Terra Nova, Steven Spielberg’s dinosaur/time-travel TV series coming from Fox in May, was officially unveiled today at the Television Critics Association conference in Pasadena.
It was difficult to tell from the short clip that was shown and the comments of the producers, but the show seems fairly conventional with an intentional ”popcorn” feel, specifically designed to appeal to a large audience.
“Earth is essentially dying, animals are extinct,” says Executive Producer Brannon Braga. People are sent back via a time-travel portal to pre-historic times to re-colonize the Earth. “That’s their hope: a second chance at humanity.”
But Braga is quick to point out, “We’ve gotten a lot of questions about the dinosaurs and the ecosytems. But it’s really a very emotional show, about a family starting over in this primieval place.”
“This show is made for a mass audience,” says director Alex Graves flatly – unlike Lost with its geek-friendly, labyrinthine storylines. “Unlike anything I’ve ever done, it’s made for everyone.”
“You’ve got characters in a prehistoric setting using modern technology,” Braga says. “Every aspect of the show appealed to me.”
What about last fall’s controversy over a supposed firing of the show’s writers?
“I don’t know where that was reported, but the [writing turn-over] wasn’t higher than usual,” Braga says. “We had one writer change.”
Some writers did leave due to production delays. “Creating a show is like giving birth,” Brago says. “There are labor pains.”
How’d they go about world-building?
“We’ve taken a long time to create this world, both the past and future worlds,” Braga says. “It’s primarily an episodic show, but we have over-arching mysteries as well. We’ll go to the future as it impacts the past.”
“It was a lush period, the beginning of flowers,” says Graves. “It goes into the types of dinosaurs, and the gray areas of evolution, when they were starting to turn into birds. So you’re going to see dinosaurs you’ve never seen before. We’re filling in some blanks.”
But he also adds, “No sleestaks.”
An environmental message is “an important part of the story, that [humans] wouldn’t go back and make the same mistakes,” Braga says. “The community [in the past] is a sustainable one. It was very important to Mr. Spielberg” to have a pro-environmental message.
“It is about a second chance for Earth, but Earth can only be restored if they restore themselves,” Braga says. “That’s the philosophical crux of the show: can utopia be built? Is it even possible?”
In the story of the show, a portal has been accidentally discovered that allows people to travel back in time. After initial volunteers determine that it was possible to survive in the past, groups of hundreds of pioneers are also sent into the past. The show follows one such family — a story that brings them in contract with not just dinosaurs and other dangers, but also earlier pioneers who have different ideas about community-building.
As for executive producer Steven Spielberg, “he’s very involved,” Braga says. “Every idea that this guy comes up with is genius. Every aspect, we waited for his input.”
“Part of the terror of directing this is he’s watching everything you do,” says director Alex Graves. ”It could’ve been nerve-wracking, but it was very positive.”
The show will premiere in May as a two-part movie, then join Fox’s fall schedule.
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