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Oh for the love of Cameron!

I have severe issues with episode 2 of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Put the kids to bed and pull on your wading trunks 'cuz there's no nice way to do this.

First off, a quick lesson in Terminator Physics 101: Non-living material can not go through time displacement equipment unless it is surrounded by living material (memetic polyalloy probably counts as "living" for this purpose). Period. This is a foundation of the Terminator saga, reinforced by every canonical time travel instance ever seen or described, including TSCC episode 1. Cromartie's head making it through is wrong wrong wrong!

I'll follow that up with Terminator Physiology 101: The only model of terminator that can survive decapitation is the T-1000. (The T-1000000 notwithstanding. T2: Battle Across Time is not canon.) Not only is it not sensible for the head and body to be each fully functional on their own and able to communicate over long distances by wireless- it's also complete bullshit storywriting. Shame on you, Josh Friedman! This gimmick sucked when it was tried in Hardware, and that movie stands as the benchmark by which bad cyberpunk is measured. At least when Hardware did it 18 years ago it was original!

Besides, WTF sensors does the torso have that allow it to kill a human being, fabricate a (stupid) disguise, and navigate for probably miles until it reaches its head? There a line between "suspension of disbelief" and "not even trying", and at this point that line was about 3 exits back on the highway. I can't put it any more politely; this is simply fucking horrible, and worse still because so far it's completely irrelevant to the overall plot. Shit like this is why T3 is by far the weakest of the Terminator movies.

On a much more nitpicky note, in the original script for T2 as well as the novelization, Enrique Salceda was killed by the T-1000. It's not core canon though, and I did think it was neat that they included the additional tie to T2.

I'm not such a purist that I can't tolerate any deviation from what's already been established. I realize that in order to make a TV series work there'll have to be some changes and retconning, and that's okay. That's why I gave the first episode a free pass on implausible events. I dearly hope that episode 2 represents the end of this adjustment phase, and that we can all have a good cry and then move on to explore the terrific potential that this series clearly has.

The glaring problems are all the more striking in contrast with the rest of the episode, which kicked gratuitous ass! Seriously. Everything I didn't rant about was simply excellent. As it stands now, the good bits are good enough to keep me watching, but they've burned up all of the slack that I'm willing to cut a brand new TV series, and if they keep engaging in over-the-top stupidity and looking the audience in the eye while squatting on canon then even a Terminator freak like me will say "Hasta la vista, baby!"


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 16th, 2008 07:04 am (UTC)
Didn't bug me at all. I'm not convinced that Cromartie is the same model as Ahnold was (scenes from the next show a fully revealed endoskeletal one that doesn't exactly match what I remember of it).

Plus, I figure this: somewhere between Ahnold and the T-1000 has got to be some transitional models, and since the T-1000 isn't, like, turning into flesh in order to be sent back through time, that means there's gotta be some way to "trick" time-travel technology, at least briefly, into "accepting" not-flesh for the trip.

So, I gotta say -- I'm not gonna lay any bets on anyone other than extremely rabid T-geeks (such as you) getting all that bothered by this. There's too much entertainment going on here for me to want to waste energy preventing my "rest state" of suspending my disbelief.
Jan. 17th, 2008 04:44 am (UTC)
Well, Summer's character is supposedly from the same time period as Cromartie and she makes the statement that nothing can come through, not clothes, not weapons, etc. And he even has to smuggle in the gun inside his own leg, so I think this is an inconsistency, not some new model.

More likely, just bad writing. I don't consider myself an "extremely rabit T-geek" and it bothered me.
Jan. 17th, 2008 06:01 am (UTC)
Yeah, I understand that. It's just, from where I stand, it's a more entertaining story for Cromartie's head to come through, so I feel free to be entertained by it.
Jan. 17th, 2008 01:57 pm (UTC)
Cromartie is definitely not the exact same model as either of the "Ahnold" models (he was a T-800 in the 1st movie and a T-850 in the 2nd). Cromartie is a T-888, which explains the exceptional strength I mentioned in your LJ. However, the T-1000 was able to pass because his "liquid metal" structure is effectively a life form. (The same applies to the T-X). Cromartie clearly does not utilize mimetic polyalloy, but rather has a covering of living flesh like Cameron and the Schwarzeneggerian terminators. (Yes, I composed that sentence just so I could use the word "Schwarzeneggerian". :-D )

I think that the difference in our perspectives is partially derived from the fact that I view the Terminator saga as a single overarching story (albeit with a fork after T2) rather than treating each incarnation as a discrete story on its own. Jim Cameron is a superb writer and director (Piranha 2 notwithstanding), and in particular has a talent for doing believable sci-fi that's internally consistent and doesn't insult the viewer's intelligence. I fully admit that as a result I set the bar rather high for anything set in the Terminator universe, but not unrealistically so.

