Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Full Season Review - Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Season One

T:TSCC is a show about a girl and her pony, together they experience the trials and tribulations of life, show jumping and personal grooming.

Sorry, that’s the blurb for the show I’m developing. Rest assured, I Love Horses: The Series will be an event you won’t want to miss.

Anyway, lame comedy introductions aside, T:TSCC is a show spun out of the famous Terminator movie franchise. Forming a TV series out of a successful movie franchise is rarely successfully achieved (Blade as a recent example of failure), will T:TSCC succeed? Beware of mild spoilers ahead!

The TV series is a continuation of the storyline and events in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and the principal characters of Sarah Connor and John Connor have been recast. Here’s the roll call:

The Cast:

The Set Up:

The Connors are still on the run from the authorities in 1999 after the events of T2: Judgement Day. Sarah has met someone and is seemingly prepared to settle down but she decides to go on the run again when her partner proposes marriage. Sarah is reported missing by her jilted lover and soon the FBI and another Terminator are tracking her and John. Luckily for John, his future adult self has once again sent back a protector from the future, a new model of Terminator named Cameron. To escape pursuit and to prevent the rise of Skynet, the Connors and Cameron travel forward to 2008 in the hopes of destroying Skynet before it is born.


Killer robots. The series doesn’t shy away from using Terminators and even gives us an episode set in the future to really up the robot quotient. One of my fears was that the show would either shy away from expensive Terminator effects or become Terminator-of-the-week. I think they managed to find a happy medium by having Terminators sent back in time on different missions. In fact there is only one Terminator in the present whose mission is to kill John Connor (that we know of). Other Terminators that appear have been sent to achieve different objectives. This means the show is more about foiling Skynet’s long term plans rather than the Connors constantly running from a never ending stream of temporal assassins.

Terminator mythology is embraced by the series. We get to see earlier models of Terminator and some backstory to the time machine used by Skynet and the humans. The inclusion of Derek Reese may seem to be a little lazy at first (a brother of a popular character that happens to share the same traits) but it aids the story by adding friction to the group dynamic and provides someone who can motivate the other characters by reminding them of what they’re fighting against.

Cromartie is a chilling foe, he has some fantastically horrific scenes in the show and plays a more intelligent and resourceful Terminator than the traditional ‘Arnie’ or T-800 version. Cromartie has a scene in the final episode which serves as a reminder that he is a ruthless and unstoppable killing machine, which is all the more effective as it doesn’t explicity show the violence, merely the aftermath.

The supporting characters are interesting. I was dubious about having old love interest Charley Dixon become involved in Sarah’s world but it’s clear that his presence is necessary to provide an everyman reaction to events. He’s also useful to the team rather than the annoying hanger-on he could've become. Agent Ellison is also very entertaining as the laid back Fox Mulder-like agent that wants to believe.


Sarah Connor’s voiceover at the beginning and conclusion of each episode. Urgh. It’s attempting to recreate the moody voiceovers that Linda Hamilton delivered in the first two movies but it gets really annoying in the TV series. It’s far too melodramatic, pretentious, and pretty dull. Imagine Mohinder’s voiceovers from Heroes delivered in an over earnest fashion (swap the superpowers for killer robots from the future as the topic of voiceover though).

John Connor’s school days. I really don't understand what the show is aiming for in these scenes. The high school stuff is never going to match up to the killer robot side of the show. There are some strange subplots that are seemingly abandoned after an episode or two but I think this is probably due to the strike rather than poor plotting. But why should we care about John’s attempts to fit in at school when the bigger threat to his life is some guy made of metal shooting him with an Uzi 9mm? Also, what’s the deal with Cameron? In the pilot episode she acted like a convincingly normal, human girl but after that episode she acts like a killer robot visiting school for the first time. Did she accidentally delete her ‘pass for a slightly weird teenager’ program?

The first season is very short (only nine episodes) and seemed to get cut short just as it had built momentum. Still, the final episode did leave the audience with a couple of great cliffhanger moments.

Bubbles from The Wire appears in a couple of episodes and is completely wasted. Seriously, the dude can act, give him something to do.

The series also wastes Danny from The Shield as a minor character.


I enjoyed T:TSCC, it’s not the best piece of genre television out there but it tries to be slightly intelligent and it manages to indulge its fanbase without being obsessively geeky with it. Whilst Heroes and Lost may get all the press and acclaim, T:TSCC could fit in nicely as the reliable show that will hopefully maintain a steady level of quality rather than wildly fluctuating from one season to the next. The first season pretty much serves as an extended pilot, the second season will show us what the series will become. If the series maintains and improves on its promising start, it could become a hit.

Arbitrary Rating Out of Ten: 7.5

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