Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Season 1

by DeAnn Welker August 28, 2008 5:05 pm
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Season 1

Sure, the first season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was only nine episodes, but the DVD is packed with more extras than most DVD sets with seasons twice that long. The DVD and Blu-ray are each only three discs long, but every disc is filled with special features (in addition to the three episodes on each disc). If you missed the season, it was recapped already, so I'll skip the episodes and go straight to the goodies.

Commentary on Three Episodes: Summer Glau ("Cameron"), creator/executive producer Josh Friedman, executive producer James Middleton, and episode director David Nutter comment on the pilot. It's interesting, although other than Summer, it's nearly impossible to know who's saying what (often a problem when commentary tracks have too many participants without disctinctive voices). There are a couple of explanations -- including the random reason they chose to tip over a bus (because someone told them they could do it for $500!) -- that will make you appreciate the happenstance of the whole thing. But, as sweet as Summer is, it seems odd not to have Lena Headey ("Sarah") commenting on this first episode.

The commentary on "The Turk" includes Headey and Thomas Dekker ("John"), but it's sadly even less interesting -- partially because the episode is just not as pivotal, but mostly because this group of four (Friedman and executive producer John Wirth join in) doesn't seem to have much direction and mostly ends up chatting about what they like or don't like instead of giving viewers any really enlightening information.

The commentary on the final episode, "What He Beheld," isn't much better. It's Friedman, Glau, writer Ian Goldberg, and Brian Austin Green ("Derek"). It's still more idle chatter than anything and probably comes down to having four people commenting at a time. Next season they'll hopefully choose only one or two commenters each episode, or at least give them an outline/guide of what to discuss.

Terminated Scenes: There are six deleted scenes on the first disc from this disc's episodes, mostly from the pilot. And, honestly? They didn't add anything for me. I didn't learn anything about the characters or show that I didn't know before. That said, they didn't take away, either, and wouldn't have hurt in the series. But that's the reason these scenes were cut: They just didn't matter.

Extended Cut of "The Demon Hand": This includes an introduction from three of the show's producers, John Worth, James Middleton and Josh Friedman. The extra scenes -- which were cut from the original broadcast airing for time constraints -- are presented in the context of a second, unfinished version of the episode. It's only eight minutes of extra footage, but you have to sit through the other 42 minutes without corrected sound, voiceover, music, etc. You're better off skimming to the points with the extra scenes. About seven minutes in is a scene of John in lab class with his mysterious blonde love interest. They hold hands and turn on a light bulb, learning about "a closed electrical circuit." Then we see him in the hall, noticing his new mystery girlfriend's locker is graffiti'd much like the girl who took her own life only a few episodes earlier. After the scenes of John in the school, we get an extended scene of Ellison watching Sarah talk. It's a lot of backstory, but it offers something that we didn't have in his original viewing of the video: Sarah's not crazy and talking to herself; she's telling a story about her past. Which makes more sense, and makes him possibly see her in a better light. It's not groundbreaking stuff, but it's all insightful and interesting. Amazingly, they chose to cut these scenes and keep a season's worth of voiceover anvils. If you want to skip the rest of the unfinished episode, go to the third disc's special features instead of watching the extended cut. The only special features on this disc are "Terminated Scenes," which are simply these two scenes -- the lab scene at school and Sarah's extended monologue -- without the clutter of the rest of the episode.

Creating the Chronicles: A three-part making of featurette. This is far more interesting and detailed than any of the commentaries, and gives much more useful information in far less time (a total of 40 minutes). The first part of the feature, "Reboot," talks about -- fairly obviously -- how they went about rebooting the franchise. The second part, "Future War," is a detailed look at how and why they decided to create Derek in the future war in the sixth episode, "Dungeons and Dragons." It was initially intended to be a much larger war, but budgetary and logistical changes led them to split the time in the episode between the present day and the future. That's how Derek (Brian Austin Green) became a character in the series. The third part, "The Demon Hand," was about the episode of the same title, from the opening homage to the backstory about Sarah. They admit they violate the canon, but that those violations add something that was necessary for this series.

Gag Reel: One of the less entertaining gag reels I've seen, with a few notable exceptions (Thomas Dekker being adorable; Richard T. Jones continuously messing up). It's hard to draw many laughs when watching these usually somber characters crack an occasional smile, probably because the show is so unfunny.

Cast Audition Tapes: Audition footage for Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker and Richard T. Jones are included on the second disc. Even though the acting here isn't what you see on the series, and it's hard to compare to what other actors read for the parts, I always appreciate these being included, because it's like the producers trust us with what's really a private part of the process: casting. It's clear from the show why these people were cast, but less clear -- to me, not being a casting agent or in the biz at all -- from the audition tapes. The notable omission of Summer Glau from these tapes makes one wonder if she had to audition for the part at all, or if Firefly (and Serenity, of course) clinched it for her. After all, River Tam was no robot, but she sure acted like one sometimes.

Summer Glau's Dance Rehearsal: This isn't all that exciting, because we've already seen her dance for such a long time in "The Demon Hand." We know the girl can dance; no need for the extra rehearsal footage, which, if anything, shatters the illusion: I don't want to know she needs to rehearse. I like thinking it all just comes naturally, as if Summer were a robot of sorts, too.

It's clear the studio and producers went above and beyond for fans here, including almost more hours of extras than of actual episodes. That's the sort of thing that should please die-hards and even make casual viewers of the show take notice. If they're willing to give this much on a DVD that retails for less than $20 (even the Blu-ray is less than $30), who knows what they'll throw in if Season 2 makes it to 20 or more episodes? I, for one, can't wait to find out.




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