If rumours are to be believed, the reason Terra Nova has spent so long on the kind of stand-alone episodes that the audience might consider to be “throwaway” or “filler” is because the network executives were insisting on it. If that is the case, then maybe – just maybe – the end of the series will be as expository and arc-heavy as this one was.
Still, as enjoyable as it was to learn a bit of the backstory behind Terra Nova, and in particular, Taylor, let’s not pretend that this wasn’t without its usual flaws. But first, the good stuff: Jim finally shows a little suspicion when he realises Taylor is running his own private Guantanamo in Terra Nova, and accidentally learns something he shouldn’t have. This, in turn, leads him to a body and the (apparent) truth about Taylor’s role in Terra Nova.
Although the scenes in the past (between Taylor, Lucas, and Taylor’s commanding officer) gave us our first look at what it is that motivates Taylor’s benign dictatorship, there’s the suggestion that he might be an unreliable narrator. We’re shown a lot – but we don’t necessarily get shown everything. It’s possible that this is just giving the series too much credit, but the ending suggests (albeit poorly) that Taylor wanted an excuse to tell Jim his version of events. Is that because they’re all lies? Quite possibly.
And if he is telling the truth, well, the idea of him protecting Terra Nova to maintain its original goal instead of allowing the dream to be twisted is a noble, ends-justify-means one. More of that dynamic wouldn’t be at all unwelcome – although do the Sixers really seem like corporate instruments to anyone? I’m guessing (hoping, even) that there’s more to this than we’re being told.
The ongoing saga of the most tedious teenagers alive took a completely expected turn this week when Maddy finally kissed her boyfriend. It says so much about Terra Nova that this was supposed to be some kind of big moment for the characters, and yet I can’t even remember one of their names. I’m sure he’s got one, but it’s just escaping me. You know who I mean. The wooden actor with a single personality trait. No, not that one. Or that one. Or that one. Keep going, you’ll get to it.
As usual, it was Taylor and Malcolm who rescued the show by being complete bastards and not really caring if that’s how they look – although in this case, Malcolm’s willingness to inform Taylor of Elisabeth’s secret project didn’t ring true at all. Is he trying to win her back or alienate her even further? Apparently the former, but from his actions in this episode, you’d think the latter.
Finally, it has to be said that once again, for a show about living on a prehistoric earth, it really is criminal how few dinosaurs there are. This episode, the best we got was an unusually large dragonfly, and even that was so badly rendered that it completely sucked the life from the idea. If the effects are too hard to do properly, fair enough – but in that case, don’t make them the centrepiece of the opening shot!
Still, there’s something to be said for this episode: it actually advanced the stories we care about in something more than baby steps, which is probably the first time that’s happened since episode one. Secrets revealed, dynamics subtly shifted, and new questions to answer. If they can keep this up to the end of the series, it might actually justify the relentless boredom of the first eight hours. And if it doesn’t? Well, maybe we won’t find ourselves wondering whether to come back to watch next season…
You can read our review of episode eight here.
Terra Nova screens in the UK on Sky1 and Sky1 HD.