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

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - Terra Nova, TDT, tonight, 8.30

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.

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