Why Terra Nova Squashed Some Tension In Exchange for a 'More Emotional' Pilot

The latest version of the Terra Nova pilot making rounds undercuts what had been one of the opening hour’s big surprises as well as recontextualizes one of the show’s central relationships. But despite some protest from critics, producers maintain that the added scenes were always part of their original vision — and not necessarily a by-product of test screenings.

“It wasn’t so much [the result of] screenings and focus groups but our desire to engage you in the Shannon family story,” executive producer/writer Rene Echevarria told TVLine. “We didn’t think of it as expositional, but a more emotional approach to draw you into that world.”

Premiering Monday, Sept. 26, at 8/7c, the Steven Spielberg-shepherded Terra Nova revolves around a future reality in which “pilgrimages” of people from the very, very bleak year 2149 travel back in time via a cosmic wormhole in order to colonize an idyllic if prehistoric Earth. Among the new arrivals are former cop Jim Shannon (Life on Mars‘ Jason O’Mara), with his wife and three kids in tow.

Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly was surprised to hear of critical backlash against the latest pilot edit, saying, “Some of the feedback we got [on the previous version] was, ‘I really like it, but it starts a little choppy.'”

TVLine won’t prematurely spoil anything for our readers, but instead say that the new scenes essentially frontload back story on the Shannon family, in some instances filling in blanks that (in the opinion of myself and several others who write about TV) were better left to reveal themselves as “A-ha!” moments.

Explaining said “blank-filling,” Reilly said, “The ‘core Comic-Con audience’ can make that leap and [believe], ‘Less is more,’ but I think [the added back story] filled out the characters a little better. We screened it to multiple contingencies [and] I heard a lot of feedback from people who preferred it.”

Due to its greater post-production demands, dictated by much CGI, the occasional dinosaur, and a home base in Australia, Terra Nova‘s freshman season will run 13 and only 13 episodes, while if renewed for a second cycle would play a full 22.