December 20, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Warning:  Spoilers Ahead
Here, in the end, is all you needed to know about TERRA NOVA:  in its entire 2-hour season–and very possibly series–finale, dinosaurs were sighted for a grand total of about 2 minutes.
Remember the original promos for Terra Nova, the ones that played on FOX for months while the show kept getting postponed?  The ones that promised a Jurassic Park experience in your living room, week-in and week-out, with blockbuster-movie level computer-generated dinos?  Well, after the big-budget series pilot, that show didn’t exist.  What Terra Nova turned out to be instead was a story about good guys living in a colony walled off from some very disorganized bad guys (revolutionaries?  corporate dupes?) and prehistoric creatures that were more often talked about than seen.  (And when they showed up, they turned out to be the CG equivalent of cardboard cutouts.)

The Shannons, aka World’s Most Uninteresting Family, were the leads, bested only by Skye, The World’s Most Harmless Spy and, later in the season, by Lucas Taylor, The World’s Most Insipid Villain.  Lucas was the son of Commander Taylor, who as played by Stephen Lang was the only one in all of prehistory to be a little bit interesting.  Lucas had been built up in early episodes as some kind of freaky insane genius who knew how to solve the mysteries of time travel and passage between universes, but he turned out to be the anti-Carrie Mathison, a pouting post-adolescent madman who became duller and more banal the more we saw of him, obsessed with daddy issues and what happened in Somalia.  Having him as Terra Nova‘s chief antagonist was like making a huge-budgeted superhero epic where the villain was Biff from Back to the Future.
There were so many awful moments in the finale that it’s hard to choose just one:  daddy Commander not realizing his crazy son wanted a hug for the very first time just so he could stab dad?  The fuss about Jim Shannon vanishing through an unknown portal to the past, possibly lost in unexplored parts of the planet… only to have him turn up behind the nearest tree?  The idiot bad guy who thought he’d been injected with deadly microorganisms because someone told him so?  The big “mystery” for a purported next season of a 18th-century ship turning up in the desert (seen Close Encounters much?)?  Maybe it was the way every one of the villains believed Jim’s ridiculous fake deafness and limp even as Jim was running all over the compound and having conversations with everyone in earshot.
Whether Terra Nova comes back next season will ultimately be determined by factors of no interest to mere viewers:  overseas sales, the network’s slate of 8PM development, the possibility of reduced network license fees.  What the finale proved conclusively, however, is that the show deserves to be left in the distant past.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."