After last Friday's episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles vibrated our brains to pieces, we were bursting with questions for creator Josh Friedman about the show's philosophy and creative process. Luckily, he answered them.
A lot of sites have praised last Friday's episode as the best of the series, and proof that T:SCC is up there with the best genre TV shows. How much does that kind of critical buzz count with the network?
Obviously the critical praise doesn't hurt in our fight to get renewed - I do think there's a pride of ownership for networks as there would be for anyone - but ultimately it's almost always a numbers game. How those numbers are calculated these days is anyone's guess. When you're on the bubble (if I can be optimistic enough to say that) any little bit helps. The writers room voted "Adam Raised a Cain" as their second favorite episode of the year (the finale was voted #1 but that could have a lot to do with the fact that their boss had written it).
A lot of our readers have pointed out that the Zeira Corp. family are a mirror of the Connors: a son named John, a mother, an uncle and a sister. Was that something you guys planned consciously? If so, did a lot of thought go into it?
The Zeira Corp family was always intended as a mirror to the Connors and was constructed specifically as such. I think "Tower is Tall..." was where I first realized how much material there was to play with. Some of that was simply understanding that Mackenzie Smith was pretty awesome as Savannah and knowing that we could write to her and not away from her. Catherine Weaver was always supposed to mirror Sarah and before I knew who I was casting in the role I had imagined casting an actress who looked a lot like Lena. Obviously I went a different direction there. Ultimately Season Two is a story of these two families.
In "To The Lighthouse," Derek gets captured and nearly killed, and his death would have been Sarah's fault. He dies, not long afterwards, but it's entirely random. Did you guys ever consider having Derek die in "To The Lighthouse" as a result of Sarah's paranoia?
Asking whether I considered killing Derek in another manner or in another episode is somewhat unfair because at some time during the year everything is discussed. I was always determined Derek die in the manner in which we killed him. That was the biggest concern. How it related to Sarah's paranoia wasn't my first consideration.
Is it possible Derek had a bit of a death wish after finding out about his unborn child, on top of Jesse's betrayal?
I don't think Derek had a death wish. I think when you fight Terminators you eventually get killed.
Will we find out on Friday whether Catherine Weaver was the liquid metal Terminator who met Jesse on board the Jimmy Carter?
You'll find out a lot about Weaver in the finale but I won't say what. Ask me afterwards.
I'm fascinated by the irony that Catherine Weaver couldn't bond with Savannah because Catherine was a machine. But then Savannah found that kind of closeness with John Henry, who's also artificial. Is this because John Henry is more childlike and playful? Or because he's more a sophisticated A.I. and can pass the Turing test better?
I think John Henry isn't afraid to ask silly questions - which I consider the highest indication of sophisticated intelligence and is usually only found in children.
Is it really true that all the show's relgious themes come from actor Richard T. Jones talking to you about his own beliefs? Do you think it would have been possible to do an apocalyptic show without some religious talk?
The religious ideas in the show are not from RT. I got the idea to make his character religious because of who he was. I wanted to do a religious character who believed he was moral and a good man but also got twisted around in different ways. RT's personal beliefs dovetailed nicely with the religious nature of the Terminator mythos. We've probably hit it a little hard but I like it.
You've said a few times that this show isn't about robots trying to be human, but robots trying to be the best robots they can be. But lately we've seen all of the show's artificial characters struggling to emulate humanity. (John Henry with his ethics lessons, Catherine Weaver trying to be more of a mother, Cameron becoming a bit of a seductress.) Do you still believe it's about robots trying to be better robots? Is emulating humanity just one step on the path of robot self-improvement?
I don't think any of these AIs believe that becoming human is their ultimate goal. It's sort of like when I get asked all the time if I want to direct, as if that's how writers evolve, when really most of them direct because it makes their writing job more successful/satisfying. Emulating humanity is sort of the same thing for our AIs, especially Cameron and Weaver. It just helps them do their job better. I put John Henry in his own category because a) he doesn't know what he's there for so he wouldn't know how to accomplish it and b) he has to be more than human to achieve what he's designed for.
I think it's also important to look at the mirror to the AIs - our human characters - and ask whether or not it's important for them to become less human to accomplish their goals. An argument can be made that it is both necessary and also completely antithetical to their entire mission. I know a lot of people didn't like "Some Must Sleep..." but I really wanted to explore an idea specific to Sarah's struggle but also applicable to many in war - do you have to become a nightmare in order to survive a nightmare? The first VO is written from the victim's POV—the one suffering the nightmare of the old hag. The closing VO is written from the POV of the powerful being sitting astride the victim—"the bad bitch". Sarah has become animal—chewing herself out of her trap. It's one of the central concerns of the series: how does a mother (or anyone for that matter) hold onto her humanity when forced by circumstance to do inhuman things to survive?