Sunday, January 6, 2013

Terra Nova, Season 1, Episode 12 & 13: Occupation, Resistance

 Back in the bleak bleak future, an army is mustering, with an ominous looking Weaver talking to  Lucas about his dinosaur scars the mining equipment they have ready.

In Terra Nova, Taylor is preparing his troops ahead of the invading 11th pilgrimage army. Malcolm reminds us they can’t shut down the portal because they’d still arrive – but at a random point, at least with the terminus they know where they’re coming from. The Shannons are all domestic and ready – and Josh still hopes Kara’s going to make it through. Lots of goodbyes, and dramatic scenes of war preparation, Reynolds kisses Maddy goodbye (without getting permission from her father in triplicate! The cad!) Taylor leaves Washington behind at Terra Nova to keep her safe (and ensure its Jim at his side during the actions scenes) and they move out.

The portal opens and the 11th pilgrimage arrives. Actual pilgrims, including Kara. Until one comes through with a bomb strapped to him – he has time to ask for help before exploding messily. No-one expected this? Someone’s not been watching their Stargate episodes. Jim is knocked to the floor semi-conscious and we have dramatic images of numerous injured and burned people.

He wakes, deafened and disorientated by the blast in a hospital. He staggers outside to find a devastated and occupied Terra Nova, with Mira and Lucas in the command building. Elizabeth rescues him and brings him back to the infirmary and explains what happened. The bomb blew up the gate, allowing them to open the portal somewhere else, it opened close to Terra Nova and they attacked the colony, Taylor couldn’t move his troops to help in time.

At home Jim sees his kids and finds Josh mourning Kara’s death and finding that all weapons have been confiscated and that there’s a curfew. The survivors in Terra Nova are hostages to prevent Taylor and his forces – still out there – from retaking the colony. Even Boylan is being forced to hand out free drinks rather than taking fake Terra money. Jim goes to see Washington to ask her what’s going on (why doesn’t he know? Elizabeth explained everything). Washington calls the soldiers the “Phoenix Group”, mercenaries hired by whoever Lucas is working for. Washington had to surrender when they started shelling the colony and slaughtering innocent people. They brought a new portal terminus through, but it was broken by dinosaurs. So they now have to fix it – and Malcolm is the one fixing it. Jim fires up Washington and brings her out of her depression to get her ready to fight them – hurting them until they’re gone.

Mira notices Jim is missing and Jim goes to see Malcolm. He’s working as slowly as he can because they killed his assistant, but he’s trying to stall. Lucas’s team finds Jim but with Malcolm’s help he pretends to be disabled by the blast and unable to understand. Lucas has a creepy moment with Skye who he has decided is his sibling now (he doesn’t need a reason) and Mira is been sent off on a mission to the Badlands – no questions asked (or answered anyway).

One of the soldiers brought in after a skirmish with Taylor’s men has some bullets removed in the infirmary – and the bullets have map co-ordinates on them, Taylor’s rendez-vous point. Using a distraction from their friendly wheelchair bound market trader they slow up a convoy of Lucas and Weaver and Jim manages to sneak aboard to leave the compound.

Out there the bad guys talk about an entire valley of super meteoric ore but infested with wildlife. Weaver shows what a bad guy he is by shooting and killing a Brachiosaur, which even Lucas protests is harmless (and I protest for its cannon shredding! Mira, Taylor, Jim, everyone have been shooting dinosaurs at point blank range and causing mild irritation – but Weaver’s gun can one shot a Brachiasaurus?) The plan is to use a bomb to clear the valley and, later to use several big bombs across the continent to destroy all wildlife and foliage, leaving it free to mine the Unobtainium without dangerous wildlife (and giant blue cat people. Oh, wait, wrong story).

Jim meets up with Taylor and tells him what’s happening. They race to where the bomb has been planted to diffuse it. There’s a race as Weaver notices heat sources around the bomb, Riley, one of Taylor’s soldiers, works at diffusing the bomb while Lucas tries to get out of the blast zone so he can blow up the bomb and his father with it. Riley gets it done on time (and most wonderfully tells everyone to shut up and stop heckling her). In a snit, Lucas fires cluster bombs at Taylor and crew which does nothing as they drive off in their armoured vehicle.

Jim and Taylor compare casualty reports and bring everyone back to speed before Jim returns to Terra Nova, with a communicator from Taylor so they can keep in touch.