However, even disregarding all other source material TSCC has already had some seriously disappointing moments. In episode 1 they flat-out established the "nothing non-living will go" rule, and then broke that rule in the next episode. As someone whose bread & butter is storytelling tools I'm sure you can appreciate how shoddy this is!

The idea that the plasma weapon would completely burn off the flesh and neatly decapitate the endoskeleton, but do no other damage at all skirts the line of believability. The idea that T-888s would be built with a high data rate RF connection (with a range of at least a few miles) between the torso and head (which are typically separated by only the length of the neck) insults the viewer's intelligence- terminator geek or not. Clean endoskeleton decapitations can't possibly be that common, and as joreth pointed out, if they really are that common then why not just relocate the CPU to the main chassis? If the audience gets knocked out of their suspension of disbelief that's the writers' fault, not the audience's.

Edited at 2008-01-17 01:57 pm (UTC)
Jan. 17th, 2008 02:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah... I understand the basis for the objections, at the end of the day, I just don't see their point. James Cameron built an exciting world, I'll grant that, but for me it's never really been believable if I sit and think about it too long. Wrapping metal in flesh as a cheat for wacky time travel technology really stretches the limits for me, but I'm happy to accept it -- but it imposes a condition on my experience of anything Terminator related where I don't (can't) apply the part of my brain that would have a problem with all of this. So little inconsistencies don't even blip on my radar thanks to the already-established acceptance I give a ludicrous premise. :)
Jan. 17th, 2008 08:07 pm (UTC)
Wow, man. You create fictional worlds for a living and you're damn good at it, so you're the last person on my f-list I'd expect to be defending such blatantly shoddy writing.

Your example neglects the core of my argument, which is internal consistency. Whether scientifically correct or not, the "field generated by living things" time travel requirement is a foundational rule for the Terminator universe. Time travel is completely outside of our current science anyway, so any restrictions that they choose to place on the mechanisms are their prerogative as long as they play by the rules which they establish. In this case the rule, while esoteric, is absolutely essential for the story to make any sense (else the first movie would've been 5 minutes long: Skynet sends a hydrogen bomb to LA in 1984, Sarah is instantly vaporized, roll closing credits).

The foundational rules can be as absurd as the storyteller wishes, as long as they're applied consistently. Once they break their own rules then they've broken the story itself and should be shipped off to the special Hell set aside for Uwe Boll.

Non-sci-fi case in point: In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, one of the foundational rules is that the main characters' mastery of Wudan martial arts confers upon them the ability to fly short distances and to have their weight easily supported by long, thin tree branches. This is utterly implausible, but doesn't detract from the magnificent movie in the slightest because it's a foundational rule of that universe. Like magic in any fantasy setting, it's simply the way things work there, and as long as it's done consistently (and it is) it adds a lot to the movie.

However, if they made Crouching Tiger 2, and established that Wudan mastery also rendered them immune to all poisons or hardened their skin so that darts couldn't pierce them then Li Mu Bai's death would no longer make sense and the entire end of the movie would unravel.

It's the same situation here. They're playing in the Terminator sandbox and need to play by the established rules. Even discounting everything other then the two episodes, they established the living tissue rule in episode one and broke it in episode two. It's not a little inconsistency. It breaks the story. I'm sure you can see the difference.
Jan. 17th, 2008 08:21 pm (UTC)
I see the difference, while upholding the core idea that -- for me -- 100% consistency isn't something I need in my serialized entertainment.

Hell, that might be BECAUSE I do that creation thing. I'm all too aware of how *impossible* it is to get it 100% right. So when there are errors, I laugh 'em off and pay attention to the fun parts.
Jan. 16th, 2008 01:28 pm (UTC)
Have you posted this on the show's Home Page? They might be receptive to fan feedback - and perhaps you'll see you aren't the only one to be pissed off.


