I had high expectations for both these shows as they came under the imprimatur of Steven Spielberg albeit as an executive producer, but they suffer from the odd cosy nature of their catastrophes. The problem that is central I think is the role of the family. Since War of the Worlds, Spielberg had betrayed what had previously been an impeccable record of putting the nuclear into nuclear family. Remember Close Encounters of the Third Kind and how Richard Dreyfus gleefully destroyed the family home in his obsession with pmashed potato mountains and UFOs. Remember the home destructions of 1941 and ET. Families weren't only broken they were ripped apart: Poltergeist. But something changed and that came in 2005's War of the Worlds. The son is as determined to leave the family as Roy Neary or Chief Brody. He goes to what must be his death, in the process giving his father the agonizing decision of which child to save. This moment of genuine grief is betrayed in the final reel when we learn that the son survived anyway. Not because of anything, not through some twist. He just did. Families are for these programmes and films what divorce used to be for police detectives. A divorce used to be a code which said single but not gay, been around, has emotional depth, but available. Now family gives a simliar idea thast parenthood is an essential prerequisite of heroism. But that is ot all that is awful about the pointless Terra Nova, which despite its much trumpeted budget seems to have been shot in an upper end farmer's market. The plot makes no sense: the guns don't seem to work much on dinosaurs who helpfully only eat people who don't have many lines, the idea of escaping from smog by going and living in a dinosaur infested prehistory seems shortsighted to say the least. The actors are remarkably unlikeable and everyone takes the silliness far too seriously. It might get better.
But i'm not holding my breath.
John Bleasdale is a writer. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, Il Manifesto, as well as CineVue.Com and theStudioExec.com. He has also written a number of plays, screenplays and novels.