Terra Nova is an American science fiction drama television series. It premiered on September 26, 2011 with a two-hour premiere, and concluded on December 19, 2011 with a two-hour, two-episode finale. The series follows the Shannon family as they travel 85 million years into the past to an Earth of a parallel universe. The series is based on an idea by British writer Kelly Marcel. On March 5, 2012, Fox announced that it would not pick up the series for a second season.
The series is initially set in C.E. 2149, when overpopulation and declining air quality threatens all life on Earth. When scientists discover a temporal rift permitting human transmission they initiate a series of "pilgrimages" to a parallel "time stream" resembling Earth's Cretaceous Period. The series focuses primarily on policeman James 'Jim' Shannon, his wife Elisabeth, and their three children Josh, Maddy, and Zoë, as they join the colony there, named "Terra Nova" for "New Earth" or "New World" in Latin and Portuguese.
According to the story's premise, Elisabeth Shannon is chosen for her medical expertise, and her children with her. Her husband, imprisoned for violating population control by harbouring a third child and assaulting an official agent to protect his young daughter, stows away to join them, and eventually convinces the colony's leader, Commander Nathaniel Taylor, that his own police expertise is of use to the administration. The colony places nominal emphasis on environmental responsibility.
Opposing the colony and its leader Taylor, is a group of separatists known as the "Sixers", so called because they arrived in the "Sixth Pilgrimage", working in concert with corporate industrialists to strip the Cretaceous Earth of its resources and transmit them to 2149. It is later revealed that Commander Taylor's grown son, Lucas, is the master-mind of this operation. Toward the end of the series, Lucas perfects travel to and from the future; thus enabling the industrialists, with a private army called "The Phoenix Group", to invade Terra Nova. At the end of the series, Jim Shannon returns to 2149 to destroy the gateway permitting intercourse with the Cretaceous; whereupon the Phoenix Group retreat to the nearby "Badlands", leaving behind a wooden ship's figurehead apparently located there by another temporal rift.
Alex Graves signed on to direct the pilot. Brannon Braga and René Echevarria serve as showrunners. Australia was chosen after producer Steven Spielberg vetoed Hawaii because he wanted a different filming location from his 1993 film Jurassic Park. The two-hour pilot was filmed over 26 days in late November to December 2010. It was shot in south-east Queensland, Australia, with locations in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and the Gold Coast Hinterland. The shoot was plagued by torrential rain and additional material had to be shot in 2011, with a total estimated cost of US$14 million to be amortized over the season. More than 250 sets were constructed. An episode took from eight to nine days to shoot, like most television dramas, but six weeks in post-production, twice the television average at the time. The average episode budget was about $4M, not including Australian tax breaks, compared to an average of $3M for broadcast network dramas. Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly stated: "This thing is going to be huge. It's going to take an enormous production commitment."
In an unusual decision, Fox skipped ordering just a pilot, and instead immediately ordered thirteen episodes. This was partly due to financial reasons, as the large Australian sets are expensive to dismantle and rebuild. Despite this decision, the producers denied the production was over-budget, with Peter Rice explaining instead the show is "a very expensive ... very ambitious television show". Kevin Reilly continued: "We're not in completely uncharted territory here. The start-up cost for the series is definitely on the high end. But it's not some bank-breaking series." With only 10% of Cretaceous-era dinosaurs recorded in the fossil record, the producers decided to supplement the series with plausible fictional species; palaeontologist Jack Horner was invited to create realistic creatures for the period and different from those of the Jurassic Park film franchise.
In June 2010, the first cast member was announced – Jason O'Mara as Jim Shannon. In late August, Allison Miller joined the cast. In September, Deadline Hollywood reported that Stephen Lang signed on to play the role of Commander Taylor. An executive producer, David Fury, left the series as a result of creative differences. In September, Shelley Conn landed the female lead role. In October, Brian Tyler was chosen as the composer, Mido Hamada was cast as a security head, while Landon Liboiron, Naomi Scott, and Alana Mansour were cast as the three children. In November, Christine Adams was cast as Mira. In May 2011, Rod Hallett joined the cast.
The cast and crew returned to Queensland, Australia on May 20, 2011 to continue production on the first season. Filming commenced on May 25, 2011. With a long production process on the series, it was announced in July 2011 that the first season would consist of thirteen episodes to finish airing in December 2011. Many of the weapons used in the show were reworked and repainted Nerf blasters.
Shortly after the airing of the season one finale in December 2011, Fox Broadcasting stated that no decision would be made until 2012 regarding the continuation of the series. Fox announced the cancellation of Terra Nova on March 6, 2012. 20th Century Fox Television stated that it would try to sell the show to other networks.
Terra Nova was expected to premiere in May 2011 with a two-hour preview, but due to the time involved for visual effects, its pilot was moved to autumn (late September) 2011 to air with the rest of season one. In May 2011, Fox announced the series would air on Monday nights, and released a full trailer. Terra Nova premiered at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con International on July 23, 2011. The FOX premiere drew 9.22 million viewers and 3.1 in the 18–49 demo in live plus same day results, rising to 4.1 in Live+3, the best result by a new drama. Terra Nova's high DVR gains were attributed to competition from Monday Night Football which, being a sports event, is less conducive to delayed viewing. In its second week on FOX, the show retained 100% of its demo rating (3.1), the best retention by a new series. FOX aired the entire first season consecutively on Monday nights, until its two-hour finale on December 19, 2011. In Canada, Citytv simulcast every first season episode; the Canadian premiere drew 1.4 million viewers, the largest audience for a drama in Citytv's history.
Early reviews indicated much promise in the series. In June 2011, Terra Nova was one of eight honorees in the Most Exciting New Series category at the Critics' Choice Television Awards, voted by journalists who had seen the pilots. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette compared it to Outcasts. The Los Angeles Times wrote: "Easily the most exciting show of the fall season, Fox's Terra Nova has such obvious, instant and demographically diverse appeal."The New York Post called it "Good family fun", while USA Today wrote, "What matters are the dinosaurs, who – particularly in the first hour – are as convincing and startling as TV has ever offered, roaming a gorgeous, CGI-enhanced terrain."
The Wall Street Journal wrote: "Terra Nova leaves ye olde cheap-set series in the dust with production values that make each episode look cinematic." The Washington Post wrote, "Literally the biggest thing on TV this fall, Terra Nova has it all: time travel, misguided utopianism, "Swiss Family Robinson"-style cohesion and lots of hungry dinosaurs. It's all pretty dazzling."
Mid-season reviews were highly critical. The show was called "Stargate Universe by Dr. Seuss" by Mark A. Perigard of the Boston Herald. Sam Wollaston of The Guardian stated that there was only one interesting character and that "A lot of the fault lies with what they have to say to each other. The script is as corny and cheesy as a family-sized portion of cheesy corn nachos." New York magazine reviewer Chadwick Matlin vowed never to watch the show again, saying "Sure, the premise had promise, but even masochists like us can only take so much." But by the finale in December things had turned around again where critics were mostly pleased and enthusiastic. Entertainment Weekly called the season finale "exciting". The series' first season received an aggregated score of 64% across 28 reviews from Metacritic.
The first season averaged 7.52 million American viewers and a 2.5 rating in the 18–49 demographic. The show was ranked the #2 new drama among adults 18–49, the #1 new show among men 18–49, 18–34, and 25–54 and was one of the top 20 regular programs among teens, as of January 1, 2012.
Season 1 [Complete Series]
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