TV Review: 'Terra Nova' -- 3.5 stars
If “Jurassic Park” proved anything, it showed that, firstly, Steven Spielberg is able to create awesome dinosaur entertainment, and secondly, people like me want to see it.
The director brings his prehistoric touch to prime time as the executive producer of Fox’s long-delayed and eagerly anticipated sci-fi series, “Terra Nova.” The result is a fast-paced action adventure with a gripping, though familiar, plot.
While the premise can be a bit cumbersome to describe, it’s also rather simple: In 2149, the planet is in environmental chaos, where the air is not breathable and an orange is a rare commodity.
Enter the Shannon family, which has broken the law by having a third child. When the police come to take the child away, father Jim (Jason O’Mara), a cop, slugs the officers and lands himself in jail.
Meanwhile, scientists have devised a solution for the failing Earth — a time-travel device that sends people back 85 million years to the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs ruled the roost. Way in the past, these humans have built a colony, Terra Nova. It’s seen as a utopia, and people can only go there if they’re asked to or chosen in a lottery. Jim’s wife, Elizabeth (Shelly Conn), a doctor, has been recruited and, without too specific of a spoiler, she won’t go without her entire family, despite Jim’s incarceration. Then, boom, we’re in the past.
When the Shannons arrive, they meet super-badass Commander Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang, “Avatar”), who was the first guy to travel back in time and now runs Terra Nova. Lang plays the charismatic Taylor in the mold of a gruff frontiersman, almost like a dinosaur-wrangling Clint Eastwood.
The majority of the episode — and likely the series — is set in the past. And while the world might be prehistoric (and beautiful to behold), the story is far from primitive, with warring factions, mysterious outcasts and the exploration of a new world heaped on top of family dynamics and a tinge of frontier justice.
And, of course, there is the inherent excitement of seeing dinosaurs, from the more peaceful, majestic, docile ones to the vicious killers, who are truly terrifying and solid villains.
There are quite a few mysteries and some serious thrills built into the two-hour pilot, and you’ll be salivating for the next episode.
On TV: “Terra Nova” debuts Monday night on Fox/5.
Follow Entertainment Editor Scott A. Rosenberg on Twitter: @RosenbergScottA