Terminator Timelines – Mopping The Mess Up

Well done. Give yourself a pat on the back. You made it! You made it through all the nonsense and waffle that I’ve been writing about the Terminator Timelines (in fairness I was writing about, and trying to figure out, a mess that the franchise had produced first, so it’as not entirely my fault. I’m assuming that you time traveled forward from a few moments ago to be here, hopefully the duration of your time phase wasn’t too long and your time travelling vehicle was comfortable (your ISP speed and browser).

On this last page in the Terminator Timelines write up I’ve done, I want to bring together a few of the things that have irked me, and some of the observations I’ve had. So let’s start the ball rolling and get to it…

Terminator 1

How do Skynet and John Connor exist to send a T-800 and Kyle Reese back in time, if they haven’t already done this? Unless it’s a Causal Loop that’s been happening for ages, or unless perhaps it’s working with the Novikov time-travel principle that suggests that travel back in time and doing something is feasible, without it affecting the future. But by that same argument, how does it intend to change the future, if it does something in the past, without it having adverse effects on itself?

FTR Igor Dmitriyevich Novikov’s 1980’s time-travelling principle suggests that if you went back in time, you have no chance of affecting the future. It differs from more conventional theories ties into relativity maintained time travel theories such as the Grandfather Paradox. That one suggests that if you go back in time and kill your granddad, then you won’t exist. Novikov’s theory suggests you couldn’t do that, because what has happened has happened. So if you go into the past, your own timeline is still going forward, and killing somebody in the past, is s still a s step on your future journey. Does that hurt your head?

Regardless of the paradox that occurs, if the Terminator franchise had of been a single film instead of lots more then it would have likely made more sense. It would have been a closed causal loop that self fulfills itself. A) Robot and Man arrive from the future and stuff happens. B) Robot fails, and Man impregnates Woman. C) Leader of the resistance is born. D) In the future Robot and Man sent back in time.

  • Robot and Man arrive from the future and stuff happens.
  • Robot fails, and Man impregnates Woman.
  • Leader of the resistance is born.
  • In the future Robot and Man sent back in time.

Terminator 2

As much as I love Terminator 2, this is where some of the problems really start to come to light. For starters, in the future Skynet knows it failed in T1 because John Connor still exists, so practically straight away it sent another upgraded robot back to a different time to mop up previous mistakes. Likewise, John knows that he was successful in sending Kyle Reese back, because for starters, he still exists and so does Skynet. So he also sends a robot back in time to protect himself again. This makes John his own guardian angel.

It might have been easier for Skynet to send that upgraded robot back to 1984 (T1) instead of 1991, but let’s not worry about that. Some people wonder why Skynet doesn’t just go further back in time and destroy a Connor ancestor, or take down mankind in some brutal way – but the answer is that it needs to be conceived at some point. Unless it is following the Novikov principle it could go back and destroy the fish that leapt out of the primordial soup and became man because then man would’t be around to create Skynet.

The part that T2 get’s right is closing a loop. It makes a point of having to rid the world out of the tech that was left behind in T1, and of the two robots in 1991: T-800 and T-1000. If the franchise had of stopped here, it would have also made more logical sense.

Terminator 3

This is where unwittingly things start going wrong in a big way. T3 is practically a carbon copy of T2 as far as plot goes, it plays on the big thing that the future/fate is inevitable. So although the Connor gang stopped Judgment Day in T2, it was always going to happen. Judgment Day was suspended temporarily rather than cancelled. The big slap in the face is that after T2, Skynet doesn’t exist.

The only logical solution to allow this film would be if somebody at Cyberdyne still developed a Skynet system, despite not having future tech. In addition, remember the T-800 blowing up Cyberdyne Systems HQ and shooting a shit load of cops and special forces? Do you really think that the authorities would let Cyberdyne develop anything that could be dangerous after an event like that? They’d be under close scrutiny. A get out clause could be that the Skynet software that the military are testing on the day that machine rise could be as a result of the authorities using Cyberdyne like a cash cow to make it’s military tech – but I thought of that myself so stop pinching my ideas 😀

Terminator 4

I remember sitting down to watch this thinking to myself that it’s be fun entertainment. They can’t kill of any of the main characters because to allow the previous franchise films they’d be needed. John Connor and Kyle Reese would always finish the film in the land of the living – and they did. T4 is pretty much a pointless film in terms of the timeline jiggery-pokery – but it’s still fun.

