Does Terra Nova = Earth 2?
By Bert Ehrmann
September 16, 2011
The new Fox TV series Terra Nova, which premiers Monday, September 26 at 8pm (EST), is by far the most interesting sounding network show to be announced in quite some time. In Terra Nova, it's the year 2149 and an overcrowded and ecologically destroyed Earth is on the brink of collapse. When a way to travel back into the past is discovered, more specifically back 85 million years to a time when dinosaurs ruled the world, the only way to save the human race is by sending select groups back into the past to rebuild civilization from there.
Almost as interesting as the series sounds is who is at the helm of Terra Nova. Executive producing the series are Brannon Braga, who produced Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager and Enterprise, Jon Cassar who produced the series 24 and none-other than Steven Spielberg who is one of the most successful and prolific writer/director/producers of the last 35+ years.
The overall "look and feel" of Terra Nova is intriguing as well. Promos of the show and online clips have characters who are more comfortable living in a future that is polluted, dark and overcrowded (think Blade Runner) who are forced to literally move to the middle of a jungle and face the threat of a completely unknown world teeming with man-eating dinosaurs. And the dinosaurs look great too. They seem to be more of an updated version of dinos from Jurassic Park than the hand animated ones from the TV version of Land of the Lost.
Still, with all these positive factors I'm not totally sold on the show as Terra Nova reminds me of another sci-fi TV series that Steven Spielberg had a hand in a while back that failed badly; Earth 2 (1994-1995).
In Earth 2, it's 2192 and a polluted and uninhabitable Earth has forced the population of the planet to move into space and live aboard orbiting stations. When a mysterious illness begins making some of the children of the stations sick, a ship lead bu Devon Adair (Debrah Farentino) leaves for a colonizing trip to an Earth-like planet in another solar system; Earth 2.
Unfortunately, things go wrong for the colonists and instead of landing peacefully on this new planet their ship breaks up and crash lands separating the colonists from their supplies. So, these people who are used to living in a technologically advanced environment aboard space stations are instead forced to live by their wits and what supplies they can gather along the way as they trek across the wild surface of Earth 2 on their way towards their intended landing site. Which, minus the dinosaurs, sounds a whole heck of a lot like Terra Nova.
To be sure, the first episode of Earth 2 with the colonists escaping from the space stations on the run from a government that doesn't want them to leave, to the exciting crash landing of their ship to the initial exploring the surface of the new planet was very interesting. But what happened in later episodes is where the show faltered and failed and turned downright dull. What Earth 2 became in later episodes was, essentially, Wagon Train on another planet. The colonists would drive, find something interesting, investigate and sometimes learn something important about each other, Earth 2 or both. And while later episodes of Earth 2 could be interesting, it would never reach the intensity or excitement of the first episode.
And that's what I'm afraid of the most about Terra Nova; that all the pizzaz, dinosaurs chasing cars, soldiers blasting dinosaurs, excitement and the wonder of an Earth 85 million years in the past will all be discarded after the first episode for something smaller and much less interesting.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that to be successful a show like Terra Nova or Earth 2 to has to be all excitement all the time. What I am saying, however, is that a show like Terra Nova had better not sell one type of show in the first episode only to deliver another type later on in the season. That pattern ended in failure for Earth 2 and I suspect it would also end in failure for a show like Terra Nova.