5 Things to Know About Fox’s Epic Dino Drama ‘Terra Nova’

Stephen Lang, Jason O'Mara and Shelley Conn in Terra Nova (FOX)

Stephen Lang, Jason O'Mara and Shelley Conn in Terra Nova (FOX)

Are you ready to enter “Terra Nova“? Fox’s epic time traveling, dino fighting sci-fi drama begins tonight with an action packed two-hour premiere (8/7c). Helmed by a rotating cast of 13 executive producers (including Steven Spielberg), the expansive – and expensive – series follows the Shannon family as the embark on a pilgrimage from the overpopulated 2149 to colonize a settlement – Terra Nova – in prehistoric Earth. Toplining the cast are Jason O’Mara (”Life on Mars“) as police officer patriarch Jim Shannon; Shelley Conn (”Mistresses“) as matriarch Dr. Elisabeth Shannon; and Stephen Lang (“Avatar”) as Commander Nathaniel Taylor. Below, the cast and executive producers reveal five things to know about the show.

Preview “Terra Nova”:

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Life on Mars Is Nothing Like Life On Terra Nova: “I was aware of the similarities when I read the script,” O’Mara says of once again playing a time traveling cop. “But the differences are so overwhelming that I can’t really compare the two. Even from a character point of view, Sam Tyler was lost and desperate to sort of get back home. And he was thrust into that situation, whereas Jim Shannon is hungry to get he and his family here and then take care of them. And, you know, Sam Tyler’s challenges were sort of internal, more so than Jim’s, which are external. His challenges are to do with getting on with the day to day in Terra Nova and trying to get past some of this wildlife, which can be a little tricky from time to time, just trying to stay alive.”

There’s No Paradise Without Sacrifice: “The interesting thing for my character is that she gets everything she ever wished for,” Conn, whose character Dr. Shannon is a mother of three, reveals. “She gets to watch her family grow in this incredible environment. But there’s questions about Terra Nova, about whether Taylor is the right man running the show. Executive producer Jon Cessar says conflict will arise over Taylor’s mysterious background, which will be fully explained in episodes 10 and 11. He also teases a struggle that arises between the Shannons and a former boyfriend of Elisabeth, who arrives in episode 3. “He’s a science officer who went to school with and dated Elisabeth,” Cessar says of a character named Malcolm. “There’s a bit of a triangle which will be revealed.”

Warning: Dinosaurs On Board: In a place where dinosaurs loom large over the landscape, the stakes for staying alive are high.  Cessar jokes, “there will be lots of dino on man action.” What that really translates to is an unsteady feeling that no one is safe. “This is television, so there’s always a chance [someone will die], Cessar teases. “If it advances the story and affects the characters that are left, [someone could die].”

Butterfly Effect, Explained: You can’t change the past without dealing with repercussions in the future (think: Marty McFly’s fading photographic image in “Back to the Future”). Executive producer Brannon Braga says all questions about future consequences will be addressed. “When you get into time travel, it’s you’ve got to make sure that you don’t have any holes or things that aren’t explained, Braga says. “The butterfly effect is addressed.” Adds executive producer René Echevarria,  “So many people had the idea that the Shannons were going back to change history in some way, that we just wanted to dispel that. They’re just colonizing another time period.”

Conspiracy Theories Abound: One of the show’s running conspiracies revolves around a group of Terra Nova escapees/dissenters known as the “Sixers.” “The ‘Sixer’ conspiracy is being guided by people in the future, who have a different vision for Terra Nova,” Braga teases. “And we’ll explore that mostly on the ground in Terra Nova. But as we get toward the end of the season, you will get some glimpses of that future conspiracy.” Despite the Philadelphia sports connotation, Echevarria says using the name “Sixer” seemed germane to the story. “It was a sixth Pilgrimage,” he says of the term. “It felt like the right kind of slang.  It felt believable that that’s how people walk around and introduce themselves, and they say, you know, ‘I’m third,’ ‘I’m’ what pilgrimage they are from. It just it seems sociologically right.”

“Terra Nova” premieres tonight at 8/7c on Fox.

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