TERRA NOVA: Nobody gets in or out! (Except when they do.)

TERRA NOVA S01 E03 “What Remains” Recap
Watch out for those SPOILERS!

During tonight’s episode I decided to try out the new Terra Nova Companion App. According to the App Store description, this is supposed to let viewers “watch the show on TV along with [their] iPad and see the show from a new angle as a two-screen TV-iPad experience…sync with the live show on TV and provide a unique innovative way to experience the world of Terra Nova for every episode during the season as a show companion.”

The iPad TERRA NOVA Companion App

Basically the TN app supplies some limited background info about the characters (“Citizens of Terra Nova”), extras such as video shorts (“The Prequel” section) designed to enhance the show’s backstory, and a variety of behind-the-scenes clips, as well as cast bios. However it is not made for streaming full episode video or downloading eps.

As each new episode is broadcast, “Get Closer” sections become available with more detailed info on various things mentioned in that show. For example, when a new type of dinosaur like the Ovosaurs in tonight’s ep made an appearance, some mini-factoids about them become immediately accessible on my iPad. I found it a little distracting to try to read these additional pieces of info in the app while the show was on, but I suspect the real purpose of the app is simply to try to keep viewers interested between broadcasts.

But on to this week’s ep: We see a very disoriented scientist-type wandering around aimlessly in a laboratory and then going outside, to promptly become dinner for a huge Meat-a-saur. Exec Producer Brannon Braga promised scifi fans a death in every ep, so I give this third episode a few extra credit points for having a Dino Snack Attack within the first two minutes. And how very farsighted of the folks in 2149 to keep sending new “pilgrimages” back 85 million years in time to Terra Nova, so that the supply of red shirts is always well-stocked.

Cmdr. Taylor, Doc Liz, and Security Guy Brady (hmmm, the obvious Red Shirt has been given a name, so the probability of this guy being truly offed lessens just a little) go to investigate the reason for radio silence from nearby Scientific Outpost 3, and discover that the Wetlands Research folks working there have been infected by some kind of virus that causes crazy behavior, rapid memory loss and eventual paranoia.

Lucky for them, the former Head Researcher of Outpost 3 (Dino snack man) has left behind a video log relating how they’d discovered a new kind of pathogen that had adversely affected everyone in the facility. Realizing that they all must have become exposed to this nasty pathogen upon arrival, Taylor instructs his Terra Nova team to remain at the outpost indefinitely until Doc Liz can do more research on the unknown virus and hopefully discover the cure that eluded those scientists. (Hmmm, Liz also solved last week’s medical science puzzle within 43 minutes of airtime, must she do it again so soon?)

Back at home in the TN compound, Maddy has brought little sister Zoe into the infirmary with the beginnings of a cold. Dad Jim and Mom Liz videochat re: her now having to stay at the outpost overnight for work and missing Maddy’s first date plans for that evening, when Jim sneezes and complains that he must have caught Zoe’s cold. Mom signs off with a smile and goes back to her labwork only to stop and ponder, “Who is this Zoe?” (Okay, we all know where this is going.)

Segue to a little guitar riffing by son Josh who is at a get-together with Skye and his rebel teen pals that evening. (Sadly, the signs are getting worse that he will be forming a band eventually.) Maddy’s dinner date at home with young TN soldier Mark Reynolds does not go so smoothly, so dad has a syrupy one-on-one “I was awkward just like you once upon a time” pep talk with his daughter after the guy leaves.

The next day when Jim finds out that Outpost 3 is actually under quarantine, he angrily decides to throw protective protocol out the window and take matters into his own hands by going to the outpost himself. Chief Medical Officer (and mom’s ex-boyfriend) Malcolm insists upon going with him, and throws Jim some sort of medicine root for his now full-blown cold. (I did like when Malcolm asked Jim how he was going to solve any medical emergency he may find at the Outpost, “By shooting it?”)

Josh and gal pal Skye share a kiss, which Josh immediately regrets due having a girlfriend named Kara whom he still loves back home in the future. A disappointed Skye offers to put him in touch with a bartender that she knows named Tom who can “get things here” (the black market) and perhaps bring Kara to TN.

In the meantime, rebreather-wearing Jim and Malcolm have made it to the Outpost, but a now-infected Liz shoots them with some kind of sound-wave bazooka, similar to the sound cannons from the first episode. She fails to recognize Jim as her husband and has forgotten all about her children, her memory having regressed 20 years back to her medical school days. She embraces her “boyfriend” Malcolm instead, much to Jim’s dismay.

Malcolm thinks it would be best to keep working on a cure for this virus which they now know leads to catatonia and death, but feels he needs Liz’s help to do it. Instead of trying to get her to remember her family, he and Jim decide to play along with her misconception that the last 20 years have not happened so she will be willing to keep working. Thus Jim is introduced to his own wife as “Shannon, who is with Security.”

It turns out that Black Market Tom is willing to do a deal and try to get a message from Josh to Kara, but insists that he will only do this once he can trust the boy, so he gives Josh a job in order to keep an eye on him. (But no good can come from the policeman’s son working for the head of the black market, can it?)

