First look at Fox's 'Terra Nova': Will it be 'Avatar' TV?

The future is smoggy (Brook Rushton/FOX)

Do the dinosaurs have feathers?

The most buzz-making rumored creature feature wasn’t on display in Fox’s Terra Nova trailer, but that’s to be expected since the production just recently wrapped its two-hour pilot in Australia and special effects are far from finished.

Here’s what was shown to critics at press tour: The trailer introduced a dystopian future, where the Shannon family (Jason O’Mara is the dad) wear breathing masks, lining up for “the final shuttle to Terra Nova” — an Earth colony set 85 million years in the past. Once they stroll through a bright light tunnel, they arrive in the past at a fenced-in compound that’s surrounded by dense Pandora-like tropical forest and at least one towering waterfall. The Shannon family is greeted by the rugged Commander Taylor (Stephen Lang, the bad guy in Avatar, and yes, you are correctly sensing a trend here).

At first, everything’s all prehistoric Blackberry-free bliss. The Shannon family hangs out in their new eco-friendly homestead breathing clean air with solar panels on the roof. “We’re starting over as a family,” etc.

Then… an attack!

"You're not in Kansas anymore…" (Brook Rushton/FOX)

Characters get violently yanked from view. Guns are drawn. Colonists speed off in The Lost World-style armored tumbler trucks. Danger! Excitement! And finally, here comes the show’s tagline: “There is no paradise without sacrifice.” Boom, take that, Shannon family.

After the trailer (which, sadly, isn’t available for online yet) producers give some detail about the concept. The Earth’s population is in big trouble and the colonists went back in time to start humanity over in hopes of rebooting the human race (yes, there’s an environmental theme — and that’s at least three Avatar-like elements, for those keeping count).

Now, going back 85 million years seems a bit like overkill. Especially since an asteroid comes along and kills a large percentage of life on Earth about 20 million years later, give or take a millennium or two. Couldn’t the Shannon family just go back to the 1920 and invent the hybrid car or something?

Critics had some questions too. In fact, as soon as the trailer ended, one declared, “I have a time paradox question,” and a producer groaned, “Oh dear God, no.”

Why, the critic wondered, aren’t the future-people worried about having the past-people making changes that will result in the future-people no longer existing?

“They’re hoping to restart humanity through this time fracture they’ve discovered,” Braga said. “What effect it has on the future — they’re hoping it will be a positive one…. Earth can only be saved if people restore themselves. Can Utopia be built? Is it possible?”

Hmmm. That doesn’t quite answer the question — but it might help explain my hybrid-car question. If it’s a “time fracture” thingy they’ve discovered, maybe it doesn’t give you a choice on where you go and only sends you to one specific point in time — like my DVR when I try to skip a commercial.

Look out! Feathers! (Brook Rushton/FOX)

And what about that killer asteroid?

“In the show, they’re acutely aware of that fact, and have a plan in mind,” Braga said.

“And they have 20 million years to perfect that plan,” added executive producer Rene Echevarria. As if anticipating the next question, he reassured everyone: “The series will not go 20 million years.”

Comments (65 total) Add your comment
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  • Rebecca

    I really hope it is NOT anything like Avatar because I am kind of interested in this show. But if it is going to be anything like that Smurfized Pocahontas movie, then I won’t be watching.

    • ELle

      Yes, another “I’m so cool, I hated Avatar” non-fan…
      Sorry, 2.7 billion dollars worth of tickets sold and nine Oscar nods (including Best Pic and Best Director) can’t be wrong. AVATAR was brilliant filmmaking and you have to suck it.

      • Rebecca

        I don’t think I am so cool just because I HATE Avatar. I just know that I am doing the right thing by not watching it.

      • Lila

        Just shut it, ELle. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

      • Ian

        Elie has a point, there are too many unoriginal people complaining about blue/smurf/pocahantas/dances with wolves “Avatar”, guess what we’ve all heard it and really I’m afraid it’s boring

      • Cando

        Yes, another “I’m so stupid I believe that just because a lot of people buy tickets to a movie that means that movie was great, and I also believe that just because a movie gets tons of award nominations that means it’s great because I don’t know how to think for myself” person.

        And yes me, not liking a movie with crap acting about giant blue cats automatically makes me cooler than you.

      • Ian

        You’re definately more dellusional than me.

