Hello, my name is jwz and I am a pathetic fanboy. ("Hi jwz.")

Ok, I'm hesitant to say this, but the first three episodes of The Sarah Connor Chronicles have been pretty awesome, despite my strong expectations to the contrary. It could easily go steeply downhill from here (after all, the first 1¾ episodes of The Bionic Woman weren't bad either) but so far, it really has me hooked.

(Normally I expect the first two or three episodes of any TV series to suck, since usually the writers and actors haven't figured out what they're doing yet, and those episodes are chock full of exposition of the backstory, which always makes for terrible television. So it took me by surprise when BW started off ok and then immediately ratcheted up the suck.)


(Extremely minor spoilers:)

Sarah's character seems a lot less crazy and homicidal than she was in T2 just after she broke out of the asylum, but it is set four years later, so I can buy that maybe she mellowed a bit. John is still a whiny little bitch, but that's exactly like in the movie. I'm glad they seem to be setting up a long arc story and not the obvious "Terminator of the Week" plots. The River-800 is awesome, even though she's totally typecast now. I'm liking the half-Mulder-half-Scully FBI agent too ("Oh, didn't she tell you? It's because of the robots. The robots from the future.") The Oppenheimer stuff was great, and I enjoyed the shout-out to the Singularity.

And I really liked that they used time travel to delete the third movie in its entirety. That was a very, very, very good decision.

I expect to hate the high school subplot, but we'll see.

Here's a page with a decent breakdown of the timelines and timeline-revisions of the various Terminator movies: Terminator Wiki. It's not nearly as obsessively detailed as the Back to the Future timeline, which is surprising, but it lays it out pretty well. (Both of these would be easier to follow with a graphic; the BttF page used to have a chart, but it seems to have been deleted.)

Tags: , , ,

69 Responses:

  1. skreidle says:

    What complaints do you have about BW? We haven't stopped enjoying it yet.

    • elliterati says:

      Wow, I gave it until the fourth episode before I quit, and I think I was being generous. Whenever Starbuck was on screen, it was tolerable, but otherwise I was drowning in the hokey.

    • jwz says:

      Oh, so many reasons. I think Andreessen covered it pretty well. To those ridiculous plot holes I would only add: I find all of the characters except Starbuck and possibly Miguel Ferrer to be utterly uninteresting. And, the writing is just terrible. If the entire plot hinges on a pointless secret -- if the conflict would completely disappear if the characters would stop keeping secrets from their loved ones, and instead work together -- that's hack writing. And so far, that's been every episode.

      • skreidle says:

        Duly noted, and we like it anyway (and so does Andreessen, who, by own admission, will continue to watch it despite those problems. :)

  2. strangehours says:


    As far as I'm concerned, that sets the bar for obsessive detail. And (clearly) I still don't understand the film.

  3. kmo says:

    Well, shoot! I'd meant to watch that show. I didn't realize that it had already started.

  4. kiskadee says:

    I'm scared it's going to get low ratings and die an early cancellation death. Hopefully the word will spread. I mentioned at work that I'm enjoying the show and it surprised me how many people were either just vaguely interested or apathetic.

    • line_noise says:

      When I downloaded episode 3 last night it had over 20,000 leechers which is normally what I'd see for a Heroes episode. So popularity doesn't seem to be a problem. The question is: Is it popular because there's fuck all else to watch at the moment? :-)

    • unwoman says:

      I vaguely recall that the pilot got record ratings. But I share your fear because it's not as fast-paced and action-packed as some people might expect. I'm liking it a lot so far.

  5. rnb says:

    I wasn't really interested in the series until this I read this line: And I really liked that they used time travel to delete the third movie in its entirety.

    Now I'm curious.

  6. fantasygoat says:

    I disagree that the Terminator Wiki does a good job - it makes a fundamental mistake in trying to solve the paradox of John Conner existing by implying he could have an alternative father but end up on exactly the same time line. Very weak.

    Also, their summary of the show to date is really terrible - they think Cameron went back and got a safety deposit box? What? Whoever went back was obviously part of the construction crew.

