The battlegrounds of Terra Nova

The first season of Fox’s prehistoric thriller, Terra Nova, is over after 11 episodes – which technically numbered 13 due to the two double episodes which framed the season. 

Fox has not yet announced a second season of the show, but after that season finale, I’ve gone from ambivalent about seeing more to very excited.

The show had a great and thrilling beginning with the pilot episode. There seemed to be a lot to look forward to, but after that episode, some of the shone wore off.

Yes, the effects were still outstanding, with beautiful wilderness and dinosaur shots, but the show was supposed to be about the challenges of living in a prehistoric world. The challenges were supposed to be dinosaur fights and survival adventures.

Instead, we mostly got melodramatic character focus, and even some teen drama. Some of that stuff is necessary, but it took over the whole show through the middle of the season, and the ratings began to drop, hitting a season low on the episode before the finale.

This was where the show picked back up again however. The arc of the season became fully realized, and we finally learned what the real challenge for the characters was to be: A dangerous organization from the future is sending soldiers and machines to strip mine the past, and the characters need to stop them if they want to protect their new life in Terra Nova. It should perhaps have been revealed earlier in the season, and spent a bit more attention on it, but the writers decided to keep the challenge a mystery, to build suspense, and instead they simply lost viewers.

Despite this lapse, the final episodes were a lot of fun, and brought back the thrill and sense of adventure from the pilot. Not all of the plot holes were sealed – like ‘why can radio waves go forward in time, while things cannot?’, but many were, and it’s less annoying to hear them talk about time-travel now.

At the end of the season, there are new factions, fresh alliances, a settlement to rebuild, and a now, much more interesting mystery to explore: Terra Nova is not the first colony of humans to find a home in this land. How many times have people ended up here by accident before now, and are any of their descendants alive still? This mystery is much more compelling, and has much higher stakes than the drama between Taylor and his son.

Exploration of the setting is the fun part, and when (if) the show comes back, I’m hoping a lot more time is spent discovering new things about the wilderness they live in, and the nature of their new existence, and less time is spent worrying about who is going to be having sex with whom, who loves their daddy, and who among the colony is loyal.