The Other Terminator 3
Date: August, 2007
By: Richard Houldsworth
The Terminator is coming to TV in The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The producers and stars reveal what's in store in this 12-episode spin-off from James Cameron's Sci-Fi movie masterpiece...
As this issue of Starburst hits the shops, there's still four months to go until The Sarah Connor Chronicles débuts on Fox in the US. At this stage, even the show's title isn't set in stone - it's producers have revealed that the network may choose to include the legend Terminator in the wording. However, judging from what we've seen of the pilot episode, the show could be worth the wait, as it picks up the threads of James Cameron's searing Terminator 2 and spins the franchise off into a whole new direction.
"When we first started this, people said, 'This takes place between T2 and T3', and that is incorrect," says Josh Friedman, who serves as executive producer and has scripted the pilot episode. "As far as I'm concerned this is T3. This is a continuation of what I would call 'The Sarah Connor Trilogy'. So anything that happens after T2 is fair game for us."
Does that mean that Friedman refuses to acknowledge the events of the third movie, which revealed that Sarah had died? "Correct," he states. "We're taking a phrase that is very important in T2, 'No fate, but what we make'," adds consulting producer James Middleton. "And this is a new fate for Sarah Connor, so we are creating an entirely new timeline."
The Sarah Connor Chronicles begins in 1999, two years on from the events of T2. Sarah (Lena Headey) is now married and John (Thomas Dekker) has a surrogate father, but the dreams of nuclear apocalypse will not go away, and suddenly mother and son pack their bags and hit the road again. They settle briefly in New Mexico, where John befriends Cameron (Summmer Glau) before the past catches up with them. With Agent James Ellison (Richard T Jones) on their tail and a gun-toting Terminator out to kill John before he can become a future rebel leader, the take flight. And they have an ally, because Cameron is not what she appears at all...
"Warner Bros came to me and asked me to write this show," explains Friedman of its genesis. "From my point of view it looked like a good gig at the time. It's a genre that's driven in many ways by a very rabid fan base on the Internet."
By the end of the pilot episode, the show shifts in Time, taking its three protagonists forward eight years into the future to present day America.
"The decision to leap forward is an aesthetic one and story-wise will turn out to be an important one," explains Friedman. "There are reasons to come to this specific time, this specific place. It's a show that's about Time travel, and certainly we will see characters, both human and less so, returning from the future to the present."
The storyline may segue directly into T2 but don't expect to see the iconic presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger in this TV spin-off. For one thing, Arnie's acting career has been put on hold while he pursues his mandate as the Governor of California...
"He's incredibly busy," says Friedman, "and as a star he's incredibly expensive. So we have a great preference for him, but we just don't know if he's ever going to be able to do any guest spots."
Arnie might not be lined up for the first 12-episode season, but expect to see plenty of familiar visual emblems from the movies. We will see the return of the fearsome skeletal chrome Terminator robots, we'll see the destiny of Los Angeles as it erupts in a nuclear conflagration, and there will be plenty of freeway carnage as Sarah, John and Cameron go on the run. A few years ago these kinds of effects requirements would be unthinkable in a weekly TV show, but advances in CG technology mean that the series can affordably create the same kind of visuals that were so ground-breaking in T2.
"There's been a lot of research and development from the people doing the specific effects, Zoic," explains executive producer David Nutter, whose credits include The X-Files, Supernatural and Roswell. "A lot of the stuff isn't really as expensive to do now - creating more Terminators and things of that nature. So there will be just as many effects and large-scale things alongside many of the episodes. We have the same director of photography and a lot of the same crew members working on the series as did the pilot, and our intent is to keep it up there as long as we can."
There's also a fair bit of violence in the pilot episode - cetainly enough to draw the attention of American TV critics when the series was launched at the TCAs in Los Angeles in July. The pilot episode that was available at the time has undergone reshoots and certain elements will be toned down, but the show will doubtless remain more visceral than viewers are normally used to.
"Our attitude is not to do anything in a shock way but it's really all about the action of the show," insists Nutter. "It's all about what dramatically is proper and works well for these characters in the situations, and making those as real as possible."
"The show is about the apocalypse and the end of Mankind," continues Friedman, "so we have a really great opportunity to explore Human values and Humankind. Obviously, there's a race of Terminators coming who think that Humankind is no value, and a lot of the show is about, 'How do you prosecute a war against a force that doesn't value you at all or value themselves at all? How do you do that and still maintain your own Humanity?' To the degree there's violence or action in it, not only is it going to be done responsibly, but I take it very seriously because thematically that's what it's about."
There is, however, one sequence that has created something of controversy: in the version of the pilot distributed for critics' eyes only, there is a high school massacre in which students are mercilessly gunned down. To be frank, what were the makers of The Sarah Connor Chronicles thinking?
"I certainly didn't write it for some sort of shock effect or anything like that," says Friedman. "It was written because I think it was the most important way to tell that part of the story. At the time that I was writing it, my wife and I were just talking about sending my child to school, and a lot of the show is about this woman who's very much a control freak letting this child go off into the world. For all of us as parents, I think it's a very scary world. I was really just expressing something personal, worrying about my child and what it would feel like to send them out to a place."
"We're reshooting parts of it," he admits, "and we're really sensitive to people concerns, but I think we'll wait and see what it look like at the end."
The producers reason that, for all its action trappings, the show is focused on its core characters and their horrific predicament.
"The whole idea or this series came from the notion that wouldn't it be great to really understand this icon in Sci-Fi action movies?" reasons Middleton. "And the way to do that is to do it as a dramatic television series. We can learn more about her, so it's really a focus on this character and what she has to do as a mom to protect her son, but also prepare him for something that may be very difficult and dangerous."