There follows a wonderful reversal of roles. Taylor’s men out in the woods, Jim and Washington acting as spies, planting tracking beacons on the mercenaries so Taylor can launch raids and Lucas having more and more temper tantrums.

He comes to the conclusion they have a spy and tries for some sibling bonding with Skye in the bar over their father figure Taylor, especially since Taylor hasn’t spoken to Skye since she was revealed as a spy (admittedly he hasn’t exactly had time to). He gets more touchy feely with Skye until Josh attacks him (because Josh has the brains of the drink he is serving). They soldiers drag him off Lucas and then hold him so Lucas can punch Josh (oh I’ve been waiting a whole season to see that). Skye runs for help.

So called, Jim rushes to the bar (blowing his cover as disabled and unable to understand) to attack Lucas and the mercenaries with his crutches. Of course Jim is a big damn hero and can take on a room full of squaddies until they draw guns on him. And they find the transponder he was carrying, revealing him as the spy. Wow, he held that cover for… minutes?

This gives Josh and Jim time to bond in the prison and Lucas comes in for a round of Jim torturing that, alas, we don’t get to see.

Meanwhile, boss man Weaver has a horrible rash from being bitten by one of the insects and is not appreciative of the natural wonders of Terra Nova and all the wonderful creatures that try to eat you. But don’t worry, he’s been treated by Dr. Shannon who tells him she’s injected him with terrible, nasty parasites (her husband is being tortured in in prison, the Hippocratic oath just took a back seat) if he wants the cure, he’ll help her free her husband.

In the torture room we learn that Lucas hates his father because his father chose to save Lucas and not his mother (because Taylor has to be so utterly blameless). This is when Weaver comes in and rescues Jim who takes him back to Elizabeth who, of course, reveals that she never really infected him with parasites (she totally should have). But she has given him a sedative – keeping him out while they make their escape.

The alarm is sounded by Lucas and the Shannon family hides. Washington takes down the gate perimeter sensors but they need a distraction for them to be able to make it. Washington is willing to stay behind and provide the distraction – the implication is she’s sacrificing herself. She gives Jim a message to take to Taylor and leaves – shortly after there’s a large explosion. Washington fights but is caught. She is taken to Lucas and refuses to tell them anything.

The Shannons get out through the wall and to Taylor. Through binoculars, Taylor watches as Lucas shoots and kills Washington.

The Shannons join Taylor back at his camp and Zoe gives Taylor a hug to try and make him feel better. Reynolds and Maddy get reacquainted, Elizabeth encourages Jim to keep on fighting and Jim tells Taylor Washington’s last message – a reference to a battle they fought in together. From that he realises that the only way to defeat them is to cut off their endless supplies – which means cutting off their access, destroying Hope Plaza. But doing so will cut them off from more colonists, more future technology, more future medicine – leaving them just 1,000 people to rebuild civilisation.

A difficult choice but they decide to do it for the sake of their future. And, luckily, they happen to have this great big bomb they defused. They prepare to go, Jim and Elizabeth refuse to make goodbyes and she gives him a big syringe of drugs.

In Terra Nova, Mira returns from her scouting of the badlands and is getting impatient for them to uphold their side of the bargain, she wants to go back to 2149 and see her daughter.

Lucas and Waver celebrate that the portal is nearly open again for the first shipments, and Skye approaches Lucas, believing that he’s right and Taylor will never forgive her (and if you think Skye’s really on his side then I have a bridge to sell you). On the journey Skye agrees to lure Taylor into an ambush. Lucas pulls his vehicle aside and they’re ambushed – by Taylor’s forces. Skye did lure someone into an ambush – half points? This allows them to switch futuristic id plate things with the fake cargo on their fake vehicle and take that to the portal.

Inside the fake cargo is Jim who puts on a rebreather as he is delivered through the portal to Hope Plaza. There, Weaver begins telling his investors about the wonderful things they’ve found (apparently also something secret in the Badlands) and Jim injects his big syringe into the covered object in the container before hurrying behind a grill. Out of the cargo leaps an angry Carnotaurus which rather surprises Weaver and the business men.

While the dinosaur plays nicely with the businessmen, Weaver runs for help and Jim sets up the bomb. He has to fight a few security grunts on the way, but Jim handles them with lots of dramatic explosions.
Unfortunately, they left Lucas alone with Skye and he escapes, knocking her out, but there’s too much interference for him to call and warn them and he can’t get the truck moving – he sets off on foot to the terminus.

