T:SCC - No fate but what we make
Date: October, 2007
The Terminator series has endured as one of the most significant in modern genre history, with a fourth film going into production soon. SciFiNow takes a look at The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a live-action Terminator television show airing in January 2008.
Its seems as retoonning and rebooting franchises is as acceptable these days as churning out a sequel in the sam continuity. Bond did it well with Casino Royale, and the new Star Trek movie looks set to follow the same route. It should come as no surprise then, that the new Terminator television series is going with the trend, cutting out the storyline of the third film entirely.
The Sarah Connor Chronicles resumes the plot laid down at the end of Judgement Day, in the year 1999, Sarah and John have been living false lives in various locations, always fully aware that enemies from the past or future could strike at any time. Although they sometimes stay in one place long enough to start putting down roots, as evidenced by Sarah's engagement at the start of the show, this is always ephemeral. John in particular is having issues with his destiny and when they move locations again he forms a bond with a girl named Cameron. This small measure of social acceptance he gains, however, is shattered when a Terminator attacks, and Cameron is revealed to be a machine sent from the future to protect him. After a series of running battles, John and Sarah decide to stand and fight, ending up being transported to 2007 through the use of a time machine conveniently hidden in a bank vault (yes, we know) in order to take down Skynet.
The production of this show has been a few years in the running. Originally announced by Variety on 9 November 2005, the green light came in August 2006 when Warner Bros hired David Nutter to direct the pilot. The creator, Josh Friedman, has stated that he has the plot for the first season fully planned out, but also has a rough outline for three seasons after that. It seems the creative minds behind The Sarah Connor Chronicles are aiming long and high. The casting choices for the series have certainly ignited interest beyond the appeal to the Terminator fan community. Summer Glau (Firefly, The 4400) plays Cameron, the Terminator sent back in time to protect John, while Thomas Dekker (Heroes) and Lena Headey (300) take on the roles of John and Sarah Connor. Richard T. Jones, who genre fans will recognise from such a films as 1997's Event Horizon, takes on the role of James Ellison, an FBI agent assigned to track John and Sarah after the destruction of Cybderdyne. He is initially sceptical, believing Sarah is deluded about her belief in robots from the future. But his confidence that she is insane is shaken by events due to take place in the pilot, particularly when a classroom full of witnesses describe John's assailant as having a robotic leg. If he come to believe their story, he would undoubtedly be a powerful ally for the trio as they continue to hunt down Skynet before it can initiate Judgment Day when it comes online.
Aside from the continuity changes regarding the third film, the series looks set to expand upon the mythos of the franchise, particularly with regards to the Terminators themselves. Summer Glau has stated on several occasions that her character will be a new type of Terminator, one designed for deep-cover missions, who has some very interesting human attributes in her programming as well as the inner standard killing machine framework. In an interview held by IGN TV, she revealed that the duality of her character is troublesome to portray. "My character's very comlicated and I'm having a hard time with it, to be honest. I want people to be able to relate to her, and I think that it's going to be really interested trying to play a machine that is acting so human. She's supposed to be the most human Terminator that's ever been created. So I am very human, but I also try to find ways to make her foreign as well. You know... showing little things about her, details about her."
Despite these initial misgivings, however, she is determined to follow the path laid down by the films and try to find ways in which the audience can connect with her character. "I've never come to a role with these stipulations; I play more normal characters then this one usually, and I am still working on it and figuring out what we want her to be. I really want people to relate to her. I want people to care for her and I'm trying to find different ways to go about doing that. As she grows and series continues, I think she'll become more human. Who ever knows how far I can take it? I don't even know yet."
Of course, it probably didn't help that Glau hadn't seen the Terminator films before auditioning, something that Josh Whedon was amazed by. "My friends all thought that I was just from a different planet. When I told Joss [Whedon] I was up for the role, he said, 'God, it's a character that changed film. It's a really special and important movie.' And I hadn't seen it! So when I got the role, my dad went out and got all the movies for me and we watched them together."
