News broke last month that Paramount is rebooting the Terminator franchise—to the tune of an entire new trilogy. There’s even talk of Arnold returning to his role as the T-800, though one wonders why the machines would pattern the terminator after an old man. Infiltrating old folks homes, perhaps?
But the bigger question I have for Paramount is whether they will address the central paradox at the heart of the Terminator series, one so mind-blowingly brilliant that I wonder if anyone involved with the series actually meant for it to happen. Or if, like a young Arnold’s rippling muscles, it just came about naturally.
What paradox is that, you ask? Well, it starts with the fact that . . .
1. John Connor wouldn’t exist if the Machines had never sent back the Terminator in the first place.
Others have made similar points before, but they’ve never taken it to the logical conclusion I’ll get to later. For those of you who somehow missed out on a decade of pop culture (and, uh, spoilers?), in the original Terminator, the governor of California travels back in time in the form of a murderous cyborg, intent on killing John Connor, the leader of the future resistance against our machine overlords, known as Skynet. Being clever, the robots choose to kill Sarah Connor before John is even a twinkle in her eye. It’s the grandfather paradox put to good use. Kill the mother, and the son never exists. Their efforts are futile, however, as our wily Resistance sends Kyle Reese back to warn Sarah, save her life, and ensure that John is born to fight a first day. And ensure it he does, sleeping with Sarah, and impregnating here with the future commander-in-chief of the human forces.
Already, a weird little paradox is popping up. Let’s review the timeline before the terminator is sent back in time. Sarah Connor was born and lived. Then she had a kid named John. Then Skynet became sentient, nuked the world, and John Connor rose to lead the Resistance. He smashed Skynet’s defense network, and in one last desperate attempt to survive, Skynet sent back a terminator to kill John Connor’s mother. But wait. How does John Connor even exist in the first place in this timeline?
Here’s the thing, most time travel stories involve a guy who already exists going back in time and messing something up. If there is a paradox, it’s that the guy who exists goes back in time and does something so that he doesn’t exist, thus meaning he never went back in time, thus meaning he does exist, in which case he goes back in time…you get the picture. But this is different. In this case, John Connor never exists in the first place to defeat Skynet until he defeats Skynet and inspires them to send his father back in time so he can exist. Which is weird.
But it gets weirder.
2. Skynet wouldn’t exist if Skynet had never sent back the Terminator in the first place.
In Terminator 2, Skynet takes another shot at John Connor, this time when he is a sniveling ten-year-old (Seriously, did anyone realize that Edward Furlong was supposed to be playing a kid barely in the double digits? He was 14 when Terminator 2 debuted in 1991, and he looks it, too).
But wait, there’s a twist! Come to find out, Skynet only exists because the remains of the first terminator were discovered by Cyberdyne, who then reverse engineered the technology in order to design the computer program that eventually nukes the world. Basically, Skynet’s daddy is the terminator from the first movie. And, following the same time-travel paradox arc as John Connor, Skynet only comes into being because it sent the terminator back in the first place.
Both Terminator and Terminator 2 can be viewed in a completely different light when you start thinking about all this fatherhood stuff. The movies are like Mama Mia without Abba, the dancing, or Pierce Brosnan’s terrible singing.
Terminator 3 manages to twist this pretzel even tighter.
3. After Rise of the Machines, Skynet knows that it is responsible for John Connor’s birth.
In the first two Terminators, Skynet tries—and fails—to mess with the timeline. But in Rise of the Machines, there’s a whole lot of messing going on. Think about it. In the first Terminator, all Skynet knew was that John Connor was the leader of the Resistance and that Sarah Connor was his mother. The same knowledge applies for Terminator 2. But then something changed in Terminator 3. The T-X was sent back not only to kill John Connor, but also to help facilitate the rise of the machines and Skynet’s conquest of the globe. In doing so, she imparted knowledge to Skynet about the past and the future. By the time we get to Terminator: Salvation, Skynet knows that Kyle Reese is John Connor’s father. It knows that he goes back in time to stop their first effort to kill Connor. And what would Skynet do with this knowledge?
4. Skynet must decide not to send back the terminator to kill John Connor.
Skynet is not stupid. In fact, it is very smart. And, as we learn in Salvation, it is capable of radical thinking. Here’s a radical thought for it. In order to kill John Connor, Skynet needs to decide not to kill John Connor.
All Skynet has to do to stop John Connor from being born is to never send a terminator back to kill him in the first place. In that case, there’d be no reason for Reese to go back, and even if he did, no reason for Sarah Connor to fall in love with him. Reese would just be a crazy stalker raving about saving the future by getting into Sarah Connor’s pants. It’s a creative pickup line, but one that’s unlikely to work. And because he would fail, John Connor is never born, and Skynet never loses the war.
Now, you might think there’s a problem for everyone’s favorite self-aware killing machine. If John Connor is never born, then Skynet never exists, because Cyberdyne never discovers the remains of the first terminator, and it never develops the software that gives Skynet sentience. But that’s not quite true. We know that Cyberdyne used the technology to make advances in the company’s thinking on cybernetics, but that doesn’t mean that it never would have made those leaps without a little help. And besides, Skynet can always send an arm back in time and drop it in Miles Dyson’s lap. Then Skynet exists, John Connor doesn’t, and Skynet wins. Right?
Actually, not at all. Remember that first paradox? The one about John Connor never existing unless John Connor sends Kyle Reese back to father him? There’s really only one way for that to work, and once you understand it, you see the secret brilliance of the entire Terminator series.
