At the Television Critics Association press tour last summer, one of the big questions for the producers of FOX’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles involved a key action sequence in the show’s pilot.
In the scene, a gun-toting robot-from-the-future attacks hero-of-the-future John Connor (Thomas Dekker) as he sits in a high school classroom. Many gunshots are fired and at least one student is shot (albeit with a catch).
In July, series developer Josh Friedman, who grew up in Colorado, not far from Columbine, insisted that the scene was personal to him and wasn’t meant to be exploitive.
"[M]y wife and I were just starting to talk about sending my child to school, and it felt like, as I was kind of thinking about Sarah and John and that relationship — and kind of a lot of the show is about this woman who’s very much a control freak, letting this child go off into the world," Friedman said. "And for all of us as parents, I think it’s a very scary world. And for her particularly, it’s a very scary world, maybe more so than for the rest of us, but not in a quantum leap necessarily."
He added, "We’re reshooting parts of it, and we’re really sensitive to people’s concerns, but I think we’ll wait and see what it looks like at the end."
That discussion left this reporter mighty curious to see the differences between that original pilot — shot before the massacre at Virginia Tech — and the new version sent to critics to review.
The differences are… Well, let’s just say that the changes are mighty cosmetic. So on a conference call with consulting producer James Middleton, I asked if I’d missed any alterations.
"[W]e are very sensitive in the show in general to the ramifications of violence, and to this actual event," Middleton said. "We did make quite a few edits in the school shooting to cut down the number of shots, and to remove any implication that those students had been shot. We really focused on the chase."
He added that the location in the opening pre-credit sequence, initially also a school, had become a library after reshooting.
Viewers can decide whether or not they’re disturbed by the sequences when Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles premieres on Sunday (Jan. 13) night on FOX.