will ‘Sarah Connor Chronicles’ rock like we hope?

When last we saw John Connor, savior of humanity, in the totally kick-ass Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, he was an adult, his mother had been dead for years, and he’d just hunkered down for a long war with the machines after Skynet launched all of humanity’s nuclear weapons at, well, humanity itself. Things were looking grim for the lad, not to mention for humanity.

But what’s this? John Connor’s a kid again, Sarah Connor is very much alive, Skynet hasn’t even been activated yet, and all of humanity is still busy maxing out their credit cards and obsessing over Paris Hilton? It seems so, from the pretty darn exciting trailer for Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles:

The series looks cool, and I can’t wait to see it — I’ve been a fan of the films since forever — but what’s the deal?

Well, a quick look around at the IMDB, Fox’s official site, the fan site Sarah Connor Chronicles, and a couple of early reviews of the pilot clued me in: it’s a reboot. T3 hasn’t happened yet — apparently a lot of fans don’t like that flick, which shocks me — and it’s after the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day that this new show starts. In the year 1999, Sarah and John are on the run from everyone, from contemporary law enforcement to robot assassins from the future, and have to learn how Skynet gets started even though T2 was all about stopping Joe Morton from creating it.

“You changed the future,” this new John says in the above-linked trailer. “You just didn’t change it enough.” That’s pretty funny: one of the things I really, really like about T3 is that it’s a riff on the clichés of time travel movies (as well as those of action movies), and Chronicles is from the same guys who made that movie, so I hope they have a little bit of fun with the idea and don’t let themselves take it too seriously.

I’m also hoping that the tough-chick aspect of the show is satisfying. The Bionic Woman turned out to be such a dud this fall that it would be nice if this could make up for it with its double-barreled mondo-estrogen kung-fu. I love the idea of two strong women — the awesome Lena Headley (from 300) as Sarah and the even more awesome Summer Glau (from Firefly) as a protective Terminator — protecting a dude, even if he does look like, in this iteration, a foppish O.C. castoff. (John is played by Thomas Dekker, “Zach” from Heroes? Do you remember a Zach?)

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles debuts Sunday, January 13, at 8pm Eastern, and again on Monday, January 14, at 9pm Eastern. The official site is deliberately mum on whether this means the pilot will air on both nights, or if it’ll be two different episodes. Set your TiVos.

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Fri, Dec 28, 2007 2:39pm

“…Do you remember a Zach?”

claire’s friend in season 1 who used to film her throwing herself off of bridges, etc. got his memory wiped by the haitian.

Alex Knapp
Fri, Dec 28, 2007 2:41pm


I realize that I am completely and utterly alone from every other geek in the world on this score, but I am irked by every new iteration of Terminator. I didn’t like T2, nor did I care much for T3.

The first film, though, is one of those rare time travel movies that is completely satisfactory. It’s a closed loop and is complete in and of itself. It needed no sequels.

Mike Brady
Mike Brady
Fri, Dec 28, 2007 2:52pm

Wasn’t “Zach” from Heroes Claire’s original guy friend? The one that mysteriously changed sexuality (from gay to straight) halfway through Season 1?

As far as sci-fi TV fare goes, I’ve decided the proof is in the pudding. I’ve been burnt on good premises too many times, and some of my favorites are the ones I never expected to watch. I can’t get excited until I see a couple episodes – is that snobbish?

Fri, Dec 28, 2007 3:43pm

See, this is the problem I raised in another post. The history of the “past” keeps changing, and they can’t seem to make up their mind how time travel works.

Is it the 12 Monkeys model of time travel, where you absolutely CANNOT change the past and all you can do is to observe? Because if so, then SkyNet is just wasting its time (pun intended) sending back Terminators, as Sarah Connor cannot be killed earlier than history records and John Connor WILL defeat SkyNet.

Or is it the Many Worlds model of time travel, where if you go back into the past and change something, you spawn off a new reality, distinct from the “old” one? If so, then again SkyNet is wasting its time, because its reality cannot be changed (i.e., it still loses to Connor) and the best possible result is a new, other reality where SkyNet DOES win.

Or is it the “recalculating” model of time travel, where you can go back and change anything you want and the future DOES change? (The act of time travel disconnects traveling objects from causality, so you CAN kill your grandfather and not cause a paradox.)

So I will still watch this show, because the journey is often more important than the destination… and also because Summer Glau and Lena Headey are hot. But it’s a bit of a downer when you know that Sarah Connor and John Connor cannot possibly die… it removes a lot of the suspense.

Fri, Dec 28, 2007 8:38pm

You know, the full pilot episode for this series hit the ‘tubes months ago. You can probably still find it if you know where to look.

It was pretty cool, by the way, but had a few annoying plot holes. Still, the nice thing about the Terminator series is that, as Alex said, it didn’t need any sequels. Therefore, if an iteration comes along that ends up sucking I can just pretend it never happened, which is a much better situation than, say, the Spider-Man or X-Men movies, whose crappy third instalments made it harder to enjoy the previous ones since they were so obviously set up to be a trilogy.

Sat, Dec 29, 2007 6:27pm

Or is it the Many Worlds model of time travel, where if you go back into the past and change something, you spawn off a new reality, distinct from the “old” one?

