Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova

Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova

Summary: I expected so much more from Steven Spielberg in a Science Fiction TV series.

TOPICS: Hardware, Mobility

To be a devoted fan of Science Fiction on television, you have to expect that you're going to have to wade through a lot of crap before you get to the good stuff.

In the case of FOX's Terra Nova, it's metric flipping tons of it, pooped straight out of an Apatosaurus cloaca.

(EDIT: Yes, I am blissfully aware that large sauropods such as Apatosaurus, Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus died out towards the end of the Jurassic Period. However, apparently the show's producers aren't. There were Titanosaurs, though.)

I've discussed my dissatisfaction with Science Fiction on TV before. The previous show which incurred my wrath on this column was Caprica, the dud of a prequel to the most excellent Battlestar Galactica re-imagining.

Caprica was a bad show because it took all of the worst minutiae that was in Galactica and made it the focus of the entire series.

The main characters weren't compelling enough to keep my ADD-addled attention span and too many things made no sense at all which battled with the willing suspension of disbelief that is necessary in order to actually enjoy any Sci-Fi show.

As I said before, provided the characters and the story is engaging enough, you can forgive a show for scientific shortcomings or technology that defies explanation. This is why Battlestar Galactica succeeded and Caprica tanked after one season.

This is why Star Trek and Doctor Who are such loved TV shows.

However, like Caprica, I'm having a lot of the same problems with Terra Nova and I find myself screaming at the TV set with a resounding "What the hell?" multiple times per episode.

What really makes me mad about the whole thing is that we're not dealing with hacks. Steven Spielberg is the executive producer of the show.

The eye candy of Terra Nova is incredible. The dinosaurs and the sets are amazing, and it really does have a huge sense of realism, at least visually.

The amount of money that is being spent to produce this show is obviously obscene. It's estimated that it took approximately $10M-$20M to produce the pilot and an estimated $4M per episode. Wowza.

But then the show does whacked out stupid stuff that makes you wonder if Spielberg or FOX even bothered to hire science or military consultants at all.

What, Steven so completely blew his budget on CGI, set design and actors that he couldn't hire someone like Michio Kaku or Neil DeGrasse Tyson or someone at the National Science Foundation to proofread the friggin' scripts? Seriously? Not even their interns?

Let's begin with the opening sequence and the show's logo. The show is supposed to take place towards the end of the Cretaceous period, which is 85 million years in the past. We're treated with an eye-candy view of the planet earth, complete with the mega-continent of Pangaea.

It looks cool, but there's just one itty bitty problem with that.

85 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous, Pangaea didn't exist. Pangaea existed 250 million years ago and broke up over the course of 165 million years, up until the time the show is supposed to take place. Oops.

If that was the only technical nit in the show, I'd just say "eh". But unfortunately it doesn't end there.

One of the things that drives me absolutely nuts is the Terra Nova colony's lack of situational awareness.

The colony is run by a commander in the Earth's military forces, but apparently he and his soldiers have no way to figure out where the "Sixers" are, who are the rogue undesirables that went off into the jungle and are a thorn in the colony's side.

In recent episodes, we've learned that the Sixers live in the tree canopies, and are nomadic, moving from place to place to avoid detection.

The Sixers, by the way, apparently feel like they need to go totally Survivor: Cretaceous meets Mad Max Beyond Jurassic Park in their attire, complete with war paint, animal skins and badass tattoos.

But I digress.

So, let me get this straight. The Terra Nova colonists come from 138 years in the future and have incredible technology they've brought with them (single chip supercomputers, holographic projectors, sonic and energy weapons, portable nuclear fusion devices, advanced fabrication and construction systems, et cetera) but they can't triangulate a radio signal?

Or better yet, they don't have miniature UAVs or mid-22nd century equivalents to Predator drones? You mean that Amazon.com isn't selling remote control micro-copters or mini-zeppelins with advanced thermographic imaging sensors and sophisticated optics for $50 in the year 2149?

Hell, if I was the military commander on Terra Nova, I would have surveillance UAVs patrolling the skies around the damn colony 24x7.