So could this series be the start of a new trend? Will we see other movie franchises being remade for the small screen? It has certainly worked well in the past for brands like Highlander and Stargate, although flops like the short-lived Planet of the Apes also provide a cautionary example...
"I have to say a lot of times films-to-television transfers have not done too well," says Nutter. "But once in a while they do happen. The bottom line with this show particularly is the fact it's so ripe for becoming a television series is because of what Josh wrote and how it really builds from this point. This is a story of two people you want to find out what's going to happen. How is John Connor going to grow up? How is Sarah Connor going to take care of him? This is a mother-and-son show. This is a show that we can all very much relate to, being parents and having relationships. And I think that there's wonderfull areas to explore here that can catapult into something that's very special."
So what next? Are there any other movies out there that they see ripe for the same kind of serialized TV treatment?
I think the Saw series," jests Friedman.
Below are some of the extra article inlays that were spread amongst the main article.
At just 26 years old Summer Glau has made something of a career from playing weird, otherworldly characters. She first came to our attention in Joss Whedon's short-lived Firefly as River Tam, the detached member of Malcolm Reynolds' crew with unknown telepathic and empathic abilities, who would erupt into a set-trashing Human weapon in the movie spin-off Serenity. Glau also had superhuman powers in The 4400, appearing in six episodes as Tess Doerner, a paranoid schizophrenic who can control others, and in The Sarah Connor Chronicles she's actually a cyborg from the future, a Terminator assigned to protect John Connor from his would-be assassins.
"I was just so excited to play this character," the actress enthuses, "because in a way she's much like River in that she's isolated and she's different from the other characters in how she relates and how she communicates. But she's very strong, and she can't genuinely feel emotion, while River was just a jumble of emotions."
As Cameron, Glau has big shoes to fill - she is, after all, taking over the same kind of role that Arnold Schwarzenegger played so memorably in T2.
"I adore Arnold, and I don't know if I'm going to be much like him," she offers. "I spoke to Josh a lot about how he wanted my Terminator to be. The way that we're going to make my Terminator the most advanced model so far is in her human traits. She's going to be the most human Terminator so far."
And seeing as Arnold had his own salvo of catchphrases in the movies - "Hasta la vista, baby", "I'll be back" - surely it's time that Glau began thinking up a few of her own...
"I'm working on it!" she assures us.
Big Screen Terminator
- T-101/T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger)
Powerful early model, all of which are identical and look like an Austrian bodybuilder turned Hollywood actor. Although this model was the first to be sent to kill Sarah Connor (T1), it was subsequently dispatched as John Connor's protector (T2, T3).
- T-1000 (Robert Patrick)
A super-advanced Terminator made of mimetic poly-alloy, an intelligen liquid metal that allows it to shape-shift and copy virtually anything - from a Human being to mere floor tiles. It's also virtually indestructible, able to reform after being blasted apart, though it's not at its best inside a big bubbling vat of molten metal.
- TX (Kristanna Loken)
A super-super-advanced killer, programmed to assassinate humans and other rogue Terminators. Taking the best qualities of the T-101 and T-1000, this machine can shapeshift and carries its own internal weaponry, including a plasma cannon and circular saw.
Playing John Connor
Like Summer Glau, Thomas Dekker had a list of genre credentials before he joined The Sarah Connor Chronicles. At just seven years old he played Thomas Picard in Star Trek: Generations, and in 1985 he portrayed Henry Burleigh in two episodes of Star Trek: Voyager. Coming right up to date, he was Zach in the first season of Heroes, best pal of Claire (Hayden Panettiere), who would document her death-leap antics and help her on a journey to find her true family, only to suffer a memory wipe at the hands of her father.
Dekker didn't so much as depart Heroes as vanish during the first year; rumours persisted that there was discord between the actor's represention and the producers, purportedly over the fact that Zach was gay.
"Controversy is such a dramatic term that sounds good," Dekker reasons. "I think it was something that got blown out of proportion. From day one we had set out to make the character ambiguous in every possible way. We felt that every character in the series was so clear in who they were, and it was nice to have side characters that were a little more open. You didn't where his relationship with Claire was going. Me not appearing on the show any more has nothing to do with the character. They'rre completely separate events.
"I auditioned for The Sarah Connor Chronicles at the last minute, and this was the role of a lifetime, I loved playing Zach. It was something that was only supposed to be in the pilot episode, there was never an arc planned for him and it happened by accident. I was hired per episode; there was never any contractn and, as far as U was aware, was never intended to remain on the show. This was the chance to really sink my teeth into a part that was just so close to my heart and work with these amazing people. I have a feeling Heroes will be just fine without me."
John Connor is a huge starring role for the 20-year-old actor, and he's aware that he's continuing a character already developed by Edward Furlong in T2, and then played as a young man by Nick Stahl in T3.
"I grew up really hooked on these films," he says. "So it's very ironic that I'm getting to do this. I know for the younger generation and for myself, John was equally important to me as Sarah was, and I know a lot of the people that I hear from really care about John."
"I knew how he was played very well in the movies. I felt I really knew that character. Where we are in the series, John's life is constantly evolving. He's having to keep his head down; whereas, in the beginning of T2, he's able to keep his head up, he's carefree, and I think he's had to close down a lot more. He's having to wake up to the fact that this won't go away, and he has to really step up to the plate. So I'm trying to incorporate the emotional core of what was there in the films while adjusting it to his current time and place in the series. So he's a little quieter, and he's a little more pensive."
Thanx to forum-member Mat-101 for providing the scans of this article!