Thursday, December 1, 2011

Terra Nova's upside-down premise

I've been hanging out for a good sci-fi show for nine years - ever since you know what was canceled. So I've been watching Terra Nova. It's 2149, the world is a horrible place to live, and a one-way time portal is discovered that goes back 85 million years. Dinosaurs - yay! (We are asked to ignore the point that living among big hungry dinosaurs without adequate weaponry to deal with them is kind of silly.)

Deadly dinos aside, the world of Terra Nova is a nice one - these people are essentially colonists on a new world, and I'm up for that. They appear to live a self-sustainable lifestyle without being too annoyingly hippie. I've enjoyed most of the episodes although they are remarkably forgettable.

In a recent episode we discovered the (alleged) true agenda of the "Sixers" - a band of outcast rebels working for evil people back in 2149. What is the evil agenda of these evil people? To mine resources from Terra Nova and bring them back to the future once a two-way portal can be developed. Billions of people need these resources to survive. Taylor, the leader of Terra Nova, finds this idea abhorrent and refuses to cooperate.

Some awkward plot holes are apparent in light of these revelations. Firstly, the evil ones have had multiple opportunities to send back an army to take over Terra Nova and do with the past whatever they want. Instead they sent a bunch of rebel misfits who are now banished and live in tree houses, talking tough but accomplishing nothing. Another time they sent an elderly one-armed general to kill Taylor, and Taylor promptly shot him. That's it. That's all they've done to forward their grand mission.

Secondly, just because your plot is all conservationist and such, doesn't mean it's right. What is so bad about sending resources back to 2149 to help humanity, which is facing extinction? It's been established that Terra Nova is a different timeline, so it won't affect the future. There are only a few hundred people in Terra Nova and they don't need a planet's worth of resources. Nor do the dinosaurs. Apparently there are no plans to send everyone in 2149 to Terra Nova - presumably it's not possible - so why not use Terra Nova to save the bulk of humanity?

The lucky ones in Terra Nova are only there in the first place because they're rich, clever, or lucky (a few won the lottery for a ticket). Why should those privileged few get all the goodies and leave billions of innocent people to live miserably and die too soon? Isn't that exactly what's happening in 2149 as well?

I just don't get the moral dilemma here. (Brannon Braga developed both Terra Nova and Star Trek Enterprise - I've had problems with the latter's weird ethical code too.)

On the positive side, the show is filmed in Australia's tropical north-east and it looks great (it should - it's very expensive).


Lynn August Linse said...

Agree on the "why not send an army with metal bullets" ... although per the previews, the real army comes soon

But you are fogetting the real plot line which will occur with the 2-way portal. Today, the rich of 2149 live in pleasure-domes pretending the horrible world outside doesn't exist. After the 2-way portal, they will move to the fabulous new beach resorts of dino-land where the outside world is beautiful, if a bit dangerous - although it would not take a huge amount of weaponry to exterminate all meat-eating dinos within a 500 mile radius, making the outside excitingly wild-westish.

So then 2149 will become a horrible, disposable place to live. Sure the rich folks send resources back so that the factories of 2149 can make them fancy 'smart phones', but there will no longer be any reason to even care if the human race of 2149 goes extinct.

Lexie said...

My father and I are of the opinion that they're not in an alternate timeline at all, that the true purpose is to 'restart' humanity with only those people deemed 'worthy'.

We're pretty sure there's some sort of timey-wimey thing going on where those in the past aren't being affected by the changes happening in the future.

The other theory is that they're not on Earth, they're on an alien planet (that's remarkably similar to Earth granted). I'm guessing they can't do any sort of aerial recon and its awfully convenient that they're so far 'back' that if there's a species or plant running around that isn't avail in the future it can be explained as 'going extinct at some point'. same for the sky--in that amount of time enough stars will have died and enough pollution is in the air that anything they see can be explained away by saying 'its really far back'.

Sara Creasy said...

I also thought it's likely they're not in an alternate timeline - not finding the probe is pretty flimsy evidence that they are, and it's more interesting if they're not. I think they'd have figured out if they were on another planet, though - there must be an astronomer among them who'd know what the constellations looked like back then, so it would be clear if they were on another planet altogether.

While it does seem likely the rich evil guys in 2149 would monopolize the goodies from Terra Nova, seems to me the right thing for the Terra Novans do is figure out a way to ensure everyone benefits, not deny everyone any chance at all.

Jael said...

When I first watched Terra Nova (I haven't watched it since episode 3 or 4, I've just been too busy with school and work). I thought that they were sending back people as a way to control outcomes in the future and that it wasn't actually a different timeline (which makes me think they are a bunch of morons cause our planet has gone through 3 extinctions, I think.)

Keith Stevenson said...

It seems to be sliding down the ratings in US so we may never know. On the upside I'm enjoying Caprica, even though I know it gets canned, and I'm just getting into Fringe. Walter Bishop is a hoot!

Sara Creasy said...

Keith, I haven't watched either of those (or BSG). From the trailers I take it Fringe doesn't have an SF setting, which makes me less interested. I want me some hardware!

kt moxie said...

So, I've only watched a couple Terra Nova episodes. I just couldn't get myself attached to another Fox sci-fi series, just to have it canceled. Terra Nova's chances for making a second season are the same as mine for outrunning a T-rex. Stupid Fox Network.

Sara Creasy said...

It's been nine years and we're all still mad about THAT!

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