By James Hibberd
Updated October 21, 2011 at 04:25 PM EDT

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Terra Nova is about to get wilder. After experimenting with a couple stand-alone episodes, Fox’s dino-drama is taking a more serialized path for the rest of the season — solving key mysteries, introducing new dinos, and even killing off a character. (Don’t worry, we won’t say who.)

Terra Nova executive producers René Echevarria and Brannon Braga reveal some of the threats the colonists will face in the upcoming hours, as well as answer some burning fan questions. Will we see 2149 again? Will the season finale end on a cliffhanger? What’s up with all the teen romance? And hey, will the colonists ever actually kill a dinosaur? We have a mega Q&A that answers all this and more. The interview comes on the heels of Monday’s fourth episode rising in the ratings — a promising sign if the ambitious sci-fi show is going to land a second season.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations on the ratings uptick. I hear the show is going to get more serialized from here on?

RENÉ ECHEVARRIA: It does. We’re going to roll out the whole Sixer mythology this season. You’re going to see who sent them here and why, and it all comes to a head in the season finale.

BRANNON BRAGA: Whether it’s the strange markings on the rocks, or even the new thing we introduced Monday night with the container, all these things will culminate and be explored by the end of the 13. And it’s been fun doing that. As the episodes go on, the momentum will build with the ongoing storylines.

It was almost like you had these serialized elements in the pilot, then Fox said “make it more stand-alone.”

BB: Are you sleeping with a network executive? Do you have spies?

That’s sort of what happened on Fringe.

RE: It’s true in the first couple episodes, you do want to cast a wide net. And we are picking up those threads now. The story with Josh picks up a lot of heat about what he’s willing to do to get his girl here, and he gets way in over his head. It was an unexpected discovery as the season went along that this was a way to play scenes with the Sixers, but not with the adults. And it gives Josh and odd romantic triangle with Skye — how does she compete with an idealized person?

BB: The question was asked in [Monday’s] episode — which we thought was a good template for what the show really is going to be like moving forward, with a mixture of stand-alone elements and ongoing storyline — there was a question asked: “What is Terra Nova really all about?” That’s a question we’ll begin to answer. Things are not what they appear to be. Clearly Taylor has secrets. Jim is keeping things about his Sixer visit from Taylor. And there’s something big going on that Jim finds himself in the middle of.

Will we see more of 2149?

RE: We don’t see a lot of 2149. We come to see the conspiracy with the Sixers is being orchestrated in 2149, and as we get toward the season finale we will go to 2149 and see that more explicitly. But most of our storytelling takes place in Terra Nova.

BB: When we do go there, it’s very cool.

It’s a pretty cheerful show, usually. Was that a point of discussion — that to be a ‘family show’ it also needed a light tone?

RE: It’s the DNA of the show. It’s about a family with teenage kids and a really young daughter.

BB: There’s an optimism about the show that we like. Which isn’t to say things aren’t going to get pretty scary. Dramatic things are going to happen with big challenges to the family.

RE: Taylor and Jim are going to find themselves on a collision course about a secret Taylor is keeping.

BB: At it’s heart, this is not a cynical show. You called it “cheerful.” As René said, it’s in the DNA. It’s something we’ve always liked about the show — that even in its darkest hours it’s about a family that’s sticking together.

RE: You also want people to have that feeling — “I want to go to Terra Nova, I want to live in Terra Nova.” People die, bad shit happens, but you want to have that feeling. That’s one of the chords we’re trying to strike.

It does have a great farmer’s market.

RE: I read that recap you did of “Instinct”–

NEXT: Shark-a-saurs? Finale cliffhanger? Second season?

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It does have a great farmer’s market.

RE: I read that recap you did of “Instinct”–

Ohhhh.

BB: We’ve read all of it. It’s very funny stuff. You should have written for Mad magazine.

I like the show and I’m rooting for the show. Part of the recap format is to poke fun.

RE: I do have notes. Your “Instinct” recap was funnier than “What Just Happened.” But then you got back into style with “New Girl.” We could be meta and do reviews of your reviews.

That would be quite meta! So can you tease to some of the cool dinos coming up?

RE: Halloween night teases “murder-by-dinosaur.” There’s a great new dinosaur described as a “shark on legs” called a Nykoraptor. It’s incredibly fast and can climb incredibly fast. It’s sort of our version of a velociraptor. It’s only about four-feet tall, but trouble.