The one discussion that doesn’t often come out of it is about Cyberdyne experimenting with genetics and robotics. They get consent from Marcus Wright for his carcass in 2003, 2 years before the machines rise in T3. So perhaps fate really is inevitable, and Cyberdyne were always going to produce Skynet and killer robots with human skeletons.

Terminator 5

When T5 hits the timeline it’s touching on multiverse and many-worlds concepts. It touches on bootstrap and grandfather paradoxes. It’s a bloody messy to work out in a clear and concise, linear path. I guess the John Connor/T-3000 hybrid sums it up perfectly:

“I can do anything I want to, because we are now exiles outside of the timestream, so all rules of causality have been broken, BANG BANG BANG!”

John Connor/T-3000

T5 makes everything fair game. That’s why you have a break in the pre-exiting timeline with Sarah Connor aged 9 years old being targeted. That’s why you have multiple and various Terminator units going back to different times. You’ve got Kyle Reese experiencing the memories of a different version of himself, who is actually an independent character in the same timeline, who gets a visitation from himself and Sarah too.

It’s almost like this film looked at fan forums and decided to take a little bit of everyone’s crazy theories and fantasies.

Terminator 6

I get it, I get it…

  • Change the timeline that audience have witnessed by confirming theories that fans have been throwing around for ages – multiple Terminators in multiple timelines to ensure success.
  • New timeline occurs.
  • Is it a multiverse? Is it a Einstein-Rosen bridge? Is it a paradox? Who knows – who cares!
  • The same evils (machine uprising) occur just with different name and younger people – Legion, Grade, & Dani.
  • Wheel out characters from previous timelines – Sarah, T-800 (Carl)…
  • Wait… wheel out T-800 (Carl)? But how, there is no Sky… there is no John Connor… whatnow?
  • Leave the ending open to reboot sequels by repeating the mistakes of the past and not melting every trace of future tech down to a pulp.

So the grandfather/bootstrap paradox is being shown in full effect, with the Fermi paradox kind of shown too, but the Novikov principle no longer applies, and there is no causality loop. Brilliant, way to go, well done playing with the theoretical laws of relativity.


Simple man science (which I’m sure somebody will say is wrong, but that’s ok!)

What little I know about Time Travel (I learned from film & TV)

Time travel in film and TV is fun, it serves a purpose for entertainment, but it has no footholds in reality until somebody can prove it – and personally speaking, I think it will stay a theory on paper for mankind’s life cycle. In film and TV it has it’s own rules and doesn’t have to adhere to any theories that have been devised about it about scientists, although some films and TV go to big lengths to make sure a specialist is on board and at least some of their entertainment is based in theoretical fact. In general though, it is always told from a viewers perspective so that the there is always a narrator and narrative for the audience to be anchored to. In that sense the view becomes almost God-like with an omnipresent perspective of events unfolding on screen. We can’t prove time-travel, but we can’t prove it couldn’t be possible either. It’s that nugget which makes it fun to explore and see on screen.

We aren’t limited to seeing moving back in time, travelling forward in time is just as popular as seeing events which have already occurred. But if moving back in time is a reality that can only be hypothesized, then it’s stated that it is even less of a reality to move forward in time – despite it being something we do on a regular basis (I’ve moved forward in time writing that last sentence!).

The theory of time-travel, or it’s principles according to Einstein, are that time and space are part the four dimensions of spacetime. The theory is that instead of being on a linear path, if a curvy path was taken to get to an end point (be it the past or the future) you could get to a different point of the linear path which might be before you started the journey. Einstein’s theory doesn’t permit for forward travel, although people have assumed that if it can be done backwards, it must be possible forwards too. In taking a leaf out of quantum mechanics – just because it’s theory doesn’t exist in out reality, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in another reality – which is rule that Hollywood works by, so it’s good for me!

