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


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