Terra Nova Cancelled – What Does This Say For Future Of Sci-Fi & Star Trek TV?

One of the biggest shows this fall was the time travel series Terra Nova, which included Star Trek vets Brannon Braga and René Echevarria as executive producers, along with Steven Spielberg. The ambitious and expensive show aired eleven episodes and has been on the bubble, but now Fox has decided it will not pick up Terra Nova for a second season.


Terra Nova cancelled

Terra Nova told the story about people from an environmentally devastated 22nd century travelling back in time to the era of dinosaurs to start a new life. The show starred Jason O'Mara (Life on Mars) and Stephen Lang (Avatar), and was run by Star Trek writer/producer Brannon Braga, along with help from fellow Trek vet René Echevarria. The series was very high profile and even included Steven Spielberg in the list of executive producer credits. The show, shot in Australia, was also very expensive.

The first season of the show was limited to 11 episodes which aired last fall. It premiered to strong ratings and positive reviews. The ratings held pretty well during the first season, but the expensive nature of the show always put it at risk and EW is now reporting that Fox has decided not to pick up a second season. According to the report

Despite a few factors that were in the show’s favor: A creatively strong two-hour finale, which won over many of the show’s grumbling detractors; Fox cancelling Monday night veteran House; and another Monday sci-fi drama, Alcatraz, under-performing in recent weeks. From what we hear, Fox higher-ups weren’t too fond of the show.

Terra Nova will likely end up the highest-rated cancelled show of the season. It averaged 10.1 million viewers and a 3.6 adult demo rating once you add in a week of DVR playback.

Cast of "Terra Nova"

What does this say for the future of sci-fi TV and Star Trek's return to the small screen?

Not only is it sad to see a show from two Trek vets get cancelled, it is also not great news for fans of science fiction. While there are a number of genre shows on TV, Terra Nova was the most ambitions, followed by Fringe (which is also again on the bubble). This cancellation does not bode well for ambitious, expensive, science fiction shows. In their article on the cancellation of Terra Nova, Time points out:

The networks do still occasionally do science fiction, of course; Fringe is still hanging on on Fox, for instance. But since Lost and the many failures to re-create its success, they’ve tended to focus on small-scale, real-world shows with little sci-fi twists (Person of Interest, Alcatraz) or fantasy (Once Upon a Time, Grimm). The epic-scale, effects-intensive sci-fi show has always been a tough sell on the networks, and to its credit, Terra Nova was trying a brand of sci-fi we hadn’t seen a lot on TV. Now big sci-fi will be an even tougher sell.

So for those hoping to see Star Trek return to network TV, this trend is not good news. A new Star Trek TV series is always going to be an expensive and risky proposition. Like with Terra Nova, a network will have to make a significant bet just to get a pilot made. Unlike you typical new procedural generic cop show, there are a lot of costs that go into creating a new sci-fi series (with effects and sets), and so a network is likely to have to make at least a short season commitment (and not just a pilot). And once the show starts going, it is again likely to require strong ratings to justify the costs. This is why even though science fiction films are often dominant in theatrical box office, there is little true sci-fi on the small screen.

I have often said that Trek's true home is on the small screen. With the cancellation of Enterprise in 2005, Star Trek has been off the air for almost seven years. And while JJ Abrams is making new Star Trek movies, it is likely to remain that way. But the idea of a new Trek show keeps coming up, including rumblings from big names like Bryan Singer and Bryan Fuller (amongst others). Let's hope that when CBS and some of these big names start talking seriously about Trek, that they can thread the needle and figure out a way to make a successful show that works for the fans, for a general audience, and for the network accountants.

One of the closing shots from finale of "Star Trek: Enterprise" aired May 13, 2005
– bringing an end to 18 straight years (& 25 seasons) of Trek TV


POLL: Do you expect Trek back on TV?



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March 6, 2012 2:02 pm

I never watched a second of Terra Nova, nor did I ever want to. That’s where it failed.

The concept was bad on this one, and the fact that it looked like a cross between Jurassic Park and Land of the Lost didn’t help it any either.

