The Dinosaurs of Terra Nova
Episode One - "Genesis"
By Bob Strauss, About.com Guide
As you might expect, most of the first hour of the two-hour Terra Nova premiere is devoted to setting up this show's premise. It's the 22nd century, and the world's environment is such a sooty, overcrowded shambles that people have to use "rebreathers" just to survive. One lucky nuclear family, the Shannons, is chosen to join the next "pilgrimage" to Terra Nova: a lush, green, unspoiled Eden located 85 million years in the past, during the late Cretaceous period. After a few dramatic complications--including dad having to break out of a high-security prison, where he's been sent for illegally siring a third adorable child--the family, along with dozens of others colonists, walks through a pulsing wormhole straight into the middle of Terra Nova.
Brachiosaurus - Terra Nova's First SauropodIt's no coincidence that the first dinosaur sighting in Terra Nova pays homage to a comparable scene in the first Jurassic Park movie. Glancing up soon after her arrival, little Zoe Shannon sees a herd of Brachiosaurus just outside the colony's perimeter; one of these gentle sauropods even bends its neck down and grabs a leafy branch out of her hands (raising her a few feet off the ground in the process). Later, Zoe's know-it-all older sister, Maddy, explains to a lovestruck boy that Brachiosaurus doesn't just eat plants, but supplements its diet with small lizards. (In fact, most paleontologists believe that Brachiosaurus, and other sauropods like it, was a strict herbivore.)
Carnotaurus - Terra Nova's First TheropodThe next dinosaur to pop up in Terra Nova is temperamentally (and dietetically) the exact opposite of Brachiosaurus. Venturing outside the gate with the colony's commander, Nathaniel Taylor, dad Jim Shannon witnesses a pack of Carnotaurus chasing down a pair of armored vehicles (in a nifty shot, one of these theropods bites the head off a truck's unfortunate driver). The Carnotaurus are stopped short of the colony by some high-tech weapons, which deter them humanely rather than killing them (rather like a dog's sonic barrier). The Carnotaurus is portrayed convincingly, even if its arms seem a bit too long for its body; in fact, this predator had the most comically undersized arms in the entire dinosaur bestiary.
The last dinosaur to be featured in Terra Nova's premiere, the Slasher, is sure to be the most controversial. Unlike Brachiosaurus and Carnotaurus, the Slasher isn't identified by genus, but it appears to be a cross between a Monolophosaurus (note the single prominent crest on its head) and the "Velociraptors" from Jurassic Park (which were actually much bigger Deinonychus individuals), with the incongruous addition of a deadly, whiplike tail. The Slasher clearly isn't a raptor (it lacks feathers, as well as single, oversized claws on each of its hind feet), yet the Terra Nova team has leaked the made-up genus name "Acceraptor" to fan sites. What's more, as far as paleontologists can tell, the only dinosaurs capable of wielding their tails like whips were sauropods, not theropods!
In any event, one suspects that this fearsome dinosaur has been named the "Slasher" as a kind of cinematic pun. Teen heartthrob Josh Shannon and his new buddies sneak out of Terra Nova to go swimming and drink moonshine, and they soon find themselves in the dark, huddled inside their damaged vehicle, being picked off one by one by a herd of ravenous Monolophosaurus/Deinonychus/Acceraptor. Anyone who's ever seen a classic 1980's slasher flick will pick up the reference instantly, though more fastidious dinosaur fans are bound to be disappointed.