Terra Nova: a Jurassic success or a brontosaurus-sized mess?

Tim Glanfield and Paul Jones go head to head over Sky1's dinosaur adventure

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Terra Nova is a fun trip back in time

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by Tim Glanfield

When I was a young teenager, I dressed up as a tyrannosaur, ate a hundredweight of salt and vinegar Discos in Harlow Town Park, and then proceeded to have the most fantastic cinematic experience of my life.

As I watched the groundbreaking CGI dinosaurs of Jurassic Park terrorise the inconsistently accented Dickie Attenborough and upstage the ham, egg and chips acting of Sam Neill, something changed inside me. I would for ever be a sucker for prehistoric high camp action.

Twenty years – and two less satisfying JP movies – later, I’m still chasing that high. And although Terra Nova can never compare to the first hit of that Jurassic entry-level drug in my formative years, it has many of the elements required to at least alleviate the symptoms.

The Nova is ridiculous but has heart, it’s overacted but with self-awareness, it has beautiful people who get chased by dinosaurs and hide secrets that will make empires fall. Yes, Terra Nova is Lost meets Primeval, with a bigger budget and an even more bonkers premise.

It’s the programme I would have made had I been given a remit of time travel meets dinosaurs. 

OK, the CGI doesn’t seem to have moved on much since Jurassic Park, but that’s like criticising early Doctor Who for having bad props – it’s not a problem, it’s a virtue.

If you’re looking for lightweight thrills, spills and sub-CSI convoluted science, this is the show for you. I promise, the investment is worth it – it will deliver at least two hours of concentrated entertainment.

Terra Nova deserves extinction

by Paul Jones

A dystopian future? Time travel? Dinosaurs? What’s not to like, right? But Terra Nova has taken the geek’s dream scenario and made a brontosaurus-sized mess of it.

There are plot holes said gigantic herbivore could happily stride through. To kick us off, ex-cop Jim Shannon escapes from a notorious maximum security prison after his wife is allowed to hand him a laser cutter through the door.

He and his family then skip through the portal between their dying Earth and 85 million BC. The kids emerge into the sunshine, blue sky and clear, fresh air without batting an eyelid, despite never having encountered these strange phenomena before.

Jim’s wife Elisabeth has supposedly been sent back to Terra Nova because she’s one of the most brilliant medical minds of her time, yet in one episode she walks into a quarantine area without thinking twice.

Actually, there’s a general lack of smarts on display in Terra Nova. The inhabitants think nothing of going for a stroll outside the security compound – you know, to go skinny dipping or have a picnic – despite the fact that they’re living in dinosaur-infested prehistory.

Having said that, where are all the dinosaurs? After the initial couple of episodes, they’ve all but disappeared and it’s quite possible to spend a whole day trekking through the jungle without encountering a creepy-crawly, let alone a T Rex.

Did the producers blow the budget too early, or did they just realise how embarrassing the terrible CGI monsters were? Remember, just because you can get away with it on Walking with Dinosaurs, doesn’t mean it’s going to work when you paste it onto a real background.

The only thing that can save Terra Nova is a big end-of-season revelation to explain away a lot of its apparent problems. If, for instance, it turned out that the government of future earth had sent its most dim-witted and useless citizens back into the past, thus freeing up resources for those who could actually tie their own shoelaces, I would have no problem in declaring it a triumph of epic proportions.

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Terra Nova is on Sky1, Mondays at 8pm