This, of course, is why John Carter is going to be a huge bomb–it’s not visually distinctive as “Science Fiction” to most people. Shame, too, as I loved the book.

bill hiro
March 6, 2012 2:07 pm

Has Brannon Braga ever had a non-Star Trek show go beyond one season on the air?

March 6, 2012 2:08 pm

I just don’t understand how sci-fi gets overlooked by so many tv watchers. Aren’t they sick of all the hospital and cop dramas we’ve had for so long? I know I am. I also think with all the advancements they’ve made with digital effects, a show set in space would be cheaper and cheaper to produce all the time. Maybe I’m wrong.

Jefferies Tuber
March 6, 2012 2:08 pm

What it means to networks and studios is, don’t produce SF TV unless you’re building on an existing brand. ST will come back to TV on its own schedule. A failure like this just increases the value of Trek’s TV rights.

March 6, 2012 2:14 pm

Too bad, I liked that show. I would gladly give it up to keep Fringe around though.

March 6, 2012 2:14 pm

I do not know Terra Nova.

Star Trek is different. Everyone knows it.

A new Star Trek Series would need some new, very good ideas. Berman was good after all, but would have been so much better, if he would have listened more about the fans opinion!

I do not think, the people will watch a new Star Trek series, if enough time is gone, but I think, the people will watch a new Star Trek series, if it is a good series. Thats it.

I mean, who would have thought, someone would watch a new “Sherlock” Series? It is so damned old! Sherlock Holmes was created in the 19th century! But the new series with Cumberbatch is full of good ideas. Good ideas make a good series and the poeple will always watch a good series!

Gene Roddenberry said, there is “intelligence before the television” ( I am from germany, so sorry for my “translation”). Sometimes I assume, the people “behind the camera” have forgotten the peoples intelligence and their sence for intelligent entertainment. The TV stations feed the more trivial minded people, who prefer a cruel, maybe erotic TV-Show more than good, intelligent entertainment.

It is time for Star Trek to come back to TV. For us Star Trek is more than just a show that could make money. But indeed it will “bring money”, if it is made good.

March 6, 2012 2:15 pm

Terra Nova was a boring show. There simply wasn’t anything good about it. As will any TV show, if the stories are compelling and the characters are rich, it will do well.

Terra Nova was a great example of a TV show that never should have been made. It was bad.

Make a good show, no matter what the genre, and it will do well.

The lesson: Make good Star Trek or it will flop.

March 6, 2012 2:18 pm

It was weak and predictable, not to mention dumb – and that’s the best words that can be said about it. Good riddance to TERRIBLE NOVA and hopefully FAILING SKIES will disappear as well.

March 6, 2012 2:20 pm

I watched it, and enjoyed it – I think.

Well, maybe I watched it because I felt I was supposed to because it was a sci-fi tv show, and we just don’t get that many of them. Lets face it, it wasn’t really very good.

Ok, it stunk. I’d like to say I’ll miss it, but I really won’t.

This doesn’t doom the Genre, nor should it speak to anything related to a renewed Star Trek series. Terra Nova got the axe because it was not good enough to keep people wanting more. Lame sets, poor costumes and hokey visual effects aside, Terra Nova’s storytelling was flawed. Like too many shows, it took too long to cut to the chase. The whole show did not go anywhere compelling until the last two episodes. It got cancelled because it stunk.

Give us a new Trek series, or more BSG, or reboot the 6Million Dollar man – if it’s well written, we’ll watch. Plain and simple.

Royal Canadian Institute for the Mentally Insane
March 6, 2012 2:21 pm

It’s FOX for goodness’ sakes. Even if it had a top-flight first season, it would have been cancelled.

Brett L.
March 6, 2012 2:22 pm

Using Terra Nova’s cancellation as a poor prognostic sign for the future of sci-fi/genre T.V. is a little like using the failure of the Zune as a poor prognostic sign for the future of hand-held electronic devices.

Terra Nova was a bloated, intellectually-vacuous amusement park ride. What executives never seem to get is that there will always be support for well-written, quality sci-fi on T.V. If BSG could do it, so can Trek. And even if the cash isn’t all there, Trek has demonstrated time and again that limited budgets often drive more creative solutions (TOS, TWOK, etc). Didn’t Nick Meyer say (paraphrasing), “art thrives on restraint?” A well-written serialized approach like DS9 or BSG that routinely takes risks while respecting Trek’s history will get viewers talking and tuning in. “Problem of the week” episodes and retread plots that rely on action over suspense will not.