At the portal, Malcolm damages the Terminus so, when Jim comes back, he will come back in a random place within 3km, not in the middle of the mercenaries.

Skye calls Taylor with a warning about Lucas – and Taylor ambushes him and easily pummels him into the floor and Taylor finally realises that Lucas blames himself for his mother’s death (never heard of survivor’s guilt). For a second it seems Lucas has an epiphany when Taylor says it was never his fault and Lucas hugs Taylor who actually buys it – and Lucas stabs him (that’ll learn you. Totally had that coming for blithering foolishness). He starts to stab Taylor again – and Skye shoots him, twice.

In 2149, Weaver tries to hold Jim at gun point before the Carnotaurus has him for dinner. Yummy. Jim makes a run for the portal, chased by the angry dinosaur (which clears out the guards at least). he jumps through the portal as the bomb goes up and things begin tom explode – inches ahead of the Carnotaurus’s teeth.

Jim returns to the past – and Elizabeth, Skye helps Taylor walk away – but Lucas is missing. Everyone gathers around the fire and realises the implications of being cut off. Boylan calls Taylor and tells him that Terra Nova is clear, all the soldiers have left – heading north, not towards them. Allowing Taylor’s forces to return home to lots of cheering and celebrations. And for Jim and Taylor have a cheering moment.

Hearing the Terra Nova Phoenix group is heading to the Badlands, they check out the container that they swapped that contained whatever it was Mira found. Inside is the prow of a ship, carved from wood, from the 18th century. A human ship. Suggesting that there are or has been, other routes to future time periods.

The mercenaries go to tell Mira the news – Hope Plaza is missing and they’re stuck on Terra Nova

This was a series that had a lot of potential and there were elements I loved – especially the dinosaurs (I’m actually disappointed there weren’t more dinosaurs and more actual dinosaurs rather than fake ones). And there was an interesting concept which had a lot of potential for development – people who want to strip Terra Nova of resources vs people trying to build a new life and a new future.

I’m not sure enough of these were developed, or rather that season 1 was a prologue with a very hurried resolution. Because it’s a conflict that could have been developed over several seasons. Think of the long term guerrilla war, separate settlements – it could have been pretty awesome. But I suspect they knew they weren’t being renewed.

Diversity wise, I had high hopes in the beginning. Elizabeth, Maddy, Washington, Mira, Skye, we had a cast of main characters that racially diverse and had a number of women. Or so it seemed. And then we followed Taylor and Jim around, with a heavy dash of Josh and his drama. Skye disappeared for a long time. Maddy has occasional moments but they were largely irrelevant to what anyone else in the plot was doing, which happened, to an even lesser extent, with Elizabeth. They became background noise in the lives of Taylor and Jim. Skye, turns into a manipulated spy and we have Kara, who barely exists except as Josh’s motivation and then dies for his angst

And Washington? Has served with Taylor for years – years – his loyal second in command. Yet Jim arrives and he’s suddenly the only one Taylor can trust? Washington ends up following Jim’s orders and being completely sidelined! And in the end she dies to save Jim’s family.

Mira manages to hang on as a force – but even then she has no agency because she’s being forced with threats to her daughter. And then she takes second fiddle to Lucas and virtually disappears. And never gets to see her daughter.

Of course, like nearly every dystopian under the sun, there are no GBLT people, again.

I don’t like the main characters either. Taylor is a dictator. Jim continually makes his own rules and it always works out for him even when it should have got him killed several times and despite everyone else being given strong “do as you’re told” lessons and dictats. And Josh NEVER EVER LEARNS. Both of them have the most amazing plot armour.

And I have trouble suspending my sense of disbelief over just how Terra Nova is run. I know  I know, don’t poke the world building too much, it’s not meant to be taking seriously blah blah, but the whole way the colony is worked – from the currency underpinned by… nothing to trying to create a “we’re all in it together” atmosphere with profiteering capitalism but at the same time having assigned labour and even still depending on shipments from the pilgrimages, despite being established for several years now – and without being able to communicate with Hope Plaza at all so hoping that they can accurately guess what they need. And having to trade with the Sixers for ore? Really? There has been no effort at all spent in basic world building of how this society is supposed to work.

All in all, a good concept but it wasn’t well executed and it had some really annoying characters