Seven days of TV viewing
Spielberg’s latest coldblooded beastie exploit is one of the most expensive ever made but well worth a look, writes Megan Lehmann
STEVEN Spielberg was at the zoo with his youngest child when he conceived a scene that captures the colossal grandeur of the megabucks new television show Terra Nova.
In the two-hour premiere, a little girl in the prehistoric colony of Terra Nova offers tree leaves to a long-necked brachiosaurus over a giant security fence, an image inspired by watching some kids feeding the giraffes.
‘‘ He remembered it as such a perfect family image and it just captures the wonder of the show,’’ says fellow executive producer Brannon Braga.
‘‘ It’s those kind of ideas that give it that Spielberg touch.’’
‘‘ Spielbergian’’ is one word to describe the time-travel drama, about a family from the year 2149 whisked 85 million years into the past to help restart humanity.
With the budget for the pilot estimated at $ 16 million, and CGI dinosaurs stomping and chomping through every episode, it’s also the most ambitious, challenging and expensive television series ever made.
‘‘ We can guarantee you will not have seen anything like this on TV,’’ star Jason O’Mara says.
And this grandiose adventure is filmed entirely in Australia.
The main cast is largely American and British, but the majority of the 300 crew members are home-grown, as are the hundreds of extras.
The set, which includes a football field-sized settlement built inside 6m-high walls armed with dinosaur-repelling ray guns, is hidden away in the Gold Coast hinterland, near a tiny town called Bonogin.
A year ago, it was a cow paddock. Now this picturesque clearing, ringed by towering eucalypts, is home to the residents of an experimental colony called Terra Nova.
The Shannon family is part of the 10th pilgrimage of pioneers sent from the toxic disaster zone of the 22nd century, where pollution and overpopulation threaten mankind with extinction, after a coalition of scientists stumbles upon a time portal into the past.
In the US, it’s been variously described as ‘‘ Land of the Lost meets Little House on the Prairie’’ and ‘‘ Swiss Family Robinson with dinosaurs’’.
Irish actor O’Mara ( who has time-travelled before, in the shortlived US remake of Life on Mars) plays the father, an ex-cop who, at the last minute, joins his surgeon wife Elisabeth ( Shelley Conn), and their three children as they journey through the portal into a prehistoric past.
Londoner Naomi Scott plays the bookish teenager Maddy, and a young Australian newcomer named Alana Mansour plays seven-year-old Zoe.
Canadian Landon Liboiron is their older brother Josh, who quickly asserts his independence by venturing OTG ( outside the gates) with a bunch of the cool kids. Big mistake.
‘‘ We call it a slasher,’’ says resident dinosaur nerd O’Mara of the vicious beastie that subsequently terrorises the teens.
‘‘ It’s actually an acceraptor, a kind of hybrid raptor/ stegosaurus with a whipping tail.’’
A Los Angeles-based team of special effects wizards has been busy creating incredibly lifelike Cretaceous-era creatures, which series director Jon Cassar ( 24) downloads to his iPad so he can show the cast exactly what they’re up against.
‘‘ They keep throwing the dinosaurs at us and I’m so pleased about that,’’ says Avatar star Stephen Lang, who plays leader of the colony, Commander Nathaniel Taylor. ‘‘ Because it really is all about the dinosaurs. It’s always about the dinosaurs.’’
Spielberg has yet to set foot on the set, but he is involved in everything from casting to script revisions.
‘‘ I think of Steven as the Wizard of Oz, he wielded a lot more power behind the curtain than when he came out,’’ Lang says.