Angry migratory pterosaurs? Memory-erasing viruses? Living in Terra Nova blows. The
third fourth episode (counting the two-hour premiere) of Fox's big-budget drama created new problems for the citizens of pre-Earth and even more new problems for the series. "What Remains" used up Terra Nova's obligatory virus episode, and we're only four hours in. Is this show running out of ideas already?
When Terra Nova was first announced, we all had reasonable hopes that it would have some bite. We saw the jungle setting and fooled ourselves into thinking—just for a second—that it could be the next Lost. We saw dinosaurs and prayed for some of the wonderment we remembered feeling during Jurassic Park. Instead, we got a bland show with absolutely zero interest in pleasing sci-fi fans. As we've seen from the going-through-the-motions first episodes, Terra Nova doesn't seem to care about trying to please anyone (whoops). Are script rewrites more difficult because of the show's effects? Is the show trying to squeeze in effects just for the sake of having effects, and ignoring the importance of engaging stories in the process? Are the writers just settling on the first plot that comes to mind, in hopes that the setting will satisfy us? Whatever is going on here, it's obvious Terra Nova isn't even trying.
Here's what happened last night: A scientist at one of the colony's outposts was tinkering with the gene that causes Alzheimer's, with the intention of creating a virus designed to stop memory loss. Except the exact opposite happened. Oops! Forgot to carry the one, did we, Mr. Scientist? More like forgot everything. When the outpost stopped responding to communication, Taylor said the problem was a tech situation, not a science situation—so he set out to investigate with doctor/scientist Elisabeth? Okay, sure, Elisabeth and Taylor (Elizabeth Taylor, LOL). As you definitely guessed, they were both infected with the memory-wiping virus almost immediately after arriving! So Elisabeth and Taylor ended up losing the last 20 years or so and couldn't figure out where they were. Elisabeth thought she was back in University, and Taylor was convinced he was in Somalia. When Jim showed up, both Elisabeth and Taylor reacted by shooting him. Elisabeth couldn't remember Jim but did remember fellow scientist Malcolm, who she used to date back at school. So Jim dug into a piping-hot plate of jealousy, while Malcolm pawed at Liz. Taylor, suffering flashbacks of bad Somali times, headed back to camp, where he could have killed everyone, infected everyone, or some combination of both. There was more danger—dinosaurs ate some wires and cut the power—but eventually the day was saved because baby Zoe had gotten Jim sick with a cold that just so happened to stop the memory-eating virus. Obviously, Jim transmitted the cold to Elisabeth with a kiss. I'm assuming Jim then made out with the rest of the camp, too, so that no one else would lose their memories.
Meanwhile, on One Terra Nova Hill, Josh and Skye kissed to some sweet guitar-based adult contemporary background music, but Josh felt guilty about it because he promised his girlfriend Kara back in the future that he'd tear her away from her family and have her teleported 85 million years into the past to pursue a teenage love that, let's face it, will probably fizzle out by next semester. Skye told Josh that she could help make that happen, because she's either the most selfless person in the world or she just wants to be Kara's homewrecker in person. Skye introduced Josh to Terra Nova's bartender (Terra Nova has a bartender?), who didn't mind sharing super-secret illegal information with a couple of randy teens, one of whom is the son of Terra Nova's only cop: He's been smuggling supplies for the Sixers, who can relay information back to 2149, and can put in an order for a teenage chick. Oh, and Maddy is still smart and crushing on some guy named Mark in the series' most ill-placed and unnecessary storyline, while adorable little Zoe, who is by default my favorite character because she's not stupid, is spending most of her time playing with toy dinosaurs.
I don't usually like to spend time recapping the play-by-play of an episode, but I decided to run through the events of "What Remains" so you could relive its ridiculousness. It was just a string of things that happened, all of them meant to kill time until the writers could reveal the entirely convenient ending and give Jim and Elisabeth an excuse to make out. At least with last week's episode we got to poke fun at the lizard birds and the goofy effects; this week's episode was just bad in a torturous kind of way.
I saw a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel when the Sixers came back into play, and the series needs to return to that story as soon as possible if it's going to have any chance at redeeming itself. I know I'm more of a fan of serialized television shows, but I don't think anyone is interested in watching the Shannons overcome a new prehistoric problem (killer plants! Killer sandstorms! A killer meteorite!) each week. Thankfully, next week looks like a Sixer-centric episode. I just hope it's not derailed by a swarm of carnivorous slugs.
If I seem a bit angry, I'm sorry. It's just that I'm so disappointed in this series. Though it was billed as a big-budget sci-fi adventure, Terra Nova is obviously going the family entertainment route. I'm okay with that. But in trying to appeal to the broadest audience possible, it's forgoing any semblance of intelligence. It's not remotely science-fiction, because the science is entirely remedial and unimportant; instead it's non-threatening family fun with a fantastical backdrop, the television equivalent of bland baby food. It might keep you going, but you won't enjoy it.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom