TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES
Doomed from the start ... I'm talking about TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES which was a two season made for TV series based on James Cameron's "The Terminator" film franchise. Emphasis on "made for TV" which was probably the first nail in the coffin. Whiney fans of this series argue that the show was doomed as soon as the producers tacked on the name "Terminator" to the beginning of the show, citing that it was originally called "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" and that adding "Terminator" to the beginning somehow wrecked this show.
Making a "Terminator" based series for television doomed this show ... about as much as making Al Pacino's "Scarface" into a television series would doom that particular television series.
I'll go ahead and get the initial shock out of
the way; I liked T:TSCC. I really did, not because it was Terminator but because
it had some interesting plots and twists and it was a pretty good action series.
It wasn't good television (because very little is these days), it was okay
television and that meant it was better than a lot of stuff out there.
Now, let's punish it.
Starring, from L to R:
Robot Bad Ass Super Bitch
Chronic Thumb Sucking (possible bed wetting) Whiney Boy Wonder With Daddy Issues
Single Working Mom Bad Ass Super Bitch
Fur is going to fly, folks. Yes it is.
What made T:TSCC worth watching, if you were so inclined, were two things; Lena Headey (MILF!) and Summer Glau (who was a far better female Terminator than that hack wrestler wannabe that they threw up on the screen for T3). Lena Headey actually plays a pretty good Sarah Connor ... tough, with a backbone and smart enough to survive. Summer Glau, as "Cameron" (which I guess is a nod to James of same last name) is a Terminator (unknown make or model) that shows up from 2027, sent back by John Connor (future John) to protect him in the past. Cameron really wants to be Sarah Connor but she just can't and therein lies some of the conflict between the two leading female roles ... when you have two women, albeit one of them being a robotic killing machine, trying to do things their own way then problems are going to start. Women, regardless of what they are made of, being women, are just going to be that way. I'm sure that Cameron didn't have an ounce of estrogen in her artificial body yet she and Sarah often went at each other like two cats proving that it isn't just estrogen ... it's just women.
John Connor, once again, is the whiney brat who doesn't want his future or his destiny yet he can't escape it so rather than embrace it he does what he's done since T3 ... whine, whine, whine. As he is whining, his mother is doing all that she can in order to save his sorry ass so that he can one day drop a pair and save the human race from the cold, merciless clutches of SKYNET.
As Sarah acts more like a moral anchor and compass for the rest of the group, Cameron is probably the more interesting character in the cast as she learns to be more human and she does so with ruthless machine-like efficiency. The problem is that in learning how to be more human the producers of the show did everything they could to fag Cameron up from the start. She learns to paint her toes, she learns to dance, she even comes close to making out with John Connor ... in other words, the perfect killer robot girlfriend. Hell, about the only thing that Cameron didn't do was have a pajama sleep over and a pillow fight.
The first time that I saw T:TSCC was when it was
offered on DVD, the entire first season, for $15 at Walmart and I took a chance
thinking ... how bad could it be? Well, it wasn't as bad as it could be
but then it wasn't as good as it should have been.
Going into T:TSCC I was skeptical that I would like it but like I said, I did. Do I consider it "official"? No. It's just good Terminator-esque fun and it's a two season experiment on how the first movie might have played out if they didn't destroy Arnold. Cromartie, well, he was another interesting character being the main Terminator sent back to get rid of the Connors. The difference between Cromartie and Arnold in the first movie is that Cromartie is pretty damn efficient ... and he manages to live a lot longer than Arnold did mainly because Cromartie seems to use his computer brain for something other than selecting the best weapon for the job and computing ballistic trajectories to the nearest target.
That's a point in the series' favor.
Cromartie probably acted more like a Terminator than any other Terminator ever put on screen ... or at least a Terminator that was allowed to think on its own and learn. However, the fact that his dismembered body can track each piece down and reassemble itself automatically was both a little scary (just a teeny bit) and a whole lot far-fetched. Self repair is one thing but this guy reassembled himself like the Iron Giant did in that wonderful animated movie of the same name.
Shirley Manson (of band lead singer "Garbage"
fame) plays a pretty cold T1000 type Terminator as well. The problem is
that you think that she's an evil T1000 out to get the Connors when at the end
of Season 2 it's shown that she's out to aid them.
The situations that arise during the series in its only two seasons are sometimes interesting but the heavy use of time travel (including at least three trips FORWARD in time using time machines either sent back into the past or built here using existing technology ... huh) tends to rapidly grab from the same tired old cliches that have haunted the franchise since the third movie ... they're all pulled from the big, shallow box that is clearly marked "Over done" with a line drawn through that notation and in handwritten marker below that it has been written "Reuse often."