5. Kyle Reese isn’t John Connor’s father at all.
Forget everything the movies teach you after the first five minutes or so of the first Terminator. What do we know happened before there was any time-travel, before anyone went back in time to kill or save another person? We know that someone named John Connor existed. And we know that the real John Connor, the one that defeated the machines and caused them to send back the T-800 to kill him, was not the son of Kyle Reese. He was fathered by a completely different man, a man that Sarah Connor met at a point in her life when she did not know there would be a Judgment Day, a man who helped to mold John Connor into the warrior he would become.
And that means that Kyle Reese, by intercepting and impregnating Sarah Connor before she could meet this man, did the one thing that Skynet never could do.
He killed John Connor.
Oh sure, Sarah got pregnant and she named her son John, just as the person from the future told her she should do. But that’s where the similarities between the two men she calls her children end. The new John Connor lives off of his alternate self’s accomplishments. He believes that he is supposed to lead the Resistance because the real John Connor did. People believe in him because of what a man who never came to exist accomplished in an alternate timeline. That’s why John Connor in Terminator 3 has such doubts about his ability to fulfill his destiny. He can’t, because he isn’t John Connor. And that means . . .
6. By doing the most logical thing and not sending back the terminator to kill John Connor, Skynet is destroying itself.
Skynet is holding a gun to its own head, and it doesn’t even know it. In the wake of Terminator: Salvation, Skynet will do the only thing that makes sense. It won’t send back a terminator to kill John Connor. By making this decision, Skynet ensures that Kyle Reese will never go back in time, either. And that means that John Connor will be born in the situation he should be born in, and that the real Connor will rise to lead the Resistance and defeat Skynet.
That is how the Terminator saga ends, my friends, with Skynet doing the one thing that will lead to its own destruction—not trying to kill John Connor.
Now you might ask, does that mean that Skynet’s decision to not attempt a preemptive murder would end up restoring the original timeline and starting the whole chain of events all over again, creating an endless loop, an eternal struggle that keeps repeating forever?
Possibly. Perhaps that is how the world ends, with Skynet locked in a paradox. But it is also possible that Skynet is simply creating new timelines in the multiverse. And in each one, Skynet is destroyed. It would seem that in the Terminator universe, not only is judgment day inevitable, but so too is the victory of the human race.
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74 responses to “The Mind Blowing Truth About The Terminator Series”
At first it made total sense to me, that before the time travel, the real John Connor was fathered by an unknown man. That would present a different theory besides the unsatisfying time-loop theory where the events happen over and over again. But i still think the terminator series wants us to believe that the real John Connor is in fact Kyle Resse’s son. The future John Connor of T2 has a very distinctive scar on his face. We learned in T4 that he got them from a fight with computer-generated arnie (or the skeletal remains if you will). This event and the exact form of the scar can’t be a coincident. The writer of T4 wanted us to show that Christian Bale is the same guy as future John Conner in T2. Besides the scar there is also the memorized message and the picture of Sarah Connor, both future John Connor of T2 and Christian Bale, possess which are determined for Kyle Resse and ultimately Sarah Connor of 1984. So if T2 future John Connor is not the same as Christian Bale in T4, those 3 facts can’t be explained. Therefore the time-loop theory would be the only, yet paradoxical, explanation. The terminator series starts in the future of T2 goes back in time until all the events happen until T4. At this Point the future of T2 and T4 reach the same point until Skynet decides to kill Sarah (again).
I can see your argument that everything we are seeing in the series is part of a time-loop that begins in the future, but that time-loop universe is presumably one that spun off from our own time line once Skynet sends someone back to the past and starts changing the future. I grant you the three artifacts you mention are difficult to explain, but they simply must have happened for some other reasons in the original time line. The scar, for instance, must just be a coincidence.
Anyway, thanks for reading and thinking about this critical issue for mankind…
What if they took the DNA from the original John Connor or the unknown Father to make those T-800’s?
i still dont get why jonh connor is so special as leader to the resistance,,,someone else could just as easily become the leader…its like if the u.s. went to war with another country and one of our generals died…they wouldn’t be all, “well that’s it, we’ve lost the war.” They’d simply replace him with another. Also, in t2, in a very cool scene, we see several cities get nuked. Couldn’t they just nuke whatever city linda hamilotn’s character is in to ensure her death? Or just go back further in time before industrial revolution and nuke the entire planet several times over until all life on earth is gone??
I think we more or less have to “suspend our disbelief” when it comes to the “they should have gone back further argument.” One potential answer is that they didn’t know John’s family history beyond Sarah. Of course, that no long works by T3. As to John, I don’t know. Would the Americans have won without Washington? The Union without Grant? The Greeks without Alexander/Themistocles/Leonidas? Sometimes, the man really does matter.
oh wait cancel that last comment on the nukes before the industrial revolution, that couldn’t happen if they nuked world b4 skynet was created. What they WOULD do in real life, is just nuke the world entirely several times over in the past and that would wipe the whole human race out. But another idea (this one of shared movie universes), would be that we lost the war against machines, and the matrix trilogy is what happens after this, ha ha.
Ha. I like that.
If they go back in time and nuke the planet skynet will never be created
Kyle Reese LIED. There wasn’t a John Connor in the future leading the resistance. They created a FICTION of a great leader, complete with back story, as someone the resistance could rally around. That fiction included his mother’s name and basic information, and to make it believable they chose a real person from the past — someone whose friend’s aunt’s former roommate (or whatever) was named Sarah Conner. All they knew was she used to live in an apartment with a roommate in L.A. in 1984, but it was enough. It made John Connor’s existence plausible for the people in the resistance.