Edited at 2008-01-16 01:29 pm (UTC)
Jan. 16th, 2008 02:47 pm (UTC)
It's definitely showing me that some people are way too worked up over entertainment, that's for sure.
Jan. 16th, 2008 03:55 pm (UTC)
That can be true, but sometimes it is the ideas that the entertainment inspires within our minds that is truly being "defended" and not the actual entertainment itself.
Jan. 16th, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC)
No argument.
Jan. 17th, 2008 02:09 pm (UTC)
I actually have to agree with you here, though possibly for different reasons. There are some good points being made here and there, but most of what I've seen in the forum leads me to wonder if the people arguing have even watched the show! :-/ The wheat to chaff ratio is painfully low, but given the amount of time I spend trolling YouTube videos I shouldn't be surprised. ;-)
Jan. 16th, 2008 02:59 pm (UTC)
I did think the body finding the head was a little far-fetched...of course, I was only watching to see Summer kick some more ass...
Jan. 17th, 2008 02:19 pm (UTC)
Oh my YES! She's definitely a high point of the show, and I'm enjoying her portrayal immensely.

Of course, they could make a reality TV show called "Summer Glau Eating A Bowl Of Cereal!" or "Summer Glau Checks Her E-Mail!" or "Summer Glau Sits In A Chair And Quietly Reads A Book!" and I'd tune in.

I'm being harsh in my criticism of the show, but as I mentioned in the post everything other than the points I've been harping on has really been very well done. If they maintained that level of quality across the board I'd be completely hooked.
Jan. 16th, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen the show yet, but well...

There is a writers strike going on, what do you expect?
Jan. 17th, 2008 02:14 pm (UTC)
I've had a copy of the first episode (only a couple of minor edits compared with what was broadcast) since before the strike started, so it's pretty much a certainty that the second ep had at least been written by then.

There are currently 8 episodes that have been produced. I suspect that there'd be more were it not for the strike.
Jan. 17th, 2008 03:14 pm (UTC)
As I understand it - the worst damage being done by the writer's strike is not the lack of scripts, but the inability to make edits or rewrites while in production.

An idea that seems ok on paper is very commonly "fixed" while in production, often even after the first version of a scene is filmed.

No writers - no rewrites on the set. I think making edits without the writers is contractually forbidden even.

This lack of editing ability is going to lead to a lot of VERY bad movies, and I bet it is hurting T-TV.

- Chris
Jan. 17th, 2008 08:13 pm (UTC)
No writers - no rewrites on the set. I think making edits without the writers is contractually forbidden even.

That's something I hadn't thought of. It's pretty clear that the first episode wasn't affected, but I don't know enough about the shooting schedule to be able to say if the subsequent episodes could've been impacted in that way.
Jan. 17th, 2008 03:14 am (UTC)
it's as believable as people landing on the moon.
Jan. 17th, 2008 02:15 pm (UTC)
Remember what I said last night about your mom? Same goes for your dad too, buddy. ;-)
Jan. 17th, 2008 04:37 am (UTC)
OK, I watched it. I caught two scenes last night when it was on, the death of Enrique and the terminator reclaiming his head, so your post wasn't a spoiler for me.

Last night I had a problem with the body going around headless, cognizent enough to kill someone for his head and locate the missing skull. I thought that was bullshit.

Tonight I had the opportunity to see why he was running around without his head and that was even more annoying for the Terminator Physics 101 you so aptly point out. I'm not very good at remembering a lot of trivia from my favorite movies, so when we hit a continuity error that I can catch, it's a big one.

Second big annoyance is Sarah Connor herself. If the Sarah Connor of the movies was ever this emotional and wimpy, it would have been between T1 and T2, when she was still learning the ropes. By T2, she was a hardcore badass who was more concerned that her son live because he's the future's salvation, not so much with the sentimental motherly love kind of concern.

It always struck me as a little bit like using her son, rather than loving him. Not that I doubt she loved her son, just the knowledge of the future apocolypse was more important than the life of one boy. What I mean is that his role was bigger and more important than his person, if that makes any sense.

Rather practical, IMO, and not something I faulted her for. Musta sucked being her kid - probably felt sometimes like she didn't love him, was just training him for his future job (much like royalty, I imagine) - but without his survival as the Resistence Leader, she loses her son at the same time ... and her own life, and the life of the planet.

