The Connor Wars Writer’s Room 9 – Finished With the First Act

Usual disclaimer: I’ll be freely talking about fanfic script F0306, “Clutch”. If you don’t want to be spoiled, read the script first and then come back here. I’ll likely have other spoilers as well for future scripts, but those I’ll hold off until I’ve discussed this current effort.

The Big Damn Episode

Well…episode six. A LOT happened. The most obvious event was the conclusion of John’s first honest-to-goodness battle with Skynet. Not just a skirmish like he’s always known before, but war. As many of you have noted, I’m trying to bring John along in a sane sort of way. Even though he has allies in Allison, Liam (R.I.P.), Bedell, Weaver, etc., he has no “street cred” with just about everyone else. Without that, he’s never going to become “THE” John Connor. So, a fourth of the way through this season we have John recognizing the threat, advising that forces be mobilized, and doing alright on the battlefield. He’s earning respect. Not nearly enough respect (yet) to lead anything larger than a squad, but respect nonetheless.

John is also getting valuable experience. While he may be an expert in dealing with terminators one-on-one–at least in comparison to most–he’s still a student when it comes to dealing with this sort of situation. Obviously all that training in the jungles is coming in handy.

Overall, though, this was Kyle’s and Allison’s show. Allison, however, being John’s prime apostle, does what she can to advance the growing legend of John Connor.

I’ve gotten a lot of comments about Brandi. Y’all seem to like her. She certainly brings an interesting element into the mix. She has some authority, especially on the battlefield, but is too often overruled by the meddlesome Skynet. Honestly, had Skynet allowed her just one flight (i.e. five planes) of aerial HKs, she’d have wiped out and/or captured all of the humans under Derek’s command and protection.

Actually, John’s attempt to kill her turned the tide of battle. It took her out of the equation for long enough for Skynet to get more directly involved. She might have survived John’s shot, but she wasn’t able to be of use in the most critical moments of battle. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

And something else happened in the future story. Something big. I don’t… oh yeah: Moss and Derek.

(kidding)

Reveals

OK…Weaver and Camenry. Imagine Weaver’s disappointment to find that John Henry is just a minor, but crucial, new addition to what is essentially Cameron. (Oh…no, the character name in the scripts will not be changed to Cameron. The only way that happens is if, at some future date, Cameron becomes Cameron again. Until such an occasion, though the mind might be mostly Cameron’s, I’m still considering the being to be a blended entity. When I’m commenting, like this, all bets are off.)

The thing I especially liked was how Cameron’s (see…I just did it :-) ) primary focus, even now, was on John’s safety. After all, without John, her life has no purpose.

One of the cool little CJ touches I put in was adding the twist that Cameron (and the Harry Casey terminator in F0303) is truly different from other “cyborgs”. Basically while other terminators are endos with a prosthetic covering, she is actually integrated into hers. This sets up the interesting contrast with Brandi. You see, Brandi is an organic being with inorganic cybernetic additions, while Cameron is an inorganic being with organic cybernetic additions.

I used as my cues to this Cameron’s reactions from invasive events in seasons 1 & 2 (chip extraction, repairs, etc.). Notice, whenever she has to be cut or similar, there is a flash of resigned acceptance. She obviously doesn’t want to do it (presumably because of the pain she feels), but being a synthetic lifeform she’s able to put on a brave front. Then we have her pleasure in an episode like “Complications” where she is savoring her sensations. What previous terminator ever did any of this? Clearly, Cameron’s model is different.

For some writers, that would be a big enough reveal for one episode. But honestly, why stop there when so much has gone unsaid for so long? Thus came my commited take on how to answer the events in the previous 2027 that led up to Cameron travelling back in time.

As with T3, John was killed in 2027 by a T-850 that had a certain “Uncle Bob”-ness to him. So…John didn’t send Cameron back–Cameron sent Cameron back. But–not until after Jesse reported that the liquid metal monster’s (a/k/a Weaver) answer was no. You see, I’ve always felt that Cameron has been operating on her own agenda. It’s not a fanboy thing, but built on how Summer played the role and the scant information the writers did reveal. John is her purpose.

Of course, a lot of writers would have stopped there, with two bombshells, but me…

Sarah reveals/admits to Savannah that she’s dying. Savannah reveals (in a big damn surprise to just about everyone, apparently) that she’s known almost from the beginning that Weaver was a robot. When you go back to season 2 and watch those eps, you see an interesting dynamic with this fresh perspective. Savannah grows from fearing Weaver, to wanting a mom badly enough to give Weaver the benefit of the doubt, to accepting Weaver as her mom for all intents and purposes. Weaver, too, grows increasingly (and probably surprisingly) maternal.

Theme

This touches on something I wrote in the first episode when Weaver was thanking John for saving her daughter and John countering:

John: But she’s not your daughter.

