with the right amount of respect for the doctor and correct degree of probing for the husband.

Cmdr. Nathaniel Taylor's Welcome Speech

And about the setting: after getting to the settlement and enjoying a short kumbaya moment, we are first introduced to the fascinating idea of "time stream," an elegant (or ridiculous) idea used to give the writers free reign by getting away from the troubles and paradoxes of time travel. Things quickly move into full gear and we discover the power plays, conflicts and mysteries of the Late Cretaceous. At one end of the spectrum there are the Sixers, who have an unknown agenda, but seem for now a disruptive force. At the other end is the official settlement led by Taylor, which intends to rebuild civilization without its mistakes.  In the middle, we have the mysterious equations/graphs on the rocks and, of course, the terrible reptiles...

I don't know about you, but having the other end of the time fracture 85 million years ago is the reason why I gave the show a shot in the first place. Well, besides being tasked to write about it. My interest stems from the most obvious aspect of the Late Cretaceous: the dinosaurs. In the two-part premiere, we are introduced to, I believe, three species of dinosaurs. The first one we see, the Apatosaurus — called Brontosaurus in the show because this controversial synonym is popular — beside being not so well rendered, doesn't belong in this time period. Apatosaurus lived in the previous period (the Jurassic) and is shown here as a domesticated animal held within fences, which is ridiculous. We get only glimpses of the terrible "slashers" as they are called by the teenagers on a particularly reckless Out of The Gate (OTG) trip. But the best so far is without contest the Carnotaurus shown in broad daylight charging vehicles and being appropriately menacing.

With "Genesis," Terra Nova has shown a lot of promise and, by giving us entertaining, intriguing, and even endearing characters, has already answered the fundamental question I had coming in: Will I be rooting for the characters, even the Sixers, when they are threatened by dinosaurs.


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