    Very poor.

    But I do enjoy the show.

  7. daakroth says:

    I had a couple problems with the series, however this one REALLY glaring issue made me unhappy.

    The terminator head came through the time portal.

    Not possible. The portal will only transport metal objects IF they are covered by organic material.



    • rjray says:

      Ah! But there was a plasma-rifle burst leaving the the portal at just that moment... it might have been to blame! :-)

    • dmlaenker says:

      Wait, hadn't the head of "Cromartie" merely been abandoned for 10-12 years and not actually transported thru the TDE?

      • pushupstairs says:

        that's how I took it as well.

        • grahams says:

          No, it seemed like the head came through the TDE, but the body was sitting and waiting in the wreckage for 10-12 years.

        • dmlaenker says:

          That seems like the most likely turn of events. It's not like terminators have a habit of dying of exposure or anything like that.

      • I haven't reviewed the tape, but I'm wondering if all the flesh from the head was blown off before the TDE went off... maybe we can fanwank that there was just enough flesh covering to shield the metal?

        But yeah... that one stands out, and unfortunately has become important now that Cromartie is a central figure chasing our heroes.

    • jwz says:

      Yeah, that's a pretty major fuckup...

    • wfaulk says:

      ISTR from the first movie that the time machine could only send people back in time, and that Reese was marooned in the 80s because of that. There was no way to get him back. I suppose it's possible that that's because there was no time machine in the past to shoot him forward, but I always took it to mean that the time machines could only operate in one direction. If that's the case, then this may be new technology.

    • mtbg says:

      Yes, this bothered me too. But really, I was hooked after watching the first two episodes and realizing that they averaged 1.5 shots apiece of somebody getting nailed by a car.

      Another burning question: Whose idea was it to make a Terminator that looks like a teenage girl?

      • dmlaenker says:

        My opinion? A very undersexed Resistance member.

        Tho I think it was established somewhere that Skynet is capable of making Terminators to appear almost any size that's thick enough to wholly contain the chassis. And good thing, too, because looking like Arnold isn't exactly providing the best cover:

        "Whoa, look out, 800 on the move."

        "Why you say that?"

        "I dunno, probably because we're scrounging to eat rats in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and that dude over there with the remarkably fresh haircut looks like he's been juicin' since he was a toddler."

  8. rjray says:

    I'm just relieved to see that I'm not the only person enjoying it so far. I too thought that the whole erasing-T3-with-time-travel was a clever dodge that fit the premise of the show perfectly. And I suspect we may find that not all foils are of the metal variety; it doesn't seem unlikely that a few of the "freedom fighters" that get sent back might decide they have better things to do with their time (and knowledge of future trends) than squat in abandoned building hiding their shit behind 80's inspirational posters.

    (And since I don't recall blood being an effective surface cleaner, I would think any forensics person worth their degree should be able to get the full formula off that wall.)

    • dmlaenker says:

      I like the icon. By chance is it part of a larger picture?

      • rjray says:

        It was originally, yes, but I have long since lost the original. The original was a similar aspect ratio; it was an accompanying photo to a news piece. There wasn't anything else around the robot. I had to crop out very little before shrinking it to LJ size.

    • ritcey says:

      "And since I don't recall blood being an effective surface cleaner, I would think any forensics person worth their degree should be able to get the full formula off that wall."

      Just watched the ep in question - could you really get blood off a whitebord while leaving the underlying (water-soluble) marker intact? Who wants to try an experiment!?! I would, of course, but I don't have a whiteboard in my cube...

      • rjray says:

        Who says anything about getting the blood off? With all the fancy toys CSI's have these days, they ought to be able to read the covered-up text by shining the right wavelength of light over it. I wasn't clear that it was a whiteboard, so the blood might have smudged some of it a bit, but there would still be enough of the formula left for a good biochemist to start with.

        • ritcey says:

          my concept of what CSIs can do at this point is so twisted by, uh, CSI that I have no idea what real life in that field is like, though you may be right

        • ahruman says:

          Having just watched the episode, there is no whiteboard. It's written straight on the wall with a marker. There's a close-up about 22 minutes into the ep.