Skynet assumed the fiction to be true, and sent a terminator back to kill Sarah Connor. That’s when the resistance hatched a brilliant plan of their own — to send someone back to find Sarah, not only to protect her (after all, since there was no John Connor, then it didn’t really matter what happened to her), but also to try and CREATE a future John Connor who WOULD grow up to be the great leader they needed.
That would eliminate the principal paradox. Kyle Reese lied. Or at the very least, he believed a lie.
But here’s my question — if sending a terminator back to kill Sarah Connor was going to create an alternate future timeline, then what was the point? Why would Skynet even do that if it wasn’t going to have any effect on THEIR present and future?
This is brilliant.
I like this idea
The biggest issue of the series and i understand its entertainment and without it no movies and no need for this discussion, but since skynet is so clever and its also a relentless machine, why does it not just keep sending terminators back to the SAME timeline as in T1 and make sure she dies then paradox cant exist.
I like the implications of a closed time-loop, personally. I also like the upbeat ending of Terminator 2 where John is a Senator who outlaws the tech which creates Skynet. Both work for me. The constantly evolving timeline thing…doesn’t.
Never saw that ending. I guess that was the alternative? I kinda like that.
Here is a thought. Older Sarah got pregnant by teen Kyle after judgment day originally happen. (Since humanity isnt probably worried about that). Sarah dies at some point never letting him know that Kyle is his son. John grows up as the leader and then skynet sends the terminator back. because John can’t abandon his people, he sends Kyle in his place since . therefore altering the timeline to how we first see it.
Personally the only way i can see it working is if the original time travel battle happened before conner even existed, we just never got to see it. Skynet was born normally through human advancement, and the war began. At some point the machines worked out how to travel in time and sent back a machine to get their instant win, only by making sure some other way we’re not aware of. The person sent back to stop them was Kyle. Obviously he succeeds, but in doing so creates a whole new timeline that follows much like you see in the films. He obviously knocks up Sarah with conner, and kicks back thinking he’s saved the day. Little does he know that the terminator he defeated goes on to help with the creation of skynet, and the war begins again. Only this time you’ve got this uber-leader in the form of conner, so when the machines time travel again they have a new objective, kill Sarah/John.
Personally, I think this is the only way that explains away the mind-bending paradox.
Except Reese explicitly stated he was sent back by John Connor who even made him memorise a message for Sarah. So, yeah, your theory doesn’t work….
Not really. The Reese in The Terminator could be from timeline B where John Connor does exist and sends him back.
Damn it, you need a god damn Phd to decypher this article’s time line explanation.
Yes I realized this years ago when I first watched the original movie and T2. It was almost fun in a way to know it was a time paradox the whole time, seemed like less of a stupid suspension of disbelief than some other movies even if it is actually completely impossible (come on, its a time travel movie). I don’t care honestly, the first 2 movies are great. In a way the paradox is resolved in T3 (which sucked for the most part) when Arnold says judgment day is inevitable. This at least closed the door on any new movies where they try to prevenet judgment day
Couldn’t Skynet just send a machine back in time to 1984 and let it do some detective work? It would keep a very low key profile not to be interfered by anyone, investigate the background of every S. Connor in the L.A. area to find out their parents former addresses from the time before the Sarahs were even born. After gathering all the information it needed it would send it’s detached limb and memory chip to the Cyberdyne and given the possibility to self terminate it would do so. The T-800’s mission data in the chip would be hidden and encrypted so that only the Skynet would be able to decipher it in the future. This would not alter the original timeline too much and when comes the year 2029 (depending on the changes in the timeline) it would send a T-800 and T-1000 to kill all the Connors’ parents in the past. Of course the resistance would send a soldier (only one could be send through) after the terminators but I doubt he or she could stop them both.
I don’t know if this prevents the time loop or creates a new one but this could be an alternative scenario. Maybe this could cause a new savior to rise up against the machines and the Skynet would lose again. I’m not sure if my idea has holes but feel free to point them out.
P.S. I like your explanation and I presented a similar one on the Salvation boards which was brought down after the movie’s release.
Edit to my previous post: When I said memory chip I meant the Neural Net CPU and it would need two of them to operate after removing the other, a modification Skynet could make especially for this mission.
I guess this is all going to thrown against the wall with T5 where all but 1 timeline will remain and new 1 begins. As we’ve only seen the trailer it’s hard to tell which timeline that is. Maybe The Terminator series is being rebooted because there is no real consistency?
I am very much looking forward to whether or not I’ll be able to add to this article based on T5. Is it going to be a full reboot, just still with Arnold?
lol, I came to your conclusions way at the beginning of your article, but what you blithely skipped over was in fact the most important part of your entire point:
“Oh sure, Sarah got pregnant and she named her son John, just as the person from the future told her she should do. ”
Sarah *is* the lynch pin of it all. It doesn’t matter who fathered John, because Sarah was the mom and *Sarah* is the salvation of the world for no matter what child she births, that child becomes the leader of the rebellion. Skynet should have gone back and killed Sarah’s parents, or killed her when she was little.
And Brian hits the nail on the head. No matter who fathers John Conner his MOTHER is the one who molds him. SHE is the key, John is just the result.
Perhaps, though for all we know the original JC was heavily influenced by his father. And let’s not forget the rule genetics plays.
