Why we won't be seeing Terra Nova soon (it wasn't just the FX)

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012

Fox executives have been saying that Steven Spielberg's new sci-fi series for Fox, Terra Nova, needs more time to complete its special effects before being shown. But a new report suggests there are other, more serious reasons for the show's continuing delay.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the issues with the show—which follows a group of colonists back in time to restart human civilization during the age of the dinosaurs—go much deeper than making the visuals look as good as possible. In fact, the main problem is apparently not just that the effects need more time, but that not enough footage was even shot for the show's two-hour premiere episode.

The complications reportedly stem from the way the program was developed and the constant turnover of personnel involved. More than a dozen executive producers have been in and out of the project, along with a number of writers. And all this was going on while Fox was dithering over whether the premiere should be one or two hours long, with the network finally deciding at the last minute to make it two hours.

Once filming got underway in Australia, another problem hit the production: rain. Director Alex Graves said at WonderCon last month, "It never stopped. There were days where we would have to not go to location." The combination of weather problems, script length issues and what a Fox spokesperson called "the difficulty of timing action sequences" led to the production coming back from the shoot with less footage than needed for a two-hour program.

Some sources blamed Graves, while others, including Fox, put the fault on current executive producer Brannon Braga and showrunner Rene Echevarria. A Fox spokesperson said, "Brannon misjudged it at the script stage, and Alex and his script supervisor misjudged it as it was being shot." But an executive at another studio sniped, "Maybe the problem is that there are so many cooks in the kitchen—all the producers on the project, along with the network and the studio."

So where do things stand? The show had been originally slated to premiere last summer, was delayed to this May, and now has been delayed again to this fall. It's got a skyrocketing budget, with the pilot alone costing somewhere between $10 million and $20 million (which would make it the most expensive pilot in history). There are elaborate visual effects to complete, and a premiere episode that doesn't have enough story to fill a two-hour time slot.

And once the pilot is finally slapped together from what they've got to work with, they have to do it again ... every week.

Does this whole thing sound ominous? Is there any chance that Terra Nova will premiere and actually be worth looking at?