Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Terra Nova, Season 1, Episode 1 & 2: Genesis

  At the dawn of the 22nd century, the world is on the verge of environmental collapse. Mankind’s only hope of survival lies 85 million years in the past.

Big dystopian views: everything is worn down and dirty and the people are walking around with masks over their faces so they don’t have to breathe the air. To underscore this, Jim Shannon brings an orange home to his family – something incredible and rare. His wife, Dr. Elizabeth Shannon talks about people with lung disease from the bad air.

I think we can call this setting well and truly established – awesomely done. I rather think the opening blurb was unnecessary.

In rushes Maddy to tell everyone (mum, dad, son Josh, young daughter Zoe) that “they” are coming they put Zoe into hiding in time to greet the gun wielding officials from population control. Jim protests that he’s a cop but they still have to leave while their home is searched and ransacked.  Zoe’s crying gives her away. Jim runs to protect his daughter, beating up many of the population control men before being tasered

2 years later, Jim’s in prison and Elizabeth is visiting. Elizabeth has been contacted by the recruitment people for Terra Nova and the pilgrimage is scheduled to leave next week. He tells her to take the kids and go – but they won’t let her take Zoe, they won’t reward her for breaking the law. He wants a way round it and she has a plan – that she whispers to him and then says she’s counting on him. She gives him her rebreather before she leaves.

When he’s alone he rips open the mask to find a nifty pen-light sabre (ish). Elizabeth, Josh and Maddy start on the pilgrimage (the 10th) while nifty TV screens explain about a rift in time and space. Just in case we’re not following, Josh decides to talk about his dad breaking out of prison while they’re in the middle of a crowd (don’t you just love inappropriate exposition?)

While she does that, Jim is on another train and cuts a little button with a flashing light out of his flesh (ouch). He walks out onto the ruined streets where we can see how the less well off live (not very well and with little shiny technology) surrounded by adverts against overpopulation  until he finds a stashed case with a gun, wadge of cash and an ID badge. We get to see how they work as his family checks into the pilgrimage and Josh says goodbye to his girlfriend, Kara.

Jim sneaks in, exchanges his wedge of cash for another big pack and joins the crowd heading towards the portal. He catches up with his family and swaps packs with Elizabeth as security realises something’s up. Security stops Jim, Elizabeth encourages her extremely dramatic children through the portal and then Jim joins them after explaining things to security with an elbow to the head.

They get through to a new, highly vegetative world and have more dramas with guards, guns and small children smuggled in backpacks.

They’re 85 million years in the past, in lush jungle – though Zoe and Jim are reported as stowaways and Jim is worried that Zoe may not remember him since he was gone for 2 years.  And they’re interrupted by a roaring Allosaur before arriving at their home base – a fenced in circle of cleared forest with wind turbines and farms.

They are welcomed by Commander Nathanial Taylor, boss man, who gives them a rousing speech of how much they screwed the world  and they have a second chance in Terra Nova, not to ruin it. He also wants to speak to Jim and Elizabeth, alone. Dr. Liz he knows as being super doctor in just about everything medical. He knows and learns about Jim and Zoe – which he doesn’t care about, the population laws are outdated in terra Nova, he does care whether Jim is useful. Elizabeth leaves and Commander Taylor questions cop Jim about why he broke the law – in a very friendly fashion – Jim responds with snarls. Because that’s sensible. Jim demands a badge and a gun, he can help catch bad guys – Taylor sends him to farm instead.

They get a shiny new house and Elizabeth wonders if they did the right thing coming to Terra Nova. No, course you didn’t, you should have stayed in the world where the air was poisonous, fruit a novelty and your husband was dying in prison. Clearly this is a difficult choice. Jim also works on rebonding with his 5 year old daughter with 3 years absence.  And Josh has an emo fit because his dad went to prison. We’re spared more ridiculous teen angst by Zoe disappearing to go watch the brachiosaurus eating just beyond the fence. It’s a nice interlude before more family dramas when they return home for the night, Josh whines and tantrums some more and Elizabeth and Jim have to deal with being together after 2 years apart.

Time for a new day and Maddy dropping the biggest info-dump on her brother you ever could imagine – but it nicely explains away paradox and changing the future.  Josh then slopes off in full angst mode and meets Skye who shows him how to eat fruit. He goes off with Skye and runs into his father along the way for yet more teenaged angst. Ok, strike 3 – something eat him now. Alas something doesn’t and he goes to meet Skye’s friends, Tasha, Max and Hunter. They have their own place, on the frontier they have jobs even though they’re teenagers. Skye and friends lead him on their fun game of leaving the compound. Yes Josh is just begging to be eaten.

What they do find while waiting for dinosaurs to eat them are odd symbols on rock – clearly made by intelligent life (so not like Josh). And Taylor has declared the area off limits. From there they go to their still to drink moonshine and then on to Josh whining about his father

Maddy starts to establish awkward teenage crush/flirting with Mark Reynolds, one of the soldiers.

Dr. Elizabeth is treating someone with a gunshot wound who was syphoning power, she asks a soldier about it and he says they’re “sixers”. Before he can explain, the shot man leaps up, holds Elizabeth at knife point and demands the soldier’s gun. Yes, a whole new world and we have bad guys with guns. As bad guy leaves he’s spotted by Jim and his psychic police senses kick in; he leaves his farming lectures to follow the guy. The gunman tries to kill Commander Taylor and Jim leaps in to save the day. Yay. Jim demands an explanation from Taylor (angrily of course… because… I have no damn idea. Seems like Jim expected to be told about this before?)