Maybe Kyle was the original resistance leader in a timeline where John Connor was never born and then when he found the time travel equipment, he decided that the only way they could win the war was by creating a resistance leader that would have time to prepare. So he goes back to 1984 to warn the people. Skynet finds out and tries to kill Kyle in the 1980s. Kyle later meets Sarah Connor, develops a relationship with her and has sex with her. But they go hiding during this after they realize a terminator is on their tail. Kyle might have told her about the future, he may have even shown her the bar code scar. Later Kyle dies but the terminator still tries to kill her knowing that she may be carrying his child, she destroys the terminator using the hydraulic press and after she heals her wounds, she pursues her journey for hope in humanity. She prepares for the war and tells John that his father is Kyle Reese and during the war, John will need to make sure Kyle lives. Once Kyle is sent back in time, it creates the timeline from T1.
If you think about it, that in itself is a bit of a confussing situation who is the true KEY in all of this. Kyle? Sarah? or John? Sarah did her best to teach John how to be a GREAT MILITARY LEADER, but she learned some of her strength and knowledge from Kyle in the first movie. what she picked up from him, as well as what she learnt along the way, she passed on to John. But then John went on to pass his skills on to the resistance, thus training Kyle who then went to back to the past and passed it on to Sarah. And my head nearly expolded just writing this out.
Considering the computing power a single hair would offer a genetic ‘homing” to send out mecha wasps,ants,unseeable nanites,whatever to locate and drill their way into whatever hole you hide in and deliver a poison to a very frail organism. If a dogs nose can locate a person for miles, an ai with unlimited resources can enhance on that for a world wide ping of what it wants to find. Be it genetic pattern,pheromones, or ball sweat.
or a complete point of origin. They could go back to the 1200’s and kill the ancestral goat herders who spawned them.
Time travel = win + reset button
You can’t logically presume challenge in god mode, only hollywood hero stories.
great piece, man. Greetings from Argentina.
You should watch a film called Triangle starring Melissa George to see another way it could be done (it’s kind of like one of the possibilities you’re suggesting).
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They call it ‘entertainment’ for a reason. Peter Pan isn’t very logical, either, but it IS very entertaining. Personally, I find the Terminator series to be entertaining, also, despite the many necessary logical contradictions.
Movies like the Terminator series and many others call for a ‘ willing suspension of disbelief’ from the viewers, if the viewers can give them that, then the movie makers can proceed with the serious business of entertainment.
Enjoy and may your flux capacitor always be charged.
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I think of it like this, instead of time being a line, it is more like a flat circle, where every second of every person’s life is existing simultaneously. So the past, present, and future are all taking place at the same time in ONE universe, which explains why every result of any action is inevitable, there is no changing the future by altering a past because they both exist at the same time in the form of the flat circle. The past is the way it is because of the actions of the future, and the future is the way it is because of the actions of the past, but truly in the flat circle theory, both past and future are the present to it’s inhabitants since every moment in time is infinitely occurring over and over again. So by John Connor sending back Kyle Reese, he is ensuring his own existence in the universe as a whole. And by skynet sending back the T800 in T1 to kill John Connor, skynet itself is also ensuring it’s own creation since T800’s arm and chip are used to create skynet. So essentially John Connor knows that Reese would have succeeded in stopping the T800 and impregnating Sarah because he would not exist in his present (which is the future to Sarah in T1) if Reese did not succeed. And skynet would have known this as well when it sent back the T800 in T1, but skynet still had to send him back to create itself by leaving behind the arm and chip. Now both Skynet and Connor in there own present time only know the facts of their present time and the past before them, so their only motivation to pursue the destruction of one another and continue the war is that they both do not know what happens to the “future,” which is the only thing they can truly fight for and have a belief in altering. What needs to be taken away from all of this really is there is no “timeline” but a “time circle.” And each individual in all past, present, and future have truly no real power to alter either one since all past, present, and future are already in existence and have already happened to one version of each individual in their own present time. So really, although individuals in their own present have a sense of control of self, they are really vessels acting out what the universe already knows will take place because each action has already happened an infinite amount of times.
So yes the whole war could have been stopped if the “future” Skynet never sent back the T800 to kill Sarah, since there would have been no Reese sent back to father John, but then Skynet would also not exist since the arm and chip was needed to create itself. So the whole purpose for every action of each skynet’s and John Connor’s PRESENT self, is to ensure it’s own existence in the past and HOPE to shape the “future” which is the only unknown to each form of their “present” selves. (HOPE only because the future has already been determined and seen play out only by the universe.)
Phew…take a breath, and read it again if you have to.
This is a time travel movie and time travel is not and will not be possible so its a waist of time even thinking about this, move on and enjoy the movies for what they are and in the real world the future has not been created yet we are living in the now our timeline isn’t like a buffering YouTube video were more like instant live stream
It’s no more a waste of time to talk about it than it is to watch the movie. In my view, stuff like this makes the movies more enjoyable.
Do you know how we know time travel will never be invented? Because it is scientifically and theoretically possible, which means at some point in the future (even if its thousands of years from now) it would be invented…..but we have no evidence of people from the future coming back. This leaves 3 possibilities: 1) temporal paradoxes are preventing time travel, even if it is invented. 2) there are some sort of “temporal directives” preventing people from going back in time, though the further in the future you go the less likely this becomes as time machines could become like ipads are now. 3) humanity doesnt survive long enough into the future to invent time travel. This is most likely..
