Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Pilot episode (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from our favourite television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we take a look at the pilot episode of Virgin 1’s flagship US import Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
What’s the story? After two years in one spot Sarah Connor (Lena Headey) feels the need to move on before they get too comfortable. They move to a new city where her son, John (Thomas Dekker) starts school and meets a mysterious girl, Cameron (Summer Glau).
What’s the verdict? You can’t deny that the pilot episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles delivered plenty of spectacle during its opening 45 minutes, but there was a curious lack of intelligence or even logic for much of proceedings… So far, so disappointing.
Digging a little deeper: Picking up two years after the events of James Cameron’s seminal Terminator 2: Judgment Day, new spin-off TV series The Sarah Connor Chronicles was always going to face an uphill struggle to convince genuine sci-fi fans of its worth.
But it began promisingly enough with a gun battle at Sarah Connor’s latest hideaway that ended with the shock shooting of John in the back. Just as viewers were gasping for breath, however, the sequence turned out to be a dream that prompted Sarah (convincingly played by Lena Headey) to move on for their safety.
Thereafter, the episode attempted to explain the chain of events that had brought the characters to this point, while making sure that there was plenty of robot action. It did so in only partially convincing fashion.
The main problem with this pilot, however, was that in trying to have its cake and eat it, the show sacrificed a lot of the intelligent science fiction that had become a hallmark of Cameron’s first two movies.
A gun battle inside another of Sarah Connor’s hideouts, for example, was ridiculous, especially when our heroine managed to avoid being shot by hiding out behind a flimsy sofa. While on a couple of occasions, both Sarah and John seemed to have forgotten some of the lessons they’d learned from the movies.
There’s also a curious shortage of acting talent on show, even by Arnie’s standards. The bad terminator (played by Brian Austin Green) lacked any real menace, while both Thomas Dekker and Summer Glau (of Serenity fame) were more pretty faces than flesh and bone (or metal) characters.
Some potential was shown in Richard T. Jones’ pursuing lawman James Ellison – although he wasn’t afforded enough screen-time to make the biggest impression.
Director David Nutter barely allowed viewers to catch breath before throwing in another action sequence (which eventually became repetitive), while Josh Friedman’s script was intelligence light.
That said, they did pull a neat stunt to catapult the characters from 1999 to present day America (or 2007) where the search for the latest Skynet threat will unfold and Sarah will, once again, bid to prevent the machines from taking over.
Headey’s voice-overs at the beginning and end of the episode also tapped credibly into the heartache her character feels over the life she has mapped out for John, suggesting that the show will perhaps slow down and tap into the emotional side of things a little more effectively in the future.
It remains to be seen, however, whether The Sarah Connor Chronicles will be given the chance to do so. Reports from America suggest that ratings have dipped enough to place its future in doubt, which could spell a premature termination for all concerned.
For UK viewers just tuning in, SCC shows signs of potential – but it could just as easily become another disappointing TV cash-in that fails to live up to the standards set by Cameron’s superior movies. The jury is very much out at the moment…
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is on Virgin 1 at 10pm on Thursday nights.
What do you think?