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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Season 1 Review

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

AFTER a ropey pilot episode – after which it looked as though termination was in its own destiny – Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles developed into a pretty decent series.

Admittedly, it was cut short by the writers’ strike, thereby denying us the time to really become invested in the characters and storylines, but for the most part it was a worthy companion piece to a still-classic sci-fi movie series.

Picking up in the wake of the events of Terminator 2 (and thereby ignoring what was to come in T3), the series begins towards the end of the last millennium as Sarah Connor (played by Lena Headey) is living low with her son, John (Thomas Dekker), and about to walk out on her latest relationship with a new man.

Convinced that it’s only a matter of time before the next assassination attempt, Sarah is proved right when a new machine crops up at John’s high school and almost succeeds in killing his prey.

John is saved, though, by a female student named Cameron (Serenity‘s Summer Glau), who turns out to be another termination unit sent from the future to protect him.

Caneron then enables the Connors to time-hop into the year 2008, where Sarah resolves to stage a pre-emptive strike on the emerging Skynet to stop it from creating the machines that will become self-aware and start the nuclear war against mankind.

Pursuing her, meanwhile, is a dogged detective (played by Richard T Jones), who slowly begins to suspect her claims may be true, and another Terminator unit, assembled from the one part that managed to time-hop with the Connors at the end of the first episode.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles was a success largely because it proved amazingly reverential to its source material. Many of the storylines drew from the first two movies, while finding new and intriguing ways of developing them for maximum emotional impact.

Hence, the emergence of a new guerilla unit headed by the brother of John’s father (originally played by Michael Biehn in the movie) was a nice touch, and provided plenty of moral complexity as Sarah struggled with how much to tell him about their mission.

Belated question marks over the trustworthiness of Cameron also proved compelling, particularly once the machine started acting in her own best interests.

And an explosive finale offered a suitably exciting cliffhanger ending that makes the prospect of a second season well worth tuning into.

Performance-wise, the series was also well-served by its clever casting. Headey, in particular, excelled – managing to invest Sarah with the strong maternal instincts needed to make her fears and concerns seem realistic, as well as the physical prowess and fiery determination needed to cope with the challenges in front of her.

Glau, too, cut a convincing Terminator figure, especially in the gritty action sequences that clearly took their cue from the likes of Battlestar Galactica. She could have done with a little more humour about her, but then the writers were clearly striving to recapture the tone of the first film in particular (which largely refrained from being glib).

And the action sequences, of which there were plenty, managed to combine convincing special effects with genuine excitement, even though they were clearly restricted by the smaller budget of the show (as opposed to the films, or top-rated hits such as 24).

The overall impression, therefore, is that Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is a very worthwhile series that should please most – if not all – of the franchise fans. It’s not perfect by any means, but given the time constraints and the quality of the two movies it was trying to live up to, the show expertly rose above its early teething problems to be fully deserving of its second season.

And one suspects they could yet improve on things for future episodes and stories.

Certificate: 15
Episodes: Nine
UK DVD Release Date: August 11, 2008