‘Sarah Connor Chronicles’ almost enough to make us forgive Fox for canning ‘Firefly’

terminator.pngFROM JASON AND ANDREW’S ROBOT PROTECTORS — We composed a little letter to the executives over at Fox after watching Sunday’s premier of its new Terminator drama. It’s not Shakespeare, but it should get the point across.

Dear Fox:

This is just a warning. If you pull the same hijinx with “Sarah Connor Chronicles” that you did with “Firefly,” we’re going to rip your balls off. Really. We’re not kidding. We know where you sleep.

Love,

The Internet.

P.S. — You’re being watched.

I’ll admit it: I saw Terminator 2: Judgment Day long before I saw Terminator. They’re very different movies. James Cameron’s 1984 original is a tense thriller but the 1991 follow-up was a popcorn blockbuster.

The pilot seems to hint that Fox’s spin-off series is a hybrid, though it leaned toward Judgment Day territory a bit more (which makes sense, considering the timeline and the importance of John Connor to the story).

Sarah Connor (played by Lena Headey — the queen from The 300) is on the run in rural New Mexico with her son and living off the grid after the events of Terminator 2. Director David Nutter and his writers have chosen to ignore the mess that was T3 altogether.

Sarah’s being pursued by a government agent who thinks she’s a danger to society, which gives the show a bit of a Prison Break feel. I predict that after at least a season of hunter-and-hunted action, the Javert archetype will be brought around to the Connors’ way of thinking. That’s just speculation, though.

newt1000.pngIt’s 1999, and Skynet has yet to be born — but that’s not stopping it from throwing Terminators into the past to try to assassinate Sarah and John. This time they’re not shaped like Arnold (I was hoping he’d take time off from governating to do a cameo), but sleeker and smaller. There’s also no evidence that this Terminator can go all Robert Patrick mimetic-metal on us.

Forget sensitivity about school shootings. It doesn’t take long for a Terminator to pose as a substitute teacher and corner John. He takes attendance to verify that John is in class, then pulls a gun and starts firing. A classmate, Cameron (Summer Glau) gets plugged twice in the chest.

Time out.

glau.pngAt this point, Andrew and I feel compelled to observe that Glau has grown up a little bit since playing River on Firefly (does anybody else think she looks like Winnie Cooper?). Her character’s name in the show is also Cameron — a tribute to the series’ progenitor. That’s the first of several callbacks to films, (there are also several variations on “I’ll be back”).

We’re smart enough to know that Fox isn’t going to kill off a geek-cred name like Glau in the first 20 minutes, so it’s not surprising that she lives. What caught us off guard (it took Andrew a few minutes to put two and two together) was when she flattened the Terminator with a pick-up truck, threw open the door, and shouted at John, “Come with me if you want to live.”

That’s when we started cheering. We didn’t stop for the rest of the show — namely because the writers were pretty slick about defying our expectations and avoiding the typical Terminator formula.

It turns out that Cameron is a friendly Terminator (spoilers, lol) and will act as John’s protector and guide. Skynet will go active on April 19, 2011, followed two days later by Armageddon unless the Connorseseses can do something to stop it.

So we expect the mother and her messiah son to run, to be chased, to fight back. We didn’t expect the little bit of time travel that took a sturdy show and turned it into hyper-awesome-must-watch TV.

Cameron leads the Connors to a bank vault — one that’s been specially modified by engineers from the future. It’s fitted with a device that counter-intuitively throws them forward in time to 2007 where Cameron says Skynet “all starts.” They land in the middle of the road and in the classic Terminator trope — buck nekid.

Yes, we’ll definitely be watching part two of the premier Monday (Jan. 14) at 9 p.m. Unless the writers do something horrible to screw this up — like using gobs of crappy CG instead of makeup effects, or doing a Terminator-of-the-week — we’re going to be parked in front of the television every Monday night.

That is, at least until the 12 episodes made so far run out. Unless the writer’s strike is resolved before then, Sarah Connor Chronicles might become another sci-fi television martyr.

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8 Responses to ‘Sarah Connor Chronicles’ almost enough to make us forgive Fox for canning ‘Firefly’

  1. Good review. I didn’t get a chance to catch it but hopefully Fox doesn’t pull a Firefly (Which i was late to the party to and am now mad). I’ll try to check it out on Monday.

