The Terminator timeline(s) broke my brain!

“My past has caught up with me. And I won’t be back!”

Rather than write a normal film blog I wanted to do something different for a change. Having recently re-watched all of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s films again, I fell down an all-too-familiar rabbit hole and found myself in the Terminator franchise again. So I tried to get my head around the time-lines, paradoxes, and multi-verses. It made my head hurt, but along the way I got some frustrations off my chest, and I learned some theoretical science too,

NOTE: This blog spans 6 different pages (all the links you need can be found easily enough), but as well as it being a lengthy blog of 6 pages, there are some wild rants and ravings included in the content which might make you question what you have read, might make you scratch your head, and may make your brain hurt. The concept of time-travel theories in the Terminator franchise and the potential paradoxes created is not a simple subject. I let my wife have a pre-read of this blog and she didn’t speak to me for a few hours. You have been warned.

If you haven’t seen any Terminator films (where have you been hiding?), in short: Mankind invents a computer A.I. named Skynet which, in the future, will become self-aware and launch an attack on mankind. It considers man to be the biggest threat to the planet, and to preserve the world, it must eradicate mankind completely. The day the war starts is known as Judgment Day, the day that the machines are due to rise. After years of fighting Skynet in the future, it comes up with it’s master plan, it decides to send killing machines (Terminators) back in time to change the future. To protect the future, the human resistance sends people back to stop the killing machines from affecting the past.

With there been sequels, prequels, and reboots in the Terminator franchise which spans almost 40 years, thanks to the way it handles time travelling there have been lots of different timelines suggested. All of the suggested timelines are none-linear as you might expect from removing person A from a point in time and moving them to a time which has already occurred. There are a lot of potential anomalies and time travel paradoxes going on – and it’s that which interested me for this blog.

A temporal paradox, time paradox, or time travel paradox is a paradox, an apparent contradiction, or logical contradiction associated with the idea of time and time travel. In physics, temporal paradoxes fall into two broad groups: consistency paradoxes exemplified by the grandfather paradox; and causal loops. Other paradoxes associated with time travel are a variation of the Fermi paradox and paradoxes of free will that stem from causal loops such as Newcomb’s paradox.”


I was sat in bed one evening thinking about the timelines and potential paradoxes when my wife asked what was on my mind. I tried explaining that I believed that there were 3 potential logical timelines, if not more. I also tried to explain how there was possibly Multiverses, Causal loop Paradoxes, a Grandfather Paradox, a Fermi Paradox, and potentially a Novikov Paradox present (don’t worry, you don’t need to be well-versed in quantum physics and time-travel theory for this blog – I’m no expert). To explain what I meant I used the example of John Connor sending his own father back in time have some sexy time with his mum Sarah Connor. This act of sending his own father back in time to have sex with his mum facilitates John’s being. And if he didn’t send his own father back, he wouldn’t be able to send his own father back in time to create himself because he wouldn’t exist to send his dad back in the first place. Surely that makes sense right? Part Grandfather Paradox and Causal loop, yeah?

My wife told me that I think about stupid things far too much, and I’m pretty certain she found it easier to fall to sleep that night thanks to my random nonsense. Rather than forget about what was on my mind I had an itch to try and figure out the timeline, if for nobody else, then just for me (and of course any of you poor people that find yourself on this page too).

First of all, have you read my reviews of the films I’m going to be talking about here?

For the purpose of what I am going to do, I will be referring to the films by the references of “T1” through to “T6” – simple enough and saves me typing out long titles. I am not entertaining the TV show “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” in this brain-melting look at the timelines, but I”ll explain why. I know it’s a valid contribution to the franchise, but it’ll just confuse things more. In the TV show, Terminators have been sent back from 2027, which is a contrast to the films which suggest that 2029 is one of the main date that Terminators are sent back in time. The TV show also has the Summer Glau-bot give Sarah Connor access to a time-machine which had previously been used to send a time-traveler back to 1963 – fracturing what the films show us about Sarah Connor’s life/knowledge. The TV show takes place directly after T2 and ignores T3 like a bad smell so in my head it’s kind of like a multiverses, the kind of which I mentioned early that might exist in the franchise. With T5 and T6 already splintering off, or being multiverses, working out a coherent timeline is already going to be tricky enough, so sorry “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” – it’s a no from me.

Also off limit’s for this blog are the novels, the comics, video games, and any other cross-over fiction. It’s all about the films!

The multiverse is a hypothetical group of multiple universes.[a] Together, these universes comprise everything that exists: the entirety of space, time, matter, energy, information, and the physical laws and constants that describe them. The different universes within the multiverse are called “parallel universes”, “other universes”, “alternate universes”, or “many worlds”.



By my reckoning, there are at least 3 primary timelines in place when you consider what the films do and tell us. I’ve broken them down so that I can look at the events that unfold in those timelines. All of the timelines kind of start with T1, although Timeline B does confuse things a little when it tries to re-tell the events of T1 in T5.

  • Timeline A = T1 + T2 + T3 + T4
  • Timeline B = (Probably T1 +T2 + T3 + T4) – T5 (Because T5 rewrites/reboots everything).
  • Timeline C = T1 + T2 + T6

Depending on how much you want your eyes to melt and ear to bleed, it is slightly conceivable that there exists Timeline ‘D’ too. This would be everything all thrown in together – it starts with a series of linear events much like the others, but then branches off, splits, and fragments – making it one hell of a mind melt to get your head around. When thinking about a potential Timeline D, all I can do is imagine it as a multiverse where the same people exist but decisions create different realities.

  • Timeline D = Throw everything in a bucket and mix it together. Then throw it at a wall, and whatever doesn’t dribble off we’ll call a timeline.

Are you ready?

Let’s get the show on the road then, click on the one of the following links to advance the party and get going. I’ll see you at the end of this!

Timeline A

Timeline B

Timeline C

Timeline D

Mopping the Mess up

5 thoughts on “The Terminator timeline(s) broke my brain!”

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