The scar and the photo don’t matter for this theory all that shows is that this is already an altered john connor which means he is not the original the original has never been seen in the movies
I like the theory that Kyle Reese time-traveled to 1984 before John even existed. If Skynet came into existance and nearly destroyed the world people would look for a way to destroy it. But say they couldn’t and they were losing they would be very desperate. However, if they discovered a time machine created by Skynet, they might be desperate enough to send someone back in time to prevent Skynet from existing. They choose to send back Kyle Reese and Skynet discovers their plan and sends back a terminator to stop him. Along the way Kyle meets Sarah, falls in love with her, they conceive John and Kyle dies while Sarah lives destroying the T-800. But knowing whats coming Sarah raises John ato be a great military leader, which results in the events of the first film. Basically, Kyle failed to prevent Judgement Day but he did give the future (and himself) a leader who understood what Skynet was, and knew of the terminators.
Oooo. That’s interesting, Ashley. So basically, the first time Kyle went back happened before the first movie?
Paradox solved: Sarah was already pregnant but didn’t know it before Kyle Reese was sent back and during their time together in T1. Her love for him made her think he was the father. If you watch T1 it looks like she already had some sort of date with someone. so she was probably seeing someone or a possible secret romance with Matt, her friends boyfriend. But that would solve the paradox of who was Johns Father before Kyle Reese was sent back.
That one is pretty good too
Very Interesting, but still Kyle is the one who taught Sarah what would be the fate of John, so even not being the Biological father, he somehow inspired Sarah to raise John as a great military leader… Paradox remain
Well, I put this same theory up and find out it has already been expressed. Well, I agree wit this view. Kyle was never the father, and John probably knew that, but need Kyle to be vested in protecting his mother.
What if, in one of the time loops, Kyle fathers a daughter and not a son? Jonette Connor instead of John. Just a thought. And a monkey wrench.
That will be the next reboot. But man I hope they don’t call her Jonette.
I thnk there is a comic where Sarah gives birth to Jane Connor (and future is different). Perhaps in T6 if it exists
I love how people asume that Humanity will win the war against the machines in the original timeline. What if they were losing and they knew it? They can’t assault the time machine, so a small group of soldiers is placed near it with a lot off supplies and told to wait a year.
After a year without human activity a computer like Skynet would assume that it succeeded in cleansing the region of humans and moves it’s forces to other fronts. Secure of it’s survival it mothballs the time machine facility leaving only a token force. Kyle Reese is the only one that makes it back to the past, followed by a terminator, who isn’t looking for Sarah Connor.
She just has the bad luck of getting kidnapped by a nut who says he is from the future. Similar events to the first movie happen, et voila! There’s your first John Connor.
The simple answer to terminator is this: the bootstrap paradox. John Connor had no beginning. There was no point of origin, he exists because of time travel, there is absolutely no “original timeline”. It is like a time loop paradox, pretty much a less generalistic version of one. Kyle will keep going back in time and impregnating sarah connor in an endless loop. There was no beginning of John, he solely exists from the result of time travel.
I think we should all just agree that the Terminator timeline is just f***ed up. Big time.
T3 and Genisys ruin the story. The true trilogy is terminator, terminator 2 and terminator salvation. I pretend the others dont exist. They arent very good either
File my reply under “over thinking it” but in the philosophy of time as well as physics (and theology for that matter) there are two distinct theories of time. One is called the “A-Theory of time” or the tensed theory of time. The A Theory is comparable with our experience of the passage of time, it holds that temporal becoming is real or that in other words, people, places ms things (beings) really come into existence and out of existence. On the A Theory of time, time travel is impossible because the past no longer exist and the future doesn’t exist yet. On this theory there are possible futures and if you believe in God, fate is still possible if someone is governing the events. Terminator clearly can not exist in an A Theory of time for obvious reasons. The B-Theory of time or the “Tenseless Theory of Time” holds that all moments in time are equally real and that temporal becoming is an illusion of human consciousness. On a B-Theory of time, time travel is possible and “parallel universes” or alternate realities need not result. All of time, from beginning to end is a kin to a yard stick. On this theory everything is deterministic and as previously stated the passage of time is just illusory. All moments being equally real, if it were the case that your dad had to travel back in time in order for you to be born then that was always the case. Events on a B-Theory can be causally connected without being prior to each other as in our experience. You can get into the weeds and talk about what could have happened in a mind of God kind of way but you are not forced to adopt these possible worlds as actual worlds because there is only one reality. Therefore the Terminator series is actually oddly consistent on a B-Theory because the events always play out as they are suppose to. The one exception would be the moving to the right of the dates for Judgement Day from 1997, to 2003 to 2017. That wouldn’t happen on the B-Theory because everything would be set in stone. Moreover the philosophy of the Terminator films that “the future is not set, theirs not date but what we make” implies libertarian free will which can’t occur on a B-Theory. On the B-Theory everything is deterministic and humans are no different from the robots they are fighting. In closing the series for the most part follows the laws of the B-Theory but wants the free will associated with the A.
Here’s one additional tidbit…the photo that Kyle Reese was given of Sarah Connor is the same picture that was taken of a pregnant Sarah at the end of the movie. I think this implies that Kyle Reese was sent back by his son to protect his mother.
Here’s a theory…perhaps Kyle Reese was originally born in the present and was transported to the future to ensure that he carries out his mission to protect Sarah Connor due to the fact that Skynet was trying eliminate him as a child in an alternate timeline?
