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.

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  1. kyle says:

    13 eps? damn. -.-

    • Adam Newland says:

      I can’t see how this show works. I don’t think people care about prehistoric times or a family from the futures attempt to colonize it. People will have the brutal Land of the Lost on their brains. I say it doesn’t get renewed.

  2. Mr L says:

    Focus groups liked it all explained more because for most of them that is the only episode they are ever going to watch. So they naturally want as much explained up front as possible.

  3. MurderMondays says:

    Because more focus on a family with a kid and an angsty teen is always a good idea.

  4. George says:

    When Broadcast Television stop trying to find the New “Lost”. Then we may be able to see a true renaissance in creativity on broadcast TV.

    Until then people Stick with Premium cable HBO and AMC and basic cable networks USA and FX.

  5. H says:

    The one thing that I don’t get and I hope they explain it in the pilot or soon afterwards is: why do they need to go 85 MILLION YEARS back into the past?? Back to when dinosaurs still existed. You definitely don’t need to go that far back in history to change the course of human history. You could go like 10 million years and that would still be a long ways back. I don’t get it and like I said, I really hope they explain it or else it will be bugging me all season.

    • Alienate says:

      Ummm, how about this for an explanation:

      They get to the past thru a Worm-hole. How many worm-holes do you know where you can “dial” in the time yourself?

      It’s not like a Popeel Product: “Set it and forget it” :0

  6. Danielle H. says:

    I kinda think this is just getting too much coverage. There are ALOT of new shows on this fall; spread the love, guys. I know alot of ppl in the biz apparently are dying to see this succeed, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing if it didn’t. It would just go to show that pouring that much money into crap is unnecessary.

  7. Renee says:

    IMO the less ‘suits’ get involved the better the end product will be. Credit the audience with an iota of intelligence and tell the story. “Reality TV” watchers wouldn’t have watched anyway.

  8. Jake says:

    OH Wow! 22 eps if it makes it to a second season. i thought 13 eps was going to be the same for every season. Hopefully it does well.

  9. Bryan says:

    I saw the first episode at Comic-Con and thought it worked just fine. Now I’m worried there trying to fix something that isn’t broke.

  10. Tiffany says:

    Agreed Bryan. I liked what I saw. If you revel too much then what is the reason to continue watching. I like the premise. It’s interesting. Hope they tell a good story. At the end of the day good CG or actors can’t save a bad story.