  2. Cliff Burns says:

    Think I’ll be giving this one a miss and instead hauling out some good sci fi paperback and read something ORIGINAL for a change. You know, rather than just another share-cropped franchise, fans crowing over the same old same old. No wonder William Gibson confesses to an “aesthetic revulsion” for the genre. Haven’t seen a good sci fi film in years and don’t expect to until someone figures out a way to resurrect Stanley Kubrick. When are SF fans going to wake up and grow some dendrites; how about some critical thinking? They’ll watch ANYTHING if it’s got a robot and a fucking spaceship in it…

  3. waterispoison says:

    Cliff, I recently watched Sunshine, directed by Danny Boyle, and it was definitely a film that reinvigorates the Sci-fi genre. I recommend you check it out, it seems to be something that may interest you. I agree that this show isn’t particularly thought provoking, but I would hardly say that Sci-fi is dead. Ghost in the Shell, an anime which is particularly thought provoking, is a prime example what I believe the Sci-fi genre needs to strive for.

  4. Cliff Burns says:

    To quote a review of “Sunshine” from Hugo Award nomimated author Peter Watts
    (caution: some spoilers in this review):

    Oh, and I saw “Sunshine”, which I’d really been looking forward to since I hold “Shallow Grave” and “Trainspotting” in high esteem. My God, what a silly, vacuous, inconsistent, scientifically absurd, and derivative movie.

    I am honestly mystified at the number of good reviews it has received. The Internet itself is not big enough to hold a complete list of the narrative inconsistencies. Suffice to say that when you’re shown a ship containing twice the airspace of the Skydome, any claim that four people are in imminent danger of asphyxiation is bound to be met with some skepticism.

    And when one of the crew discovers that a homicidal, batshit-crazy Freddy Krueger knock-off has stowed away in the Observation lounge, and doesn’t inform anyone else on board before rushing to confront him — and who, when finding himself blinded by bright sunlight in said lounge, chooses to remain blinded during Freddy’s minutes-long crazy-man rant about Sun Gods and Human Sacrifice instead of oh, I don’t know, telling the ship’s AI to dial down the brightness like every other crew member has done onscreen up to this point, just so he can see clearly when Freddy stops ranting and comes at him with a knife — well, let’s just say that you end up wishing that imminent asphyxiation of the whole cast was not so far-fetched.

    End of review.

    Yup, I’d say Peter’s hit the nail on the head. The LAST thing SF film-makers give any thought to is a GOOD SCRIPT. What the hell, producers think, we’ll just throw in a buncha CGI effects and no one will give a damn about the stupidity and inconsistencies.

    SF fans, it’s time you grew up and started thinking CRITICALLY…

  5. waterispoison says:

    I believe there is a difference between critical analysis and expecting movies to be theses on quantum mechanics or astrophysics. Look, I agree there were inconsistencies in the film, but which movie doesn’t have flaws? Are you going to hate on Star Trek because the idea of warp travel is preposterous or never watch Star Wars again because the force is non-existent? Film has always required some sort of suspension of disbelief, especially the Sci-Fi genre.

    As for Hugo’s analysis of Sunshine, I think he missed the point. Sunshine is about the psychological journey of the crew. They aren’t action heroes, they aren’t supposed to always make the correct choices in situations. Otherwise it would be a boring ass movie. If you apply the same analysis to Lord of the Rings, you can get the same result. Why didn’t Gandalf just take Frodo on an Eagle to Mt. Doom and drop the ring in the mountain? Seems pretty obvious that it is the best decision, yet the movie would bet thirty minutes long and you wouldn’t care that Aragon was the heir to the throne of men or any other character development.

    Sunshine is more of a psychological journey along the lines of 2001 or Alien rather than the analysis of each exact logical processes the characters. Humanity is flawed and I think it is important to show that within our media.

  6. Cliff Burns says:

    I don’t think Peter was talking about getting the science right so much as getting the script and story right and therefore creating credible characters and plots that don’t have holes you could drive a starship through. Why shouldn’t we subject genre films to the same standards as other forms of expression? Why give them a free pass? Because fans are undemanding? Because fans are most interested in the spectacle (CGI) than carefully crafted work?

    And “2001” (the one film more than any other that general SF fans admit they don’t “get”)
    is a case in point–literate script, ground-breaking storyline (only the entire history of humankind) and every effort was made to get the science right. The difference between a brilliant film and mere entertainment. I prefer to feed my MIND rather than my eyes…

  7. […] If you missed our review of the new series — which we freaking love so far — then read it here. […]

  8. […] desperate for any new drama or if the dross has been floating to the surface lately, but this makes two premiers in a row that have completely grabbed my attention and defied […]

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