Entertainment Magazine

Review #3048: Terra Nova 1.3: “Instinct”

Posted on the 05 October 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

I think it’s only fair to be a little more forgiving with a pilot episode, as they’re not always the best indicator of what the rest of the show will be like. In fact, I may have even been a little TOO forgiving of “Terra Nova’s” pilot. It is a show with time travel and dinosaurs, after all. But there were enough problems with the pilot to leave me with that sinking feeling that the show might not get better; that “Terra Nova’s” problems were too much a core part of the show to simply be worked out over time. But is this really the case? Well,it’s still a little early to say. “Instinct” lacks the impressive opening of the premiere, and some of the novelty of the show is beginning to wear off. But overall, it’s not dramatically different in quality from the premiere.

Review #3048: Terra Nova 1.3: “Instinct”

As with the premiere, everything involving Josh or Maddy is pretty dreadful. Both storylines are about as cliche-ridden as it gets. Their stories seemingly have no relevance to the more interesting and important activities the adults are involved in (except when the kids are in peril and have to be saved). Besides those irritating subplots, I don’t terribly mind the actual story of “Terra Nova”. The execution can be underwhelming and fairly cheesy at times, but it’s generally at least watchable. If this was all the show was about, it would be easier to forgive the weaknesses and enjoy it as pulpy, sci-fi fun.

One thing I will never understand is why having an emphasis on younger characters means a show has to have dialog that sounds like it was written by 12-year-olds. Shows like “The Vampire Diaries” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” have more than proven otherwise. And likewise, there’s absolutely no reason why “family friendly” has to correlate with unintelligent writing. Furthermore, as I more or less stated in my review for the pilot, “family friendly” does not have to mean teen and preteen characters. Still, I would obviously prefer that the show not be limited by the need to be family-friendly.

One bright spot this week was the addition of a new character, Dr. Malcolm Wallace. It’s interesting to see just how noticeable the difference in acting talent is between Rod Hallett and most of the other actors. He makes it look so easy. I don’t know why all the other actors are having such a difficult time delivering decent performances on this show. I highly doubt that they’re all normally this sub-par. Simone Kessell’s Lt. Washington honestly feels like a poor man’s Michelle Forbes. And where is Guzman? The pilot gave me the impression that he was essentially part of Taylor’s inner circle, but he’s nowhere to be seen this week. Regardless, I’m glad that Malcolm seems to have been set up as a regular.

I was glad to hear another mention this week of the fact that the Sixers have at least one spy in Terra Nova. I neglected to mention this in my review for the pilot, but I thought that Reynolds (the young soldier with a crush on Maddy) was emerging as a pretty strong candidate to be spy. I was rather annoyed at his existence, considering that his sole purpose is to be the young hottie that Maddy flirts with. But making him the spy would considerably improve my opinion of his inclusion in the story. It might also be interesting if Malcolm were the spy. Really, they could both be spies for all we know.

The pterosaur threat was reasonably interesting. I’m glad to see that Spielberg’s interest in portraying dinosaurs (yes, I’m aware that pterosaurs aren’t technically dinosaurs) as animals, rather than monsters, remains fairly intact in “Terra Nova”. Though, I have to wonder if whoever wrote the episode was purposefully taking some inspiration from Hitchcock’s “The Birds”. This isn’t, necessarily, a bad thing. But it did serve to remind me of how lacking this show is in actual suspense. Also, one brief note on the special effects. I thought the computer-generated dinosaurs were reasonably good (at least for television) in the premiere, but the CG for the pterosaurs in this episode certainly won’t win any awards.

It was interesting to see Jack Horner’s name in the credits as a consultant for the show. I differ with Horner on the whole “T-Rex: Predator or Scavenger” debate, but I like the man’s passion for paleontology and willingness to participate in the creation of fiction. Horner was the resident “dinosaur expert” for the “Jurassic Park” movies, so it’s not surprising to see him involved in another Steven Spielberg production. Given how many scientific inaccuracies were in the pilot, it would be interesting to know just how much of Horner’s expertise has made it through to the actual show. My guess would be that the behavior of the pterosaurs this week was influenced by Horner to a certain degree.

Brian Tyler is still receiving the sole music credit for the show. So far, Tyler’s music for the show doesn’t compare with what people like Michael Giacchino and Bear McCreary have accomplished in modern television, but as I said for the pilot, it’s certainly above average. There’s a noticeable inclusion of the show’s main theme in the episodic music, and there’s probably more thematic development occurring that isn’t quite as obvious.

So far, “Terra Nova” isn’t inspiring a lot of confidence. It has its good points, most of which are primarily technical strengths. But the writing and acting continues to disappoint. The show may find a loyal audience, but the show needs to start playing to its strengths better if it wants me to be among that audience. There’s still time, and I’ll probably be willing to sit through the whole first season to satiate my curiosity, if nothing else. But with such a costly show, I suspect that it won’t maintain the needed viewership numbers to make it past the first season. And that’s unfortunate, because “Terra Nova” really has (or had) the potential to be something great, and raise the bar for cinematic, big-budget storytelling in a TV show.

Rating: 6/10

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