Fox’s Terra Nova, some 85 million years in the making, finally stomped onto the TV landscape last week, introducing viewers to Jim and Elisabeth Shannon and their too-big brood, as well as Commander Taylor, a member of the very first pilgrimage who now oversees things at Earth’s ultimate gated community. You probably came out of the premiere with some questions, like: Why’d the Shannons have an “illegal” kid anyway? How did scientists know to where/when the cosmic wormhole led? Is bikini-clad Skye bad or just drawn that way? And how much does Terra Nova (which airs Mondays at 8/7c) cost to make? Here are some answers.
HOW DID SCIENTISTS IN THE FUTURE KNOW WHERE THIS “RIP IN THE SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM” LED? | Short answer: They didn’t. As explained in the premiere, they first sent through a probe, but never heard back from or found it. So, while that indicated that the destination spot was in another time stream, “The first people who went through didn’t know where they were going to arrive,” says executive producer Rene Echevarria. (Hope they bought travel insurance.)
IN 2149, THE LAW SAYS: “A FAMILY IS FOUR.” WHY’D THE SHANNONS DARE TO HAVE A THIRD KID? | Although an original cut of the series pilot hinted at a deeper (darker?) reason for that bit of procreation, Jason O’Mara says that now, “The honest answer to that is Elisabeth and Jim are very much in love.” Before you roll your eyes, hear him out. “It’s easy to be cynical about it, but husbands and wives can be in love with each other, and they can have understanding, loving relationships, and good, close relationships with their kids,” the actor contends. “I’m not saying that they’re perfect – they’re not, by any means – but they are well-adjusted and highly functioning. Some may say, ‘How realistic is that?’ but I think it’s just as solid as any other portrayal of a TV family.”
WHAT ELSE CHANGED FROM THE ORIGINAL EDIT OF THE PILOT? | Imagine that the series started with Jim en route to Hope Plaza to collect his mysterious knapsack. Then, once the family exits the wormhole and Taylor’s guards go to slit open Jim’s parcel, that is when you first learn about Zoe. TWist! Instead, the for-broadcast pilot showed how years earlier the Shannons labored to hide Zoe in their home, and clued us in on Jim’s plan to escape prison. “Some of the feedback we got [on the previous version] was, ‘I really like it, but it starts a little choppy,’” Fox president Kevin O’Reilly explained this summer at TCA. “[The added back story] filled out the characters a little better, and when we screened it to multiple contingencies, I heard a lot of feedback from people who preferred it.” Another tweak involved smoothing over a suggestion of larger discord between Jim and Elisabeth. “There’s still some marital tension there, but yeah, it was a little darker,” says O’Mara, “which I’m not sure is the direction they wanted to go. It was more about reshifting the focus of the show toward the mythology.”
HOW SOON CAN THE SHANNON BOY GET EATEN BY A DINOSAUR? | That is a recurring refrain from some viewers who could do with less teen angst amidst this ambitious drama. “The tension with Josh,” says O’Mara, “is a longstanding storyline, as he gets seduced by not ‘the dark side’ but by seductive things.” Comely Skye included? Allison Miller, who plays the cliff-diving adventuress, deflects the temptress tag, saying, “Josh has got enough of his own influence to be bad, but I certainly don’t help things at the beginning!” In the end, she teases, “I may turn out to be all right.” Speaking of Skye: How did she lose both her parents? Says Miller, “That’s all to be revealed….”
WHEN WILL WE GET THE SIXERS’ NUMBER? | Echevarria says that light will be shed on the rebel faction as the show occasionally spends time at their well-guarded outpost. Over the course of this first season, “You’re going to find out why they’re here, who sent them, and what they’re about — and that climaxes with the arrival of the 11th pilgrimage.”
WHAT IS TAYLOR’S MIA SON DRAWING ON THE ROCKS? | “You only have to wait a couple episodes to find out what those sketchings are all about,” says O’Mara. In fact, as a general rule, Terra Nova ” is going to make sure that with all the questions, even though they’re a carrot on a stick, you only need a couple episodes to find out what’s going on. We’re being very conscious to create a show that yes, has mystery as a part of it, but we’re not going to have huge questions dangling.”
WILL DINOS EVER BITE THE DUST? | Thus far, the colony’s not-so-friendly neighbors have been repelled by sonic cannons and tranq guns, “humane” tactics that will prove to be the rule versus the exception. According to Echevarria, executive producer Steven Speilberg “had said that [killing dinosaurs] is not something he wanted to see characters do lightly. If there’s another way [to neutralize a threat], you take it.”
IF TERRA NOVA STARTS PUTTING UP T.REX-SIZED NUMBERS, COULD SEASON 1 BE EXPANDED BEYOND 13 EPISODES? | With production wrapping this week on the season finale, the answer is: No way, no how. If renewed for Season 2, however, Fox has the right to commission 22 episodes – and Echevarria says his team is “absolutely” up to that task. Speaking of numbers, is it true that Season 1 rang up a $100 million price tag? “That would not be accurate,” says Echaverria. “That is way high.” As for those other numbers, Terra Nova‘s demo rating grew from 3.1 to 4.1 once Live+3 DVR playback was factored in.