Friday, September 30, 2011
TERRA NOVA COVERING OLD GROUND
Well, dear readers, it’s the start of the new television season and that buzz in everyone’s ears is the excitement surrounding Executive Producer Stephen Spielberg’s $20 million dino baby, “Terra Nova”.
I mean, geez, what’s not to like, right? It’s enough to make a science fiction fan drool. It’s got cool CGI cityscapes of a depleted, toxic Earth in the year 2149. It’s got an even cooler, sparkly, techie-looking particle-accelerator time-travel gate that takes its heroes back 85 million years “to set things right” so they can avoid this eco-disastrous future. And, oh, yeah, it’s got awesome CGI dinosaurs a la Jurassic Park to keep things interesting once our heroes get back in prehistoric times.
What it doesn’t have, alas, is an original idea anywhere in sight, or a writer capable of avoiding plot holes big enough to allow a T-Rex to plow through. (I’ll just blame Brannon Braga for that, even if it’s not all his fault.) Spielberg, it seems, was focused on the look of his show to the detriment of some other things. For just a few of the television/SF clichés we’re working with, try these: frontier family, disaffected teen, maverick cop, practically everything from “Lost in Space”, the “others” from “Lost”, all the dinosaur stuff and the ineffective fencing (it's coming, trust me on that one) from Jurassic Park, untrustworthy authority, grizzled commander and, well, I could go on, but you get the picture.
The Earth that sends these colonizers to the past is gasping its last, but somehow can afford to equip the teams with all the modern conveniences. They don’t have to build the least little thing using local resources. They even drive big mohawking vehicles powered by some kind of power cell. Think how much energy it would take to send those babies back in time! Of course, it’s not explained what powers the fuel cells or how they might be recharged. Same goes for the electricity that is in profligate use in the settlers’ compound. Guess maybe they have the whole solar thing figured out. If so, you wonder why the Earth is such a mess.
The only thing that saves the show for me is the presence of the wonderful Jason O’Mara in the role of maverick cop/dad Jim Shannon. He’s much better than his material, lending genuine emotion to his interactions in the family scenes, and providing a thinking woman’s action man as backup to Stephen Lang’s slightly off-kilter Commander Nathaniel Taylor. I’ve been a fan of O’Mara’s since his days on the short-lived “Life on Mars”. One day maybe he’ll get both the role and the attention he deserves. Until then I’ll just have to be content to see him in roles where he has plenty of opportunities to take his shirt off.
For somewhat similar reasons I’m interested to see how the new show “Person of Interest” turns out. Film actor Jim Caviezel (of Jesus of Nazareth fame) is the draw here, starring as a burnt-out Special Ops soldier recruited to intervene and prevent crimes such as murder or kidnapping before they happen. Again, not such a unique idea to think violent crime could be predicted and prevented by eliminating the “criminals” ahead of time. Phillip K. Dick wrote the short story that led to the movie in which Tom Cruise played a cop who becomes a victim of the system (Minority Report).
In this case the “system” is the security monitoring structure set up to scan cameras and communications after 9/11. According to the show’s premise, the network is designed to flag terrorist threats—certain statements, actions, etc. that represent a high security risk to the U.S. government and its citizens. Anything else the system picks up—kidnapping plans, or murder threats, for example, are considered irrelevant and discarded by the computer. The man who developed this elaborate, high-tech system for the government, played with appropriately nerdy elan by “Lost”’s Michael Emerson, can’t sleep at night thinking about all those potential victims. So he quits his government job, drops off the grid and goes looking for an equally disaffected Caviezel to save the people the computer casts off as “irrelevant”.
So the set-up is somewhere between “Quantum Leap” and “The Equalizer”, but with actors of the caliber of Caviezel and Emerson and writing of at least decent quality in the series opener, the show has promise.
Next week I’ll take a look at my returning faves “Fringe” and “Supernatural” and update you on my writing progress in Donna’s Journal.
Final Word on the Banana Man Saga
Colonial Forge High School Principal Karen Spillman tendered her resignation this week, following the controversy over her handling of an incident in which sophomore Bryan Thompson, aka "Banana Man", ran onto the football field at half-time dressed as a banana. Read the full story at http:\\fredericksburg.com