Monday night's program was a real winner. A huge meteor streaks out of the sky, explodes in mid-air, causes a "Sonic wave" that shatters everything for miles around and creates an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) which fries anything powered with a computer chip in it.

Yeah, sure. Never mind the fact that such a meteorite explosion would be the equivalent of a nuclear weapon going off and if the colony was anywhere near it, the show would have ended right then and there.

Anyone recall the 1908 explosion in Tunguska, Siberia? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? No?

Okay, so I did some research on this one and I found out that ferrite core metorites can cause electromagnetic pulses. However, ferrite core meteorites are extremely rare, representing only 10 percent of all of the meteors that enter our atmosphere.

Still, one that is big enough to cause a huge EMP would almost certainly be detectable some time before it hits the earth, especially one that would be a near direct hit for the colony.

I would expect that 138 years in the future, we'd have some way of observing objects in space, just as we do now, using spectroscopy to determine the composition of near earth objects (NEOs).

With that data, the colony would know which ones had the potential to create an electromagnetic burst, even with portable observation equipment brought back into the distant past.

Hell, by then, I'd expect that you could compact the equivalent imaging and sensor capability (and then some) of the Keck Observatory into the size of an SUV or my backyard grill. 100,000 megapixels? No problem. I mean, they've demonstrated they have friggin' supercomputing SoCs on that episode that would make Steve Jobs' head spin.

So I would think that the Terra Nova colony would have adequate time to prepare against such a meteoroid, and if the colony was so dependent on their technology to function, they would have electromagnetically shielded vaults (like the "Eye" supercomputer room that contains the sum of all human knowledge shown in that episode) filled with backup chips for every mission-critical piece of equipment including extra chip fabricators.

Like, the colony is the entire future of humanity, right?

I can't believe they only had one chip fabricator, and the chip that ran it was fried. What freaking idiot IT director at the Terra Nova colony came up with that disaster recovery plan? Fire his ass.

They can give every family on Terra Nova a condominium but they can't stock up on spare parts? What the hell?

Let me go on.

They have the technology to synthesize 50 gallons of reptilian pheromones in five minutes, but they don't have the ability to protect the airspace over the colony from tens of thousands of angry bird-sized dactyls using millimeter waves or even utilize their existing sonic weapons technology to shatter the eardrums or scramble the brains of everything coming in from the air?

If you have a colony in the late Cretaceous, wouldn't pterodactyl attacks be something they would want to plan for? Hell, I live in suburban New Jersey and I plan for friggin' pterodactyl attacks. Seriously.

And why the heck is the fencing of this colony made out of wood beams? Cause it's green tech and we don't want to pollute the environment?

Wouldn't reinforced concrete make more sense? These people have seemingly unlimited energy, can synthesize just about anything, but they can't make carbon fiber? Hell, with technology this far in the future, I'd expect them to be able to make barriers or netting out of carbon nanotubes.

But then you wouldn't necessarily be able to see the cool dinosaurs through the barrier, I know.

And, seriously, why the hell are these people leaving the compound at night? You don't flipping go into the damn pitch black jungle where there are all sorts of dangerous animals about, especially without any night vision.

Yeah, like why don't they have night vision? Every single damn person should be issued night vision goggles. YOU LIVE IN THE FREAKING JUNGLE.

And why do people go missing all the time? Wouldn't you chip every single adult with the future equivalent of an RFID tag or homing implant to keep track of them and keep them from falling into harm's way?

I know. Just sit back and enjoy the pretty dinos and cool sets, Jason. Sci-Fi TV sucks.

Does Terra Nova piss you off too? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • RE: Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova

    Seriously lmao at this post! You are too mucking fuch!
    • RE: Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova


      It is a humour article, but I think that JP misses an important point.

      "Twilight", "Terra Nova", "Caprica" and so forth - these are not Sci-Fi or horror. They are dramas about relationships - made for women under the guise of being made for men. A person might as well be watching "Neighbours" or "Days of our lives". I find all of those utterly unwatchable. It is little more than sissy-tv.

      Certainly, our most loved Sci-Fi and horror shows included a minor amount of relationship drama, but it was a minor amount that very much played second fiddle to the show's emphasis on Sci-Fi or drama.

