In 2149, policeman Jim Shannon is sentenced to prison for six years for assaulting another officer after it was discovered that Jim and his wife, Elisabeth, had a third child in a society where families are restricted to two children. Two years into his sentence, Elisabeth, a doctor, is recruited to travel 85 million years back in time to Terra Nova, a prehistoric colony that is attempting to reinvent the past for a better future, albeit with the necessity to co-exist with dinosaurs. With Elisabeth only being permitted to take their two eldest children, teenagers Josh and Maddy, with her, she helps Jim escape from prison so that he and their five-year-old daughter, Zoe, can accompany the rest of the family back in time. Once in Terra Nova, Jim meets Commander Nathaniel Taylor, who, displeased by Jim's arrival, assigns him to the agriculture group. Meanwhile Josh meets a group of rebellious teenagers, including a girl named Skye, while Elizabeth starts treating patients.