There were some depictions of the future warfare but those were few and far between and didn't really offer the same type of glimpses that we had seen before. There were heavy uses of Infiltrator models (because most of the Endos were CGI and, well, it costs money for CGI ... just ask the crew that did Star Trek: The Next Generation). So, in the name of keeping the budget within reason, most Terminators you see are the Infiltrator (skinned) model, even in the future. The submarine being driven by a tame Terminator and then having a T1000 get loose onboard and hunt the crew was interesting but implausible ... as much so as the giant underwater HK that SKYNET called the Kraken. There were so many people and Terminators being sent backwards through time that it just became ridiculous after a while that SKYNET couldn't kill John Connor or Sarah Connor.
I mean, it wasn't for lack of trying!
And while the Connors are on the run, we have more problems. Sarah has to protect John from SKYNET which keeps sending back Terminators to kill him (and her) yet she is obsessed with finding out how SKYNET is created (since apparently wiping out Cyberdyne didn't wipe out SKYNET). This means that while she is protecting John she is dragging him into all sorts of situations as she attempts to be John Connor and destroy SKYNET before it is ever created (born) which is irony since that is what SKYNET tried to do to her with John. I guess payback really is a bitch ... and her name is Sarah Connor.
While they are on the run, the dysfunction in the family gets so bad that the Connors take time off to go to a psychologist. Yes, they seek counseling. Talk about pussification. John Connor definitely isn't the "boy who pulled the sword from the stone", he's the boy who pulled the sword from the stone and when told he would be king of all England immediately sat down and cried because that was going to interfere with his childhood and his ability to play with his friends. In constantly exploring John's "human" (aka "pansy") side in these films, the producers have done nothing but diluted the character of John Connor down from being the legend that rose up out of the ashes to save mankind to a whiney, insufferable brat with daddy issues. It's sad, really but then I guess that's the target audience that the producers have to reach these days ... no more of the John Wayne, now it's the MySpace and Facebook crowd. Let's face reality, folks ... given the generation that is currently about to become the "in" generation, it's a sad world that we look forward to and John Connor is just a mirror reflection of his generation. Why should he have to save the world from SKYNET? That's going to interfere with his dating and him playing Xbox 360 and a whole bunch of other things which are far more important.
And yes, during the series, John Connor drops a pair of testicles and trips over them ... and trips over them ... and trips over them. You see, John Connor just can't control his natural male urges and then we find out that his girlfriend is actually a plant sent back from the future (shock!) so he's getting played ... again. John keeps secrets from his mom. His mom keeps secrets from John. Cameron keeps secrets from all of them ... oh, what a tangled web. An annoying web, but a tangled one all the same.
One bit of logic fails here, folks, and it was shown in the TV series as well. In one episode, Cameron is doing research at a local library and she comes across a picture from the 1920's. Well, she identifies the guy in the picture as a ... Terminator. A Terminator in the 1920's?!?! Apparently there was a problem and the Terminator was sent too far back in time. So it walls itself up in a building and waits until a certain date to reactivate and engage its target. Of course, Cameron figures this out and destroys the Terminator before it can complete its 60 plus year so far mission. Do you see the logic problem yet?
If SKYNET can send back so many Terminators through time ... and they fail and fail and fail ... why doesn't SKYNET do the obvious thing? Send a Terminator back in time to before 1984? Okay, SKYNET sends a Terminator back in time to 1984 and it fails. Now, Sarah Connor knows about SKYNET, she's carrying John Connor in her womb and ... the surprise is up! Does it make sense for SKYNET to keep trying to kill John Connor at later and later moments in his life when each time John just gets smarter and smarter about SKYNET and what It can do? No. The truth is, if SKYNET could have sent back more than two Terminators it would have but it couldn't so it didn't and that is ultimately one of the reasons why T:TSCC fails. The T:TSCC tried to base a series, a successful series, on a bit of flawed logic and that is why it was doomed from the start as a series. If SKYNET sent a Terminator back to 1984, and that Terminator failed, it would have made more sense to send a Terminator back to an even earlier date to kill Sarah Connor ... even just a day before the T800 arrived would have made a huge difference but imagine sending a T1000 back in time to, let's say that Sarah is 20 in 1984 ... sending the T1000 back in time to 1964 ... that would have been easy to eliminate her given the relatively low tech '60's versus the high tech '80's. SKYNET went about it the wrong way and that is why the series made no sense, from the start.
Things I learned about Terminator from T:TSCC ... these aren't in any particular order, just as I remember them.
You can keep a time machine
in a vault of a large, active bank for years and no one will ever notice it.
You can build a time machine
right next to a large main frame and it won't do anything to the computers
when it activates. Remember all that lightning popping and crackling?
Nope, apparently random arcs of super high voltage electrical discharge
don't affect surge sensitive electronic equipment in the least.
The Resistance has been
sending operatives back in time just as much as SKYNET has been sending
Terminators back in time. The operatives work in safe houses to covertly support the
Connors and to track SKYNET being built. The Terminators track down the safe houses, kill the operatives,
and try to find the Connors.
There were a lot of humans
helping SKYNET destroy the human race. Some of these were rewarded by being
sent back in time, from the future, to today, so that they could live out
their lives before the war.
Cameron can heal flesh wounds
almost overnight. Even severe ones that require that large patches of
skin would have to be grown to repair her.
Cameron strips other
Terminators that they destroy for parts. Apparently, any and all Terminator
parts, regardless of make or model, are interchangeable with Cameron's
Cameron's CPU chip is
completely interchangeable with at least one other type of Terminator (Cromartie).
T1000 series Terminators can
travel in time freely forward or backwards, using the time machines, yet
Cameron, when she's heavily damaged (major parts of her endoskeleton
showing) can't travel in time because she is a machine. How the T1000 travels
through time when it is inorganic is still not explained. Maybe it
fools the time machine into thinking it is human thus bending the rules of
A high heel shoe poked
through the left eye of a Terminator will put it out of commission.
Completely. Yet the same Terminator can walk through grenades,
flamethrowers, a hail of small arms fire and still not stop. High heel shoes
... maybe someone should tell John Connor about that so he can equip his
troops in the future with bandoleers of spiked heels.
SKYNET did not die at
Cyberdyne ... no, SKYNET lived on in a chess program called "The Turk"
programmed by a protege / understudy of Miles Dyson. All that work of
Dyson and SKYNET turned out to be some mutant chess program from one of his
lab flunkies. Go figure.
SKYNET is also cruising around the
desert in a prototype Aerial HK, scaring people into thinking it is a UFO.
Kyle Reese said in the first
film that he was born after the nuclear exchange and that he grew
up in the ruins. In T:TSCC, Reese not only is born before the War, he
sees it happen ... and he has an older brother, Derek, who travels back in
time to help John Connor. It's just another point where they diverged
from established fact to suit series need.
Was T:TSCC really "Terminator?"
Yes and no. Yes, it was Terminator in concept and in name, no it was not Terminator in story or logic or staying power. T:TSCC was an estrogen filled romp through bitchy women being catty about who was going to be in charge. It tried to tackle issues like breast cancer and single mothers and a whole host of other feminine issues. It made Sarah strong, John a mother's boy and Cameron the ultimate Swiss army knife to save the day. At the end of Season 2, John and Sarah have managed to get everyone but them killed off and Cameron has been so heavily damaged that she may not be able to repair herself ... that is, if she hadn't willingly given her CPU to Cromartie so he could travel forward into the future looking for SKYNET.
My last question is ... if Cromartie couldn't leave the basement test lab where he was tethered by a plug interface that substituted for his CPU (which the Connors destroyed earlier in the season thus ending him as a villain) then how did Cameron remove her chip and insert her chip in Cromartie? Think about it ... as soon as Cameron managed to pull out her own CPU (an action that even the T800 in T2 needed John and Sarah to do for it) she would have shut down. Cromartie, tethered to a massive mainframe to keep him running, would have shut down the instant he unplugged himself to insert the new chip.
It's little things like that which leave big gaping questions on whether the people writing this series ever actually saw the first two movies at all.
Overall, you have to remember that T:TSCC was written for television and, television being what it is, you can't expect much.
I'm sorry to report that in that respect, T:TSCC really lived up to expectations ... at least mine and apparently, because the series got cancelled, I wasn't the only one.
Oh, yeah. T:TSCC is running now on SyFy (formerly the channel known as Sci-Fi). SyFy is rumored to be thinking of picking up T:TSCC and redoing it as a series ... to SyFy standards (which I didn't know that the SyFy channel had any standards left). If that's the case, then the only thing that will be worse than T:TSCC will be the resurrected version of T:TSCC as produced by the SyFy channel. I swear, an epileptic hamster having an epileptic fit on the keyboard of an old IBM Selectric typewriter could power-write better plots than the stuff you find on the SyFy channel these days.
With that rumor in the mill, I wouldn't be concerned that T:TSCC is gone ... I'd be concerned that it's coming back because the SyFy channel would do stuff to the Terminator franchise that not even the ex-Cameron team of retards has been able to do in the last two movies combined and that's probably the scariest thing about Terminator these days.