      I want a return to "proper" Sci-Fi and horror that is about Sci-Fi and horror!
      • RE: Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova

        @Habiloso Dr. Who and Star Trek and Galactica had a TON of relationship drama. As did Babylon 5.
      • RE: Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova

        +1. Lol.
        Ram U
      • RE: Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova


        So where did Firefly fit in your very small world?

        All SF is soap and about relationships - even Enemy Mine that Steve was laughing about in Hawaii 50 is about relationships, as were all the Star Treks , Bab 5, Dr Who etc etc.

        Perhaps you could offer examples of what you think is proper SF?
      • RE: Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova

        @tonymcs<br><br>Please read this from you OP . . . "Certainly, our most loved Sci-Fi and horror shows included a minor amount of relationship drama, but it was a minor amount that very much played second fiddle to the show's emphasis on Sci-Fi or drama. "<br><br>I did not say that Sci-Fi was not about relationships. What I said is that it played a minor role to the Sci-Fi itself. One needs only to consider shows such as Star-Trek to see that many involved relationship issues, such as a love interest or a dilemma. Now compare that to, for example, "Twilight", which is little more than a penny Mills and Boon love novel (poorly) disguised as horror (or whichever genre you want to apply to it). The whole point of those shows is about the love-relationship rather than the Sci-Fi/horror. They are a love story that just happen to involve vampire or whatever.

        In using the word "relationships", I do not mean the broad context of relationships; rather, I meant love relationships and the like. On reflection, I should have said "love relationships" rather than "relationships". I do not mean the interrelationships between, say, Dr Rush in Stargate:Universe and the rest of the crew, which are a necessary and important part of the "drama" of the Sci-Fi. As I said, shows such a "Twilight" are little more than penny love novels. If a person thinks that is Sci-Fi/horror, well and good, but I've no idea how they could come to such a conclusion.
      • RE: Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova

        Sadly, your argument here is based on the idea that anything made for women (as if all women are the same) must be awful. I for one am a woman who thinks Terra Nova is a sad excuse for a tv show because of its lack of attention to detail and cliche interactions. I also appreciate development of romantic character relationships when it contributes to a storyline. I assume many people would agree with me, regardless of their gender or sexuality.
      • RE: Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova


        Caprica was about the development of artificial consciousness adn what implications that had for humanity and society. How is that not sci-fi? I can understand if the show wasn't to your liking, but it was much more science and speculation oriented than the vast majority of sci-fi on TV.

        It's a shame that the people who only want explosions and robot fights are the ones that make up the ratings.
      • @Habiloso

        Totally agree with you!!!
    • RE: Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova

      @chefdaiz Hah...... can ever earn like this: http://www.technologyfazer.com/modern-warfare-3-smashes-records.html
      If you won't beleave me check by yourself...
  • RE: Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova

    Completely agree, the latest episode in particular was the worst so far.

    -No shielding from EMP?
    -A magic chip fabricator that is also not protected and then no one but the bar tender knows how to fix it.

    Also strikes me as odd, that there also seems to always be someone trapped outside in the jungle, children as well. If this was remotely real i would expect a lot more regulations.

    This is supposed to be the final hope for man kind, with the best resources and people.
  • RE: Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova

    Now that you mentioned that show.

    What Sci-Fi shows in my past rate a place in the Pantheon of the Greats and why.

    The why is easy to answer - any show that makes me, nah compels me to drop whatever I'm doing and watch the next installment of it's story arc. And those joys were: the original ST and Babylon 5 and Doctor Who.

    Although I've watched the Doctor from the third Doctor on, I must admit the best Sci-Fi series was and will remain for me Babylon 5.

    However, from the very first ads I knew that I would never watch a single minute of Tera Nova. Jason's review only confirms how correct my initial judgement call was.
    • Pantheon of the Greats....

