Pilot (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles)

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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 1
Directed by David Nutter
Written by Josh Friedman
Cinematography by Bill Roe
Production code 276022
Original air date January 13, 2008 (2008-01-13)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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List of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles episodes

Pilot is the premiere episode of the American science fiction television series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It first aired on January 13, 2008 in the United States.


The episode begins in 1999 with Sarah Connor and her son John being captured by police outside a public library. A Terminator attacks the police convoy and kills all the cops; John flees but is shot dead by the machine. The Terminator proceeds to strangle Sarah as a nuclear explosion is seen in the background. It completely destroys the library and slowly disintegrates Sarah and the Terminator down to its endoskeleton. But it turns out to be a nightmare. Sarah wakes up with her fiancé, Charley Dixon. The date is August 24, 1999 and Sarah and John are living with Charley in West Fork, Nebraska. She tells John that they have to leave once he wakes up.

After they have fled from the house, Charley assumes that they are missing and reports this to the police. FBI agent James Ellison then tells him that his fiancée is an escaped mental patient who blew up a building and killed the noted computer genius Miles Dyson because she thought he would create a computer system that will destroy the world. Charley gives Agent Ellison Sarah's new alias, Sarah Reese, which is entered into her database file. A new terminator, who has been monitoring the FBI's database, is now informed of her new name, and begins his search.

Sarah and John move to Red Valley, New Mexico, a "hick" town, where John meets a pretty girl named Cameron Phillips at school. An 800 series Terminator comes to the school masquerading as a substitute teacher. He identifies himself as Cromartie and calls John's name under the pretense of taking attendance. When John answers, Cromartie pulls out a pistol that was hidden within his leg and tries to shoot John, but Cameron shields John from the bullets with her body, taking three hits to the chest. After John flees the school, John hides near a parking space but is found by Cromartie. Cromartie prepares to shoot him but is run over by Cameron, seconds later. Cameron is revealed to be a reprogrammed Terminator from 2027, sent back in time to protect John. She helps John escape and tells him that Skynet was activated on April 19, 2011, and launched a nuclear apocalypse two days later. John convinces Sarah that he will never be ready to lead an army against Skynet, and that she has to try again to stop it from ever being created.

John, Sarah, and Cameron first go to the Dysons' house, in Los Angeles, California, asking about who might have followed Miles' work. Cromartie attacks again, but they escape in the Dysons' car. Cameron takes the Connors to a bank. Cameron pulls out a gun and forces an employee to lock them up inside the vault. Inside, she uncovers a time displacement transporter, which had been surreptitiously built into the vault by "the engineer" sent back in time to 1963. Meanwhile, a SWAT team is preparing to raid the bank outside. After Cromartie is supposedly destroyed by an isotope-fueled weapon also built by the engineer, they use the time machine to travel from September 10, 1999 to September 2007. The time machine generates an explosion that destroys the entire bank. Because nothing can come with them, they appear in the middle of a highway naked. They steal clothes and a car from three drunk men. This news gets reported on TV as a college prank, but Charley Dixon sees the report and immediately recognizes Sarah.



Ginia Bellafante of New York Times said "One of the more humanizing adventures in science fiction to arrive in quite a while, the series is taut, haunting, relevant and an exploration of adolescent exceptionalism rendered without the cheerleading uniforms and parody of Heroes." Bellafante described Lena Headey as "all anxious muscle" and wrote "John, played by Thomas Dekker, complements Sarah's intensity with a quiet anguish." Bellafante described the episode as "a fantasy of technophobic paranoia, but it is also a metaphor for mad, crazy blood love, for motherhood not merely as an honorable career but also as salvation. Keeping John safe has required Sarah to learn four languages, work at 23 jobs, assume nine aliases and submit to years in a mental hospital."[1]

Mark A. Perigard of the Boston Herald wrote "In the dregs of the writers strike, with most dramas sputtering, the new Fox series (debuting tonight...) is a megawatt jolt to the heart, crackling with exhilarating stunts, plot swerves and, most unexpectedly, a touch of humanity. It's everything Bionic Woman should have been." Perigard wrote, "The first two episodes continuing the big-budget Terminator blockbusters present a richly reimagined life for Sarah Connor and her teenaged son John, destined one day to lead humanity's resistance fighters against relentless cybernetic enemies." Perigard said, "Fortunately for John, his future self sent back another cybernetic protector in the form of a beautiful teenager named Cameron (Summer Glau, Firefly)." Perigard said, "Director David Nutter has a firm grasp on the electrifying action sequences but displays a deft touch in the smaller moments", said "[John's] longing for a father figure is palpable...", and said "Headey won't make anyone forget Linda Hamilton's memorable turn in the second film and her voice-overs are unconvincing. Give her time to grow into the role."[2]

Daniel Fienberg of Zap2it.com wrote that even without the writer's strike there was going to be a lot of pressure on the show and said "it was still going to be a costly, high-risk, big-name gambit." Fienberg wrote "My immediate reaction, after watching the first two episodes of Sarah Connor, is that the series is by no means a disaster." Fienberg said "the transition to the small screen has been as smooth as one could hope, particularly in terms of the inevitably diminished production values." Fienberg said the first two episodes lacked "the sort of single-minded purpose that defined the two James Cameron films" but said they were "neither fish nor fowl." Fienberg said the end of the pilot took "slightly ludicrous steps...to erase nearly all of the possibilities of the third movie." Fienberg said, "Ideally, the show becomes less a series of weekly chases and escapes from brutal robot slaughter and more a chronicle of how a single mother and her son attempt to live their lives when imminent death is like another member of the family." Fienberg said the show "isn't really of blockbuster scope" and "no more ambitious than, say, last spring's prematurely cancelled Drive." Fienberg said "Headey's in a tough place" due to Linda Hamilton's performance as Sarah Connor, but said "The stand-out in early episodes is Glau, showcasing the same sort of deceptively passive deadpan mixed with physical grace that fans of Firefly came to love."[3]


  1. ^ Ginia Bellafante (2008-01-12). "Running and Fighting, All to Save Her Son". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-14. 
  2. ^ Mark A. Perigard (2008-01-13). "'Sarah Connor Chronicles' cranks up action". Boston Herald. Retrieved 2008-01-14. 
  3. ^ Daniel Fienberg (2008-01-13). "TV REVIEW: 'Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles'". Zap2it.com. Retrieved 2008-01-14. 

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