Captain McColl
March 6, 2012 2:23 pm

Just looked at the pic from Enterprise, the special effects are horrible, I have played video games with a more convincing crowd

Sebastian S.
March 6, 2012 2:24 pm

I knew this one wouldn’t last.
I watched the pilot and if just felt like “Avatar Park”; a TV show trying too hard to be a big, summer blockbuster movie. Spielberg is a brilliant filmmaker but I don’t think he understands how TV works for most people. Movies are like a night out, with big, epic entertainment; a day at the circus, if you will. TV is more like a night in with some good friends and a bottle of wine. TV is where characters shine, and big visuals are more like spice than the main course.

Spielberg had similar issues with “Amazing Stories” and more acutely in “SeaQuest DSV.” His appetite and instincts are more geared towards movies and spectacle. Which is fine for the lack of audience commitment needed to enjoy a 2 hr movie. But a TV show is more like a commitment where you fall in love with the characters first, THEN you want to see what adventures they can take you on. Characters are key on TV, not big, splashy images and FX….

But Spielberg seems to think that the movie experience and the TV experience are interchangeable. They are NOT. And until he really understands this? His shows will continue to be beautiful, overproduced, bloated, expensive nose dives….

March 6, 2012 2:28 pm

I watched every episode of Terra Nova and the writing was not that good but it was getting better towards the end and I was wondering how they were going to explain how all of the man made items from the past made it back in time to the alternate Earth.

March 6, 2012 2:29 pm


Cap'n Calhoun
March 6, 2012 2:29 pm

@10: I know Fox has a long tradition of cancelling sci-fi shows, but it’s not really fair to criticize them when they’ve been holding on to the *extremely* low-rated Fringe for so long.

Royal Canadian Institute for the Mentally Insane
March 6, 2012 2:30 pm
SPACE: 2099, the SPACE: 1999 reboot is in the works, but I don’t know what form — series, or film. I still think the best chance for a series is a reboot of SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO (aka STAR BLAZERS to US audiences) — its got a lot of elements that can work as a weekly show if given the “BSG” gritty reboot treatment. There was a very enjoyable live-action film of it a few years back (worth seeking out on Blu-ray on eBay) but it’s too much story for a two-hour film. Still lamenting the loss of the Season Five ENTERPRISE. I admit I was one of legion who left the show after it seemed to just start spinning its wheels. The Season 4 eps I saw in rerun and on disc were really enjoyable — notably the Mirror Universe episode and the Orion Traders one. I heard that Season 5 was going to start the buildup to the Romulan War, and that we might have seen the Kzinti as well. But — and I’ll say it again and again — there’s a lot of eminently filmable science fiction out there that, surprise, has never been filmed, either small or big screen. I’m currently reading Jack McDevitt’s Alex Benedict series, and enjoying them immensely. Always thought David Feintuch’s Seafort Saga (begins with Midshipman’s Hope) would make a good series. (David passed away, unfortunately, before the final novel could be published, and due to legal reasons it may never see the… Read more »
March 6, 2012 2:30 pm

Genre programming does fine…just not on Network tv. Look at True Blood and Game of Thrones on HBO, American Horror Story on FX. All hits, all signature shows on their networks. Discerning genre fans know better than to invest time on these kinds of series on networks that are lowest common denominator when it comes to ratings. Trek WILL be back on tv some day…but NOT on a network.

March 6, 2012 2:31 pm

I don’t see how the cancellation of Terra Nova can be construed to spell doom and gloom for the entire SF genre. For the amount of money that was spent on the show, it should have had more wow factor. I watched it and I enjoyed it, but I’m not heartbroken that it’s not coming back. I’d rather watch Fringe, which is a much more original concept. Or The Listener, which has great dialogue and is superbly Canadian in its flavour – as a Canadian myself, I love that. I was much much more upset about the cancellation of Stargate Universe. As a matter of fact, I’m still PO’d over that.