But 2 years later, she's all about saving her son because she can't lose him, not because the world needs him. She's having emotional crises that makes her hesitate on the trigger just because she used to know her current target. She doesn't know if she could have pulled the trigger, seems to have lost sight of her goals, doesn't even know who she is.

2 years ago (in her life), she knew exactly who she was and what she was doing. She's Sarah Connor and she's the mother of the Leader of the Resistence. Her sole priority is to keep her son alive long enough to become that Leader and she is ruthless enough to do whatever it takes to get him there.

It's really too bad these two glaring inconsistencies were present, since I otherwise enjoyed the show. It was filled with some good action and Summer is awesome so far, but not much different from River Tam in one of her morbid and creepifying moods.

I'm also extremely glad this show erases T3, so I really hope it doesn't suck. I'll watch a few more episodes with crossed fingers.
Jan. 17th, 2008 05:06 am (UTC)
And c'mon, a Terminator endoskeleton makes it 8 years into the future buried in a junk yard? It wasn't melted for scrap? It wasn't taken home by some junkyard flunky who thought it'd look cool in his living room (like the skull was)? It wasn't found by investigators after the bank blast or nosy cops or Skynet secret agents or some bumbling scientist to sit in a vault like the arm did in T2? It wasn't accidentally crushed (or destroyed a crushing machine) in the junk yard? It's bits and bobs still work after 8 years of exposure and no maintenance?

Suppose we go with the theory someone else presented on that message board that the skeleton made it through the time displacement the way the head did, just separated and landed in two different places. The skull still got found and a full man-sized metal skeleton went totally unnoticed?

I could almost buy the theory someone posed about the flesh being burned off because of the gun but lasting just long enough to make the time jump. But if the body can move and kill without the head, why bother with the head in the first place? Other than the need to blend in, but once the flesh is gone, he's not blending in anyway. He can just keep wearing that helmet (or the body could have done that back in time when it first lost the head).

I'm less bothered by the age discrepancies that the forums are ranting about regarding John's age at each event and Sarah's death. After all, they keep changing the future with their actions, so it's possible the timeline keeps getting moved around, but the writers would do better to do some simple math from here on out.
Jan. 17th, 2008 02:42 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the Terminator saga has never been solid on the dates when things happen, but since precise dates aren't critical to the actual plot I just file such discrepancies away in drivingblind's "T-geek" folder. :-) It's good stuff to know if you want to win a trivia contest, but doesn't break the basic premise of the story.
Jan. 17th, 2008 02:37 pm (UTC)
I get what you mean about Sarah, but you have to bear in mind that we've been seeing the worst and most intense moments of her life- pursued by killer robots, incarcerated in a mental hospital, and with the impending apocalypse hanging like a sword over her head. After T2, the specter of Judgment Day as an absolute certainty was lifted. I don't think that she got soft exactly, just had enough breathing room to become a little more human. With the renewed terminator threat I suspect (unless the writers are asleep at the wheel) that we'll see her sharpen back up.

Her hesitation at shooting Enrique makes perfect sense to me. He'd been one of the very few people that Sarah had consistently been able to depend on over the years, so his betrayal would have been almost as traumatic as if she'd found out that Kyle Reese really didn't give a damn about humanity and just went back in time to score with a hot chick who didn't have any scars. ;-)

I think that your impression of what it's like to be Sarah's son is spot on. She absolutely loves him, but I think that his role as the savior of mankind is her priority over his role as her flesh and blood. There were some pretty clear signs in T2 that John was aware of this, and that it bothered him a lot. Hell, her choice in romantic relationships throughout his childhood were based solely on who could teach her and John the skills that they would need to survive! How'd you like to be a kid and know that your mom is out fucking some guy just so that you'll get an opportunity to learn how to fly a helicopter or tear down a truck engine?
Jan. 17th, 2008 06:30 pm (UTC)
Being a single mom, I think I would actually consider doing such...but, I wouldn't let my kids know that...but then, I tend to keep my sexuality away from them as much as possible...they really don't need to know what I might be doing and with whom...I would not bring a guy home and have him wake up with me if he were not a pretty permanent fixture in my life...I know, different circumstances...
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )