I’ve been getting my money’s worth on my Hulu Plus subscription by watching Terra Nova and Grimm – and I was surprised to see that the former is not getting any critics’ accolades the way the latter is. Let’s get this straight: TN is a high-cincept show, and as such has to walk a more general line to draw a broadened demographic in to justify its expense. Grimm has a darker tone and is more narrowly focused. It’s the truism of TV that the former type of show are just aren’t considered “artsy” the way the latter are, but in many ways the Big Idea script is the one that has the freedom to tell a more interesting story. I love Grimm, but ultimately it’s about as relevant to society as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. TN on the other hand has a message. Whether you disagree with that message or not is not relevant, it’s about the debate as well. You could make an argument quite easily that the Villains in Terra Nova have the moral upper hand in their goals and it’s the colonists under the messianic ministry of Taylor who are on the wrong side of history. Whether the show is permitted to explore that gray area is of course solely dependent on whether the show survives season one. But I challenge anyone to watch Encounter at Farside and not wince, especially in comparison to Yesterday’s Enterprise or The Inner Light.
So: the finale deserves a lot more respect, in my opinion. (spoilers follow)..
I had a feeling it would be Wash who died. She was the most expendable of the main cast, and the hinted romance potential between her and Taylor would be the third or fourth hookup in waiting… too distracting, not to mention the need to keep Taylor isolated and suffering in his Jesus role.
The Hug scene had me genuinely choked up. It was so perfect. I don’t think even anything in Doctor Who ever moved quite as much.
The idea of cutting off 2149 was in retrospect the only thing they could do. But it still seemed harsh, and my only complaint is that I would have liked to see more reaction of this from the other characters beyond Steely Resolve from Jim and Taylor. Still, it sets up the tension of being in the prehistoric past much more strongly now that there’s no lifeline, and that there are snakes in Paradise (the Phoenix group).
The biggest issue of all was the centuries-old ship’s prow from out in the badlands. My first thought was that maybe this wasn’t prehistory but a far future instead, but the dinosaurs and the larger Moon and all teh other exposition pretty much rules that out. It’s far more likely that there’s another fracture, one leading to the 19th century. The question is, where did it lead on the other end? It’s actually very likely that the other end would be water, since most of the globe is ocean. I wonder if the fractures are actually stationary with respect to the center of the planet and it’s just the continents and seas that move from tectonics? We don’t really know where on Pangea the colony is located. Ditto the Badlands… but regardless it does make sense that previous fractures were over open water, and it would be a ship that came through.
So what’s the point of it? Does Phoenix Group think they can travel back to 1800s? Take over a new timeline with modern weapons? They presumably are focused on escape from the past, but this means that they don’t have any inherent conflict with the colony. Still a mystery as to how it will all pan out, and a welcome and clever one. The main premise of the show itself is being questioned and that’s always healthy: assume nothing is as it seems.
All in all, solid storytelling and warm characters we actually can care about. And an epic scale that lends gravitas to the characters as the actors mature in their role (an advantage that Star Trek TNG did not have!). I dearly hope Terra Nova gets picked up for another season and several more to come. Hopefully it will avoid teh fate that befell Stargate Universe…