Fall 2011 TV Preview: Walking With Dinosaurs On Terra Nova

By Steve West | Published

Back in 1993 Steven Spielberg left me in awe as I left the theater following my first viewing of Jurassic Park. I’d go on to see the film six times that summer, and to this day I still get a complete sense of wonder with each viewing. So I was excited to hear Spielberg was returning to the dino game with a big budget weekly series for Fox titled Terra Nova. But delays due to problems with the visual effects, and likely many other studio notes, gave me pause.

Terra Nova is much different from JP, with the only direct correlation being that there are dinosaurs on screen. Much of what made Jurassic Park so endearing was how the characters reacted to the creatures. Dr. Grant lying against a sick triceratops, giddy, as he listened to the creature breathe is a moment that’ll always make me smile. Ian Malcolm’s terror as he lay helpless in the back of the Jeep urging the vehicle to go faster as a T-Rex gives chase can still make me sit up on the edge of my seat. As a teen it all affected me on an emotional level that I still don’t understand.

I recognize as an adult that much of the dialogue and action in Jurassic Park is pretty common fare, but its Spielberg’s touch that gives it the finely honed edge. The emotional resonance I feel with the film is part of what makes the man a fantastic director. He’s a storyteller of the highest caliber, with an uncanny ability to make you believe in any incredible thing you’re seeing.

I’m not convinced, after watching the beginning, that Terra Nova will capture the same giddiness I felt when the helicopter approached Isla Nublar and Williams’ score swells. But Terra Nova is a different story. It’s a story about a family who are thrust back 65 million years to deal with dinosaurs, a strange society that’s adapted to the new world, and a mysterious threat outside the compound gates.

It’ll be intriguing to see if the creative team can give Terra Nova the emotional resonance needed to keep an audience. Because fighting dinosaurs is cool, but it won’t keep anyone interested for longer than five minutes.

The two hour premiere of Terra Nova airs Monday, September 26, at 8 pm ET.