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New Science Fiction Series on TV


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Initial post: Sep 11, 2011 10:13:10 AM PDT
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/tv/la-ca-terra-nova-20110911,0,720952.story

FOX'S NEW EPIC SCIENCE FICTION SERIES, "TERRA NOVA"
Based on a family thrown back to the Jurassic, show is super-expensive - no "name" actors, but plenty of special effects (including dinos).

It's creating a lot of buzz, but other recent dystopian Sci Fi shows have failed to catch on. Can retooling the show to focus on the family make it a winner?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 11, 2011 10:25:14 AM PDT
I recently read a quote from a senior executive at Pixar, who said "no amount of good technology can turn a bad story into a good story." He was speaking specifically about computer animation and SFX in movies, but we've already seen plenty of examples of the same thing in TV series. Have the people behind Terra Nova invested enough money in good writers? Or have they thrown lots of money at SFX? ("Millions for SFX but not one cent for writers," as I characterize the attitude we have seen in a lot of SF and fantasy.) Terra Nova will succeed if it's a good story. If it's not a good story, then all the dinos in the world won't save the series.

Posted on Sep 11, 2011 11:04:06 AM PDT
K. Rowley says:
I hope Terra Nova does better than Defying Gravity - which had some really nice sets & F/Xs, but the soap opera story didn't do much for a lot of people.

Posted on Sep 11, 2011 11:07:24 AM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
"We've screwed up our planet but good so let's... go back into the past and screw it up again before we even evolved!"

First heard about this "Terra No-No!" thing back in May 2010. Yawn.

First Flash Forward. Now Flush Backward. As usual, Move FAILward.

Posted on Sep 11, 2011 2:05:23 PM PDT
John -

I understand what you are saying. And long riffs of SPX leave me bored stiff.

On the other hand, character-driven stories have to have more going for them than just cutsy kid comments, and weary do-good adults constantly bitching at each other. It's that proper mixture of SPX and characters that makes for compelling story-telling.

As far as "Terra Nova", if you read the article, they've already fired the entire first writing staff, and hired a new group of writers. And Spielberg is involved on the periphery, mainly with key suggestions. So let's hope ...

Posted on Sep 12, 2011 2:17:49 PM PDT
M. Carole says:
Well, firing the entire writing staff is a sure sign of doom. Typically that means that the first group wouldn't let themselves be pushed around into writing complete drivel based on the director's ego, so they found some people that would.

And I'm with Ronald Craig, another ho hum eco-morality story. That's never been done before with lots of big fancy special effects and a predictable plot and pedestrian writing ...and some blue people or something... cough, cough...

Posted on Sep 12, 2011 3:05:36 PM PDT
M. Carole,

Very well put!!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 12, 2011 5:55:58 PM PDT
It's possible to do a great story around an ecological theme. Miyazaki did it with Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (great flik, now available on Bluray). Miyazaki also did it with Princess Mononoke (another great flik, which characteristically shows both sides). But Miyazaki went in with stories that he animated. Like Walt Disney said - "first you get the story right."

By contrast, the entire concept of Terra Nova makes no sense, unless you want an excuse to have a family fighting dinosaurs. And that, I suspect, was the entire sales pitch that sold the series. "A modern family fighting dinosaurs!" I feel sorry for the writers who tried to make that into a viable story. SF TV series these days seem to go in with a one line "wouldn't this be cool" and no idea what to do with it, which is why the endings (for those that have lasted long enough to have endings) have been so lame.

Posted on Sep 13, 2011 12:07:58 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 13, 2011 12:09:58 AM PDT
Tom Rogers says:
Dinosaurs, that's what was missing from "The Mosquito Coast"

As far as the ecological collapse and dinosaur storyline goes, I was always partial to:

Xenozoic

It's set in a post-apocalyptic future (back before we had many of those) with a pretty solid explanation for the dinosaurs and all the other anachronisms and absolutely killer art. The stories are nifty too. It's already bombed out on TV though.

Posted on Sep 13, 2011 4:20:43 AM PDT
Dinosaurs seem to have an enduring mythos, sort of our genuine, home-grown monsters that really once existed.

Personally, I don't think there's much new ground to uncover after Crichton's wonderful "Jurassic Park". Although Spielberg announced at Comic Con that he's gotten the green light for "JP-4".

Writing staffs are juggled around a lot in Hollywood, from TV to movies. I even read where Paramount assigned three separate writers to come up with the next "Star Trek" script after the reboot. The idea being to take the best of all three scripts for a final conglomeration script.

As for "Terra Nova", we'll have to see. "Land of the Lost", a similar concept, tanked big time at the box office. But the public tends to be more curious and forgiving if a similar story is on TV.

Posted on Sep 13, 2011 11:50:34 AM PDT
"Land of the Lost" tanked because it had no respect for its source material. It left out most of what made the TV show a cult classic with a following to this day, and so there was nothing for either fans or for new viewers. There was Will Ferrell yucking it up, but he could do that anywhere; he didn't need dinosaurs and Sleestak.

A reboot of LOTL for TV could be successful, but only if they drop the whole "it's from the 70s so we've gotta spoof it up" mindset. Unfortunately the only way to do that might be to take the basic concept (a family finds themselves in a land of dinosaurs) and make a whole new show with no other connection to LOTL.

Which would seem to be exactly what "Terra Nova" is.

Posted on Sep 13, 2011 12:24:38 PM PDT
Sailor B.

re: "it's from the 70s so we've gotta spoof it up"

Remember "It's about Time"? -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1G-TsdNWGg
Gawd...did I actually watch stuff like that??

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 13, 2011 12:30:04 PM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
"Which would seem to be exactly what "Terra Nova" is."

