4 October 2011

Dinosaurs Rule! (but not on TV)

So last night, I played a "wallpaper" gig* with Jaro (the guitarist in KlezFactor) in the dinosaur section of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), which made me think of a new TV show out this fall, I think on the Fox network, called Terra Nova.  Having been rewatching the awesomeness that is Battlestar Galactica (BSG), I would like to call some attention to why Terra Nova is mediocre television at best.

In case you care, SPOILER ALERT!

So the premise behind Terra Nova (TN) is that in the year 2149, Earth is becoming uninhabitable for us humans.  Fortunately, scientists discovered a rift that opens up to Earth, but 85 million years ago.  They decide to send colonists back on a one way trip to populate their new colony of "Terra Nova." 

Interesting concept.  Steven Spielberg is on board as one of the 15,000,000 executive producers (ok, there are only about 11).  The series has endured production delays, cost overruns, and apparently, the special effects had to be redone after they looked bad the first time.

So what have I learned from watching the first 2 episodes? 

1: This show will never be good.
2: That's probably about it.

Reasons "Terra Nova" will never be good:

1: Whoever is making the creative decisions has no balls.  One of the amazing things about Battlestar Galactica was that Ronald D. Moore and David Eick (see.... only 2 executive producers) were fearless when it came to totally changing the paradigm of the show.  Whether it was flash-forwarding 1 year later, or killing off significant characters, or dealing with controversial issues (always important for good sci-fi), Moore and Eick didn't shy away from potentially alienating viewers.  Terra Nova seems to want to keep everyone happy, and thus, no one is.**

2: The characters are 1-dimensional peons who curry no empathy from viewers.  In the 2 episodes I've seen, the storylines don't take the characters on any journeys of the emotional or spiritual kind.  They're kind of action figures that are moved around to where they're needed.  You go here and protect the people from the dinosaurs.  You're the doctor, so you fix the wounds.  BSG was almost entirely character driven.  While it's too early to tell on TN, in BSG, the characters went on life changing journeys throughout the course of the show.  When someone close to them died, they felt it and were haunted by it.  When a character went through a traumatic experience, they were changed by it.  Who the characters were at the end of the show was different than when they started.

3: The special effects still suck.  The 2-hr pilot had dinosaurs that looked bad, and moved choppily. Jurassic Park was 17 years ago, and they got it right.  WTF?  In the 2nd episode.  There were no dinosaurs.  Instead they had little bird-like reptiles.  Is that because someone said that their dinosaurs looked stupid?  And while I acknowledge that spaceships (in BSG) are probably WAY easier to do effectively, the effects on Galactica were always amazing.  From Ron Moore's podcasts, it appears that the effects team was actively invested in the show and contributing beginning in the pre-visualization phase. They would deliver extra shots (for no additional cost), and fill every frame with interesting material.  From what I can tell on TN, there's a dinosaur (or bird-like reptile thing) but nothing like the level of interest or complexity that you got from BSG.  I still haven't noticed everything the effects crew put into their shots after having watched each episode several times.  

So yeah.  That's pretty much all I care to write about that.  I won't be watching the show again any time soon, and I miss Battlestar.  Thank god for the DVDs.

* A "wallpaper gig" is one in which the musicians are contracted to provide what is essentially "sonic wallpaper" or background music. 

** At least no one intelligent is.

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