Saturday, September 29, 2012

Terra Nova: The Complete Series DVD Review

 Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
It is the year 2149, and humanity is in the final throes of extinction.  Those fortunate enough to escape are allowed to travel back in time 85 million years to an outpost known as Terra Nova.  For the Shannon family, it’s a chance to reunite and start over.  But once there, they face giant, carnivorous dinosaurs, and mysterious forces conspire to destroy the entire experiment — and everyone involved in it!  Contained in this 4-disc set is the entire groundbreaking series, including all-new exclusive behind-the-scenes content, a gag reel and much more!

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

In the year 2149, the Earth has changed dramatically, and humanity nears extinction. Environmental conditions are so poor that people have trouble breathing the air and require the use of re-breathers. Overpopulation is also an issue and families are limited, by law, to no more than two children. Jim Shannon (Jason O’Mara) is a cop and has chosen to break the law and have a third child. He is caught, and sent to prison for his crime.

Scientists discovered a way to send people back in time in small pilgrimages to the prehistoric era where dinosaurs roam the earth, but the air is clean and breathable. Jim’s wife Elisabeth (Shelley Conn) is a physician and is chosen to go to Terra Nova. She is told she cannot bring her youngest daughter Zoe, the unauthorized child. Her older two Josh and Maddy are welcome on the next pilgrimage to Terra Nova. Learning this, Jim breaks out of prison and attempts to accompany his family through the portal with Zoe hidden in his backpack. Just steps from the portal, Jim is pulled out of line but he makes a mad dash and lands in Terra Nova.

Terra Nova is led by Commander Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang). Taylor tells Jim that everyone on Terra Nova must serve a purpose. The Shannon family begs him to allow them a fresh start. Taylor allows the family to stay together and initially puts Jim on landscape detail.  A group known as the Sixers, led by a woman named Mira (Christine Adams), live outside the gated and well protected city. The Sixers are working with outside forces back in 2149, as well as Taylor’s son Lucas, to destroy the entire Terra Nova project. 

Mira first appears like a reckless savage but we later learn that she is motivated by the fact that her daughter is being held captive in 2149. Mira follows orders in the hopes of returning to 2149 to be reunited with her daughter.  As the Sixers get bolder, Jim’s experience as a cop becomes more useful than his limited landscaping skills. Jim earns Taylor’s trust after saving his life during an assassination attempt. In the end, Jim attempts to travel back to 2149 to destroy the portal.

I would have liked to have seen how Terra Nova could have been developed with one more season. It was well acted by the adult and child actors and the story kept me interested. Perhaps most importantly, the dinosaurs are believable. Granted, there aren't as much of them as I would have expected. For a dinosaur show, it’s a little light on the dinosaurs. It’s clear a lot of thought, time, and money went into the sets and locations and it adds to the authenticity of the series.  There is a lot going on in this series, a little too much for just thirteen episodes. I would have liked to have seen the story develop slowly over two or three seasons at least.

Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Terra Nova is presented on DVD with a widescreen 1.78:1 ratio. The detail is impressive for DVD – both in the dark and contaminated year 2149 and also in the lush outdoors of the past. Colors look very impressive especially in the lush foliage in the jungle. The show is filled with green and earthy browns primarily and they look great.  The skintones look realistic and natural and the contrast is spot on and consistent.  I wish this had been released on Blu-ray because it would've looked fantastic in high definition.

Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Terra Nova is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, with optional French Surround Dolby Digital 2.0. Dialogue is clear and consistent throughout the series and the roaring dinosaurs, and plentiful gunfire come across well. The environmental sounds in the vicinity of Terra Nova assist the listener in becoming engrossed in the scenery. It’s not Blu-ray and its not the show I’d use to test out my sound system, but it was adequate for this show. Subtitles are available in English SDH or Spanish.

Special Features (4 out of 5 stars)

The special features are detailed and well thought out. Gag reels are my favorite and I always enjoy seeing people involved in a very serious show being silly.
  • Deleted Scenes – Interesting scenes, not vital to the overall plot.
  • Director’s Diaries – Making the Pilot – This is a unique behind the scenes look at making the film. It is lengthy and detailed and shows.
  • Occupation/Resistance Extended Episode - This is the series finale with an additional 7 minutes of footage.
  • Mysteries Explored - The cast and crew talk about the various mysteries of the series including: Calculations, the Sixers, The Box, Mira, The Spy, Commander Taylor, and The Badlands.
  • Cretaceous Life: The Dinosaurs of Terra Nova - Interviews with the cast and crew about the different dinosaurs found on the show.
  • Audio Commentary on Occupation/Resistance with Stephen Lang, Brannon Braga and Rene Echevarria
  • Gag Reel

Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

I find it odd that Terra Nova has been titled The Complete Series when it’s only lasted one season, but I guess it’s not any better to call it the one and only season. The fact that one of my all time favorite shows, Firefly, only had one season – has taught me not to write a show off because it never saw a second season.  Having seen Terra Nova however, I know now that while it's no Firefly, its blend of Jurassic Park and time travel was pretty entertaining.  The cast are all excellent in their roles, especially Jason O'Mara and Stephen Lang who represent the best the show offers.  The special effects are pretty good and this is a pretty nice DVD set for those people that may have missed the show when it was on television.

Order your copy today!

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