October 29, 2008

Idea: Reboot the Terminator

I currently have 4 episodes of the TV show “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” on my DVR waiting to be watched, but I think I’m just going to delete them. I can’t imagine wasting 4 hours catching up on that show. It’s boring. Each episode is just like the last one.

Now there’s another Terminator movie in the works. I’ve seen the trailer. I can’t say I’m very excited about it.

Why does Skynet keep sending Terminators after Sarah Connor? Or even John Connor, for that matter? Why not go back a hundred years, or two hundred years, and kill her great grandparents? Now that would make an interesting show (or movie, or comic book, or novel).

Future John Connor would surely send a human into the past to stop the Terminator from killing his great great grandparents. So how does this person fight against a robot killer in an age when technology is so primitive, using his knowledge from the future? And how does the Terminator blend in? What materials does he use to repair himself when he’s been damaged? Over time, as he gets more and more damaged, does he go from glistening machine to steampunk hodgepodge of parts?

I think there’s a lot of potential for period Terminator stories. Maybe there’s an 18th Century Ireland Terminator trying to kill Johnny O’Connor before he comes to America. Or a Dark Ages Terminator who’s trying to kill Sarah the bar wench. Primordial Ooze Terminator could have a heck of a time figuring out which slime mold eventual produces offspring that evolves into the Connor line.

The possibilities are endless. So why are they limiting themselves to telling the same old story the same old way time after time?


I thought about this too.

I thinking maybe records beyond the previous decades are gone or spotty at best? Also, if the robots go too far back, then maybe the butterfly effect kicks in?

Although I love the idea of a terminator powered by coal or something.

I have to admit, I haven’t bothered with the series. I actually thought the third movie was the best: It gave up the same tired formula and failed to hit the reset switch. Skynet is alive and humanity has lost.

And that’s why the fourth movie interests me, because I think it’s time to show the consequences of losing rather than to repeat over and over “The machines try to kill John Conner before the end of the world, but the hero will stop it.”

Funny, this guy had the exact same idea independently.

You had me until the last couple sentences ;)

But dang a period, steam-punky terminator would be so amazing. And it would give Christian Bale a chance to wear some sweet facial hair again like in the Prestige.

Oops. I didn’t mean the third movie was the best. I meant the third movie made it interesting again. The same old stuff would have been so dull.

That’s a wonderful idea, but speaking for Terminator people (which I would normally never do since this epopee melted for me with the melt of The Terminator in “Judgement Day”), I should probably remind you that there’s a time-travelling movie which perfectly exploited XIX century for their time-travelling extravaganza.

I’m talking of course about Back To the Future trilogy.

Perhaps the producers of the android-running-around-shooting-stuff movie series are just afraid that putting their biomechanical machines back in good’ol days would cause a negative response not just because their movie would suck (like the third part did), but also because they’d parazitize on the idea of sending hi-tech stuff to the forefathers, thus effectively banning it for any episode of potentially good future movie epopee to utilize.

You know, I think the idea is a good one. 18th-century Ireland seems like a good place to go. It’d also be interesting to see a Terminator in the mid-19th-century immigrant neighborhoods of New York.

But I don’t think this franchise is still taking time travel (or the need for interesting stories, for that matter) seriously. Maybe time travel was never serious to start with.

If it were, I think an objection to your plan would be creating contradictions in the already-established stories. Even a mild Terminator-style battle would mess up a historical timeline something awful. Or, worse, sending robots back far enough might give the humans more time to plan against the robots, or even give them more time to avoid creating the robots in the first place.

Your idea sounds like New Amsterdam, but with Terminators. In other words, awesome!

Frankly, I never understood why Skynet would send just one Terminator at a time. If the humans could send back small groups, why couldn’t Skynet just send 10 Terminators of different models?

I picture a sort of Terminator/Highlander/Quantum Leap merger that features Terminators jumping to different periods of time, chasing down the ancestors of John and Sarah, Thwarted at every turn by quantum-leaping good terminators (or johns and sarahs) who slay them at the last minute with a sort of cyber-sword.


I’m imagining the Terminator marching into a 1930’s aristocratic gathering in an English country mansion, Merchant-Ivory-style.

