While it’s certainly no Breaking Bad or Friday Night Lights, I’m really enjoying Fox’s new Sci-Fi adventure Terra Nova. [Caveat: I’m following the show on Hulu, so I’m only on episode 3 right now!]. Not because it deals with any intense interpersonal conflict or introspective analysis of the conscience, but because it has time travel and dinosaurs. Do I really need to justify watching any show that has time travel and dinosaurs? If you’re new to the show, the premise is that Earth in 2149 AD is a desert wasteland- think the opening scenes of Wall*E. Scientists have discovered a rift in space-time that leads back to the Cretaceous period- a world with danger, mystery, and dinosaurs. Waves of colonists make “pilgrimages” back in time to resettle humanity a million years in the past (in an alternate timeline so that the future isn’t affected because you can do that in science fiction). The show centers on one family’s pilgrimage to this scary yet beautiful new world and the colony of humans living in it. Think Lost meets Jurassic Park meets The Swiss Family Robinson.What is so intriguing to me about the show’s premise is what one might call “the law of second chances.” Humanity, through some fluke rift in time space, has been given a second chance at life. The implication of the show is that they’d already screwed the planet up once with war, pollution, and ignorance of climate change. Now, they have a new beautiful, lush, green world to cultivate and populate. When pilgrims come through the portal, doctors are standing by to assist with “oxygen shock,” a fictional condition where the pilgrims from 2149 become dizzy and pass out due to too much oxygen, a rarity in the world from which they left. The potential for a new start and a second chance is palpable for all the pilgrims.

"If you're going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?"

And yet, things immediately go awry. When we enter the show, the colonists are in civil war. Dinosaurs constantly threaten the lives of the farmers and civilians. A black market already exists, and the colony’s teens are just as dumb and rebellious as they were in the future. The leader of the colony is either a overbearing father figure or a tyrant in disguise (a plot point currently in development). New diseases and animals and plants threaten the survival of the human race. The colonists know that humanity has been given a second chance and they are determined to succeed in the past. But the show hammers home this point in most every episode- even though humanity gets a second chance, they are the same fallen, broken humans they were before.

Don’t we all wish we had second chances? Don’t we all fantasize at some point about having a flying Delorean to go back in time and stop ourselves from doing stupid or harmful things? How convenient would it be if, theologically speaking, we had a space-time rupture that took us back to the garden to stop the snake before it got to Adam and Eve? The drama that plays out in Terra Nova is this overwhelming sense of pressure to survive and make the best of this second chance. If they screw it up this time, there is no third chance.

The gospel is more than a second chance, it is infinite second chances. Instead of getting the slate cleaned once, it is a perpetually cleaned slate. The disciple Peter once asked Jesus: “How many times do I give my brother a second chance? As many as seven?” Jesus responded, “not seven times, but seventy-times-seven times,” a figure of speech meaning always give a second chance. In Terra Nova, humanity has one more chance to get it right. In Christ, humanity will never get it right–and yet we are still promised “a new heavens and a ‘Terra Nova,’’’ a New Earth. The gospel is better than a second chance.

So who knows–I wrote a post last year about Glee, Religion, & Suffering, and the show became one giant commercial for the Theology of Glory (that said, I still watch it!). Terra Nova is only up to episode 4 or 5, so it’s hard to peg the show’s trajectory. But it has promise. And dinosaurs. So either way, I’ll still keep watching!