Terra Nova was a show with a premise that had unlimited potential. Time travel, dinosaurs, serialized storytelling are all subjects that when used properly can lead to the most entertaining of television. Unfortunately, the pilot episode of the series showed that this series would never use all of that potential. That first look into the series was a fun but run-of-the-mill Spielbergian sci-fi drama. It wasn't going for any deeper meaning, but it was efficient at doing what it was attempting. The two hour pilot featured a complicated family relationship, the beginnings of adventures and multiple dinosaur chases. Essentially, it was a Spielberg rip-off, but a well directed and acted one. The only downside about the pilot was that the much hyped visual effects were pretty lackluster.
Unfortunately, the waste of potential only grew as the series went on. There was a writer shake-up after the pilot episode (talented tv writer David Fury left as part of it), and that clearly effected the quality of the show. Whereas the pilot focused on a family that traveled back in time and became part of a community with interesting characters, the rest of the series focused entirely on the family (which was a pretty dull one) and ignored the rest of the characters in the community until the writers felt like wasting them in service of an unimaginative plot. The visual effects did improve (or maybe it was me adjusting to my disappointment), but I would much rather have a serviceable storyline and interesting characters in place of visuals.
The series did ultimately gain the sense of cinematic scope that the pilot had in the season finale, but by then it was too late. Showrunners Rene Echevarria and Brannon Braga should be ashamed of the collasal failure their writing team's contributions were. The characterizations of the family were mind-numbingly idiotic and the plots and conflicts would only entertain a five-year-old. Everyone else seemed to have brought their game at one point or another during the course of the series, but they never did. I always wanted the return of dinosaurs to television, but if I knew it came with the catch of these two idiots, I would have waited.
The acting in the series was surprisingly strong for a show where the big catch was the dinosaurs. Jason O'Mara was a great lead. Even with the horrific things he was forced through by the writing staff he always came off as heroic and charming. You could at least tell he was having fun with it. His co-lead in the series was film star Stephen Lang. If you have seen Avatar, you know that Lang can take a stereotypically written tough guy and change him into a badass. So Lang was perfectly suited for this role and he ate up everything that was given to him. The other adult actors on the series were pretty solid and none were at any point annoying like some of the child actors (Landon Liboiron, Naomi Scott and Dean Geyer being the worst offenders). One of the other great actors in the series was Allison Miller. She is one of the best young actresses in television, but she was completely wasted here. The pilot episode brought her into some surprising relationships, but the writers rarely mentioned them in the following episodes. Even worse the writers brought her character into some ridiculous plot twists. It is such a shame that a talent as good as this was completely wasted.
The fate of Terra Nova is still being decided, but I will not be back regardless.