Sometime around the time Jim and Elisabeth had their ham-handed discussion about frontier justice last night, we knew this would be our last Terra Nova. Sure, the premise had promise, but even masochists like us can only take so much. And so, with a great sense of relief, these are the 25 reasons we’re gleefully quitting Terra Nova.
1. So little happens on Terra Nova, six episodes in, it doesn’t even need a “Previously on ” preamble.
2. There’s no unifying aesthetic. Nova should have been a set designer’s dream — a future world, an endless budget, a chance to blend the sleek lines of the future with prehistoric chic. Instead we got a mess of Starship Troopers, the Flintstones, and Ikea. Has a show this expensive ever looked so cheap?
3. We still haven’t found out what to call this place they’re all settling. The titular Terra Nova is just the colony, remember. Everything outside of it is something else. But what’s it named? Earth? Could the settlers really not get more specific? Colonization is as human as destroying the planet. The opening credits suggest it might be best to call it Pangaea, since a little Earth animation still suggests all the globe is one continent. Which would work fine if Wikipedia didn’t suggest that Pangaea didn’t exist 85 million years ago. It’s as apocryphal as a prehistoric turkey.
4. “With a heavy heart I carry out this judgment of banishment.”
5. Everyone’s name is unoriginal. Jim, Elisabeth, Zoe, Josh, Maddy. We’ve said it before but it bears repeating: 100-plus years in the future, everybody has inexplicably chosen to name their kids exactly what they would’ve named them in 2011.
6. The show’s music has two modes: swell and panic. One has violins, the other has drums. Neither is even close to John Williams caliber.
7. Its characterization of teenage daughters — even brilliant ones — is retrograde when it’s not inconsistent. Maddy, even though she is by far the most well adjusted to living in a prehistoric jungle, is still supposedly taking way too many hot showers. What is this, Man Up?
8. “Ours is a colony of laws. Violations such as murder are a crime against every one of us.”
9. The show wants to be gory without being gory. Big balls of pus? Yes. Dinosaur maulings that happen onscreen? No.
10. The members of a rebel faction dress like savages, and many of them are black. What a coincidence.
11. And their leader — who lives in a tree — somehow has the time and desire to put on a ton of eye shadow.
12. “I’m going to go bury our soldier. Then I’m going to make a decision. I don’t recall ever having to have made a tougher one.”
13. The gate to Terra Nova is essentially a garage door. If I were building a barrier to carnivorous dinosaurs, I’d do it with more than just logs, rubber bands, and a remote. Also, I’d make it a little taller.
14. There is no sci-fi subtext. At first it seemed like this would be an environmental parable. Then a utopian one. And just last night a law-and-order one. And yet it’s none of the above. The whole point of sci-fi is to highlight the fallibility of our present-day society. Terra Nova, outside of its pilot’s first twenty minutes, has done none of that. It’s too scared to make a statement and too pretentious to just become a procedural. I’d call it an identity crisis, but it didn’t have an identity to begin with.
15. Its shoehorned subplots are basically non sequiturs. Last night, while Jim chased down a murderer, Zoe coddled a dinosaur egg. One thing is not like the other. Were we supposed to see some type of circle-of-life thing at play? Because all I saw was a bad animatronic toy stuck inside of a plastic egg.
16. Even the actors look bored with the show. While Taylor is beating that conspicuous soldier in the jungle, Jim is wearing the same look as the rest of us have while watching the show.
17. “We’ve lost our share of folks. But never like this. Not to murder.”
18. The stakes are all off. After watching last night’s Terra Nova, some friends I was with put on Battlestar Galactica, a sci-fi show that actually treats its audience like it’s older than 12. In Battlestar, the characters getting threatened and killed are the ones we care about. In Terra Nova, the characters getting threatened and killed are the ones we’ve never seen before. There’s never any reason to worry about a strung-up Jim if the show’s only killing off redshirts.
19. Lava lamps as a background in the bar? What is this, Power Rangers? I half-expected Zordon to show up in one of them.
20. The quality of the dinosaurs — billed as the primary reason to watch the show — has gone downhill fast. What started as Jurassic Park–lite has become a pale imitation of the Discovery Channel. That nykosaur — or whatever it was called, or however it was spelled — chase scene last night looked like a green screen on top of a green screen.
21.“What we’re building here, there’s no place for a crime like this. Just as we have come back to remake this world, we have to let this world remake us.”
22. Terra Nova’s stilted dialogue even desecrates a graveyard. Taylor, for some reason, felt moved to explain what one was last night. “Simple headstones buried in the earth.” The more you know.
23. The love triangle remains as unbelievable as it was when it was first introduced. If the writers want us to believe in the Malcolm-Jim-Elisabeth nonsense, they should stop making it seem like Jim and Elisabeth actually like each other. Affairs are far more believable when there’s trouble at home.
24. So much eyebrow acting!
25. And, finally, our last groaner of the week: “Help me out here. How do you kill a man with a dinosaur?” Well, I’ll tell you how you kill a show with a dinosaur — you stop writing about it. Good-bye, all. See you in 2149.