Why Terra Nova Failed

There is talk that Netflix might reach a deal to produce new episodes of Terra Nova, which was recently cancelled by FOX. The much hyped science fiction television show, executive produced by Steven Spielberg, only lasted one season after a long wait to get it on the air. If it eventually does live on, the showrunners hopefully learned from their mistakes. If you promote a show as being about "dinosaurs and time travel," then make sure that dinosaurs and time travel are a pivotal element of each episode's plot instead of just an after-thought -- at least that's what they seemed like to me.

Terra Nova might as well have been a contemporary drama set in a jungle somewhere; it certainly didn't seem to be the groundbreaking must-see-TV event it aimed to be. The interesting futuristic society established in the first few scenes of the pilot episode were never really explored again in depth. The dinosaurs, when we saw them, didn't deliver that sense of wonder that was present in Jurassic Park or other exciting adventure stories of the past. With a name like Spielberg attached to the production, even if he was linked in name only without much creative input, I was expecting more.

As I watched it, hoping the poor-excuse-for-a-story was going somewhere, I grew frustrated with the lack of innovative ideas. The drama was forced and uninspired, the characters were unoriginal stereotypes, and the sci-fi elements were boring, the final kiss of death. 

Despite common belief, a science fiction series doesn't necessarily need to be ridiculously expensive to produce or loaded with special effects, it just needs to have solid, imaginative ideas. Terra Nova, like so many other lackluster television shows, seemed to be making stuff up as it went along, pilfering from other stories to bide some time without really adding anything new or fresh to inspire viewers to tune in week after week. 

Done the proper way with intriguing, meaty storylines, they could have gotten away with showing the dinosaurs sparingly (Spielberg knew how to do that with Jaws, for example), but when the story is all empty calories the audience then grows restless and demands to at least see giant dinos battling each other and hunting down humans for as much of the hour-long episode as possible -- and no multi-million dollar budget can live up to that expectation week after week.

I'm sure others have different opinions on what went wrong, and maybe they can fix it if Terra Nova manages to live again on Netflix or some other place, but that's my two cents, give or take a penny. What do you think?


Anonymous said…
Terra Nova failed in large part because of its cast. Stephone Lang was great but the rest were really bad. First you had a main character that was weak. He was a pansy and his inter racail inter cultural relationship was completely unbelievable. There was no chemistry at all with his wife. His son was a whinning little spineless jerk. His daughter was arogant and unrealistic. Character protrays and the cast killed the show. And it didn't help to push a multicutural agenda. It was too forced.
Nick said…
The multi-cultural relationship didn't bother me, but I agree with you that most of the cast was pretty weak. I actually liked the actor who played the lead -- he was great in Life on Mars too -- but the story gave him absolutely nothing exciting to do. Poor writing was the biggest culprit.