It doesn't look to be a decent premise for science fiction, in that it immediately creates a paradox between the past and future. And... if you are going to send humans to colonise an ancient Earth, hopefully in a parallel universe instead of time travel in this universe, there would be many far friendlier epochs to visit and colonise, and some would be just as interesting, visually and dramatically. Dinosaurs have been done before, the Pleistocene megafauna would be 'new', and if you pick the right period, early hominins...

Posted on Sep 13, 2011 3:10:43 PM PDT
MH,

Yeah, I agree with you. Why send them back to, of all places, the peak of the dinosaur era? I can only assume that it was an accident, like "Lost in Space". If not, then they will probably come up with something like the time machine not being able to send people to a closer time. I have a sneaking suspicion the writers will come up with reasoning more foolish than we can possibly imagine.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 13, 2011 3:18:04 PM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
Bob,

Or ten or twenty million years into the future? All human artifacts will be long gone by then (save a few rubble piles that used to be stone pyramids or large dams, and some micrometeorite-blasted relics on the Moon) and the planet's biosphere would have recovered, many resources renewed, all new monsters, and no danger of any sharp-eyed youngster declaring: 'Hey, that Hadrosaur's not accurate!'

Posted on Sep 13, 2011 3:56:50 PM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
And it's not exactly like they've ended up in a world with an open-ended future: there's no reason to suppose that the appearance of modern humans would have any effect on the asteroid (and environmental changes?) that eventually killed off the dinosaurs.

I basically don't like time travel stories. This new "Millennium (the film based on the novel & story by John Varley) Meets Jurassic Park" doesn't look like it's going to do anything to change my mind.

Posted on Sep 13, 2011 4:24:30 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 13, 2011 4:25:05 PM PDT
M. Carole says:
Nope, they're not in the future and no apparent discussion of time travel paradoxes. In fact, it doesn't look like using logic or sciencey stuff will help us here. Wikipedia's plot summary: "The show begins in the year 2149, a time when all life on planet Earth is threatened with extinction (suggested in trailers to be due to dwindling worldwide air quality and overpopulation). In an effort to save the human race, scientists develop a time machine allowing people to travel 85 million years back in time to prehistoric Earth. The Shannon family (father Jim, his wife Elisabeth, and their three children Josh, Maddy and Zoe) join the tenth pilgrimage of settlers to Terra Nova, the first human colony on the other side of the temporal doorway. However, they are unaware that the colony is in the middle of a group of carnivorous dinosaurs."

So, we've mastered time travel but couldn't deduce that there are dinosaurs to contend with once we get there. And they're carnivorous! Apparently all the aerial drones with cameras get left behind in 2149. Someone else watch this and let me know how it goes, okay?

Posted on Sep 13, 2011 4:50:35 PM PDT
K. Rowley says:
The trailers for the new show makes me remember reading this old book - Mastodonia by Clifford D. Simak

Posted on Sep 13, 2011 9:06:29 PM PDT
@Bob
re: It's About Time

I never heard of that show. Wow: "Far Out Space Nuts" meets "Land of the Lost," before either of those shows! I'm guessing that Sid & Marty Krofft watched it.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 14, 2011 7:57:30 AM PDT
Even measured against other dumb 1960s sitcoms, It's About Time was pretty bad. The only thing good about it was a catchy theme song which could be liberally rewritten for grade school playground use. "It's about time, it's about space, it's about time to slap your face..."

Posted on Sep 14, 2011 8:37:37 AM PDT
John G. Hemry,

Of course "It's about Time" was pretty bad. The only thing going for it besides the catchy tune was that Imogene Coca and Joe E. Ross (of Car 54 fame) were pretty funny. Interestingly, I found this on Wikipedia about the show:

During the first few weeks on the air, ratings were impressive, but soon plunged. Show creator Sherwood Schwartz came to the conclusion that three factors were the cause of the decline in audience interest:

1) Repetition of the astronauts being in danger from dinosaurs, clubs, spears, volcanoes and cavemen.<- [How much do you bet that we're going to see almost the same thing in Terra Nova?]

2) An unattractive look to the show (i.e. caves, dirt streets, etc.)<- [Terra Nova is filmed in Australia and they are making a big deal about how they built this whole giant town there so that everything is 'real'. On their website video one person says 'everything is real, the scenery, even the sounds'. If I hear a Kookaburra call I'll probably scream!]

3) The cave dwellers speaking a primitive form of English that was difficult to listen to. [At least we'll be mercifully spared this. I'm not going to make an Aussie joke since I like those guys!!]

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 14, 2011 1:33:45 PM PDT
Yeah, they tried shifting the series by bringing the astronauts and the cave people back to modern times. That didn't work, either. Sherwood Schwartz had a great track record, but something about It's About Time just didn't click despite the talents of Coca and Ross.

I don't think we'll see cavemen in Terra Nova, but what do want to bet that within a few episodes aliens show up? (Or, if ratings are bad enough, Nazis who invented their own time machine in 1945!)

Posted on Sep 14, 2011 3:18:17 PM PDT
John G. Hemry,

LOL!!

Posted on Sep 14, 2011 3:34:24 PM PDT
I'll try to check it out if I can.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 15, 2011 6:35:27 AM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
John G. Hemry wrote:
"I don't think we'll see cavemen in Terra Nova, but what do want to bet that within a few episodes aliens show up? (Or, if ratings are bad enough, Nazis who invented their own time machine in 1945!)"

Brilliant! :D

I was thinking something more along the lines of an intelligent species of dinosaur that left no trace in the fossil record, but aliens works, too. (Especially since there are plenty of nutters out there who believe aliens have been visiting for millions of years, hiding in their basez, messing with our DNA... LOL)
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Discussion in:  Science Fiction forum
Participants:  42
Total posts:  289
Initial post:  Sep 11, 2011
Latest post:  Aug 2, 2013

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