tek's rating: ½

Terra Nova, on FOX
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streaming sites: Amazon; iTunes; Vudu

The series isn't always as good as it could be; the dialogue and interpersonal relationships often leave something to be desired. But the basic premise is interesting enough. And we get to see some very cool CGI dinosaurs, of course. And who doesn't love dinosaurs? And um... I really do think the show improves somewhat as it progresses.

It starts in the year 2149. Earth is an ecological nightmare, the air practically unbreathable without filtration masks. There's also a major overpopulation problem, which has caused a strict law against couples having more than two children. The main characters in the show are a cop named Jim Shannon, his wife Elisabeth (a surgeon), and their kids, Josh, Maddy, and Zoe. You might well ask, 'Hey, didn't you say they could only have two kids? I count three.' Right you are! And so, at the start of the show, the police show up and search the Shannons' home on suspicion of their having a third child. Three-year-old Zoe was hidden, but the cops found her, and Jim assaulted one of them. That landed him in prison.

The show then skips forward two years. We learn that there's a fracture in spacetime, which was discovered I think about eight years earlier, and since then there have already been nine "pilgrimages" through it. A portal has been built around the fracture, which leads to a parallel Earth, 85 million years in the past, during the Cretaceous period. A colony has been established there called Terra Nova, which is supposed to give humanity a second chance, on an unspoiled world. Liz has been chosen to join the tenth pilgrimage, along with Josh and Maddy (who are now 17 and 16, respectively). Liz doesn't want to leave without Jim, and she has a plan to help him escape from prison and join her and the kids, secretly, among the group of people going through the fracture. The plan also includes sneaking Zoe (now five years old) through the portal in a large backpack.

Anyway, the entire Shannon family finally gets through the portal and joins the Terra Nova colony. Which, by the way, I should mention is a one-way trip; it is impossible to return to the future. Although the people of Terra Nova can communicate with the future, but only when the portal opens. Anyway, the head of Terra Nova is Commander Nathaniel Taylor, who was in the first pilgrimage, but got there ahead of the others, and spent 118 days on his own before anyone else arrived. There's a lot for the Shannons (and of course we the viewers) to learn about life in the colony. There are, you know, plenty of buildings and vehicles and things. In fact the living quarters are more spacious than the Shannons are used to. There's also a rogue group called "Sixers," who were members of the sixth pilgrimage, but left to start their own colony. They're now at odds with Terra Nova, and are led by a woman named Mira, who is opposed to Commander Taylor. After an incident with the Sixers, Taylor ends up giving Jim a job as sheriff (which I think makes him roughly equal in authority to Taylor's second in command, Lieutenant Alicia "Wash" Washington).

Josh at first has some issues with his father, feeling abandoned by him because of the years he'd spent in prison. He's also upset about leaving behind his girlfriend, Kara, in 2149. However, he does quickly befriend a girl named Skye Tate, who'd been in Terra Nova since she was a kid, having come with her parents in the fifth pilgrimage. After her parents died (three years before the series starts), Taylor had looked after her, and became like a father to her. Anyway, she shows Josh the ropes, and they get into some trouble together (they're both rule-breakers), and it seems like the story could be leading toward a romantic relationship, though for now Josh is far from ready to get over Kara. Meanwhile, Maddy... well, she's really intelligent, and prone to giving lectures about all kinds of things they're all experiencing in Terra Nova; things she'd only read about before, of course. Oh, and she soon starts dating a soldier named Mark Reynolds. There's also a doctor named Malcolm Wallace (I'm not really clear on his field, it seems to me like he's both a scientific and medical doctor and engineeer and whatever the plot of the week calls for). Anyway, he's in charge of a lot of medical or scientific stuff in Terra Nova, which makes him Liz's boss. I guess. And the two of them had been romantically involved before Liz ever met Jim, so there'll be a bit of conflict between Jim and Malcolm, even if ultimately they're on the same side. And there's a bar owner named Tom Boylan, who doesn't get along with Commander Taylor, and who sometimes secretly does business with the Sixers. Josh gets a job working for him, in the hopes that Boylan will use his Sixer connection to get Kara to Terra Nova in the eleventh pilgrimage.

There are a number of mysteries in the show, which are resolved by the end of the first season. We know that Taylor has an estranged son named Lucas, a brilliant physicist who was exiled from Terra Nova sometime before the series starts. Over the course of the season, we get hints of what he's up to, and why he and his father are estranged. I hate to spoil it for you, but it ties into the fact that there are people in 2149 who have their own plans for Terra Nova, which are very different from the reason the public has been led to believe the colony was established. I also want to mention that there's something called "Hope Plaza," which apparently refers to the location of the portal in the future, but the way characters talk about it, it seems to me like it's not necessarily just the name of a place, but perhaps of some kind of organization or committee that's in charge of the portal's operation. I dunno. In any event, there is some mysterious group of very rich people in the future, who want to take over Hope Plaza, so they can use Terra Nova to become even richer. In the end, the mystery about all that isn't as mysterious as I might have hoped, but it still makes for decent dramatic conflict between Taylor's people and the bad guys. It all builds up to a major confrontation in the two hour season finale, following the eleventh pilgrimage's arrival in Terra Nova. The outcome of this conflict is a major game-changer for the whole series. There's also a new mystery introduced, of which I won't reveal the nature, but it made me really hope there'd be a second season. Alas, there wasn't.

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