      • Joe

        Right On, Elle! People, especially now with the internet and its encouragement of the armchair critic mentality, tend to jump on bandwagons too much, especially when it comes to pop culture. Especially the internet denizens who consider it cool to be the “outsiders”, the cool kids who don’t care for anything commercial or financially successful, and to love to see themselves as “original”. Ironically, they are just following that herd mentrality. Back when Titanic came out, there was also a big “Me? I hate Titanic, I’m cool” backlash, and Cameron, by once again obliterating box office records, getting rave reviews and Oscar nods, has elicited the “im’ cool” crowd rage. It’s all jealousy. One thing is to do great box office, usually, the nerds can find comfort in films that do well but get bad reviews. But to do fantastic box office and aso get over 80% fresh at RT AND nine Oscar nods? The cool kids’ heads exploded with envy/rage.

      • VoxBF

        So ticket sales equal high quality films? Please! I don’t have to trash Avatar to say I didn’t like it but I REALLY disliked it! The fact that this artical says Avatar TV in the title pisses me off!

      • whereisit

        Rebbeca, can I call you Becky? I think you should say you were not intrested in Avatar, since you did not see it can you really HATE IT? If you watched the movie, then you can move on to HATE, ohterwise you were just not intrested in the subject matter.

      • Cult of Personality

        I didn’t HATE Avatar, I just thought it was too preachy. I would have enjoyed it better if the theme was a lot more subtle. As a native, I think movies like this should be told. Let Americans be more aware of why we fight for our sovereignty. However, it was too preachy and I think it might acutally have an opposite effect.

      • Emeri

        Just because it made the most money and got Oscar nominations doesn’t mean it was the most brilliant thing ever. I don’t HATE Avatar, but in no way do I think it’s as great as everyone says it is. I could go into TONS of detail as to why, but I’ll just leave it at that for now.

        Anyways this show looks AWESOME. I will most definitely be watching come May 23rd.

      • JAM


    • Wickeddoll

      I have a love/hate attitude toward Avatar. It’s gorgeous to look at on Blu-Ray, which is why I bought it. But the hackneyed themes, and cliche characters are a big minus. Speaking as a former Air Force member, married to a current Air Force officer, Lang’s character was the most insulting, cartoonish, military stereotype of all. And as a black person, don’t get me started on the whole “Great White Hunter Saves The Natives” cliche…

      • Dave

        I agree, Lang’s character was an absolute cartoon. He was the definition of one-dimensional. I don’t know why people were so willing to overlook things like that just because the special effects were so good.

      • Joe

        People were willing to overook that because the film was brilliant filmmaking and classic storytelling at its finest. Find me ONE film that is absolutely, unquestionably, 100 % original, with absolutely no themes, motifs or plot points derived from something else and I will sell you a cabin in the sun. The whole “OMG, Avatar is so unoriginal” was a flimsy way to find something, anything, to undermine a fantastic film that did get the great reviews, the popular acclaim and the box office, plus the Oscars. And that was something the bitter cynics could not bear.

      • z

        Well the theme for Avatar comes from more of Romeo & Juiliet when you take some time to think about it. To people from rival backgrounds have a forbiden love. Infact Walt diseney used shakespiere’s writings and created more kid freindly versions. Avatar brought a new version to it and a pretty darn good one at that. While there is a lot of similarities between Avatar and Poccohautus their are a lot of differences. maybe if you actually watched the movie before you judge it personally you would all relize that. As for langs character it was meant for him to be one dimesional. in literature its called a static character and they are useful. had he not been so gun-ho extremist and listened and changed his mind when they told him the plot would have not been the same, no conflict would of happened and the story would have been boring. he was not a military man at the time during the events of the movie. he was a mercenary and if the stuffed wasn’t dug up he probaly wouldn’t get paid. i think most of us ould had we just traveled 5 lightyears and we got paid if something was accomplished, we’d try to make sure that happened. And they weren’t trying to be all we big white guy saved helpless indians. they wanted to get them to move and they where trying to get their trust so they would by giving them stuff. sure they thought they were suppierior and they were they were using them and we all have done that so dont make a big deal. however you are still entitled to your opinion. You dont like the movie ok you didn’t see because you didn’t think you’d like it, ok but dont say crap just to undermine it for the soul fact that you didn’t like it. and if you haven’t seen it and are totally dissing it you have little room to speak. Leave that job to critics who get paid to do that and they look deep into the movie. And people who liked it(me) you don’t have to try to convince those who didn’t that they have to, if you wont change niether will they because they are different than you. if you didn’t like it the same goes for you. however lets all just drop the whole Avatar Arguement when we should talk about Terra Nova its ok to compare it to Avatar but don’t get lost in arguing about Avatar whereas you cant relate it to Terra Nova.

