After They Were Who: MATT SMITH in Terminator Genisys

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Dr. Moo spoils the plot in the trailer.


Doctor Who has a long-ish history of connections to the Terminator film series. The first of the five movies didn’t help the show’s reputation, showing off what sci-fi can do on a decent budget mere months after the broadcast of Warriors of the Deep and The Twin Dilemma. Then there was the Master’s wardrobe choice in 1996, with a clear debt to Arnold Schwarzenegger, dressing for the occasion with a leather jacket and dark shades combo.

And then there was the fifth movie, the weirdly-titled oddity Terminator Genisys, which starred the 11th Doctor Matt Smith in an important and tantalising role.

There was hope that Smith’s poor start in his movie career (Hello there, Lost River!) could be redeemed by his appearance in the latest attempt at another Terminator continuation. Similarly there was hope that the movie might resurrect a struggling franchise and that having a big name like Smith starring may help it do well, as would the return to the series of Schwarzenegger and the presence of Game Of Thrones star Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor.

No such luck, I’m afraid. Reviews weren’t exactly filled with high praise for this movie. Combine this with the fact that the trailer gave away what should have been one of the greatest twists in cinema history (it’s something of a franchise tradition) and then throw in some indisputably superior movies being released around the same time and you’ve got yourself the perfect recipe for a box office flop!


But I’m not here to write a review of this underrated (though deeply flawed) movie. I’m here to focus on one particular aspect: The role portrayed by Matt(hew) Smith.

In the build-up to the movie his involvement was heavily promoted, one assumes that this was to bring in the Doctor Who fans, but when the spoilerific trailers started to appear the second-most talked about aspect of them was Smith. He’s conspicuous by his absence...



...This is probably because his character gets roughly five minutes of screentime. In a movie that’s over two hours long. But his role is an important one to the plot! He plays the T-5000, which it turns out is nothing less than the physical manifestation of Skynet itself, basically if the T-800s and T-1000s are the common garden variety Terminator then he’s the ultra-deluxe state-of-the-art “you can’t buy this anywhere yet” model. He’s the king and they’re the peasants. He’s even capable of infecting his victims so that they turn into robots themselves. This is what he does at the beginning of the movie to John Connor (Jason Clarke), as seen in the spoiler-filled trailers, setting the plot in motion and triggering the events that would lead Kyle (Jai Courtney) into a corrupted timeline.

As the movie progresses Kyle has to adapt to a very different set of circumstance than he expected, before he and Sarah come to 2017 and find what John has become (AS SEEN IN THOSE ABOMINABLE TRAILERS!!!) when the upcoming release of a new app called “Genisys” is the latest craze. The idea behind Genisys is that now all your electronic data is stored all together in one place… so it’s already outdated before the movie was even made! Everyone’s got Cloud storage nowadays. That doesn’t stop the movie presenting it as a phenomenal step forward for technology, but I suppose for Sarah it actually is.

But soon they learn that Genisys is in fact – Wait for it! – Skynet itself. Kyle and Sarah, with a little help from the latter’s T-800 guardian “Pops” (Schwarzenegger), eventually have a somewhat underwhelming battle with this Genisys as its childlike computerised mascot comes to life and proceeds to get bigger and grow older-looking before taking on Smith’s appearance. Ultimately he’s defeated, Evil John with him, and the three heroes live to fight another day.


So while the T-5000 is barely seen in the movie and Smith appears for little more than five minutes the character dramatically casts a large shadow over the film. We have to remember that this movie was intended to be the first in a trilogy and that Smith would be back for the sequels in a much greater capacity. Sadly it looks likely that the production of these sequels have been paused indefinitely, and if you’re holding out for a sixth Terminator film you’ll have to wait until James Cameron gets the rights back.

It looks unlikely then that we’ll ever get to know more about what Skynet has planned for humanity (a mid-credits scene implyies that it somehow survives). And that’s a shame if you ask me! That the sentient computer with a grudge against humanity could take on human form itself and transform humans into soldiers to fight against their own species is a fascinating concept and the sequels would have probably taken that idea and ran with it. Smith is undoubtedly one of the best actors around at the moment and the thought of him playing that kind of villain makes me positively giddy with excitement! Alas, it will now probably never come to pass and the chance that this trilogy gave Smith to make it big (as he well deserves to) has now been taken away.

As the Terminator movie series’s mantra reminds us “the future is not set.” Smith’s role in this was of a fascinating villain whose existence opens up some interesting possibilities for future installments. It’s such a shame that this potential will never be explored further. Suffice to say that in spite of the overwhelming negativity the movie received every single review that I can find cited Smith’s performance to be nothing short of wonderful.


While the T-5000/Genisys/Skynet/Alex won’t be back (See what I did there?), by no means is Smith going to disappear any time soon. Coming up in the next few years he’s got some exciting stuff. For me it’s The Crown that I’m most looking forward to – unless, of course, Big Finish finally get on with making an Eleventh Doctor series!

Let’s just hope that 2017 doesn’t see an inferior copy of iCloud attempt to kill us all before Smith gets himself the myriad of awards that are sure to come flying his way...

When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.

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