It’s not a paradox though. For it to be a paradox something would have to be self contradictory. if we consider the first two movies alone, what we have is a loop of events that go from the birth of John and the remains of the electronics at Cyberdyne which both lead to future events that loop back to the past. Nothing contradicts here. We simply have a loop in the timeline. And by loop I don’t mean loophole. In the original timeline two travelers come from the future thus seeding the necessities for the future to unfold. All of these things are consistent. Kyle needs to go back in time to be the father of John and the T-101 needs to go back to plant the seeds for Cyberdyne. Not a paradox at all, but rather essential events for the timeline. I think the only reason you see it as a paradox is that you view time as linear and can’t see the future happening before the past, but if you consider that the entire timeline exists at once and that we as mere mortals only perceive it in a linear fashion then I don’t see any reason for there to be a paradox.
I disagree, but great explanation from a nonlinear point of view.
I apologize in advance because this is both long badly worded and inherently confusing, but all that aside I think its probably my most coherent understanding of the Terminator Timeline.
okay all we KNOW is that Kyle Reese and the T-101 are sent back in time for very specific purposes. but if we take a second and disregard the stated intent of these two individuals and simply look at the RESULTS then we see that because of the actions performed by them. John Connor exists and skynet exists, and thus both John Connor and Skynet both have a vested interest in events unfolding exactly as they do. otherwise they would not exist. So once you see that you have many possible interpretations of the why of these two individuals (Skynet and J.C.) foremost being existence. now this opens the possibility that what we see in Terminator 1 Is not the first loop in a timeline indeed it may not even be the first timeline (lets say multiple universes exist and time travel merely deposits you in a separate universe as well as time) so John Connor NEEDS the world to end and the machines to almost win, and he needs all these things to occur before he sends kyle back to create himself possibly knowing that in the process hes creating skynet who makes these atrocities occur. So what if instead of taking kyle’s word as the truth of the situation we consider that maybe ultimately skynet and John are not in competition for the fate of man but are instead in cooperation for the existence of themselves. perhaps these are master chess players who have reconciled themselves for there own selfish reasons to the termination of most of humanity. at least up until the time displacement device deposits there own progenitors back in time, and then afterward possibly finally being free of fate they then start original moves. like actually destroying each other. but up til then it is in each of there own best interests that everyone else believes certain facts that may or may not ultimately in fact actually be true.
so if all or really even half of that is true there was a starter universe that started this loop. one where kyle reese came back in time possibly for some other reason and impregnated sarah connor, and where maybe a t-101 followed him. but prior to that there may not have even BEEN a war.
hell maybe the original start to this loop was hundreds of years in the future where a careless time traveler comes back and scotty style teaches someone something they shouldn’t have thus leading to skynet the end of the world and thw future kyle comes from, and then kyle goes back to destroy this dude (this first terminator was a man!) and is followed by one of skynets androids to stop him (total role reversal) but this simple soldier kills the original time traveler and then kicks back with a girl he meets til this first android comes a knocking and tries to kill him, and then winds up being destroyed in a Cyberdyne factory(also not a coincidence in a deleted clip from the first film Sarah looks up the address for cyberdyne and asks reese if its possible to avert the future. thus that being an address on her mind and her doing some of the driving then its possibly no accident that she arrives there with pipe bombs at the end of the film) (possibly killing kyle as well but for this what second timeline? its not essential) anyway so now his son grows up being told of a future war and preparing for it (because hey his mom is probably ly genetically predisposed to paranoia and figures its gonna happen regardless…. maybe she doesn’t understand time travel and thinks they failed. or that the android wouldn’t have come back if they had succeeded thus proving they failed anyway) this john being the only knowing the world will end is prepped and him and his mom thus lead the human resistance when it occurs and then when the time comes thinking its necessary *( maybe not understanding the multiple universe nature of the time machine) send kyle back in time to stop this now first actual t-101 from killing sarah (and its possible there’s a timeline completely without John and shes simply the real target) and that’s how kyle goes back to create john. But confusing as this gets eventually this loop keeps repeating with minor variations until we arrive at the stab le loop where the first film takes place.
but yeah the real mind blowing secret is that there where possibly hundreds of thousands of timelines prior to the creation of a stable loop where events occurred radically differently up to and including the possibility of the war never occurring, but by the time of first film both john and skynet want and need the war to occur so may both actively participate in each others creation. that’s the real scary thought. maybe john is just as evil as skynet.
This is very interesting. Thanks.
The John Connor in t2 is the same John Connor in t3+t4. The original John Connor was never born in that universe and we never saw him in a movie. Although he would have existed first to send the first Kyle back in time to become his father. At that moment becoming his father, in that universe, kyle would need to die or seize to exist or there would end up being two Kyle Reese’s in the future, also if he saw his son grow up, it would be a completely different John Connor(Ed furlong) than the one who sent him back. As well, if he were to travel back to the future, the John Connor who sent him would seize to exist and it would again be Ed furlong/Christian bale standing there. In t4 Kyle Reese is his dad because Christian bale is Ed furlong, so he is trying to save him and says in his own words “sky net is trying to reset the future”. If they had succeeded, Sarah would have never met Kyle and would have met the original father and givin birth to the original John Connor who sent the first Kyle back to become his father. Would have started over again….. Of course if sky net managed to destroy the resistance in the future, they could then send a terminator back to take out Sarah …. This would stop the time loop. Although t4 was a destined fail by sky net, because Kyle is his father which means that the outcome is already determined (it is part of the time loop of events that lead up tokyle being sent back to 1984. ……
I really do not understand why do we need a linear understanding of this… Think about it in fourth dimension dynamics: There is no initial point of origin, the fact that the seeds for both Skynet and John Connor come from the future does not necessarily mean that there should have been an alternate reality which initiated the loop. As I understand it, in T1 there is no alternate reality, just one reality with four dimensional considerations. Even though Kyle mentions that the future is not set, the fact is that it is set. And it is a time travel paradox that sets that reality as it is.
