Fox are renowned for cancelling many of the tv shows they air without giving them a real chance and Terra Nova is unfortunately one of those shows. Are thirteen episodes really enough to get people fully immersed in a show and give it a chance to live out its potential? I don't think so.
As for the show, admittedly there are many incidents where it descends into cliche but that lessens as the season progresses and gradually the plots take some unexpected and intriguing arcs. Spielberg clearly had a hand in this show, it has sets and landscapes reminiscent of the Jurassic Park trilogy and the dinos themselves are brilliantly done with some movie quality special effects (particularly in the awesome season finale). The concept is as follows: earth is dying, the air poisoned by mankinds ravaging of nature and so when a time rift opens, offering a door into a cleaner, admittedly far more dangerous, past what remains of the government seizes it and starts shipping people through in a very stargate like way. The Shannons are one of those families and thus become the protagonists for the entire season. Some might say that this is where Terra Nova made its mistake as the family are given a nice clean home, jobs and their daughter feeds some dinosaurs and its all, at first, too clihed, cutesy and geared towards a young audience. Yes, there are some tense scenes in a dino chase and guns and a strange, violent group of outsiders called the sixers- but in the pilot and the first couple of episodes it never gets gritty enough or mature enough.
However, as the episodes leave behind the formulaic, 'case of the week' plots and intriguing questions begin to arise, Terra Nova begins to take off and i did find myself addicted and very entertained. At time the acting could be shaky, particuarly the kids but Stephen Lang, Jason o Mara and Shelly Conn delivered great performances. As i said before the special effects are extremely well done (in most cases) and the dinosaurs look very cool. By the finale episodes, (that are blended into one long, extended episode) the pace is relentless and the action, intrigue and danger is increased dramatically. It's so unfortunate that this show got cancelled before it could find its feet fully because the cliffhanger finale sets up some brilliant ideas and possibilities for a second season. It does get darker and more mature by the end and this would have been carried on in the second season.
Should you buy it? If you want thirteen episodes that are, for the most part, top notch quality and you love dinosaurs then i would definitely recommend you purchase this DVD set. The cliffhanger may deter some people but there is a satisfactory enough ending that makes this show worth buying and watching. This DVD set is also a great edition, it has the full length pilot and an extended finale never before seen on TV. There are a couple of featurettes on the dinosaurs and one that explains some of the mysteries set up in the first season.
Overall, you can't go wrong with this show. Its a mystery to me as to why it was cancelled, lets hope another network decides to pick it up.