From information released about the pilot, which has been leaked over BitTorrent networks in recent weeks as well as in interviews with Glau, there may also be something of a misguided romantic subplot with John Connor. "The scene that Josh [Friedman] wrote for me to audition with is a scene where Cameron talks about John and about the future when she first meets him. It's the most beautiful scene and I actually cry in it. It's amazing, it's very complicated but she does love him in her own way. He is her reason for being and so I think it already is a romance in some way."
While we can already hear the murmur of collective grumbling beginning to echo throughout fandom, the pilot doesn't seem to focus on this as much as balls-to-the-wall action sequences, including various shoot-outs and a reportedly impressive sequence involving the Skynet holocaust at the beginning. This won't be as important as the ideas of humanity and leadership however, according to Friedman, particularly with regards to the characters of John and Sarah. "How does Sarah raise a son to be the leader of the free world? You can't do it by just teaching him to shoot guns. You have to teach him how to be a man and how to lead from a moral place. So I think it's more than just shoot stuff. It's about how every life needs to be valued and I think that's kind of what the show is about." If the show pursues this avenue of storytelling, it could certainly avoid the 'Terminator of the week' syndrome that many fans fear. While there will undoubtedly be several different models that are seen, the reason that the Terminators are so terrifying is that they a nigh-on unstoppable, and completely focused on their targets. To reduce them to something that would be killed every week and discarded like an empty kebab box would not only cheapen the legacy of the series, but also in many ways reduce the appeal of the show itself. Thankfully, the creator of the series has debunked this. "I think the fear from fans is either there are not Terminators or there are too many Terminators. And I think that's a legitimate concern, but on that I was also concerned with, and the show is not set up to be that. Obviously there are Terminators in the show, but it's not going the be a Terminator of the week. That's not how we're going to do it."
Friedman definitaly has a solid plan for the thematic approaches to the show, however, as he notes that a central idea of the story us that, "There's a race of Terminator coming who think that humankind has no value and a lot of the show is about how do 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?" This question was also one that was at the heart of the original films, particularly Terminator 2. John's attempts to teach the Terminator how to be more human and explain why he should smile reflectied a perception of people that is relevant even to this day - that despite our advances in technology and the way in which our lives are becoming more prominently functional, it is our humanity that defines our existence and our fate, not that which is determined for us.
Although the series' premise may have raised the anxiety levels of many fans, the show does seem to have promise. From the clips released it looks well produced and acted, and we refuse to go into it with a negative mindset simply because James Cameron isn't directing, or because Arnie isn't in it. Judged on its own merits, this show could turn out to be something very enjoyable and special in its own right.
- Cameron Philips
Summer Glau, as seen in Firefly
Cameron initially meets John as a fellow student at school, but is soon revealed to be a reprogrammed Terminator. One of the most advanced infiltrator units, she is able to mimic human emotion down to a fine point, even crying. Her mission is to protect John at any cost, even leading them into the future in order to take down Skynet before it gains sentience on 19 Arpil 2011.
- Agent James Ellison
Richard T. Jones, as seen in Event Horizon (1997)
Ellison was part of the original FBI detail assigned to apprehend John and Sarah Connor, following the destructive events of 1995 that led to the death of Miles Dyson. Although initially sceptical, he becomes unable to ignore the evidence regarding the existence of Terminators, particularly when Sarah and John disappear, only to emerge ten years later.
- Sarah Connor
Lena Headey, as seen in 300 (2007)
Once a waitress without direction, Sarah found her life irrevocably changed when Skynet sent a Terminator through time to kill her. She eventually gave birth to John and has made it her life's mission to prepare him for his conflict ridden future, although that has resulted in them both being fugitives after the destruction of Cyberdyne Systems.
- John Connor
Thomas Dekker, as seen in Heroes
The future leader of humanity, who has survived numerous direct and indirect attempts on his life already at the age of 15. John finds himself at odds with a destiny that he doesn't want, and the loss of childhood that entails, particularly when the Terminator Cameron is sent to protect him against the threats that constantly hang over his head.
Thanx to forum-member Mat-101 for providing the scans of this article!