Release Date(s)2008 (August 19, 2008)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: C-
- Extras Grade: B-
When I first heard that a TV series based upon the popular Terminator films was in the works, my initial reaction was one of skepticism. Such efforts seldom hold up on their own merits, and all too often the resulting episodes just don’t live up to the hype. So it was with that frame of mind that I tuned into the pilot of Sarah Connor Chronicles. To my great surprise, I wasn’t disappointed.
The series begins some two years after the events in Terminator 2 (the series ignores the events of the third film, assuming that they never happened). Sarah and her teenaged son John are hiding from the authorities, having successfully prevented Judgment Day... or so they believe. Soon, however, another Terminator from the future locates and attempts to kill John at the high school he’s attending under an assumed name – an attack that would have succeeded had yet another Terminator, posing as a female classmate named Cameron, not rescued him. Suddenly, John, Sarah and Cameron are on the run. To make matters worse, Cameron reveals that Judgment Day hasn’t been stopped... only delayed from 1997 to 2011. So the trio goes on the offense, making a temporal jump with Cameron’s help to present day (circa 2008) Los Angeles, in an effort to stop the development of Skynet once and for all.
What’s surprising about this show, right from the start, is that Lena Headey and Thomas Dekker step almost effortlessly into the roles of Sarah and John Conner. They work well and, combined with Summer Glau’s nuanced performance as a Terminator attempting to protect John while emulating and understanding human behavior, they successfully establish the core dynamic of the series right from the start. Richard T. Jones and Garret Dillahunt both make solid contributions over the course of the season, as an FBI agent and the hostile Terminator respectively, and Brian Austin Green is a surprising (and surprisingly excellent) addition to the cast in the season’s latter half. It should be noted that while the first couple episodes are good, the next few aren’t so strong. If you stick with it, however, the season really picks up about mid-way through, and it finishes very well dramatically.
As presented on Blu-ray Disc, this three-disc set offers very solid 1080p widescreen video quality. Color and contrast are excellent, though you will notice some compression artifacting on occasion. The series is shot on film, so the light grain you see is supposed to be there. The audio, unfortunately, is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 only, which is a shame. The sonic quality is certainly decent, and serves the images well, but it’s unremarkable on the whole. A lossless audio option would have appreciated, though I’m sure it wasn’t included for disc space reasons (these are BD-50s, but they include three episodes each plus extras – a tight fit).
What surprised me most about this Blu-ray release is the quality of the special features. Numerous deleted scenes are available (most in full HD, though a few are standard def), as is a gag reel and a trio of audio commentaries (on the Pilot, as well as the episodes The Turk and What He Beheld – each of the major cast members, as well as the show’s creators, are represented). You also get an extended version of the episode The Demon Hand (52 mins), as well as video of cast member auditions, Glau’s dance rehearsal and a storyboard sequence. Better than all of this, however, are a trio of great behind-the-scenes featurettes, that combine to form the 40-minute Creating the Chronicles documentary. It’s presented in full HD, and features interviews with just about everyone involved in the series, both cast and crew. You get insights into the show’s origins, the writing, the story, the actors, the characters, the stunts, the special effects... even a look at the making of a couple of the episodes. It’s surprisingly comprehensive for just 40 minutes, and every bit of it is great material that fans will enjoy. I wish Universal would follow this example for future Blu-ray releases of the new Battlestar Galactica. My hats off to the folks who created this material. It’s good stuff.
The Sarah Connor Chronicles earned my respect the hard way and, against all expectations, I’m actually very excited for its return. Thankfully, we don’t have long to wait – the new season debuts on Fox this coming Monday night (9/8/08). The show is well worth your time, and this Blu-ray Disc set (or the cheaper standard-definition DVD version) is a great way to get caught up.
- Bill Hunt