Did anyone else notice the failed logic there? Their logic would work if they didn't send a colony since capable of destroying the time capsule and its beacon. By throwing it in a volcano/space or what not.

Is this what we call a plot hole and we should accept it as that, or is there some information I am missing?

Furthermore, if I am correct this might serve as a big 'got you' twist for the story line, revealing that their settlement has major repercussions on the future.

  • First, humans who are already in Terra Nova would have no reason to destroy the probe, but beyond that, you raise an interesting plot line: Suppose they realized it was the same timeline, and if they didn't destroy the probe, the timeline would change and Terra Nova wouldn't have happened? Then they'd have to destroy it!
    – Tango
    Jan 29, 2012 at 23:04
  • 2
    @TangoOversway: 85 mil. years are a long time that something happens to the probe. Just an earthquake which swallow it, continental drift which drops it somewhere below the sea, or the meteorite which killed the dinos (20 mil. years later btw.). Like many other things this could have been explained satisfactory with just two or three sentences more. Even some mambo-jumbo like "different cosmic background noise" would be better than "couldn't find a single probe 85 mil. years later". Mar 12, 2012 at 20:25
  • @MartinScharrer: Have you ever seen what happens between the first draft of a script and when it hits the screen? There is so much that gets cut out and altered and at some point you end up having to jettison almost everything in the story that isn't central to character development or to the plot, or to setting up future plots. So even "just two or three sentences" can be a lot when it involves explanations that 98% of the viewers won't care about it, and most who do care will be able to figure it out. In a 60 minute script, each page is a minute, so each line of text matters.
    – Tango
    Mar 12, 2012 at 21:46
  • @TangoOversway: No, I have never seen what happens in this time. I have seen unaired pilots and quit different final versions. Anyway, I was also thinking myself that they might have better explanations in it which then got cut out for some reason. The whole series is simply to family-oriented (the viewers I mean, not the characters) and therefore the actually science part in this "science fiction" comes to short. Mar 12, 2012 at 21:57
  • @MartinScharrer: I would bet there was a better explanation that got cut. While an hour seems like enough to tell a story, that's a 60 page script, or a minute a page, and if you look at a script page, even 2-3 sentences is significant. I think "family oriented" was one reason for just glossing over issues like that one, so you have an excellent point there. Also, their goal was to relocate the characters in time, clarify that wouldn't mess up the future, then get the story going, so the explanation was probably considered secondary or even tertiary to the, "Wow! Dinosaurs" and such.
    – Tango
    Mar 12, 2012 at 22:10

2 Answers 2


That exact question was brought up a year or so ago, during an interview. Simply put, the creators had a neat "humans + dinosaurs" idea and didn't think of any paradoxes.

The probe and "different time stream" was tacked on later to try and explain why it didn't matter what the colonists did, which was why the pilot didn't air in May 2011 like it was supposed to: from http://insidetv.ew.com/2011/08/05/how-terra-nova-butterfly-effect/ -

Producers have added an element into the show’s heavily reworked pilot to help answer all those pesky issues, which TV critics at Fox’s press tour grilled producers about during the network’s last press tour (back when we all thought Terra Nova was going to debut in May).

“So many people had the idea they were going back to change history, we wanted to change that,” said executive producer Rene Echevarria.

In the show, we learn they’re not going back into our past, but are on Earth during a “different time stream” — so nothing they do impacts the future. ”They’re colonists,” said Echevarria.

As you've noticed, this hacked-on solution introduces numerous other plot holes. If we take the series and creator's word that this is a different time steam, then all these pilgrimages should be coming from a different future, when the timeline splits after each one arrives.

On the other hand, if there's just one timeline, and the probe was destroyed, they could easily be screwing over the future even worse.

As of 1x13 Resistance (Or 11b, if you accept their odd numbering):

On the other hand, now that Hope Plaza has been destroyed, they're not expecting any pilgrimages anyway. So I don't think they care what happens to the future anymore...