          There are severe limits to what you can achieve by shining the right wavelength of light onto the wall in real life. Cleaning the blood off seems a more viable option, but I'm not an expert on the relative solubility of blood and marker ink. :-)

    • jwz says:

      Hasn't all future→past technology transfer so far ended up helping Skynet? Maybe it was the (blind, dying) human who tried to erase it, not the terminator. Though he probably didn't know enough about what was happening to realize that he should...

  9. dr_memory says:

    they used time travel to delete the third movie in its entirety

    This is the first thing anyone has ever said about this show that's made me even a little interested in it.

    Now, can we have them use time travel to preemptively delete the (to-be-directed-by-McG) fourth and fifth movies from the universe?

  10. ultranurd says:

    From the Wikipedia link I just realized we're only 7 years away from Back to the Future II. Where's my Mr. Fusion?

  11. babasyzygy says:

    The nod to the Singularity is giving me hope that we'll get more sophisticated handling of the overall setting.

    We know that there are multiple timelines, some of which forked away at some point in our heroes' past. We don't know how major an event it takes to cause a branching, or how time travel interacts with a branching, except that a branching doesn't block all time travel from its future.

    There's good reason to believe, then, that there is more than one future timeline that will fork in our characters' future. It would be really cool to see them play with the multiple futures idea a lot more, and turn it into an active plot point instead of a mostly-ignored fig leaf existing only to cover production details. Like, for example, telling us that the Riverborg comes from one possible future while the Terminators are coming from a different one.

    To date on TV SF, time travel has been a logic-free, ham-handed Deus Ex Machina - a plot-of-the-week mechanism,or at best been closely related to a reset button. I'm really hoping that this show will give us a new take on it.

    • ultranurd says:

      I always liked the handling of time travel on Gargoyles. If I recall, the Phoenix Gate was used in only 3 episodes (one of which was a four-parter), even though it was regularly available to either the main characters or the main villain. The premise was that there was only one timeline - the one in which a traveler had always been a part of their own history; that way there were no paradoxes or multiple timelines. The only valid timeline was either one where no time travel had happened, or one where the time travel didn't prevent the traveler from going back in the first place.

      • babasyzygy says:

        Ooh, right. I'd forgotten Gargoyles - good point. Yeah, I'm definitely a big fan of the "one fixed timeline" idea - branching (necessitated by the Terminator franchise) doesn't change this fundamentally.

        I'm really annoyed by the argument against "one fixed timeline" used in an article linked to (and one presumes, endorsed) from the linked Terminator wiki - he basically makes a handwaving argument that "well, somebody would be able to succeed in changing history." This is like saying about photons, well one of those photons should be able to wander off of the edge of the time cone. It's a dumbass argument - and the problem with Wikis is that the most persistent dumbass wins. Oh well.

        I'm a little weirded out to realize that while I'm sure I saw it (the blonde chick that comes up on a Google looks familiar), I can't remember any plot details of Terminator 3.

        • ahruman says:

          Hmm, yes, T3. Let's see. There was a veterinary clinic. And a cemetery. Oh, and the end of the world. Can't remember any more than that, though.

    • jwz says:

      The time travel in Journeyman was handled pretty well. Too bad it's dead before they had a chance to explain anything.

      • babasyzygy says:

        Knowing that it died where it did, would you say Journeyman was worth watching? I have it sitting on my TiVo unwatched and continue to waffle between deletion and consumption.

        • jwz says:

          Yeah, I liked it.

          • I liked it enough to stop watching it. Because for once, I realized it was good enough that they were for sure going to cancel it before all the pieces were revealed. I've been burned enough by TV Sci-Fi shows, I think now I'm imposing a 13-episodes-on-the-TiVo rule before I start watching.

      • omni_ferret says:

        Journeyman was cancelled? Bummer.

    • phil_g says:

      I thought the time travel in Babylon 5 was decently handled as a closed loop. OTOH, that was just a couple of episodes and not completely central to the series's overall storyline.

