MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: Civilization gets a prehistoric reboot in TERRA NOVA

by Matthew Seitz
September 26, 2011 6:58 AM
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In Spielberg's new drama, a time-space rift lets us escape the consequences of befouling Earth and start over

By Matt Zoller Seitz
Press Play Contributor

Steven Spielberg has been playing God ever since 1977's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, envisioning scenarios in which individuals, groups, communities, civilizations, even whole species are figuratively or literally raised from the dead. The new Fox drama Terra Nova -- which is created by Kelly Marcel and Craig Silverstein but executive produced by Spielberg, and which fits comfortably within the Spielberg continuum -- could be the maestro's most audacious resurrection yet. I'm not a fan of of tonight's two-hour pilot -- like most premieres, it's mostly exposition wrapped in spectacle, and it has other problems that I'll address in a second. But I can say that if you're a science fiction buff of any kind, you'll want to check it out just for the premise. The network's marketing campaign is trying to position Terra Nova as another Lost, and the hype fits in one respect. Just as Lost fans were happy to spend hours debating the scientific, philosophical and theological aspects of the show even though individual episodes disappointed them, I can envision Terra Nova sparking a similarly devoted following -- one that gathers online every Monday night to bitch about new episodes after they've aired, then spends the next six days geeking out over implications that the show failed to explore.

The premise is Jurassic Park plus The Time Machine, with a post-apocalyptic kick-start. The circa 2149 Earth depicted in tonight's two hour pilot (Fox, 8 PM/7 central) is a rancid, corrosive dump. The planet is overpopulated, undernourished, and ruled by a blandly fascistic government that's concerned with stopping citizens from bogarting the few remaining resources.

You can read the rest of Matt's piece here at Salon.

A critic, journalist and filmmaker, Matt Zoller Seitz is the staff TV columnist for Salon.com and the founder of Press Play.

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