Over the the last twenty-five years The Terminator franchise has set the standard for science fiction films - smart, action packed and filled with ground breaking special effects. The (first two) films are iconic and idolized by millions around the world. So when it was announced that the franchise would have a television spin-off many fans were unhappy, (myself included,) as it would not star Arnold Schwarzenegger (for obvious political reasons.) We feared that a TV series, sans Schwarzenegger, would cheapen the previous entries that had gone before it.
However, there is no need to fear Ye Terminator faithful: although the series does not equal the greatness of T1 and T2, it does expand on the characters, adding new twists, as well as some key references to the films.
All in all it's enough to satisfy fans old and new alike.
The first season of The Sarah Connor Chronicles is set after the events of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, but in an alternate timeline from Terminator 3: Rise of The Machines (though they do keep the Sarah Connor cancer subplot mentioned in T3). The pilot starts in 1997 when a new Terminator named Cromartie (since when did they give these things names?) gets sent back from the future for another attempt at John Connor, this time when he is a teenager. Of course another protector for John also gets sent back: a female Terminator that appears to be around John's age, (sixteen or so,) named Cameron (geddit).
With Cromartie relentlessly pursuing them, John, Sarah and Cameron use a device left behind by 'time-agents' to jump a decade into the future. (I guess that's how they manage to discount T3.) Arriving in 2007, the Connor family, along with their new "household appliance," charge themselves with the mission to destroy Cyberdyne Systems, along with anyone who helped create the super computer, Skynet, before the machine uprising can begin. There's just one tiny problem - Cromartie follows them through the time portal, and will stop at nothing to terminate John.
While I was skeptical about the quality of the show before I watched The Sarah Connor Chronicles, I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable it was. Lena Headey (300) makes a good replacement for Linda Hamilton, who was sorely missed in T3. Thomas Dekker is a pretty decent John Connor; for the first time we see that he could actually be a military leader, even if he still (on occasion) acts like a whiny teen. The one weak link in the series is Summer Glau as Cameron, the protector Terminator sent from the future. She just doesn't feel like a Terminator; at times she manages it - but more often than not she appears like a cast member from the OC, acting tough.
The effects for the show are pretty good, and the future scenes due to their (relative) low budget mirror those in Cameron's 1984 film. The music score is also first rate, bringing in themes and motifs from Cameron's original features. For fans there is also the return of Kyle Reese (and the introduction of his brother,) which wasn't as bad as I anticipated; the presence of Dr. Silberman (played this time around by Bruce Davision); with enough action, plot twists and continuity "Easter eggs" to keep Terminator fans (and avid TV watchers) entertained over the course of nine episodes.
I'm aware that the US Region 1 DVD has some pretty good documentaries, but they weren't available for my review copy. However, there are a few good smatterings of deleted scenes that add to the texture of the show.
The Sarah Connor Chronicles is a decent addition to the Terminator cannon, surpassing T3 in terms of quality and story. The show is a must for fans, and it should keep you ticking until Terminator: Salvation hits next year. Check it out.