Time for some exposition – the “Sixers” split away to form their own settlement who arrived with the 6th Pilgrimage with an agenda and hidden weapons and Commander Taylor doesn’t trust anyone back in the future to consult them. Jim is recruited into the security team – just in time for them to notice 2 transports of Sixers rapidly approaching the compound. They drive to intercept (why did Taylor decide to take Jim on a hike to recruit him? Who knows, the script says so! Maybe it’s a new form of corporate human resources – hiring should only happen on nature trails, firing on white water rafting) and find 2 Carnotaurus are also playing with the tasty tasty Sixers. Time for a car chase with dinosaurs and Taylor deciding to get out to distract them away from the gates then Jim picking him up again before he gets munched on – once everyone’s inside they can flee into the compound and use the sonic cannons to drive the dinosaurs away and shut the gates.

Dinosaurs!  Always nifty.

Of course, the Sixers also manage to get inside, led by Mira. Lots of posturing before she brings out of a box of meteoric iron – from a quarry they control – and wants to swap it for her man, Carter (who tried to kill Taylor), medical supplies and ammo. Taylor agrees to the first 2. Agreed and peace – though Dr. Elizabeth doesn’t seem too pleased about Jim being police again and talks to Commander Taylor about keeping her husband safe – and why she chose to come to Terra Nova and give her kids a new world rather than continuing in the old.

Mira and her crew are planning sinister things when they find an abandoned rover – yes the one used by Josh, Skye and their cronies – and start looting it for parts, right before one of them gets minced by something gribbly. Which is when the powers that be at Terra Nova realise there’s a missing rover, check the CCTV and see the kids sneaking out. People are not pleased and Elizabeth demands to come help, blaming Jim for Josh not having the common sense of a concussed platypus.

With the kids, Skye decides to go ask the Sixers nicely for their power cells back (no, really, she does) and they find the cells – and lots of blood. Then they hear the Slasher and leap inside the Sixer vehicle with the one surviving Sixer – who is seriously injured - just before they get shredded into teeny tiny pieces (awww, I wanted to see them get eaten. It would have been Darwinism in action).

The slashers start burrowing their way in, attacking from all directions and tearing holes while Skye and Josh hold them back with gunfire and Hunter uses the radio to get hold of Commander Taylor’s rescue group. Tasha panics loudly and wants to run into the dinosaur haunted forest. This establishes Tasha as the foolish one – and given the competition is Josh, Max, Hunter and Skye, that’s pretty damn impressive. In a panic, she leaves the vehicle to play with the nice dinosaurs, they thank her for the free dinner but don’t kill her – and she manages to stagger, injured, to the rescue party which patches her up and takes her home.

The rest of the gang discusses another suicidal plan and Hunter is dragged out the rover by his leg by a slasher – Josh, Max and Skye leap out and fend off more dinosaurs with their guns – which seem to do very little. Are these dinosaurs made of Kevlar or something? Running to the other rover doesn’t work so well either with Max injured next and Skye run out of ammo. The dinosaurs begin the menacing stalk (you can’t just kill the good guys – you need to menacing stalk them a little first – it is known) before the rescue team arrive. The wounded Sixer is gone – Taylor believes Mira collected him.

All home safe and sound and hopefully the kids will be locked up forever until they learn some sense. And not to have emo temper tantrums. The Shannon family bonds and Skye goes to see Taylor who looks after her with her parents dead. He’s indulgent and kind – but checks they didn’t go near the falls – where the odd writing was.

We see Mira and Carter look at the symbols who say Taylor wants to keep them underwraps – but they’re the only connection to his son. Carter suggests that it’s Carter’s son creating them and looking for an answer. When he gets an answer, he writes it on the rocks to remind Taylor of the real reason for Terra Nova – control the past, control the future.

Intriguing concept, fascinating world and some decent racial inclusion (but we do focus on the 2 straight, white men) some great hooks there even if we have some clumsy exposition. Definitely lots to enjoy.

But? I don’t like Jim very much. He seemed overly combative with Taylor and he (and Taylor for that matter) seem to fit the so very dull mould of so many protagonists in sci-fi/dystopias/

And Josh? Something needs to eat him as of yesterday. The angsty, bad tempered teenager has already become tiresome after the first episode and I don’t see it getting any better. I can’t say Skye, Hunter, Max and Tasha impressed me either. I was totally team dino. Joking aside – these characters have a high chance of ruining the show for me – I don’t want lots of episodes of pointless drama because Josh is having a shitfit.

I am really impressed by how well the setting was created, by references and the background adverts. The problem? You had all of these wonderful shows - and then told us anyway.

Still I think I'm going to like this. If nothing else than because I was that child who knew a ridiculous amount of things about dinosaurs - AND before Jurassic Park. Yes, I was the Hipster Dino Geek, into them before they were cool. And my inner Hipster Dino Geek disapproves most strongly of "slashers" (Inner Hipster Dino Geek isn't mad thrilled about these Cretaceous Brachiosaurs either)