What I know about Quantum mechanics…

Something, an object, is here, there, and everywhere in space while it exists but is not in one set point until you observe it. When you see it, there is a probability that is doesn’t exist somewhere else. So, if you think of the many-worlds interpretation, or multiverse theory – if you observe that thing in one location, there is a probability that in another world comes into existence where it doesn’t exist. Ergo branches in timelines, or multiverses. The real kick in the soft bits here, is that this has nothing to do with time-travel theories whatsoever. Despite it not being linked, it is one of the fundamental principles that allows the Terminator franchise to get away with so much time-travel jiggery-pokery.

My (limited) time-travel knowledge…

Unlike proven experts in theoretical;l science, I learned time travel from the likes of (in no particular order): “The Time Machine” (1960, and various other versions of the H.G. Wells novel), “Back to the Future” (1985), “Quantum Leap” (1989+), “Dr Who” (1963+), “Planet of the Apes” (1968), “Superman” (1978), “Time Bandits” (1981), “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986), “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (1989), “Army of Darkness” (1992), “12 Monkeys” (1995), “Donnie Darko” (2001), “Red Dwarf” (1988+), “The Time Tunnel” (1966), “The Butterfly Effect” (2004). It’s big business, films and TV still use it today and have their own views on how to use it… “About Time” (2013), “Edge of Tomorrow” (2014), “X-Men: Days Of Future Past” (2014), “Interstellar” (2014), and “Arrival” (2016) to name a few.

More than learning the science of time-travel and quantum mechanics, this films and TV series taught me more about paradoxes – the effects of time travelling and what could happen. The Grandfather Paradox (or auto-infanticide) for example, saying that if you go back in time to kill your grandfather, then one of your parents wouldn’t exist, and nor would you to travel back in time to kill your grandfather. This feeds into the Causal Loop paradox (sometimes referred to as a Bootstrap/ Predestination/ or Ontological Paradox), which is when a future event is the catalyst for an event in the past – which then has the potential to loop forever and ever. A Fermi Paradox asks “if time travel were possible, where are all the visitors from the future?“. Newcomb’s Paradox deals with “perfect predictions” of the future. Other theories like Igor Dmitriyevich Novikov, Daniel Greenberger, Karl Svozil, and Kelley L. Ross would argue that interfering with the past may be possible because a new line of reality is created rather than a potential “butterfly effect” of a change in the past affecting any future you may return to. These aren’t the only theories and thoughts – do some research and I’m sure you’ll find some mind melting fun out there; from the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (see “Arrival” 2016) to Schwarzschild wormholes or Einstein-Rosen bridges (still technically wormholes) (see “Donnie Darko” (2001)

I know what you are thinking – “I came for Terminator and now I’m reading the ranting and raving of an uneducated idiot“. I guess I’ve mainly mentioned that above because the Terminator franchise manages to touch on nearly every theoretical idea of time-travel, and nearly every theoretical paradox and complication. Sometimes it get’s things plausable enough for science-type people to be happy, other times it takes a massive steaming dump on science and doesn’t care.

It isn’t perfect, it’s science-fiction – it’s entertainment. So despite some of the issues I might have with it, the fact that I have been inspired to write a massive rant means it entertained me and suspended my disbelief enough to make me spend time thinking about all this.

Back to Terminator

Here are some observations that I have wanted to get off my chest for sometime…

Skynet and John Connor only exist because of future interference. It’s a loop though, or a predestination paradox, because without that interference they can’t exist to interfere from the future.

In all variants of the timelines I have written about, John Connor dies sooner or later. It’s usually at the hands of A.I. too. Bummer!

Sarah Connor dies more often than not, but if she time travels forward in time she could somehow survive. Also, if John Connor dies in 1998 then she’ll live beyond 2020 with the threat of Legion rather than Skynet. That means that something between 1991 and 2000 gave her cancer – I blame the mental institutes and their chemical nap times.

I’ve mentioned that John dies all the time. Sarah can avoid death. Kyle Reese usually dies before he’s born, unless he travels forward in time from 1984 to 2017 with Sarah, in which case he doesn’t die, and he exists in the timeline twice due his younger self – who was born in 2003 (apart from in T3 when it is stated he is born in 2008). Add Grace Harper to the list. Grace is born in 2010. In 2042 she travels back in time to 2020. There will be two versions of Grace in the timeline, and the future version that’s helping Dani Ramos will die.

