Is there trouble ahead for Steven Spielberg’s Terra Nova?

Already beset with woes behind the scenes, ambitious sci-fi series Terra Nova has had its US premiere pushed back to the autumn. Is this a bad sign, wonders Ryan?

On paper, the Steven Spielberg-produced Terra Nova sounds like one of the most intriguing science fiction shows to appear since Lost or Battlestar Galactica. Not only does it feature a sterling cast, including Irish actor Jason O’Mara and Stephen Lang (who provided a memorably aggressive performance in Avatar), the series has a potentially great premise, which involves human settlers forming a colony in Earth’s prehistory.

Star Trek stalwart Brannon Braga is Terra Nova’s showrunner, and the show’s estimated $4 million per episode budget should ensure that its “humans and dinosaurs” concept will look the part.

In the past few months, however, there have been reports of problems in Terra Nova’s production. Last September, writer and producer David Fury left the series due to what he described as “creative differences”.

Then, in November, it emerged that Terra Nova’s entire writing staff team had been fired in order to save money. While this isn’t quite as disastrous as it might initially sound – the word is that the writing team will be rehired once the series proper gets under way – it could be taken as a sign that an already expensive series has strayed over budget.

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Terra Nova’s two-hour opening episode (made for an estimated cost of $10 million) was originally scheduled to make its US debut in May, but we now know that the opener’s been relocated to sometime in the autumn, meaning the series proper may not arrive until 2012. 

“The cutting-edge visual effects used to create the world of Terra Nova, which is of massive scope and scale, require more time to be realized,” said Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly in a statement. “This aspect of the series is essential, so we are pushing back the special early preview date to give the visual effects team the time needed for their ground-breaking work.”

Delays are understandable, perhaps, given the number of effects a dinosaur-filled TV series will inevitably require, but when you consider that the pilot was originally intend to premiere in late 2010, this second setback seems a little troubling.

Fox has a lot riding on the success of Terra Nova. As well as pouring in the requisite funds for the opening show, it’s taken the unusual step of ordering all 13 episodes of the series up front – a decision taken in order to head off the cost of deconstructing and then rebuilding sets after filming on the pilot finished.

Despite the latest news, we’ve high hopes that the resulting series of Terra Nova will dispel any worries its production wobbles may provoke. It’s great to see a genre series getting the budget it deserves, and if the show itself can live up to the pedigree of its writers and cast, perhaps it can fill the gap left by the passing of series like the previously mentioned BSG and Lost.


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