Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA

Fox’s drama Terra Nova is really going to premiere in September, the producers of the megabucks Fox prehistoric drama Terra Nova — which seemingly has been in some form of production since the Jurassic Period — assured critics and at a TCA panel this afternoon. Exec producers Rene Echevarria, Brannon Braga and Jon Cassar insisted that not only would the show be premiering on schedule with a two-hour rollout on Sept. 26; the other installments of the 13-episode production are finally coming along despite the challenging visual effects and production complexities stemming from the Queensland, Australia shoot. The two-hour pilot originally was earmarked to air in May, but issues stemming from the drama’s cutting-edge technology pushed it back to fall.

And now? Will everything be delivered on time? “Absolutely,” Echevarria assured the room. “Right now, we’re shooting episodes 8 and 9. We’re in post on 3, 4 and 5. We’re putting the finishing touches on the second hour of the dinosaur-rich pilot after doing some reshoots in Australia. We’re also prepping episodes 10 and 11. Just about every episode is in play right now … This show certainly is ambitious in scope and has it’s challenges. But we’ve finally wrangled it …There is a pipeline that has been created with the visual effects house as well as the animation and rendering and texturing. Was there a learning curve? Yes.”

Braga stressed that one reason the show has suffered some production growing pains and delays is that they’re essentially reinventing the wheel with Terra Nova in terms of the effects technology they’re instituting. “It simply wasn’t possible to do this show until now,” he said. “We’re literally creating (new) things as we go along. Added Echevarria: “A lot of production houses we approached said, sorry, it can’t be done, not on the time frame we required. Even five years ago this show simply wouldn’t have been possible.” Earlier in the day, Fox’s entertainment president Kevin Reilly confirmed that Terra Nova will only produce 13 episodes this season. He said that contractually, if renewed, the series is supposed to receive a 22-episode pickup for Season 2 but, given the complexity of production, may stick to smaller orders, with 13 episodes as a possibility.

Steven Spielberg is famously among the show’s list of 13 executive producers, and Braga assured that his association with the series has been far more than ceremonial. “He’ll take a sequence and analyze it in such an instructive way,” Braga said. “The show is filled with elements like that. He’s weighed in on visual effects of course, on scripts, on casting, on the look and feel of the show.” Added co-star Jason O’Mara: “His presence is felt constantly on the set and throughout the overall product.”

Asked after the panel if the show’s rumored price tag of $100 million was in the ballpark of reality, Echvarria replied, “No, absolutely not even close.” Too low or too high? “Oh, high. I so wish I had a budget like that.”