It’s looking like that. Because apparently T4 The Movie will follow on from T3, which means there’s two different timelines happening in the Terminator universe.

Sat, Dec 29, 2007 6:42pm

Dealing with multiple worlds and possible futures is one of the only ways I can think of to really make the Terminator franchise interesting again, and continue it without spitting on either of the first two films. (T3 completely trashes T2, the way Alien3 trashes Aliens, which is something I’m just not able to get past. Especially when the main reason for making it is just to squeeze more money out of the series.)

Sun, Dec 30, 2007 10:14am

Well, Kyle Reese described himself as being from “one possible future” way back in the first movie, so it’s not like the divergent timelines theory is coming completely out of left field.

Sun, Dec 30, 2007 10:41am

“…Wasn’t “Zach” from Heroes Claire’s original guy friend? The one that mysteriously changed sexuality (from gay to straight) halfway through Season 1…”

sarah connor chronicles is the main reason for this change. manager of thomas dekker thought thomas wouldn’t get the john connor part if zach was homosexual. or something like that :)

when it hit the internet i watched the pilot too. it seemed a little buffyish to me.

Sun, Dec 30, 2007 5:53pm

Well, Kyle Reese described himself as being from “one possible future” way back in the first movie, so it’s not like the divergent timelines theory is coming completely out of left field.

Right, but that invalidates the whole notion that SkyNet could change anything for itself by sending someone back to eliminate John Connor. If killing John (or Sarah) causes a new timeline to spawn, then the original SkyNet will still be in the original timeline and it’ll still be defeated by John Connor; we know this is the case because Connor sent Reese back after the Resistance destroyed SkyNet and discovered the time-displacement technology. The best result SkyNet could hope for is that some other SkyNet wins. I have a hard time believing that a computerized system as cold as SkyNet could be altruistic, especially about something that occurs in some other timeline.

So the theory that makes the most sense to me is the “recalculating” timeline, where changes cause the future to be recalculated completely. In this model, Ahnuld’s statement from T3 that Judgment Day was “inevitable” can still hold true if you accept that a Gibsonian “nodal point” exists when it comes to humanity and the artificial intelligence it seems destined to create; no matter what anyone does, as long as someone is building smarter and faster chips and software, some entity like SkyNet must eventually come to be.

It’s worth noting that a change to the past could conceivably cause a future to occur in which the time-displacement technology is not invented; but that’s OK, because in a recalculating timeline, anything that travels back in time is permanently disconnected from the causality of the future from which it came.

If you set up the following in Excel:

A1: 2
B1: 3
C1: =A1+B1

A1 and B1 are past events, and they combine to create a future represented by the formula in C1, which returns 5. But if you Copy that 5 and use Paste Special > Values (which is time travel) to put the 5 somewhere else, then the 5 is now completely independent of the 2 and the 3 that originally combined to create it. You can change the 2 and 3 to whatever, or even change the formula; but the 5 is now its own entity. That’s why in a recalculating timeline, you can travel back and kill your own grandfather; the act of time travel divorces you from everything that led up to you going back in time.

bitchen frizzy
bitchen frizzy
Wed, Jan 02, 2008 8:47am

Here’s my theory: the screenwriters perpetuating the franchise ad nauseum long since stopped caring about consistency. You’re theorizing crystalline spheres and angels to explain simple elliptical orbits.

With T3, “no fate but what we make,” went out the window and audiences didn’t mind, so anything goes.

Tue, Jan 15, 2008 7:50am

i just watched episode 2 of series. it has some cheesy moments. writing level must get better. otherwise this show will end like oddsey 5. i can’t get thrilled for next episode.

Tue, Jan 15, 2008 9:01am

Well, we know now that this show is a divergence from the main Terminator storyline from the movies… Cameron used the time travel gear to propel herself, Sarah, and John 8 years into the future, past the date of Sarah’s death from cancer.

So, either the storyline from T3 is now obsolete (or will occur later in the timeline than it did before), or we are dealing with a Many Worlds or recalculating timeline scenario.

It’s pretty obvious at this point that the past is just totally “polluted” with technology and information from the future. We’ve got multiple Terminators walking around, and we’ve got characters finding out how they were supposed to die and (possibly) being able to do something to prevent it.

I like the show so far. I’m curious, though: How did the Terminator from 1999 manage to get around without a head for 8 years, when its head was time-travelled forward?

Tue, Jan 15, 2008 12:09pm

clayj i didn’t tell details in fear of spoiler but since you opened the can…

if you just a little overthink, the show drowns in an illogical lake of doom.

the T parts doesn’t get around, almost all body parts thrown to garbage, when head activates it activates too. most probably there’s a wireless communication or sorts between them.

but that should be impossible, because after the incident at the bank the goverment officials collects the evidence. and these parts and micro nuclear power plants! of exoskeleton (in t3 we saw them on arnold) should be kept at a mythical area 51 type top secret goverment laboratory.

also terminators can time travel because they are covered with organic material, that terminator’s head can’t be transferred through time.

the whole structure is shaky at least. this is just 2nd episode so i do not want to hit it too hard. i’m trying to shut my brain down about the issue.