Mar 4, 2010

[TV] Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Season 1

Terminator: The Sarah Connor ChroniclesA lot of science fiction movies end up becoming franchises given how well they do at the box office. The simple Hollywood logic of deciding whether or not to create a sequel is simple enough since all you need to do is repeat a lot of the key elements from the first movie, mix in new actors and a different plot and you're all set. At least that's how the theory goes and yet the results are horribly diverse and fans like us end up loving the continuation of the franchise or we hate it and totally let the movie bomb at the box office.

Then there's the riskier jump, which is for a majorly successful movie to try and make the jump to the small screen to become a TV series. The reverse of this equation tends to occur a lot more frequently and with greater success than the former, and yet studios tend to take the gamble here and there and sometimes it pays off.

It's just not that simple to adapt a movie realm into that of a sustained TV series. The action gets drawn out. The plot lines need to get more complicated. The host of characters becomes larger as well. There are many factors that make TV different from the movies, and the translations aren't always quite as what the producers expect.

Summer Glau as a Terminator on a promotional p...Image via Wikipedia

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was the Fox adaptation of the popular movie franchise. Set sometime after the events of the second Terminator movie, it focuses on the life of Sarah Connor (Lena Headey) and her son John Connor (Thomas Drekker), who is believed to be fated to become the future leader of the human resistance against the machines. He and his mother have been moving all over the country while constantly evading cybernetic assassins sent from the future by Skynet. During one such lull period when he and his mother try to live some semblance of a normal life, he encounters Cameron (Summer Glau), who turns out to be a reprogrammed terminator sent to the past by his future self to protect him. Together, the three continue the fight against Skynet and try to do their best to prevent that dark future from ever happening.

While on the run from another terminator who has taken on the persona of Cromartie (Garret Dillahunt), the three find themselves relying on Cameron alone to save their lives. Her solution is a bold one - to jump forward in time about 8 years into the future to the year 2007 to evade the terminator completely. With this setting, the stage is set for the series and a rather interesting ride.

First, the casting for this show was pretty awesome, even though it took a bit of time for all the actors to really grow into their roles. Lena Headey was pretty great as the strong-willed Sarah Connor, which she also portrayed as being occasionally weak and vulnerable. This made perfect sense since it's not like she was a trained killer all her life. Once upon a time she was just a waitress who eventually got caught up in all this and eventually became the mother of the potential savior of mankind. Thomas Drekker certainly tried to recapture the whiney John Connor we all saw in Terminator 2 (as performed by Edward Furlong), which made him a lot more annoying than he should have been. Still, it's impressive to consider that the writers gave themselves a significant challenge in writing John that way since now they had to find a way for him to become the John Connor that would one day lead mankind's armies against the machines.

Summer Glau is something else and she's creepy when she's in her full terminator mode. She really does come off as a machine walking amongst us and I was totally cool with this idea apart from the fact that she was able to act completely human back in the first episode, and yet this behavior was never seen again.

What made this show a bit hard to enjoy was the slower plot and the lack of an overall villain. The trio find themselves chasing after whispers and echoes of things that may become the man-killing thinking computer, Skynet. Thus they end up running after chess-playing computers and possible shipments of metals that could possibly used one day to create other terminators. While their reasons are sound and all this is perfectly possible, it still doesn't leave the viewer with a sense of satisfaction. Sure, Skynet lurks beyond the horizon of the coming Judgment Day in the future, but this doesn't translate into a traditional villain that people can latch onto.

On the whole, I really liked the show's premise and wanted to see where the writers originally wanted to take this series were it not for the darned 2007 Writers' Strike. Still, the show did its fair share in contributing to science fiction culture while also showing that it's possible to write yourself into almost any franchise for as long as you have the power of time travel.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Season 1 gets 3.5 time-travelling naked terminators out of 5.

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