T2 ruins that concept by introducing the concept of an alternate reality, a template for future sequels. Every other Terminator movie has followed this concept and that is just boring, because it creates the cheap explanation that the future can simply be altered. And that’s it. Remember that Skynet was on the brink of destruction when he sent the first Terminator? Where did he get the time and resources to develop the T-1000 and send it back to kill John?
Whenever I think of Terminator 2 story, I understand that it serves more like an unnecessary appendage to the closed arch of the first movie. They clearly had to come up with something surprising and maybe thought that introducing another time travel loop story without changing the future would be doing the same thing again. And, for this, they changed the direction with the only choice for something original.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that T2 is a great movie and it really has a great narrative. It’s just that, after T2, there is no other possibility for a new concept. It’s either time travel paradox/loop or alternate realities.
Brett J. Talley, you are the first person I’ve ever come across who has come to the same conclusion that I have about the Terminator Universe which is that the original John Connor is not the same John Connor we know and love in T2. If we consider a few key points then it is all easy to explain and understand. First: time travel doesn’t exist(and probably never will) so we can only theorize how it would work. personally I think the multiverse theory where time travel to the past can only create a new timeline, not change the original is the most logical theory and the one that works best for the Terminator franchise. Second: the first movie has to be considered as correct with no mistakes in the story, no flaws in the writing, and no contradictory information. All subsequent films should have been and to some degree all take place in different timelines, all of which stem from the previous movie. The fact is(and I realize this will not be a popular opinion) James Cameron messed up the franchise with T2. I say this because even though it was a GREAT film and most peoples favorite(mine included), if Cameron had considered this theory and not gone the route of “time loop” he could have explained everything as I will here and not have hurt the franchise for all subsequent writers and directors. In The Terminator Reese never says what year judgement day happened, what year he was born, or give a lot of other details about the future. he only tells Sara “judgement day happens a few years from now”(1984), “and that he was born after J-day”. He also describes the model 101 terminators as new. The only detail he gave was that after he came back they “blew the whole place”. Without giving a lot of details he leaves a lot open to interpretation by us. With that said, I believe as you do Brett, that Sara gave birth to a “John Connor” at some point in the 80’s, he survived judgement day(whenever it was), grew up and happened to lead the resistance to victory. I believe the obvious explanation in the original timeline is the Cyberdyne eventually builds a nanoprocessor from scratch that the military will use to control its defense grid. I also don’t think its a stretch to imagine our government building machines like the Hunter Killers and airial HKs to fight our battles.(can you imagine HKs in Iraq protecting our oil interests). Then sometime,(probably in the 2000s there is a J-day. The moment Skynet sends a terminator back to 1984 it creates a new timeline. Skynet must have known it couldn’t change its future but it at least could create a new different future without Connor where it would survive. This is where we come into T2. The first terminator failed to kill Sara, then we get a new different John Connor. At the same time the government gets their hands on a piece of a terminator arm and a broken nanochip which speads up there research and technologies which speads up J-day to Aug. 29 1997. If we can all agree on this last statement then it would explain how in T2’s version on 2029 the T-800 model isn’t the newest model, the T-1000 is. Because John survived in the new timeline with all the knowledge Sara gave him, Skynet tried again to terminate Connor using the T-1000. Skynet again was trying to create a new timeline without Connor where it might win the war. Then we come to T3. after surviving the T-1000 John goes off the grid in the new timeline and Skynet can’t locate him again so it targets his future wife and lieutenants.
So there you go. The multiple timeline theory of time travel is the best explanation and this is how Cameron should have explained it
Another excellent explanation of what may have happened. And I agree. T2 is my favorite movie, but Cameron cared nothing for continuity or these kinds of issues. But maybe if he had, the movie wouldn’t have been as good.
“excellent explanation of what may have happened”? I gave a very clear step by step description and explanation of what DID happen. Thank you for responding to my tirade quickly. I’ve never found an outlet for my obsession with the terminator universe. I agree it doesn’t seem Cameron cared at all about continuity. That really is the problem with sequels versus trilogies. Most often sequels are just make to make money or satisfy fans needs for more. Whereas most trilogy type stories are thought out in advance from beginning to end. That was not his intention in the early 80’s when he was shopping around his story from one studio to another. Because I love the franchise I have invested countless hours trying to explain to myself and anyone who says the movies are dumb BECAUSE of the paradoxes how it can make sense(as I did above). As for your thought that if he had explained things better the movies may not have been as good. There is no way to know that. Perhaps you are right, but I want to believe that if he could direct 2 movies as awesome as he did even with the giant whole in the story he definitely COULD do it.
Now with that said I want to say to everyone else who wrote comments here. I read many of them and with all do respect, it seems that many of you are ignoring facts from the first movie or are simply theorizing to much. I urge fans to do what I did. Watch the movies again, take notes, and try to stick to the facts when theorizing on what we do NOT know.
I really like your site Brett. Thanks for it. It is nice to know there are so many others who like the series as much as I do.