      Soylent Green
      Planet of the Apes
      Forbiden Planet
      Omega Man

      Because they concentrated on Sci-fi not not chasing a "broader" audience...
  • RE: Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova

    The problem with your complaints is that there is always an explanation and the biggest one you left out.<br><br>This is a different timeline. That single premise answers virtually all your gripes. Pangaea didn't exist then - well it did in this timeline - same for the dinos etc.<br><br>I agree Caprica was incredibly boring and Terra Nova is a little too American middle class and family oriented (yes I know there are other accents), but it's serviceable.<br><br>It's easy to complain about the tech, but remember it's tech they have to bring back, so its presumably expensive and doesn't cover all the range of available tech from the future. You also assume tech is going to improve enormously, but the shattered world they are coming from may have all kinds of shortages and banned tech.<br>As to your desire to decimate the local fauna with all sorts of weapons - I think that's one of the things they're trying to leave behind as that attitude got them into this mess in the first place.<br>It's also refreshing to see some SF without all the dark, edgy stuff that sometimes even made BG unwatchable.<br><br>So its light SF with some good CGI and I'd rate it around the same as SG-1 or Stargate Atlantis (and I had some real trouble with some of their tech - even with Amanda Tapping doing the technobabble)<br><br>However, the real suspension of disbelief for Aussies is why Terra Nova looks remarkably like tropical Queensland <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/wink.gif" alt="wink">
    • RE: Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova

      Completely agree re downtown US ville focus. I expect 2kg steaks (dino of course) & bottomless coffee crap to appear any time. If the future looks like US Today, we are all in for a rough ride!!
      Re SG-1 -> pls never bring back that Colonel with the bad jokes & no idea of tactics/man management. It made a potentailly good show rubbish. There's got to be humour but not the American Guy type of show perhaps a bit of South Park goes Paleolithic??
    • RE: Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova

      @tonymcs <b>This is a different timeline. That single premise answers virtually all your gripes. Pangaea didn't exist then - well it did in this timeline - same for the dinos etc.</b><br><br>Nope. Doesn't work that way.<br><br>They are going from the post-Einsteinian theories on multiverses (M-theory and brane theory). The premise is if you were to travel in time to the past, you would create an alternate timeline in a new universe. So it's still 85 million years in our Earth's past, but in a newly created alternate universe as of that point in time.
      • RE: Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova

        @jperlow I agree. It irks me when the writers are lazy and can't make events in the storyline consistent with their own construct.

        This show has many more problems than that, though. The plot lines are simplistic and obvious. The characters have little depth. And the action situations play out like a big cliche.

        This has often been the case with Speilberg. He has always been much more focused on the visuals than anything else. It's cool to watch Indiana Jones fly through the air five miles while inside a refrigerator propelled from a nuclear explosion. Meanwhile his hope is that the audience will be so distracted that no one will question why Indiana Jones and the refrigerator he was in were not instantly annihilated from the explosion.
        K B
      • RE: Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova

        @jperlow Exactly. Not to mention two impending extinction events. One minor one at 82 mya and one at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary (about 65 mya)where about half of all life forms died out, including pretty much ALL animals over 55lbs, many families of fishes, clams, snails, sponges, sea urchins and many others. Why would you choose this time to go back to in order to save humanity when a major extinction event is right around the corner? Presumably they have some kind of plan for surviving the event but the prevailing theory is that this major extinction was caused by an asteroid. If they can't even deal with a piddley little one that generates an EMP how are they supposed to survive one between 4 and 9 miles in diameter. The whole premise of the show is flawed.
  • RE: Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova

    You assume a lot about technology... you also assume they can even get it back there or ever did.. or that they'd have astronomers looking at the sky all the time. This isn't some big city, they've only been there a few years.

    I think you also missed the part in the first episode where... yes its back in time, but its also an alternate time line Earth, not the one the come from in the future, so how do you know when what happened in that time line was the same as our time line... how do you know the time line or reality they are even from was ours at all. You are assuming a lot about the show...

    Are there some issues that don't make sense... for sure. Is it as bad as your trying to make it... not even close.
  • RE: Why I prefer dinosaur poop to Terra Nova

    The scientific inaccuracies aside, the show simply lacks drama, both in terms of the situations the characters find themselves in and their relationships.

    Dr. Who, for one, manages to be compelling in spite of suspect science because it's internally consistent and has characters you care about.