BB: Then we have the biggest dinosaur we’ve done, the biggest in the fossil record. It looks amazing. We’re also doing an ancestral Komodo dragon.

It seems like the bigger they are, the harder they are to make real. Like the one that comes over the fence in the pilot, or even in Jurassic Park, the brontosaurus herd in the beginning. Maybe it’s because we’re not used to seeing animals that large.

BB: Broad daylight is also more of a challenge.

RE: That’s my theory. Most of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park were at night.

I hear you have a big cliffhanger planned for the finale?

RE: It’s kind of a cliffhanger. Everything is played out. All the elements come to a head, it’s a two-hour finale. The 11th Pilgrimage is scheduled to arrive — and who’s going to show up? The Sixer stuff gets answered and explained. We also tee up a new mystery, so in that sense it’s a cliffhanger.

So you guys are firmly betting on a second season?

RE: We are hopeful and betting. And maybe even feeling confident.

Originally with the pilot, we got a sense that there’s all these cooks in the kitchen. By the end of shooting the season, were you left alone to do your show? Or was it a collaborative process throughout?

RE: The show is so full of possibility. It could be so many things. There were so many voices about what it could be. It was hard sometimes for people to give up — when it can’t be [two things at once]. Sometimes to open a door you have to shut another door. It’s not going to be “24 in Jurassic Park.” So, yeah, at a certain point people started to breathe a little easier and the storytelling took on a life on its own. We saw what was working and what characters were working and started following that — like any show in success. What’s challenging is TV is a lot about comfort food — tuning in and knowing what you’re going to get. And I don’t know the show is that. Next week is kind of a murder mystery. The week after that is a big disaster movie. The next is an intimate chamber piece that’s almost exclusively about Josh and Maddy–

BB: It’s a Hitchcockian thriller involving the kids.

RE: — And then next week is a big mythological show where Jim and Taylor go head-to-head.

NEXT: What’s up with the teen romance? Will a dinosaur ever die? More…

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You mentioned Josh and Maddy. One frequent target in the comments is the teen romance. I’m not sure if that’s widely felt, or just an older segment of viewers who aren’t into it.

BB: We discovered we had these teenagers in a very unlikely prehistoric sci-fi situation. Things are not typical here. You’re expected to grow up quickly. I was at Comic-Con and we screened “Runaway” and there was an audience of about 2,000 people and they loved the Mark Reynolds and Maddy Shannon [courtship scene].

RE: There’s all these soldiers [at Terra Nova] so there’s a lot of single guys. And then there’s these young colonists. Taylor has these old-fashion rules about how you interact with them — you have to court them. There’s a big storyline for Mark and Maddy. We see their first full-on date and it couldn’t possibly go worse.

Can you guys kill a dinosaur?

RE: We can kill a dinosaur.

Will you kill a dinosaur?

RE: You will see a dinosaur die this season, yes.

They all seem very intent on protecting the local wildlife.

BB: They came to co-exist. They’re not going to kill a predator unless they have to; they have sonic weapons. People can get eaten all you want, but dogs and dinosaurs — people don’t like to see them get hurt.

Clearly Taylor can communicate with the future. Is how that happens something we’re supposed to know, or is that deliberately being held back?

BB: When the portal is open, we can talk to the future. We can exchange data. So every four to six months we can talk. But in between we’re cut off.

Ahhh, okay. If Terra Nova gets a second season, what’s your vision for the show moving forward?

RE: We’ve found the balance we’re comfortable with, the family, the mythology, the testosterone elements. It’s not for everybody. And I know there are moments where people who are there for the testosterone [action] are going to roll their eyes. And there are going to be some moments where families who tuned in are going to want to cover their kids’ eyes.

So if it comes back, will it be for another 13?

RE: We’ll be happy to deliver whatever number [Fox] says. There might be a number between 13 and 22. It might be hard to deliver 22 because we have this eight-week post-production period for the effects — the dinosaurs, the set extensions. Every time you step in the infirmary you have what’s on those [digital display] screens.

Anything else you’d like to add?

RE: We can say that a beloved character is going to die before the end of the season.

Important for Terra Nova fans: Brace your DVRs, because Terra Nova‘s schedule is about to get rocky: Terra Nova will not air Monday night (potential World Series preemption — boo). It will return for a Halloween episode on Oct. 31. It will also be off the air on Dec. 5. Then it will return on the 12th. The two-hour finale is Dec. 19.

Read more:

‘Terra Nova’ dinos of Fox scare up more viewers

‘Terra Nova’ recap: The New Girl

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