There is at least one permutation where Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor don’t mate, thus not producing John Connor, yet Kyle still arrives back in time to do the deed which is confusing. But as John Connor/T-3000 announces in “Terminator:Genisys” that “I can do anything I want to, because we are now exiles outside of the timestream, so all rules of causality have been broken, BANG BANG BANG!”. This might be the golden rule to Terminator films, rather than believing that fate “is inevitable“.

Judgment day is inevitable right? T1 basically sets up T2, because the arm and chip from the T-800 was left behind in the past, but the future is still set right? I’d say kind of yes. Judgment day is still going to happen, but what has changed is future technology advancements. The arm and the chip left behind mean that an upgraded T-1000 is now hunting the Connor’s in T2. So the future did change slightly and things may not be inevitable after all. Then, the events of T2 move judgment day to a later time, as confirmed in T3. So maybe the future is not inevitable after all. Judgment day has a new date, and an upgraded T-X is sent back in time. I can understand that date change (if I don’t think about it too much), but the T-X? Is that just natural progression from the T-1000 or did something happen in T2 which allowed future Skynet to produce even more advanced terminators? T2 should have closed the loop. The fact that there is a new judgment day date (albeit, referred to as the “rise of the machines”) it’s less a case of the future being inevitable, it’s more that the war in the future is inevitable, but other factors can and do change around it. Things like the technology being used, or key dates. Even in T4, John Connor is surprise at how Skynet is developing better terminators all the time. So maybe, it’s not that the future is inevitable, or fate is inevitable – maybe it’s more a case of a war with machines is inevitable. My evidence for this is still seeing a war with machines in T-600 after the timeline is changed.

If T1 gives us a T-800. T2 gives us a T-1000. T3 gives us a T-850 and a T-X. Then how on Earth goes T4 give us shitty T-600 and T-700’s? Are only top-spec model terminators allowed to travel in time to do big jobs while the T-600’s and T-700’s are left walking the desolate future streets and fight against kids? Add to this the knowledge that Skynet must have about failures to win in the past with newer models terminators, then why would it fight wars with older models at all? Also, if you think about it – every scene of the future we see where machines are at war with us, it’s always the endoskeletons of T-800’s fighting (or in T6 it’s Rev’s, which still look like T-800 skeletons).

Another weird observation…. why isn’t anyone trying to teach Skynet and it’s Terminators a new trick or two? Why not educate rather than obliterate? There are countless examples of machines breaking their core programming in the franchise – Skynet prevents itself from shutting down; T-800 learns new things despite not being able to in T2; in T3 the T-101/T-800 breaks it’s new programming after the T-X infects it, furthermore it has a existential crisis and self terminates (which it isn’t supposed to be able to do); Marcus Wright in T4 stops himself killing John Connor; T-800 Pop’s builds fail safes which would destroy it’s superior models and bring down Skynet/Genisys; T-800 Carl retires with a bloody family and sends Sarah Connor the coordinates of other Terminators out of guilt!!! TEACH NOT TERMINATE! It’s the nature Vs. nurture argument. Surely this is an indication that mankind is handling the problem wrong.


Where am I going with all this nonsense? I have no idea – it was just a quiet day at work and I’d drank too much coffee so I decided to melt my brains! In truth, this has become an exercise in blogging for therapy. I’ve enjoyed writing all the madness, and I’ve also learned a lot along the way. I’ve learned enough about time-travel, quantum mechanics, and time-travel paradoxes to know that I’m happy just watching and reviewing films 😀

By it’s very nature there are plot holes in these films like nearly every other film in existence. We just need to go with the flow, take it with a pinch of salt, enjoy the art, and get engrossed in fun science-fiction films.

I hope that your brain doesn’t hurt too much. Me on the other hand, I’m going to lay down in a quiet and darkened room. I hope you have enjoyed this journey through the Terminator timelines, and I’d love to read some comments, even if they are just to tell me how wrong this all is.

The End… or it is for now until I travel back in time to change something!


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