I did something with Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (TSCC) that I rarely do: I purchased the complete show on DVD without so much as watching a single episode during its run on broadcast television or reading even one review. The reason for such a brash move? Well I’ve always enjoyed the franchise in its feature film form and figured that the weekly format would be a spectacular medium in which to fill in the gaps between the films.
As such TSCC does just that. In fact the series could be viewed as Terminator 2.5 if the motion-picture timeline is one’s gauge of measurement. If you’ll recall, Terminator 2: Judgment Day ended with Sarah Connor, her young son John (with the help of the 800 “Swartz” Series Terminator) manage to destroy both the liquid-metal T-1000, as well as the arm and chip from the first film's 800 Series Terminator. The film was set in the year 1995 with a then ten-year-old John Connor.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines jumped ahead to 2004 where a nineteen-year-old John Connor is living “off the grid” in the areas surrounding Los Angeles after the death of his mother. It turns out that Judgment Day did not occur in 1997 as had been predicted in the first film due to mankind’s intervention to the timeline, which postponed the prophesied events. As is the robots of the future’s way, another Terminator has been sent back in time (this time the female T-X unit) in effort to pick off Connor’s future lieutenants in the human Resistance.
TSCC begins in 1999 with a fourteen-year-old John Connor still living with his mother on constant run from both destiny and evil cyborgs. Following the movie-formula, the duo finds themselves pursued by a T-888 Terminator unit but aided by Cameron, a female (800 Series) Terminator that has been re-programmed and sent back through time to protect John.
But before you go and get used to life circa 1999, the crew make a desperate escape by time traveling to the year 2007 and in the process jump right over the time where cancer should have claimed the life of Sarah Connor. The Terminator in pursuit in 1999 uses the eight years of their absence to reconstruct his damaged chassis and is quite alive and well by the time 2007 rolls around.
It gets worse still for our protagonists once they discover that that Skynet has in fact sent many Terminators back to the year 2007 for a whole variety of missions ranging from the execution of key resistance members to the physical construction of the network and facilities that will eventually become Skynet.
The bottom line is, and like the movies, our heroes have their hands full in what boils down to present day in effort to change future-history. The good news is, as an hour-long episode format, it works. The shows build with absolutely beautiful pacing, intense action sequences, and solid scientific explanations without tech overload.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going in; after all, many of the films demanded an R rating to tell their tale not to mention boasted budgets that put even the ritziest television budgets to shame. I can state with confidence that producer Josh Friedman recognized these limitations and went about crafting the source material into a television effort with style and grace.
The acting is well above what’s typically associated with made-for-television action drama efforts and the effects, while slightly pale compared to the efforts of the last two feature films, are easily on par with (and at times surpass) the visuals of the first two.
More impressive than the acting and visuals however would have to be the story/ plot structure itself which manages to take many of the elements that have made the films so enduring, and interweaves them with a slightly more dramatic feel than that of the movies (which were typically mass-destruction chases).
My only complaint lies not with the show in particular but rather some of the typical snafus and paradoxes that the series (and time travel in general) call to mind. Questions of predestination and multiple (parallel) existences can detract from an already difficult-to-follow timeline if the viewer allows themselves the distraction of pondering such things. As has been the case with all of the Terminator incarnations thus far, it is best perhaps to suspend disbelief and simply enjoy the ride.
The show was one of those that suffered due to the writer’s strike and hence consists of only 9-episodes for the first season. Coming in at a total runtime of 394 minutes, the show spans 3-discs and contains a healthy dose of extras including staff commentaries over three episodes, audition clips, gag reels, and several deleted “Terminated” scenes. The second season was boosted to 22-episodes before ultimately meeting its untimely demise from television. A shame really, as the show managed to surpass most of my expectations. I’m working on the second season now and will review that one upon completion as well.
What did you think of this review?