Weaver: Perhaps not. Perhaps we can choose who we trust and care for. Like you and your cyborg.

One of the themes for the season is the idea of family. About whether family is blood, or if family are those who you choose to include in your life as family. Amazingly, I had a conversation about this topic in real life just a few weeks ago.

A very dear friend of mine visited for the first time in decades. We agreed, with no debate, that the people we thought of as family: the people we loved, the people we could count on, the people we would be there for; had little to do with ceremonies or blood or pieces of legal paper.

Getting back to the story, from this sort of point of view, there is no reason why John might not consider Cameron to be more his family than either Kyle or Derek, and that Brandi, say, might not have some robotic family as well. Again, it’s a theme that will likely be touched on from time to time.

Oh, and before anyone asks… yes, I really did plan stuff like this out before I wrote the first script.

And then we have Alejandra. As a few of you have emailed me your thoughts, and you’ve hit it exactly right, I’ll make it clear that Alex is Sarah’s attempt at sort of a human version of Cameron. Alex (or La Cazadora) is tasked with protecting John (and if necessary, the important people around him). But…(and this is an important “but”), she’s not a human Cameron. That would be boring. We all have loved our “Chola” because she is much more layered than being a copy of someone else even if they share a similar mission.

The Craft

On a more artsy technical note: I mentioned in a previous blog that if you were writing for a ratings-challenged show, it would be irresponsible not to take the reality of the situation into account. I said that to serve the fans you would have to allow for the possibility of the show getting cancelled. Responsible storytelling means that you build in climaxes at the usual cancellation points because you likely would never get to tie things up on your terms.

Episode 6 was once of those cancellation points. If the season ended now, you’d have an incomplete story, but you’d have answers. You had a satisfying (I hope) big-budget battle. More importantly,  if the show wasn’t cancelled, you had a lot of possibilities for how the story would evolve. Obviously, even if you guessed at the big plot points, you know that I’m not (usually) going to do the cliche…though I will sometimes…and will surprise you with how I get places.

Writers tend to look to other writers whose styles match their own philosophy of storytelling. I make no secret that I’ve been a fan of Joss Whedon for a while. He likes the planning. He likes the serial mixed in with the largely episodic. He likes to tweak the accepted conventions to his own end. While I don’t pretend to believe that I write to his level, I do think that his style is much more accessible than those who are more…(how to put this nicely?)…meanderingly sparing with their storytelling.

I mentioned during the birthing of this story that it was being a pain in the butt. Specifically, it was the 2011 story that was kicking my butt. I had my preplanned story all mapped out. I wrote it. It just didn’t work. So I wrote it again with just the Sarah/Savannah bit. That didn’t work. I started writing just the Brenda/Wyman stuff, but it was clear that wasn’t going to work at all. I then sat down and got all writerly. I wrote on several white boards exactly what it was that I needed to have happen in this script. I then started filling in the blanks. And in the end…it was pretty much the same 2011 story that I’d started with. C’est la vie.

So…I’ve pushed out 6 scripts in 12 weeks. I have 16 more scripts to finish the season. While I think I’ve been pretty good at holding to releasing a script every 12-14 days, the seventh will likely take a wee bit longer. Why? Well…sometimes you need to catch up on life (shopping, home repairs, doctor appointments, car appointments, ruling the planet Mequzep with an iron fist [uh…I’m not supposed to mention that last one. Forget I said it.]). Plus, given that I had this rather intense trilogy in my head for more than a month, I could honestly use a few extra days to catch my breath and relax and let my hands heal a bit. This is supposed to be fun, after all.

Fear not. The outline for F0307 is nearing completion which means that starting the script is but a few days away. Like I said, just a little breather.

Anyhoo… it’s been a little nutty around here this week. I’ve been answering comments and emails as quickly as time allows, but there are still some I haven’t quite managed to get to. I will. Very soon.

SPOILERS

Not really a lot in the way of spoilers this installment. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a bit of a lull in the action, especially in 2027, as both sides have wounds to lick and forces to regroup. I can say that I’ve looked deep within my crystal ball (OK…so it’s a wiki I use to develop stories…go with me on this) and I see… I see…

I see rubble being moved. I see blood and pain. I see people looking after their own self interest. I see families being tested. I see families being formed. I see truncated icosahedrons. I see endos. I see missed opportunities. I see jealousy. I see…that my bed awaits. Time for sleep.

Good night my cyborg-zombies. Please, keep writing your comments. Already y’all have affected/informed parts of the story. This project isn’t all just me…it’s a little bit you, as well (and Josh, and Toni, and Summer, and Thomas, and Lena, and Shirley, and…well, everyone else too numerous for a lazy bloke like me to mention).

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