  12. fo0bar says:

    I'm one of the few people who actually LIKED the third movie. Obviously nowhere near #2, but better than #1 when you offset #1's revolution-ness with its 80s hair. That being said, it was better to sweep it under the rug for the sake of the series, though you know the main reason they did time travel was so they wouldn't have internet nerds nitpicking about every little 1999 anachronism.

    As far as River goes, how did she go from a normal human-type thing with emotions and laughing and whatnot in the beginning of the pilot, to a typical "doesn't understand humanity but can kinda imitate it" awkward cyborg as soon as she utters the phrase "come with me if you want to live"? At her current pace, I'm surprised she didn't put a bullet in a guidance counselor before she even met John.

    • babasyzygy says:

      I think the Riverborg was only really capable of perfectly deceiving John Conner (our viewpoint character) - we only got a little snippet of her appearing like a mehum. I'd assume she was at the school for a total of about 30 minutes.

      • jwz says:

        Yeah. I went back and watched her first scene again, and she seemed more stilted and rehearsed than I remembered, like she was mostly reading a script and someone said "smile all the time." So I'm ok with that so far...

    • edouardp says:

      You know what? I liked the third movie as well. It was a perfectly good action flick, but mainly it was the only hollywood movie I've seen in ages that actually decided to not chicken out and have a happy ending ("oh look - the good guys win again").

      So I'm annoyed at the TV series already (without, you know, actually seeing it yet) for chickening out and canceling armageddon.

      I hope, at least, when the series comes to an end, they re-blow up the world again. That's only fair.

  13. boonedog says:

    I watched some of that last night - at first just to spite our houseguest who when I asked what he was watching he answered, "Oh, you wouldn't like it." But I did like it despite that I have only seen T1 and not T2. Unfortunately for me, our other house guest came home and I didn't get to see all of it. John was really irritating me. I kept thinking that he looked like he was only 10 years younger than his mother. Did I miss that subplot?

  14. roninspoon says:

    I've so far been pleasantly surprised by the show. While watching the first episode there were a few moments when I thought, "well that's stupid." Like when Sarah takes cover from bullets behind a recliner. But then the deputy comes in and in an off hand manner remarks "Kevlar in the chair" and it goes from being stupid, to exposition on the level of paranoid preparedness Sarah goes to.

    So, with that in mind, I'm hoping they explain how the head came through the time portal when that's in direct contravention to a fundamental aspect of the canon.

    • jwz says:

      Yes, I loved the "kevlar in the chair" comment!

      Also, when they blew up the terminator and went through the time portal, I yelled at the TV, "you can't just leave broken terminators lying around! Have you learned nothing??" And then in ep 2, it stands up, and I was forced to apologize to the TV.

  15. inkbot says:

    i am totally with you! it's the best new show by far. i could do w/o john's pretty preening, but it isn't all the time, and everything else is so great, i'm willing to let that go.

    it's what i was hoping the bionic woman would be but so wasn't.

    the end of that last ep...awesome!

    it's good they didn't let the series end with t3: rise of the stoopid.

    they showed us the whole pilot ep at comic con, and i was cautiously optimistic. so far, so good!

  16. lloydwood says:

    May I recommend Derek Kurth's 'Ballad of the T-1000'?

  17. capo_mojo says:

    My biggest beef with this show, and indeed with pretty much everything in the whole robots-are-trying-to-kill-somebody genre, is that even though the robot overlords have managed to figure out stuff like time travel, they can't manage to write a decent "track a slowly moving target" algorithm. Or for that matter, even though the robots have super strength, it never occurs to the programmer to have them, you know, move at any speed faster than "runway model/beauty queen."

    So we've got these robots that can flip over a school bus, but can only manage to walk around and spray bullets wildly.

    Sure, yes, I get that a truly "realistic" battle between John Conner and a robot from the future would last about 2 seconds, which makes it hard to sustain a one hour show let alone a full season. But still, throw us a bone...give us some reason why the robots suck so badly.