Why doesn't SkyNet…? (TERMINATOR QUESTION)

Keep sending Terminators back to before WHEN John Connor was born?

Think about: SkyNet has no way of knowing whether or not the first Terminator’s mission succeeds or fails (Kyle Reese tells Sarah Connor that they had won the war and defeated SkyNet) so why doesn’t it keep sending Terminators back to 1984 and trying to kill Sarah Connor at that time period?

The Resistance broke into the time machine lab seconds after the first Arnie Terminator and the T-1000 were sent back. They sent Kyle Reese and the reprogrammed Arnie and then smashed the time machine.

The machines were able to cobble something together to send back the T-X, but the Resistance took that one too.

I think the answer to this changes a little bit as each movie, series, etc. slightly rewrites the history.

From the first movie, it sounds like SkyNet didn’t have possession of a time machine long enough to send more terminators back. Presumably, the time machine was captured by the humans before SkyNet could use it again. The fact that they captured it is why they were able to send back Kyle Reese. This fits with Kyle’s statement that the humans were winning.

The second movie and the series really muddy up the waters, though.

It doesn’t matter what Skynet does.

John Connor already exists in the time when the first Arnold Terminator is sent back. Sending AT back prompts Connor to send Kyle Reese back, ultimately resulting in John Connor being born. He causes his own birth (freaky!). John Connor only exists because Skynet exists, and because they sent AT back to kill his mother, and the remains of AT were the basis of the research that results in Skynet, Skynet only exists because John Connor exists.

Here’s a mindfuck for you: we know that in the future Skynet exists, and John Connor exists, and this loop had to have begun at some point, so there must be a timeline where Skynet is created without the remains of AT, and where John Connor is born without Kyle Reese, meaning that the John Connor who sends Kyle Reese back cannot be Kyle Reese’s son. So, who the hell is that in T2?!

Of course, in the context of the original movie, this part doesn’t matter. The Terminator, as a standalone, is pure causal loop. The future is predetermined and John Connor can send his own father back in time to impregnate his own mother, and Skynet can only be created because Cyberdyne uses the remains of the Terminator to create Skynet, and Skynet will always ultimately lose the war. Thus, it doesn’t matter what Skynet does.

Then, as Dracoi points out, the subsequent movies fuck this all up.

The second movie doesn’t mess with the facts established in the first film at all - it just reveals that the Terminator in the first film, was SkyNet’s second attempt at killing John Connor. The first thing SkyNet did was send its most advanced Terminator after a young John Connor. When that didn’t work (as demonstrated by the fact that Connor’s forces were still kicking SkyNet’s ass) it sent one of it’s regular model Terminators back even further, to kill John Connor’s mom.

And if there’s no music, they can’t dance. If they can’t dance, they can’t kiss. If they can’t kiss they can’t fall in love, and I’m history!

When I was a kid, I first saw The Terminator and Back to the Future on VHS the same weekend, and for awhile I conflated them. Marty and Doc vs Skynet is a great movie in my head.

I remember you posting about that interpretation in another thread. I think it has some merit, though it doesn’t seem to match what the characters believe. I need to rewatch the movies with it in mind and see how it holds up.

But even if that explanation can cover the second movie, I’m not sure it can cover the other movies or the series.

Don’t watch “The Sarah Conner Chronicles” because they seriously mess everything up. People show up every week, machines have been here since the 20s, and people go forward as well. The resistance doesn’t destroy the time machine in that version - they rape it repeatedly.

I think it’s also mentioned in the first movie that Skynet didn’t have any information on John Connor’s parents other than the name of his mother and city she lived in, which is why the Arnold Terminator tries to kill all the Sarah Connors in the phone book. So sending back multiple terminators to try to kill her in that time period probably wouldn’t have made much difference.

I think a lot of the questions about Skynet can be answered by remembering that Skynet is a machine.

(Yes. “It’s only a movie.” But we’re talking in-universe questions).

Skynet thinks like a machine. If it calculates that sending three Terminators to specific points in the past will eliminate John Conner’s existence, it will send back precisely three Terminators.

Also, Skynet’s principle motive is to remain in existence. Anything which causes a threat to its current and future existence is unacceptable. Why not send back dozens of Terminators – because the more Terminators you send to wander around in the past, the more unforeseen factors arise which may result in Skynet’s non-existence.

Bingo. Remember, the future timeline from T1 and T2 is post-nuclear war, during which vast amounts of information/records must have been destroyed or rendered inaccessible. There’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot of John Connor’s juvie file in T2, which lists his father as “unknown”; Sarah must’ve been too smart to put down Kyle Reese’s name, and make an as-yet-unborn Kyle a target for Skynet.

In Terminator Salvation, Skynet actually gets its hands on teenage Kyle, but uses him as bait to lure in Connor and the other Resistance members. Why doesn’t it kill Kyle outright and therefore erase John from existence? – because it doesn’t know Kyle Reese is John Connor’s father. It knows Reese is valuable to Connor in some way, but not why.

Of course, it doesn’t make sense for Skynet at that point to be hatching elaborate schemes to get John Connor. From the description in the first movie, Connor won’t ping Skynet’s radar until the humans start achieving victories under his leadership and the time-travel plan only gets put in motion after Skynet is defeated.

The problem is the implied communication between the time-travelling terminators (sent to kill John Connor) and the WW3-starting Skynet, when these are effectively a decade or more apart. There’s no reason or justification for Skynet in 2018 (the timeframe of Salvation and 14 years before Connor’s eventual death as cited in the third film) to be chasing Connor specifically. It kinda smacks of 1984 - Skynet is trying to kill John Connor, therefore Skynet was always trying to kill John Connor.

Put simply, Connor has not yet earned the specific attention of Skynet, let alone bizarrely complex plans involving cyborgs with human hearts and whatnot.

can’t a single robot rebuild skynet given time? sent it back a million years.

Have you seen this?


It actually does look like a great movie!

btw I always wondered given the apparently hopeless situation humanity found itself in after the nuclear exchange, how exactly did humans defeat Skynet?

I think the takeaway you’re supposed to get from the 4th movie is that, rather than building a decentralized network similar to the internet, Skynet put all it’s eggs into one basket, and has only one major base, which the humans blow up at the end of the movie. So, humans win with a single victory, because evil is dumb.

I don’t know that it makes Skynet dumb…perhaps Skynet is afraid of a competing AI spawning? If Skynet had two major bases of operation, and communication was cut, theoretically these are now two separate entities. Having two (or more!) AI’s to compete with, while competing with humans might be too much.
Also; why doesn’t Skynet send a robot back a million years to establish itself earlier? Simple. Skynet is interested in self preservation - it sends back a machine to kill off its CURRENT threat - John Conner. Planting a robot a million years ago would, in effect, be similar to suicide, assuming the AI values self preservation, which we know it does.


which brings another point - what is skynet? couldn’t the core program be housed in a single robot? the net is just bigger housing and better eyes and ears right?

My understanding is that Skynet enslaved humans at first because they didn’t have the ability to make more robots on their own (damn lack of opposable thumbs). Enough humans escaped and stole tech to fight back.

Probably. Remember the Skynet started because (time loop!) the company developed AI using the chip in the T100 that hunted Sarah Connor. So if it hadn’t tried to kill John Connor he’d have never been born, and Skynet itself wouldn’t have been created - both entities came about from the attempt.

In T:SCC, a current-day AI took up an entire floor of an office building for processing power, but fit inside a single (undamaged) Terminator chip.