March 6, 2012 2:32 pm

Ok, I watched the entire run of Terra Nova, and I really really can’t see where the money went! The editing was terrible! There were scenes where people were talking but their lips weren’t moving, scenes with guns going off but no noise, and painful jarring cuts that a college student could do better.

The special effects weren’t that great either, and while the overall plot and acting I did find engaging, I didn’t think the individual episodes were especially well written.

So, in conclusion, new Star Trek has nothing to worry about…

Battle-scarred Sciatica
March 6, 2012 2:33 pm

Look at the poster picture! Pretty boys and girls posing like hideous pop stars.

It is no wonder it was cancelled.

It was cheesy, formulaic crap.

I do not care about its demise.

Just because that shite was axed does not mean a new Star Trek show will go the same way so quickly.

March 6, 2012 2:37 pm
@9 Unfortunately, it does affect the genre as a whole. Networks view things in what they call ‘buckets’, sci-fi being one of them. The specific reasons why Terra Nova didn’t work, and why a theoretical new Trek series would work, are not actually of much importance to a network programming or development exec. The entire function of their profession is to make sweeping generalizations and speculate on the potential success of the project through the ‘network lenses’, a doctrine of criteria created by committees of market researchers and branding specialist every pilot season. Because Terra Nova failed, and because it failed with big names and a bigger budget attached to it, the sci-fi bucket will now be tainted for some time, at least with Fox. If Terra Nova had succeeded, the sci-fi bucket would have appeared more lucrative to other networks, and a continuing trend of successful scifi shows could have eventually convinced networks to dust of their rights to established sci fi franchises (such as Star Trek) and march them out for another go at TV. Sadly, the industry is not sitting around looking for ways to make scifi succeed on TV. Instead, there looking for ways to succeed on TV, and preferably the easiest and cheapest ways possible. The overwhelming sentiment right now is that SciFi is working for theater going audiences, but its not right for TV formats; the market just doesn’t want it right now. And until we enter another era of TV where big scifi… Read more »
Battle-scarred Sciatica
March 6, 2012 2:37 pm

Oh by the way, Trekmovie.

Why not bring back the sci-fi movie and shows articles to help us keep up to speed with whats going on out there in Sci-Fi Land.

Thanks for this article, but i miss Movie and TV news…

March 6, 2012 2:44 pm

I heard the show was ‘terrible,’ so never gave it a shot; plus, it looked like one of those generic new era shows where everyone looks more like a model than any collection of real people. On the other hand, I’d give anything ‘Trek’ more than a fleeting chance!

I gotta think people are going to tire of reality shows. Until then, good television will be in limited supply.

March 6, 2012 2:47 pm

#5 Chris Doohan: “I would gladly give it up to keep Fringe around though.”

Agree with you about FRINGE. Huge potential here. The central story line is excellent but is wasted too much with “freak of the week” sub-plots that take away from the main story. Way too much plot getting in the way of the story. Seems like the producers want to move on from FRINGE and do something else and are sabotaging the show. FRINGE is one of the few shows the wife and I can both get into, so we hope against bad odds that the people in charge step up and meet the challenges and keep the show alive. Cheers.

March 6, 2012 2:47 pm

That sucks. I am sad to see Terra Nova go. I liked it. I didn’t expect to, but I did. It made me think of what you would do if you had a chance to start society over from scratch free from the interference of those greedy power mad sociopaths who ruined it the first time. Could you make it better? How would you stop the same things from happening again?

And it’s also discouraging. It makes me see broadcast TV by and large as a place of entrenched mediocrity, parasitically attached to an intellectually anemic and atomized populace.

David Lynch was probably right about the internet being the future, but free is good in an ailing economy, and broadcast TV is free, so it’s hard to see the internet competing with TV anytime soon, even though the internet would enable you to do things that are impossible to do on broadcast TV.

Then of course there’s the Cawley model which to me is the most exciting possibility of all. I am now starting to abandon ship on all things status quo. And as far as TV grade entertainment, Cawley has managed to do something that I didn’t think was possible, which in turn has caused me to reevaluate how far that radical method of operation can truly go.