Fortunately, thanks to Harry Enfield’s BBC sketch show (from the late 90’s), I don’t have to imagine very hard:

Maybe they should send a Terminator back whose special talent would be to convince Sarah Connor to blow her life savings in bad investments on subprime mortgages.

Shhh! Stop giving Skynet ideas.

The idea of a steampunk terminator sounds great on paper. Unfortunately, then you look at the history of steampunk in cinema and remember ‘Wild, Wild West’ and decide it’s not a terribly good idea.

They only send one back, and send him as close as possible to the critical moments of influence, because SkyNet wants to preserve itself. The farther back you go, and/or the more things you interact with, the more the timeline is influenced in sich a way that SkyNet (as they know it) is just as likely to be imperiled.

Kill bar wench Sarah O’Conner and you may adversely impact a sailor who eventually chooses a different African to enslave and bring on the boat to the New World, where his great great great grandchild no longer makes the chip that makes SkyNet possible.

Minimal exposure and minimal temporal distance equates to a sharpshooter rather than a cluster bomb, which is not what you want when your own existence is already so proximal to your enemy’s.

Also, since most historical records were destroyed on Judgement Day, SkyNet wouldn’t know which specific individual from the 19th century to target; remember, the Terminator had to resort to picking names out of a phone book. Although the premise could still work if a Terminator were sent that far back in time by mistake

Watch out for … The Deregulator:


Out of the past, to destroy our future.


Tune in, turn on, turn out.


How about sending the Terminators into the early 1960’s to attack John Connor’s young grandparents. You could make it “Terminator meets Mad Men”!

He is a young man traveling on business, while his soon-to-be wife is a TWA stewardess.

You could have the Terminator hunt his prey though the Saarinen-designed terminals of New York, then chased into brand new, sleek modern-styled office buildings where The Connors could duck and hide behind Eames sofas and Knoll credenzas while flinging Molotov cocktails from the vast quantities of liquor found in the many office liquor cabinets. They could then make an escape across country in a big-finned Cadillac resulting in a car chase finale through Los Alamos, New Mexico where the Terminator survives having an atom bomb dropped on him, only to finally be undone by the copious amounts of cigarette smoke, asbestos and lead paint chips which end up scrambling the killing machine’s circuits!

The young Connors would then celebrate their victory over the Terminator (which was obviously a Commie plot to destroy American freedom) by doing some healthy American consumer spending.

Dude, you should totally watch them. The most recent episode has a terminator going back in time but way overshooting and ending up in the 1920s. Really interesting what he does.


Like Kevin Fox said up two comments, it’s important to disturb as little shit as possible, otherwise Skynet imperils its own self. In this episode, a terminator gets sent back and kills the wrong person accidentally. He then has to spend several years accomplishing what that person would have, had they lived.

It was an interesting take.

And I agree, the show could be better. But as far as sci fi goes, it’s pretty good. At least it’s original and gritty. People die and the characters aren’t perfect human beings, just like in real life.

Skynet discovers some evidence that one of John Connor’s ancestors was a prostitute in the Whitechapel area of London in 1888…

Skynet discovers some evidence that one of John Connor’s ancestors was a prostitute in the Whitechapel area of London in 1888…

the fun about all this is.. no matter what they do - both metal or flesh - the outcome will be the same. as sheldon from the big bang theory explains so fluently: if you go back in time to change something you dont want to happen in the future, you wont have the idea of going back in time when the time arises. ergo time travel is futile.
once you wrap your head around that concept the SCC are a regular series with a story that is interesting to watch.
oh, and of course there is this metal-chick with professional ballett-training, which makes a hell of a combo.

I too almost stopped watching… BUT… there have been some excellent episodes. Ironically, the BEST episodes are when Sarah isn’t on screen for more than a few minutes :) It’s all about the writing.

If you go back far enough, the geneaology records fade out. Most people don’t know anything about their great-great-great grandparents. The Terminator would have to, what, ask around?

Be ye Ezekiel Connor?

Steampunk Terminator would totslly rule. But… how would John’s ancestors defeat it?