    • Greg Alexander

      When you say “I just know that I am doing the right thing by not watching it”, are you saying you’ve never watched Avatar, but hate it?

    • tagsvet

      I agree, Rebecca. Another racist “white people are evil, especially white males” fantasy from Spielberg would be a shame. I’ll watch for the special effects and the dinosaurs, and turn the leftist dialog off.

  • Joe

    I’m all ready bored. What else is on? Oh, look. A Criminal Minds marathon. OK

    • whereisit

      What channel?

  • XtremeCamera

    When you go back in time you create an alternate timeline, the original timeline still exists and in that timeline the future earth is still a mess. I hope they are more “up” on theoretical physics then “Oh dear god no” responses to questions. Any physicist that has done a fair amount of thinking about “time” and how what it is understands this.

    • Mike

      Well, when discussing time travel I don’t think any one theory can be accepted as fact. You can go the Alternate Timeline route (a la the Star Trek reboot) or you can go the “Whatever Happened Happened” route (a la LOST). Ironically, Damon Lindelof was involved in both of those lol But yeah, it sounds like this show would be going the Alternate Timeline route. I’m excited to see what this show comes up with. But I have to echo the sentiments on the “dear God no” comment from the producer. I sure hope the brains behind the show have thought it through a bit more than implied in this column!

  • angeljake

    Love Avatar

  • Michael Sacal

    I still don’t get it.

    I’ll watch it, but they need to explain the time paradoxes, not gloss over them.

    Shows like this work when they explain/justify themselves, not when they ask the audience to turn off their brain to watch.

    • Korbermeister

      Wow. YOU must live in a time paradox if you think that most shows that work encourage you tO think. What explains fox news? CBS comedies? Dane Cook Specials?

      • Michael Sacal

        I said shows like this. The ones you lists are NOT shows like this.

    • Rachel

      I disagree, I read Michael Crichton’s(sp?) Timeline and he spent, like, 100 pages trying to convince me that the science behind his time travel was plausible. It was mind-numbing and completely unnecessary as I a) was never going to buy it anyway, and b) am capable of suspending my disbelief and enjoying the story. Unless the story sucks…which Timeline did. So, in conclusion, don’t read Timeline. You’re welcome.

      • K

        Timeline is the definition of sucking.

  • Steinein

    The producers have to know that with any show that brings up time travel, sci-fi fans are going to debate the time paradox/multiverse/sound of thunder theories to no end, so I hope that they aat least bring that up as an issue and give their reason on the show why that is a nonissue to get past it, but itsounds like they didn’t even address that at all.


    No thanks. I dont live in SuckCity like this show does.

  • Briana

    Perhaps the show takes place in the crack in the wall that Amy Pond had in her room…

    • Michael Sacal

      More like Primeval in reverse.

    • korri

      The answer to the time paradox question has something to do with timey whimey stuff obviously…

      And I was totally thinking of primeval reading this. Just replace ‘time fracture’ with ‘anomaly’ and you have something pretty similar

    • MikeyM

      I think it’s more like Land of the Lost and Odyysey 5 and Lost and Sigmund and Sea Monster.

  • lostidol

    So, why isn’t this on SyFy? This sounds right up their alley. Maybe it sucks so bad that even SyFy rejected it?

    • MikeyM

      SyFy original movie?
      It will last a year and go the same way as The Event and Fastforward.

  • Emily

    This show will be awful just like anything Brannon Braga touches “They’re hoping to restart humanity through this time fracture they’ve discovered” What drugs is he on. This guy runs shows to the ground. Just like when he got his hands on 24 and flash forward this show will be cancelled sooner then later.

  • dee123

    Wasn’t this shot in Queensland? given the horrors that state is in at the moment, will they still film there?

    • Greg

      Yes it’s in Queensland. I’m sure when the floods subside it’ll be fine.

    • Green

      I live behind the studios and bushland area they film in, and luckily this area wasnt affected by the flood.

  • Annette

    Not everything is Avatar idiots at EW! Let’s not forget about Lost In Space which basically has the same plot except Terra Nova is on earth along time ago instead of in Space.

  • Jacob

    Wow, not a single frame has been screened by these posters, and it’s already the worst thing on TV. Gotta love the snobs!

    • Jacob

      Seen, not screened.

      • mephysto

        Haters love to hate

      • whereisit

        That explains old Becky above.

  • Rissa

    I couldn’t care less either way if it is like Avatar. I just wish it didn’t share a name with a standardized test.

  • RouxRaven

    The only good thing about Avatar were the special effects. It would have been a great movie if it was a silent film.

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