Allister Gourlay
March 6, 2012 2:47 pm

i agree cheesy, formulaic crap

March 6, 2012 2:48 pm

Terra Nova being canceled has nothing to do with whether or not Trek can be put back on the air. Once a proper pitch is put together, it won’t take much to get it done. Studios are afraid of new IPs, and Trek is the furthest thing from that. As long as the execs see that Berman and Braga have nothing to do with it, they’ll give it the green light.

Royal Canadian Institute for the Mentally Insane
March 6, 2012 2:52 pm

#23; give io9.com a shot; they have a weekly (sometimes more often) review of genre television & movies.

"Check the Circuit!"
March 6, 2012 2:55 pm

Gave it a try and quickly got bored. Bigger doesn’t always mean better. And I don’t recall the show getting strong reviews. Mixed at best, if I remember correctly.

I hope, the Star Trek brand name makes future pitches less of a risk for the networks. But, for the show to last, it will have to be great television…irrespective of the brand name.

JJ and team are planting the seeds with new movies and creating demand. Ideally, we’re reaping the benefit with episodic Trek back on the small screen before the end of the decade.

Tony Whitehead
March 6, 2012 2:55 pm

Network television has been more partial to cookie-cutter reality-based shows that are cheap to produce and don’t require significant budgets (or dare I say, thought processes.) The exception seems to be any show involving a C, S, or an I in the title.

Lordy, I miss the Carol Burnett Show.

March 6, 2012 2:58 pm

32: That would be cool, thanks.

March 6, 2012 3:01 pm

24. NCM – March 6, 2012

It wasn’t terrible. And it was cool to see a big budget SF show on TV again. I watched it initially because I like pilot eps (and dinosaurs). Then, Lang kept me on because he nails everything he does, and he was good in it. Jason O’Mara was great and so was Naomi Scott. Tack on dinosaurs and a wasted dystopian future vs. a new vulnerable society, and what was not to like? I couldn’t find any reason not to like it, and I’m generally — almost universally — very crabby toward the TV and the things it says.

March 6, 2012 3:03 pm

Science Fiction requires a certain… intellectualism? And we’re living in a very anti-intellectual time. That’s not to say that horro/fantasy shows like Game of Thrones, True Blood or Walking Dead aren’t intelligent, they’re well written with good drama and plot-lines. And above all, adult. Battlestar Galactica was a good starting point, but it didn’t go far enough (and needed to be on one of the big cable networks).

I think Star Trek needs to grow up. I was saying years ago that Trek needed to be more like The Sopranos (the benchmark for intelligent adult drama at the time). I remember some idiot Trekkie responding stiffly with “I would have no interest in watching such a show.” I wonder how he’s found the past 7 years without any TV Trek. . . So, we need a grown-up Star Trek TV show (with, as it were, breasts – rather than tits like Wesley Crusher! Apologies to Mr. Wheaton, had to throw that one in once I’d thought of it).

March 6, 2012 3:04 pm

“One of the closing shots from finale of “Star Trek: Enterprise” aired May 13, 2005 – bringing an end to 18 straight years (& 25 seasons) of Trek TV”

Waitaminute! That shot was in the final episode of Enterprise? That looks like it’s out of a CGI cartoon.

Battle-scarred Sciatica
March 6, 2012 3:05 pm


Thanks for the info. Will check it out right now.


Looking forward to it, staying tuned.

March 6, 2012 3:11 pm

“What Does This Say For Future Of Sci-Fi & Star Trek TV?”

Uh, don’t hire Brannon Braga?

March 6, 2012 3:12 pm

Here’s my predictioon.

At some point network TV and politics will merge completely. Voting will be quietly abolished, and candidates will reach office by winning a special nation wide, week long “Election Edition” of Wipeout.

March 6, 2012 3:17 pm

Network Trek would be a kiss of death. If Trek is to be produced for the small screen, it would be best on cable like HBO or the like. Networks are too fickle and I am surprised that FOX let Terra Nova & Fringe stay on as long as they did. Networks are too quick to pull the trigger. They want immediate success and will not stand by a show to let it build momentum and have long term good ratings. That is why BSG did so well and allowed to run it’s course. If it was on Fox or ABC, etc, it would have been cancelled after the first season.

March 6, 2012 3:23 pm

Terra Nova was more like a bad Stargate series. Stargate Jurassic.