Question for all: was I the only one who liked the Sara Connor Chronicles?
It wouldn’t be a paradox if John Connor was a different person before Kyle Reese was sent back, ultimately replacing the original John with Sarah’s son.
I believe you are correct. it shouldn’t be a paradox or a time loop, it’s a multiverse. every time anyone or anything travels back in time they create a new timeline that is separate and parallel to the original. please read what I wrote above. I’d love to hear what you think
I read online 10 plus years ago that there was a script or concept where john conner wasn’t important at all and just a distraction for the resistant to focus on whist skynet did some other stuff to end humanity…the source must be deleted as I’ve searched over the years…whist I’m here,I was looking for an answer..why does the terminator have to destroy himself? Again, I can find the source, but im sure I saw a version where John asks, and the reply is if the terminator doesn’t get lowered and melted, others will come for him? Now reading it over it doesn’t make sense,but I saw a version the term says this..if I was tripping,the q is still valid. Why couldn’t he just live out the 120 years training john ,fathering him or whatever,why did he have to die?
If the machines could alter the future and were truly self aware they would have sent a terminator in 30.000 bc find and terminate the humans or become their servants before they evolve and make the technological steps. So since skynet is an A.I. it could have never become self aware and its programmers would have put routines to serve humanity and not turn against it. In my opinion T1 is already an altered timeline, someone from the future might not have liked skynet as an idea (because none could start a war with such an A.I., maybe the original Kyle in Terminator 0 served a group of potential wanna be dictators?) and went back to prevent its creation, skynet as an A.I. understood the movement and then the whole paradoxical loop started. In my opinion the paradox is John, if he never existed then the judgment day would have never happened, his existence alone brings the inevitable conflict between machines and humanity. Skynet as an A.I. wanted to protect humanity and bring it back to normality, little evil Johny knew from the beginning that his father was a soldier from the future, he knew that he would have to protect him in the future make him his right hand in order to send him back and to exist again in the future as the dictator of mankind. We learn from the reprogrammed Terminator-800 that judgment day is inevitable but he doesn’t mention that it is John who creates it and he refuses to commit suicide to protect humanity from him sacrifing billions of lives for his ego to be fulfilled. The machines don’t have emotions and they make calculations, skynet at first didn’t know who Connor’s mother was which means that he had to focus only in a region to fight the rebels in the first place, it knew about how things evolved in the past since it had access to all electronic archives that’s why in every terminator it becomes more “professional” and then after destroying the predestination paradox it would probably destroy itself since its programmers gave it the instruction ‘protect humanity’. John was always one step ahead and he is the only enemy of mankind in order to preserve his status quo. It resembles religion, no Lucifer no judgment day in john’s apocalypse, is Lucifer a time traveler and mankind the paradoxical entity of that time displacement of one single entity? In many religions it is stated that man should have never gotten the fire of the ‘gods’.
I hope no one else said this. Kyle Reese never was John Conner’s father. What if John was born a Joan? Given repeated couplings between Sarah and Kyle, a girl was an inevitability in some loop. The same parents with 3 different kids can have wildly varying personalities as well, so the chance of John have a leadership personality in every loop is ridiculous (given that we are talking about a time travel movie anyway). What I believe is Sarah was already pregnant when she met Kyle. She just didn’t know it. The due with the Porsche who stood her up on Friday night is the father. He could have knocked her up in the last few days. In this scenario John Conner will always be exactly who he is, every-time.
Hmmm. Why is it any more likely to have only a single timeline (and son) with the Porsche dude as the father, yet multiple timelines with Kyle as Poppa? An interesting idea, but I’m not sure that reasoning is sound.
My tinfoil theory is that in the very first and unaltered timeline John Connor never existed. Maybe somebody else (perhaps Martin Bedell one of Connor’s key lieutenants in TSCC who Skynet sent back a terminator to take out his younger self) had originally led humanity in their war against the machines and won.
It could have been that in this original timeline Bedell (or someone in his place like Kyle’s brother or one of the resistance commanders taken out by the TX) defeats Skynet, which then kicks off the supercomputer’s attempt to have him ‘retroactively aborted’ by sending a terminator back in time before he was born to take out his mother like his alternate self will later try to do to Sarah. In this timeline its the original moment Kyle Reese is sent back in time but to protect Bedell’s mom, he succeeds in his mission and was able to destroy the terminator.
Now stuck in the past he might have met a nice girl name Sarah Connor who ended up pregnant with his son who she named John. Perhaps he dies before John was born or didn’t live long enough to see him grow up. But not before telling Sarah of things to come which then prompts her to move to Mexico and prepare for the coming storm, which included training John to become a future soldier in the Resistance. Well Judgement Day still happens but now with John Connor who has been preparing for it his entire life ends up leading the resistance rather than Bedell or some other leader of the original timeline. And Skynet repeats the same pattern as before only now John Connor is the target of his time traveling killer robots.
an interesting theory. I especially like that you incorporated TSCC. I thought I was the only person who liked that show. the problem I have is the same problem I have with what a lot of people have written here. too many people seem to want to speculate so much about what may have happened before, during, or after the movies. please read what I wrote above. I strongly believe the we fans should speculate less and focus only on the information provided in the first movie.
You screwed up. They never say that Skynet is only built because they find the hand. Finding the hand only speeds up their work.
Sarah Connor was the leader of the resistance in zero-timeline. That`s why Skynet sent T-800 to kill her.