Terra Nova is an American science fictiondrama television series. It aired on the Fox Network for one season from September 26 to December 19, 2011. The series documents the Shannon family’s experiences as they establish themselves as members of a colony, set up 85 million years in the Earth’s past, fleeing the dystopian overpopulated and hyperpolluted present of the mid-22nd century. The series is based on an idea by British writer Kelly Marcel with Steven Spielberg as executive producer. On March 5, 2012, Fox announced that the show had been cancelled.
The series is initially set in 2149, when overpopulation and declining air quality threaten all life on Earth. When scientists discover a temporal rift permitting (one-way) human transmission, they initiate a series of “pilgrimages” to a parallel “time stream” resembling Earth’s Cretaceous Period. The series focuses primarily on police officer James “Jim” Shannon, his wife Elisabeth, and their three children Josh, Maddy, and Zoe, as they join the colony there, named “Terra Nova,” Latin for “New Earth” or “New World.”
Elisabeth Shannon is chosen to join Terra Nova for her medical expertise, and her two older children with her. Her husband, imprisoned for violating population control by harboring a third child and assaulting an official agent to protect his young daughter, stows away to join them and eventually convinces the colony’s leader, Commander Nathaniel Taylor, that his own police expertise is of use to the administration.
Opposing the colony (and its leader Taylor) is a group of separatists known as the “Sixers,” so called because they arrived in the “Sixth Pilgrimage,” working in concert with corporate industrialists to strip the Cretaceous Earth of its resources and transmit them to 2149, allowing for massive profits at the cost of environmental destruction. It is later revealed that Commander Taylor’s estranged grown son, Lucas, is working with the Sixers as well. Toward the end of the series, Lucas perfects travel to and from the future, thus enabling the industrialists, with a private army called “The Phoenix Group,” to invade Terra Nova. At the end of the series, Jim Shannon returns to 2149 to destroy the gateway permitting travel to the Cretaceous, whereupon the Phoenix Group retreats to the nearby “Badlands,” leaving behind a wooden ship’s figurehead apparently located there by another temporal rift.
- Jason O’Mara as James “Jim” Shannon, a former Chicago Police narcotics detective. He is married to Elisabeth and is the father of their three children. After a lengthy imprisonment for breaking population-control laws in 2149, he escaped and rejoined his family in the Terra Nova colony, where he worked on the gardening division. After saving Commander Taylor from an assassination attempt, he joined Terra Nova’s security forces, eventually becoming third-in-command of the colony.
- Shelley Conn as Dr. Elisabeth Shannon, a trauma surgeon who works at Terra Nova’s medical center. She is married to Jim and is the mother of their three children. In the series premiere, she was instrumental in Jim’s escape from prison and arrival in Terra Nova.
- Landon Liboiron as Josh Shannon, Jim and Elisabeth’s 17-year-old son. Reluctant to leave his girlfriend behind in 2149, he initially resented his father; but in later episodes they repair their relationship.
- Naomi Scott as Maddy Shannon, Jim and Elisabeth’s 16-year-old daughter. Intelligent but socially clumsy, and depicted principally either as a student or the love interest of Mark Reynolds, a young soldier.
- Alana Mansour as Zoe Shannon, the five-year-old (later six-year-old) daughter of Jim and Elisabeth Shannon. Early in her life, she was kept hidden by her family, having been a third child in contravention of the population control laws of 2149. When she was discovered, Jim was sent to prison. With the aid of a friend, Zoe was smuggled into Terra Nova and permitted to remain in the colony.
- Christine Adams as Mira, the leader of the “Sixers”, a rebel group that arrived with the Sixth Pilgrimage but who soon broke away to oppose Terra Nova and to prepare for the Phoenix Group’s invasion. Mira’s daughter, Sienna, is still in 2149 and is held by Mira’s employers to ensure her cooperation. Mira’s ambition is to return to 2149 and have a comfortable and peaceful life with her daughter.
- Allison Miller as Skye Alexandria Tate, a veteran resident of Terra Nova from the Fifth Pilgrimage, and Josh’s closest friend. Her parents reportedly died three years before the series begins, and she was subsequently adopted by Commander Taylor. She is later revealed to be a Sixer mole, being blackmailed by the Sixers who held her mother hostage and controlled the medicine which kept her alive.
- Mido Hamada as Guzman, a member of Terra Nova’s security forces and father of Tasha, a teenage girl who is one of Skye’s closest friends. Guzman was originally meant to have a bigger role and was supposed to be the colony’s second-in-command, which is why Hamada was credited as a member of the main cast. However, after the pilot, Guzman was written out of the show, and the second-in-command was said to be Lt. Washington.
- Stephen Lang as Commander Nathaniel Taylor, Terra Nova’s head of state. Himself the first colonist, Taylor survived 118 days alone, helped build a community as new settlers arrived, and has been the colony’s leader for seven years. When Skye’s parents died, he became her legal guardian and father figure. Taylor’s relationship with his son, Lucas, has degraded severely since an incident in 2138 in which Taylor was forced to sacrifice his wife to enemy fire. Lucas arrived in Terra Nova on the Second Pilgrimage, but plotted against his father to destroy the colony, and has since re-appeared as antagonist.
- Rod Hallett as Dr. Malcolm Wallace, the chief science officer for the Terra Nova colony. Early in the first season, it is revealed that he recruited Elisabeth for Terra Nova, having earlier had a romantic relationship with her, and he was hopeful that she would leave her husband in prison in 2149.