The Terminator.

A franchise built from a cult science fiction classic in the eighties and the vehicle that launched the career of Arnold Schwarznegger and made the name of its director James Cameron. Its dark brooding presence and tech noir sensibilities made it something of a slow burning success story. In the nineties, it was revived as a streets ahead Hollywood blockbuster with Arnold reprising his role as the machine but this time as the good guy.

Then in the 21st Century the franchise was given a just about passable final instalment. That saw Arnie reprising his role once again against the Amazonian charms of Christiana Loken as the female Terminatrix. At present there are rumours of a fourth instalment in the offing. Although at what point this will appear is anyone’s guess.

In the meantime however fans of the films will be pleased to hear that there is something on the horizon that will tide them over till the next big screen instalment arrives (if it ever does). Although not scheduled to air till 2008 Fox Network in the US have already filmed the pilot for The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a spin off series that adheres closely to the films and their respective continuity. The pilot episode has already been leaked on to the net and as a responsible net user I can’t give you a specific link to where it might be found, if I did I would doubtless face a TORRENT of trouble for promoting what might be construed as a suspect download, and a TORRENT of trouble is not what I am after.

Anyhoo, the show itself is designed to look at Sarah and John Connor’s life immediately after the events of Terminator 2. Despite the destruction of the machines they are still fugitives and as a result on the run, trying desperately to find some way to live incognito while the authorities hunt them for the destruction of the computer lab which was the cause of all the problems in the previous two films.

However it soon becomes clear that whatever they did to straighten up the future, it wasn’t enough. Somehow Skynet (the big bad computer) still comes to exist and sends back another Terminator to kill John Connor while he is still in his teens, and once again the resistance sends back another Terminator to defend him.

Its familiar stuff but with no Arnie present in this show, it’s interesting to see new takes on the characters. John’s defender this time around is a new model of machine (played by Summer Glau) and takes the form of a teenage girl. While Linda Hamilton’s role as Sarah Connor is now taken by Lena Heady and finally John Connor is played by Thomas Dekker (lately of Heroes fame).

I approached this in all honesty fearing the worst, and came away suitably impressed. As a pilot it has a lot of work to do, filling in the back story and setting up the precedent for the characters. As is the case with this particular franchise there is a fair amount of action, some decent special effects and good make up on some of the grislier character shots. However the threats to the heroes in the show won’t just come from the science fiction element. The creators have already stressed that they don’t want to approach the show with “villain of the week” scenario. The Connors and their new ally will face not only the threat of Skynet but being hunted by the FBI and their own Government.

It would seem 2008 is quite a long way off and one wonders just how deliberate the leak of the pilot was to generate a high level of interest, however it worked for me and when you see some of the clever little twists ingrained just for the sake of the opening episode then it does bode well for the future.

After all, we know…it’s not set.