Frankly, they had us at “dinosaurs.” But the folks behind this season’s new time-travel saga Terra Nova delivered so much more. First there’s that rip-snorting premise: Earth in the year 2149 has become such a smog-choked police state that bands of daring pilgrims are willing to trek 85 million years into the past to reboot civilization and give it a second chance. There there was the shock that their Cretaceous-era utopia, though only a few years old, is already ravaged by sociopolitical turmoil, deadly rebels and lots of deep, dark secrets.
The CGI creates– from the gentle, towering brachiosaurs to the slasher-ific acceptors– are dazzling and the dino-human encounters always leave us breathless. But what really stirs us most about Terra Nova is the family drama. Watching the Shannon clan, led by ex-cop dad Jim (Jason O’Mara) and surgeon mom Elisabeth (Shelley Conn), hang tight through all this diversity is downright inspiring. “We’re ‘Swiss Family Robnson’ meets Gunsmoke– a throwback to the golden age of TV where family shows carried a message of hope,” says O’Mara. “Battling dinosaurs every week would get very old very fast if the audience didn’t care about the Shannons. They’re relatable and heartening and, unlike most other TV families in our cynical age, they are not dysfunctional!”
Still, kids will be kids. In tonight’s episode, Jim’s 17-year-old son, Josh (Landon Liboiron), will make a deal with a devil in order to reunite with his girlfriend from the future. — Michael Logan