Spielberg’s Terra Nova is a look at 22nd century earth in the midst of environmental collapse.
It’s the year 2149, and the Earth is like a brown dust ball rising in space. On land, things aren’t much better. The Chicago skyline crumbles into a Blade Runner-style landscape. Sallow citizens breathe through dark mouth filters. Teenagers greet a single orange with an enthusiasm currently reserved for Justin Bieber tickets. “At the dawn of the 22nd century, the world is on the verge of an environmental collapse,” reads the ominous opening credits. “Mankind’s only hope for survival lies 85 million years in the past.”
This, my fellow TV watchers, is the first reason why FOX’s latest drama Terra Nova is awesome. Welcome to one big “I told you this would happen” smug fest for environmentalists. The Steven Spielberg-produced drama takes us back 85 million years into the past, where humans are colonizing pre-historic Earth because we have royally screwed up the environment.
In 2149, the Earth’s air is so toxic that everyone is forced to walk around wearing a portable air filter attached to their face. Families are only allowed two children because “Overpopulation equals extinction.” Trash litters the streets and people live as the homeless, despite impeccably beautiful skin and muscle tone.
Our delight in environmentalist finger wagging is cut short when our heroes, the Swiss Family Shannon, make a break for a new life 85 million years into the past. They arrive at Terra Nova, which looks something like an eco-resort plucked into the middle of the Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios. Still, the show continues to deadpan a utopian – or is it a dystopian? – view of the future. Or the past. Past future. And here’s why it’s awesome.
First, there’s Stephen Lang. You might remember him as the commander from Avatar, a steely-eyed, muscle-bound stalwart in a foreign, bucolic world. Here, Stephen Lang plays Nathaniel Taylor, a steely-eyed, muscle-bound stalwart in a foreign, bucolic world. “Greed, war and ignorance destroyed our home,” he tells the latest recruits. “This is our chance to get it right.” Lang’s Taylor is an eco-pilgrim staring down dinosaurs and saucy teenagers. And he is glorious.
Second, there’s renewable energy. Apparently, someone got the memo to continue developing solar and wind energy technologies into the 22nd century, because the Terra Nova colony is filled with them. Except they somehow haven’t figured out a way for solar to heat up water for a shower. Oh, those wacky solar panels.
Third, Terra Nova knows no distracting subtly. From the actor’s emotions to set pieces to props, everything is extremely on the nose. Hero Jim Shannon (Jason O’Mara) emotes out of every pore of his sensitive, chiseled frame. A lush farmer’s market overflows the town square with peace, fruits and hippie beads. Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang) actually sits behind a T-Rex skull desk. All they are missing is a group of rebellious teenagers drinking moonshine in the jungle while splashing about in bikinis. Oh wait, they have that too.
And finally, nature kicks our ass. Sure enough, as soon as the oldest Shannon child Josh (Landon Linborin) makes a break outside the town walls, he’s being chased all over the landscape by “slashers,” the velociraptors of 85 million years ago. (Did we mention the dinosaurs? There are dinosaurs. Lots of them.) But in the end, don’t we deserve it after what we did to the planet?
You can catch Terra Nova Mondays on FOX.