Terra Nova – The Complete Series
Studio: 20th Century Fox Television
Publisher: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Price: $35.52 (Available Here)
Terra Nova is the most expensive television series in history, but it’s also arguably one of the worst flops in television history due to that very same fact. The ambition of a program with as massive a budget as it had, means that it had to be a mega-hit to sustain itself…but it wasn’t, and it didn’t. The ratings dropped, almost consistently from week-to-week, and the show was cancelled. However, it did make its way onto DVD. And, I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by this home media treatment. Read on to find out exactly why and whether it is worth picking up for yourself.
In the year 2149, extinction is almost upon the population of the world as the planet has been ravaged and pillaged; there is no clean air, no sunlight, no greenery…nothing but man-made structures, crime, poverty and a toxic atmosphere. Families have been restricted to having two children as a maximum, and Jim Shannon, a former policeman, has been serving a six year prison sentence after assaulting a Population Officer who had discovered that he and his wife Elisabeth brought a third child into this God-forsaken existence. After two of those years passed, Elisabeth was recruited for the Tenth Pilgrimage to Terra Nova; a colony that has been built 85 million years into the past.
Terra Nova was made possible by a time portal, the discovery of which was made by scientists of the FERMI Particle Accelerator. These pilgrimages are only organised every so often, and the portal only works in one direction. Jim escapes prison with a little help from an ally or two in order to smuggle his youngest child, Zoe, through the portal and be with his family. He is successful, but upon being greeted en masse by Commander Nathaniel Taylor, Jim is assigned to agricultural work, being disapproved of and distrusted by the Commander after his actions back in 2149. Elisabeth settles into her work in the medical centre, while their kids Josh and Maddy meet their own new friends/companions, the rebel Skye and a member of the Terra Nova Security team, Mark.
As the new arrivals attempt to get comfortable and acclimated to this new life, which, of course, involves the threat of carnivorous dinosaurs outside their colony walls, things get dicey. A group of turncoats from the Sixth Pilgrimage called “The Sixers” return in order to negotiate a trade of ore for ammo/medical supplies and a man they left behind. Although the proceedings conclude without bloodshed, it becomes painfully clear that The Sixers are not intent on co-existing peacefully. This introduction foreshadows future conflict, which really becomes the central struggle on the show. It’s not the dinosaurs that cause the most strife, but the humans instead.
Many wrinkles appear in the story relating to Taylor’s “missing” son, The Sixers’ claim that they can communicate with 2149 and the possibility of a spy in the camp, among many other secondary plot points. There are some effective turns, although they are fairly predictable ones at that. Everything moves along at a generally steady pace, but the show loses some steam as it wears on. I could never truly pinpoint why I fell out of interest with Terra Nova when I was watching it weekly on TV, but I think that the human conflict was possibly reached far too quickly; I would have liked to have seen more exploration of the world, but also of the adaptation process for the Tenth Pilgrimage…and maybe, just MAYBE, some more dinosaur scenes. I know it’s expensive, but you’ve got a show set in prehistoric times, so utilise the dinosaurs!
Visuals & Audio
Terra Nova had a high production budget and it showed. The settlement itself is such an impressive set…for a TV show, Terra Nova was extremely ambitious, and expensive. Unfortunately, the DVD transfer isn’t as impressive. It’s just a little grainy and a little soft, but that’s what you get with standard definition video. This show was truly meant for Blu-Ray, however the Blu-Ray release was cancelled, which is extremely disappointing. Terra Nova was initially presented in HD, and so in this SD set, certain elements just don’t pop or have the same impact. The CGI dinosaurs are the prime example of this.
First off, they were never realistic looking to begin with, but in this transfer they look that much more jarring and unnatural. Their compositing is not top-tier, which is strange considering the show’s large budget, however television shows do have a completely different style of composition and lighting, and a much shorter turn around when compared to a film, so it’s understandable. The rest of the cinematography looks great, albeit a bit too clean for my tastes (again, related to the style of composition/lighting). The costume and prop design is great and what can be said for the shooting location of our own Queensland, Australia, other than that it looks stunning on film.
The audio on the Terra Nova DVD is crisp and well balanced; the dialogue is never overshadowed by the music or the SFX. The audio track is available in Dolby Digital 5.1 with English for the hearing impaired, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish subtitle options. The music itself lends a lot to the atmosphere and tone of the show, with the horns and major notes reflecting the air of exploration and frontier-discovery that the script presents. It also evokes a sense of hope and fantasticism that hits the right notes.
I wasn’t sure what to expect on the extras side of things…on one hand, you would be justified in thinking that 20th Century Fox wouldn’t care to waste more money/time/effort on the series by including much at all, but on the other hand, they may have wanted to include as much as possible to improve the appeal of the DVD and sell more copies, marketing it as a “content-packed” set. I’m extremely happy they decided on the latter, and I am very satisfied with these special features. On Disc 1 there are 7 Deleted Scenes and a 34 minute long ‘Director’s Diary: Making the Pilot’ feature.
One deleted scene in particular interested me, because it revolved around the reveal of an alternate choice for the role of the Sixers mole, or at least added another ‘undercover agent’ as it were. The director’s diary is quite extensive with insight into the pre-production phase – the set/prop design, the building of the animatronic “Slasher” – and also the whole shooting calendar, which totalled over 26 days. Disc 2 features no extras, while Disc 3 only boasts 1 Deleted Scene. But, Disc 4 ensures the set goes out with a bang!…
Disc 4 includes “Mysteries Explored” (a 9 minute piece on the themes and secrets of Terra Nova, which also touches on some character backstories , “Cretaceous Life”, a 10 minute look at the dinosaurs in the show (which is what I wanted more of during the show), a 3 minute Gag Reel, which are always fun to watch, and finally…the always appreciated Audio Commentary, which in this case is for the final two episodes and features Executive Producers Brannon Braga and Rene Echevarria along with the kick-ass Stephen Lang! – My personal favourite actor/performance on the show.
Terra Nova was a flawed show, but it also had a lot of promise and potential. The surface of the overarching story of Terra Nova was barely scratched with this first and only season, and it’s a shame that we won’t get to explore its possibilities. Thankfully, this DVD release left me with a positive final note in the storybook of Terra Nova. The video transfer may not be perfect, but you get what you buy with DVD releases. That being said, the audio is clear and well mixed and the special features are extensive, which I personally always appreciate a ton. If you were a fan of the show while it lasted, you should definitely pick this DVD set up. I was, and even though its quality waned, the sheer amount of extras here makes this DVD more than worthwhile.