March 6, 2012 3:23 pm

It was boringly dramatic. I’m sorry. It was boringly DRAMATIC!!

March 6, 2012 3:24 pm

I haven’t watched any of Terra Nova despite having it all pvr’d. The simple reason as to why is because I’m fed up with shows being cancelled after just a season or two. I’ve had enough of wasting my time watching a show and getting into it only for it to be cancelled before the story is complete. Examples are V and SGU.

Dee - lvs moon' surface
March 6, 2012 3:30 pm

#42. T’cal…

Yes I agree…

;-) :-)

The Unknown Poster
March 6, 2012 3:32 pm

Terra Nova was a good idea with a bad execution. It kept it’s mysteries too long.

There was too much future technology mixed with “roughing it” that it didnt make a lot of sense.

The setting didnt play much of a role. They could have been lost on an island for all we knew.

March 6, 2012 3:33 pm

terra nova was TERRIBLE, series get canceled for a reason

star trek would out do that anyday everyone knows that

denny cranium
March 6, 2012 3:34 pm

I enjoyed Terra Nova.
Sure some of the scripts wre reminiscent of Trek. (maybe that’s why I liked it.)
One poster claimed the characters were dull. I think it was just the opposite.
Jason Mara did a great job.The supporting cast was equally as good.
I believed that they were back in time during the Jurassic area.
I thought the show was going to be lame but I was very surprised at how good it was.
As far as Braga goes- I think he got the job not because he was any type of creative genius. Hell he isn’t even an inspired writer. Like I’ve said in previous posts- this is show BUSINESS. Braga is skilled at getting shootable filmable scripts done within the budget allowed.
He’s no different than the dunkin donuts guy. “Gotta make the donuts.”
I personally think he is just a jaded Hollywood producer chasing a gig.

its awful
March 6, 2012 3:36 pm

terra nova was really really really bad.

March 6, 2012 3:50 pm
The problem with science fiction on TV these days is that on the one hand it has to be intelligent enough to hold the sci-fi audience. (And let’s face it, this is not the same audience that tunes in to Jerry Springer) And on the other hand, it has to have wide enough appeal to bring in a good chunk of average viewers. It’s a tough balancing act. This was probably easier to do back in the 60’s and 70’s before cable TV because there was no place else to go except the networks, but with hundreds of cable and satellite shows to chose from, who’s going to tune in today to a show about a bunch of early middle-aged men, exploring the universe, while hurling polite insults at each other? “Star Trek” would have been cancelled after a few episodes if it had to depend on today’s TV viewers. That being said, there still is a tremendous wellspring of good feeling towards the franchise, but it would take some really innovative writing to get it off the ground. AND it would need a true visionary to give us the kind of shows that provoke talk at school and work the next day and buzz in the media. Not just standard functionaries. The writing would have to be as good as that on “Mad Men.” Terra Nova failed because it was just awful. Sure it looked pretty but the characters were just so generic and phony that there was no… Read more »
The Chad
March 6, 2012 3:51 pm

Given that Star Trek has never been on one of the big-4 networks since Next Generation started I don’t see how the cancellation of a bad Sci-Fi show is even relevant.

TNG and DS9 both thrived in Syndication (a word I’m surprised nobody here has mentioned yet). Voyager proved a Trek series can last 7 years on a non big-4 network. I think Enterprise was destined to struggle given it was a prequel show and people are sticklers of established canon. I hate that Trek hasn’t been on TV in 7 years because people think that Enterprise proved people were sick of Trek. I don’t think that’s the case at all.

Perhaps a new Trek could survive on cable, but why isn’t anyone considering syndication again? Is that too dead of a format now reserved for shows like Maury and Judge Judy? You can only watch the old shows so many times before wanting something new. J.J. Abrams’ abomination doesn’t count.

Ryan Spooner
March 6, 2012 3:52 pm

This news makes me very sad. Contrary to the above, it was NOT really really really bad (exaggerate much?) or “TERRIBLE”. Far from it.

The sets and effects were excellent, as was the casting and acting. The premise of trying to survive in a prehistoric Earth was also very interesting.

I very much enjoyed season 1, my only complaint was that it was too short a season and didn’t really get that much promotion.