"Brady", this episode's Red Shirt. Well, *I* see you as a person, even if the writers only see you as a plot device.

When Outpost 3’s electricity starts flickering off and on, Jim goes to the power center to check for dinos chewing on the power grids. (This scene was so reminiscent of Jurassic Park that I literally sighed at the screen. Does every ep have to have a JP reference? Aren’t the dinos themselves enough?). Instead of creatures, Jim finds this ep’s Red Shirt Brady unconscious, and a now obviously memory-impaired and heavily-armed Taylor lurking in the wings ready to pounce on someone again.

Taylor, who now believies he’s in the middle of a Black Ops exercise in Somalia that ended years ago, decides that this stranger he sees before him (Jim) must be an enemy. He also believes that his wife is in danger back home, so he knocks Jim out cold (this was the best part of the whole show, I’ve often wanted to punch him myself), and rushes off “home” on a stolen motorcycle – towards TN.

Elisabeth (Shelley Conn, L) tells Jim (Jason O'Mara, R) about her relationship with Malcolm (Rod Hallet, C) in the "What Remains" episode of TERRA NOVA. ©2011 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Brook Rushton/FOX

In the meantime, Liz has come to the conclusion that instead of discovering a pathogen, someone at Outpost 3 had been secretly experimenting with gene therapy, therapy that must have gone wrong. A bruised Jim comes back and gets angry when he finds Malcolm being friendly with his wife, who of course still does not remember that she is his wife. When Malcolm begins showing signs of the disorder, Liz starts wondering why Jim is the only one of them exposed to the virus who is unaffected.

Malcolm’s memory loss impedes his attempts to help Jim carry the injured Brady to medical help. Jim must distract an attacking dinosaur away from the injured man and lock it in another room until they can all escape.

Jim and Liz start examining the Outpost’s personnel files for a clue as to who was doing illicit gene therapy experiments. One doctor’s medical history reveals that he carried the gene for a disease similar to Alzheimer’s, and Liz suspects that he engineered a virus to deliver what he thought was the cure, resulting in this medical emergency.

Liz finds pieces of paper in her pocket with the names Josh, Maddy, Zoe and Jim written on them and realizes that Jim must be her husband, but admits that she doesn’t remember any of them. When Jim sneezes again and starts chewing on the medicinal root that Malcolm gave him back in TN to treat his cold, Liz grabs it and reasons that must be what is blocking the pathogen from attacking Jim’s system.

Mark Reynolds shows up at the Shannon house and lets slip to a distraught Maddy that he knows why her parents have been gone so long. Maddy and Mark go to talk with TN’s second-in command Lt. Wash, but find that the impaired Taylor has returned, and the aggressive and confused Cmdr. quickly takes Mark hostage. When Taylor learns that the wife he is looking for is actually dead, he tries to kill himself by slashing his own throat, but is stopped just in time when Lt. Wash uses a sound-wave gun to knock him out.

Finally realizing that it is Jim’s simple cold virus that is blocking the cell receptors of the bad virus, Liz and Jim kiss in order to pass on his cold, and therefore the cure for the disease, to her. With the cure found, everyone gets treated successfully, and Taylor is shown recovering in the TN infirmary. (I guess Red Shirt Brady gets well, too, but I don’t remember anyone saying. Well, he is just a Red Shirt after all, they can always kill him off next week.)

Sappy, happy endings all around, with both Mark and Skye visiting at the Shannon home, and Zoe having a play-date with her parents.

Outside the Gate (OTG), Black Market Tom meets up with Sixers leader Mira for an illegal goods exchange, and to tell her that the policeman’s son Josh would like to buy his girlfriend’s way through the time portal. Mira surmises that this as an opportunity that could and should be taken advantage of.

My take? This week’s plot was extremely thin, and so far each week’s dilemma has been far too easily solved. Perhaps these hackneyed plots felt fresh back when the original Star Trek debuted, but they seem awfully clichéd today. We’ve seen it all before. Three eps in and the characters are still far too underdeveloped to make me care about their survival. The only plot thread that interests me at all is the one involving Taylor and his “lost” scientist son, and I fear that I have already guessed how that will play out eventually.

The biggest disappointment to me is that the scripts are so predictable that I can often guess exactly what a character will say next even before they say it. I take this as a sure sign that the plots are almost as old as the world on the other side of the temporal doorway that the Terra Novans are supposed to be living in.

According to Nielsen data, Terra Nova’s second episode last week drew 8.31 million viewers, down 8 percent from its debut. Since FOX skipped ordering just a pilot, and instead immediately ordered thirteen episodes, I’d guess that the network execs there have begun praying that they can keep viewers interested. But it remains to be seen whether or not big screen quality VFX and a different dinosaur killer-of-the-week can keep regular folks coming back for more. I doubt most dyed in the wool scifi fans will stay interested for long.

Cross-posted to SciFi4Me.com

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