The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Television Collision: Terra Nova Makes Bad People of Us All

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

Terra Nova aired its double-sized finale this past Monday and it is still unclear whether the show will return to the air (hence the finale promotions said “See how it all ends!”). So did it take another 85 minutes to convince you of what CC2k’s TV Editor Phoebe Raven already diagnosed eight weeks ago: that Terra Nova makes us all out as bad people?

Two weeks ago I gave a run-down of some of the new Fall TV shows I thought were worth watching and I included Terra Nova on this list. I already noted that I was intrigued mainly by its badness and the more I thought about it, the more I realized I should have issued a warning against watching Terra Nova. Here is why.

There was no new episode of the show last week to make me come down harder on the show, but everything I had seen up to that point (5 episodes) could merely fester in my brain. What I am really upset about is that in theory Terra Nova could be a great show about human nature, but instead it chooses to be a banal procedural. Factoring in how much the show was hyped beforehand, could it be that Terra Nova has given me a case of anticipointment?

Given the premise, there were a lot of things I hoped Terra Nova would address. When you start out with humanity basically having destroyed the planet Earth and looking for a chance to start over and do it better, you really expect there to be issues of political and ecological importance to be raised, don’t you? (Side note: does anyone remember that show Earth 2? That was kinda like that, at least in the beginning.) What I really wanted to see from Terra Nova was how they would use all the advanced technology and all the knowledge they had gathered from humanity’s first failure to live a sustainable existence to go into trying again, now that they had found an alternate universe in which such a chance exists.

Yet what Terra Nova gives us is a world in which the technology is merely a neat side note and really people behave as irresponsibly, destructive and deceitful as ever. The alternate universe of Terra Nova is just another frontier to be conquered, without any regard as to how the presence of humans alters this world. Instead of a lot of solar panels, responsible farming and a political structure that isn’t based on the rule of The Ones With the Most Weapons, we get a “Case of the Week” procedural in Terra Nova that is neither engaging nor particularly clever.

Every week there is another mystery to solve that this “Brave New World” throws at the settlers and every week they solve it by using the same expansionist, machismo, first world, arrogant measures that haven’t worked out for the human race back in “The Old World” already. These people really haven’t learned anything from their failures and it makes me mad.

I have nothing against Terra Nova being a family show, I am not calling for more action or more mature content here. In fact, it could be such a pleasure to see how the parents try to raise their children with a different consciousness, explaining to them why things in the Old World didn’t work and what everyone decided to do differently this time around. Then the children could grow up to be responsible, harmonious inhabitants of the New World and truly give humanity another shot. But none of this is happening, the adults are the same bullies they have always been, relying on guns, reconnaissance and manpower to “defeat” the jungle and the archaic creatures and even fighting amongst themselves (see the Sixers).

So either both the producers and writers of Terra Nova have a really pessimistic view of humanity and basically want to tell us that even if we did get a chance to start over, we would still mess it up because humanity is just not capable of being “good”. Or they simply haven’t thought about the statement they could make about humanity with their show.

I am disappointed that a show that is all set up to explore the nature of humanity, morality and dignity isn’t giving any of these issues the time of day and instead rewards people for breaking rules (see Jim) and is satisfied with being a procedural set in the world of Jurassic Park. The whole show is stuck in 1994, it seems, and I had truly hoped television had come further than what Terra Nova is making it seem. Thanks, Fox, for providing me with a serious dose of disillusionment on that front.