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DVD Review

DVD cover

Terra Nova
The Complete Series


Starring: Jason O'Mara, Shelley Conn, Christine Adams, Allison Miller, Landon Liboiron, Naomi Scott, Rod Hallett, Alana Mansour and Stephen Lang
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: £27.99
Certificate: 15
Available 24 September 2012

In the year 2149, the planet is overdeveloped and overcrowded with the majority of plant and animal life extinct. With the world dying and the future of mankind in doubt, the only hope for survival is in the distant past. A second chance to rebuild civilization becomes possible when unexpectedly, a discovery by scientists at the FERMI Particle Accelerator make it possible to construct a portal into primeval history. Jim Shannon, a devoted father with a checkered past, guides his family through this new world as they join the Tenth Pilgrimage of settlers to Terra Nova. Filled with limitless beauty they soon find out that this forbidden land is also in abundance of mystery and terror...

Terra Nova should have been a roaring success. One of the show's executive producers was Steven Spielberg, who had a clear vision of the direction he wanted the series to move in. Sadly, for reasons I still can't quite fathom, the Fox Network decided not to renew the show for a second season. It's a shame because, despite its faults, Terra Nova shows a lot of promise in its initial 13 episode (if you count the extended pilot and conclusion as both having two parts) run.

The show starts in the 22nd Century in a time when the air is thin and the land is over populated. James "Jim" Shannon is a narcotics detective working for the Chicago police force. But he and his family are hiding a secret. In this futuristic world only two children are permitted per family. Jim and his wife, Elisabeth, have three. Their youngest daughter, Zoe, they keep hidden from the authorities. However, when the police undertake a surprise raid on the Shannon household, they find Zoe. Jim loses his temper and punches one of the officers, the result is that he is arrested and thrown in jail.

Elizabeth visits Jim in prison to tell him she's been picked, thanks to her skills as a surgeon, to form part of the latest team to leave 22nd Century earth and head back into the distant past as part of the Terra Nova colony. The only drawback is she will have to leave Jim and Zoe behind - but Jim has other ideas and hatches a plan to break out, break into another facility to steal his young daughter and then break into the facility that houses the departure point for the Terra Nova colony.

The Terra Nova project is mankind's chance to start again. After scientists discovered a rift in space time, which allows them to travel to another time stream, regular "pilgrimages" have been ongoing to send groups of worthy individuals back 85 million years into Earth's Cretaceous period. The idea being to learn from mankind's greed and thoughtlessness of the past and instead create a utopian and greener new colony in this environment.

The show focuses on the Shannon family and how they adjust to this new life - it's a world that most people from the future long to go to as the 22nd Century is not the easiest environment to thrive in.

Basically, this is a dinosaur show (because everyone loves dinosaurs right?) that takes the most up-to-date opinions on what dinosaurs actually looked like and runs with it. However, the creators deliberately chose the Cretaceous period as this is a time in Earth's history that we know the least about. Therefore a lot of artistic licence was taken with the creatures that appear on the show. The pilot episode also glosses over how jim actually manages to escape from prison, break into another facility and pick up his daughter and then join his family to jump back into the past. The deleted scenes on the first disc do help to flesh this out a little more, but it's still not wholly convincing?

I was worried at first that the show was going to break into a Dinosaur-of-the-week format, but as the series progresses there's an obvious story arc that builds to the season finale. The episode 'What Remains' felt very much like a Star Trek episode. Here a memory virus is spreading throughout the colony and the race is on to find a cure. Actually there's also an original series Star Trek homage in the episode Now You See Me, when Elizabeth says: "Jim, I'm a doctor not a chemist!".

The show also pays homage to Hitchcock's The Birds in the episode Instinct. And the way the family make their escape in the final episode is a homage to The Sound of Music. And, too many to mention, nods to Jurassic Park and Stargate.

There is quite a lot of cheesy dialogue and some awkward script writing, but if you're prepared to overlook this (and the fact that the families living quarters seems to be modelled on a Center Parcs holiday lodge - complete with toilet roll hanging from the ceiling) and just go with the show, you'll soon warm to the characters and enjoy the fantasy.

Extras include Deleted Scenes for the Pilot episode (9 min, 20 sec); Director's Diaries - Making the Pilot (33 min, 06 sec behind the scenes look at the pilot episode); Deleted Scenes for other episodes; Extended Scenes cut of the season finale two-parter Occupation / Resistance (1 hr, 31 min, 05 sec compared to the broadcast 1 hr, 24 min, 13 sec version); Audio Commentary on Occupation / Resistance (with actor Stephen Lang and executive producers René Echevarria and Brannon Braga); Mysteries Explored (8 min, 37 sec look at the mysteries the show sets up in the pilot and how they were addressed throughout the season); Cretaceous Life: The Dinosaurs of Terra Nova (9 min, 45 sec look at why this time period was chosen and which creatures they totally invented and which were slight tweaks of creatures that lived before or after this time); and Gag Reel (3 min, 01 sec).

The audio commentary has its moments. They talk about how no one seems to have noticed that in the pilot episode Jim's bag full of money is made up of a future currency that has Barack Obama's likeness on it - I have to admit that I didn't spot this either. It's obvious that this was recorded before they knew the show had been cancelled, which is a shame as you might have heard a little more about why the produces thought this was.

To be fair, when you consider some of the current shows being renewed season after season, Terra Nova was axed before it had a chance to really shine. The first season, as cheesy and predictable as it is, is still enjoyable. It's just a shame that the network decided to make it extinct before giving it a proper chance (shame on me for using such a pathetic and very obvious pun).


Darren Rea

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