EDIT Addendum from one of my own comments on another question, that I'd forgotten about:

The technobabble in the first episode, while the gateway is opening, implies that while the fracture is what made the time travel possible, the wormhole itself is created anew with each pilgrimage. (Implications unknown, but I suspect it has to do with the beacon not being found in the present, but future pilgrimages still end up in Terra Nova instead of splitting the timeline again. A free escape route for the writers...)

  • Good answer, but I like to point out that I give all the butterfly effect talk not much credit. Several thousand people 85 mil. years ago would have simply died out somehow without any noticeable effect today. Having some resources less in the world doesn't matter much on the large scale. Even if they have enough people to really kick-start a real civilization which keeps developing they wouldn't be around that long afterwards. Mar 12, 2012 at 20:29
  • @MartinScharrer Unless they killed (or indirectly caused the death of) one of the distant mammalian ancestors of humans. Or one of the ancestors of chickens. Or the plant whose descendants just happened to include oranges (series premier). Or any number of millions of other things. Just think about the worldwide effect of pollution if they did keep developing!
    – Izkata
    Mar 12, 2012 at 21:22
  • @lzkata: Good point, but I don't think they are able to kill a whole species. At least not without changing the global climate etc. There is the point that time travel into the past doesn't happen, it already happened. The earth today would be exactly how it is because of the time travel, not despite it. Maybe the dinos didn't die out because of an meteoroid after all but because of Terra Nova! Mar 12, 2012 at 21:39
  • The above points would be invalid if they were in our timeline's past, anyway. Any changes made to OUR Earth 85 million years ago would be accepted by us as history. Chicken? Orange? Now you're just making up words.
    – Omegacron
    Nov 25, 2014 at 18:08

They don't have that covered in canon, and it is possible to cover it out of universe. Likely, you are right. It could be destroyed - or blasted into space (or into the Sun), or it could lead to a future situation. That's all in-universe. (Also, if you're looking for a way to fill the plot hole, we'd have to do it "in universe" with what is in that universe.)

Out of Universe

I'm not going to cover out-of-universe because that's easy and lets us just blame the writers (which is really not fair, it's like the out of shape guy who never played football thinking he can tell a star quarterback what he should have done). So I'll stick with the in-universe situation. (But from out of universe, I think there's no doubt you're right and it's either a plot hole or something left for future development.)

One more out of universe note: One of the executive producers is Brannon Braga, who loved to play around with time travel and strange results in Star Trek: The Next Generation, so the idea of it creating a paradox is possible.

In Universe

The first issue is how those in the 2140s knew where and when the wormhole went. Let's make it easy and say they somehow knew it was 85 million years ago. That's a long time for anything to survive and they want it to be detected after civilization develops technology, not before. Which brings up the question of what they could possibly put in a probe that would last 85 million years.

The only answer, at least in 2012, is radioactive materials. Also, there's a need to make sure that whatever they develop would survive, even if it ended up in a volcano. (However the Carnotaurus was in what is now Argentina, and with that knowledge, they might not have felt vulcanism was a threat.)

Rather than use just one substance, they could take several different radioactive substances and combine them into a nuget that would make the radiation look like just background noise unless someone knew what they were looking for (and nobody would know that until after the probe was made, so it wouldn't change history). (Also, it's stated the probe was sent with a beacon, which means radioactive material is still a possibility.)

Once that's done, the next step is to embed the radioactive material in something that will withstand lava flows and intense pressure. Not something easy to do, but it's possible, especially allowing another 130 years or so for them to develop the technology. Once that's done, send it back. Even if they try to destroy it, it was intended to withstand a volcano, so it'd be pretty rugged.

Also, LucasTaylor has been working on the math around the wormhole, so it's quite possible that he proved, after the fact, that it's a separate time stream.

But if it were the same time stream, then after they sent the probe and the first few waves of settlers through the wormhole, any effect they'd have on the 2140s would have already started to show.

So the likelihood of it being in the same time stream is rather slim, all things considered. Especially since, after Terra Nova was established, and knowing it was somewhere in Argentine (where the Carnotaurus was), they could use imaging techniques and other technology to find any traces of a civilization or plastic materials that might have been left over from the colony.

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