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Review #3121: Terra Nova 1.7: “Nightfall”

Posted on the 09 November 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

“Terra Nova” is still a tremendously cheesy show with uninspiring writing and acting, but dammit, if this wasn’t the most entertaining episode of the show since the premiere. It all starts out with a rather impressively realized (for a TV show) meteor impact that knocks out power to Terra Nova. Well, to be more precise, it was the explosion of the meteor in the atmosphere that knocked out the power, but the meteor is still intact enough to create a powerful shockwave when it hits the ground. The kid in me thought that this part was pretty cool. In general, the episode seems to rely more heavily on the “whiz-bang” spectacle than usual, which is probably a smart move, considering how poorly the show handles its characters.

Review #3121: Terra Nova 1.7: “Nightfall”

With no power to, well… anything, the colony is exposed to all sorts of dangers. Mira, wanting that package that she tried to have stolen a couple of episodes ago, decides that this is the perfect time to make another attempt. This aspect of the episode provides much of its entertainment value. The Sixers start out by driving a type of Spinosaurus (called the fictional Empirosaurus here) toward Terra Nova. But this turns out to be a diversion, so Mira’s extraction team can sneak into the camp and grab the object. This results in a surprisingly decent fight scene pitting Taylor and Jim against the Sixers trying to steal the object.

Of lesser interest, but still relatively entertaining, is the medical emergency that Elisabeth and Skye find themselves dealing with. One of Skye’s friends, Hunter, ends up with some kind of ridiculously huge parasitic worm inside of him. Normally, with the advanced technology at Terra Nova’s disposal, this wouldn’t be that big a deal. But the loss of power means that Elisabeth has to resort to the good, old-fashioned method of cutting the patient open, so the worm can be reeled out by hand. The surgery scene does a pretty decent job of milking the body horror aspect, and Hunter is sympathetic and believable enough to make us hope that he doesn’t come to a bad end.

Of significantly lesser interest is the subplot involving Maddy and Reynolds. The two of them go on a secretive picnic/date, resulting in the expected survival bonding scenes. The horrible acting mostly ruins these scenes, but I was surprised to find that some of it wasn’t quite as bad as I expected it to be. There are moments where the writing and acting come close to achieving something sweet and humorous, but for the most part it’s still difficult to watch.

I generally dislike stories involving teenage romance, and I don’t think it was necessary for this show, but it’s not as though it can’t be done well. It’s just not done well here. Whether it’s due to Naomi Scott’s horrible acting, or the script itself, Maddy and Reynolds never come off as anything more than thinly-rendered caricatures running through all the clichés. I think the best way for the show to redeem this subplot is to make Reynolds the spy, as this would put these earlier scenes in a much more interesting context, especially if Reynolds is a bit more heartless than he appears.

This idea of a repository of human knowledge existing on Terra Nova actually makes quite a bit of sense. If your plan is to rebuild civilization, and hopefully make it superior to the previous one, then this is exactly what you’d need. Jim and Zoe’s scenes dragged on a bit, but they’re not nearly as unwatchable as the Maddy and Reynolds scenes. And it helps a bit that Jason O’Mara and Alana Mansour seem to have at least a modicum of chemistry together.

I rather liked the reveal of Taylor’s son (Lucas) at the end. This character has quite a bit of potential, I think, and could add something genuinely interesting to the overall story arc. The actor seems reasonably good as well. I really want to know what this guy is up to, and why he needs this device. The device seems to include some technical information: data and equations, which probably relate to the equations on those rocks at the waterfall. The equations he leaves on the rocks are a message to Taylor that he’s getting closer to something, and this device seems to include information needed for him to proceed even further with his work. It looks as though Lucas is of genius-level intelligence, which could make him a more interesting and dangerous foe than Mira, who’s basically nothing more than a mercenary.

Overall, this episode was significantly more entertaining than most of “Terra Nova” has been so far. Sure, it’s pretty cheesy most of the time. But at least it’s cheesy and fun. The problem with most of “Terra Nova” so far is that it’s been both cheesy (and by that I mean dreadfully clichéd and unintentionally hammy) and boring. This episode went a long ways toward remedying one of those problems. So despite the lingering issues, this feels like something of a win for the show.

Rating: 7/10

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