The timeline, or continuity, in the Terminator universe is greatly complicated by time travelling mission as many events have been altered as to when, and/or how they happened, such as the creation of Skynet, as well as Judgment Day. There has also been a series of events that have been undone or postponed due to interference from the travels of the Machines and the Resistance back into the past, such as Miles Dyson's involvement in Skynet, or the developers of Skynet (from Cyberdyne Systems to Cyber Research Systems). Some events also seem to be a predestination paradox of sorts, where time travel seems to be required to maintain a timeline rather than to alter it.
In Terminator series, there is no single time theory for each of Terminator fiction. In fact, the time theory is barely mentioned in the two original Terminator films by the creator James Cameron. By far, there are several time theories have been applied in various Terminator fictions or discussed along fandom.
- See also: Time theory
- Main article: Alternate timeline
The theory of alternate timeline has been applied to various Terminator fictions, including Terminator 2: The New John Connor Chronicles, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Terminator Genisys. The basis of the theory is that if a character travels back chronologically and induces a crucial event(s), a new alternate timeline will be created. However, there are two major variations:
- A new timeline will be created once a thing is decisively changed (an critical event happens) in the past. For example, in "Today Is The Day, Part 2", Jesse Flores did not know the Resistance soldier Billy Wisher as he does not exist in her timeline since Derek Reese has travelled back to 2007 and killed him, hence creating a timeline where Billy Wisher does not exist in Post-Judgment Day period. Another example, in Terminator Genisys, Kyle Reese arrived in an alternate 1984, which is created from an attempt to assassinate Sarah Connor in 1973. The writers of Terminator Genisys explained that Alex (Skynet) travelled from another timeline to ensure that the machines had a chance at victory once they created a whole new chronology.
- A new timeline will be created once a character is sent back chronologically due to the Butterfly effect. A possible example is that in Terminator: Revolution, John Connor mentioned he was targeted by a T-850 sent from the future when he was a 12-year-old in 1996. However, after he travelled to the year 1996 with T-Infinity, there were a squad of T-850 Terminators trying to kill his younger self.
Though there is little full explanation of the temporal mechanics of the space-time continuum in the Terminator universe and what effects and consequences will ensue when one travels backwards in time and/or alters the course of events, many bits and pieces have been picked up from the multiple alterations to the timeline that have occurred due to temporal interference by the Connors, the Resistance, Skynet's agents, and others:
- Sometimes, travelling back in time will, instead of creating an alternate timeline, create a predestination paradox. Instead of altering the course of events from what they were in the time-traveller's timeline, it will cause, predestine and fulfill those events and bring about the timeline that the time-traveller comes from; essentially, the time-traveller's presence and actions and their consequences in the past create the future that the traveller comes from instead of changing it, which in turn places the time-traveller in a never-ending loop where they're destined to travel back in time to cause the chain of events that lead to them going back in the first place.
- If and when a time-traveller (or, in John Connor's case, a person whose very existence was caused by time travel) successfully alters the course of events from what they previously were and creates an alternate timeline, their own memories and their existence from the point they arrived in the past onwards will remain the same and continue, allowing the time-traveller originating from the previous timeline to continue to exist in the new timeline as an anomaly.
- When the course of events leading up to a present or future were due to a time-traveller's presence in the past in a predestination paradox, if, in the future, one makes the decision not to send the time-traveller back to fulfil their role in the past, then the future reality can continue to exist without its own version of the time-traveller going back as the previous timeline's version did.
- When two or more time-travellers were sent back to different dates, if the course of events were altered from what they were in the time-travellers' future reality after the first time-traveller had arrived but before the second one had (but so that their time-travel into the past would still happen in the new timeline's future), then when the second time-traveller arrived in the present, it could be the new, altered future's version of them instead of the version that had originated in the first traveller's timeline.
- When one time-travelled into the future of a timeline, the time-traveller's resulting displacement in history could send them into an alternate future where their return to the past or present had not yet occurred and thus the time-traveler had been completely absent in the time gap between the present they'd come from and the future they'd arrived in. ,
- Although many alternate timelines have been created, across the majority of them, many certain events and/or the basis of history remain the same, or at least similar to, what they were in the original, pre-time travel timeline (i.e., Skynet's creation and Judgment Day finding a way to occur whenever its previous origin is derailed by temporal interference; John Connor rising to become leader of the Resistance; Skynet and the Resistance fighting a war between humanity and machines after Judgment Day which usually ultimately ends with the Resistance's victory over Skynet; many of Skynet's different models and series of machines existing and being virtually if not completely identical throughout multiple timelines, right down to their series designations). Skynet noted these temporally-recurring patterns when discussing the mechanics of time travel, and theorised that the nature of temporal divergence is that the timelines have an elasticity to them: time travel can cause events to bend off into an alternate direction, but the new course of events will seek to "spring back" towards the original timeline's history, in an attempt by the spacetime continuum to force the alternate timelines' divergent histories back into the original version of events.
Timelines of the Terminator series
Since the release of The Terminator the most highly debated issue is the predestination paradox of Kyle from the future impregnating Sarah and then become his father. Some just overlook this fact while other try to find solution to this paradox. Most fans want Kyle to always be John Connor's father (this would require someone else to send Kyle back in time for some other purpose), but in the original timeline it is still possible that John Connor previously had another father, and later Kyle impregnated Sarah.
Regarding the original timeline
- See also: The Terminator timeline
In order to understand and make the story and timeline from the start of The Terminator work, it is suggested that there are numerous timelines before the actual event of the first movie (though all exist in the same exact universe). We know Kyle Reese accounts for two key events/objects from the future - First: Skynet sends back a T-800. Second: Kyle has a picture of Sarah Connor.
- There must be a reason why Skynet sends back a T-800. It's because of the future leader of the Resistance. Likewise, there must be a reason why John Connor in the future sends back Kyle Reese to protect Sarah. John Connor in the future, cannot send back Kyle Reese before the T-800 already been in the past.
- The reason why Sarah Connor snapshot was taken is the cause and action of the T-800 and Kyle Reese in past. Without these two events, Sarah would not decide to go on this trip at the end of The Terminator, which leads up to a boy taking a picture of her. This means, there have to be a timeline where Kyle Reese is going back, without a knowledge of a photo. Simply, because it doesn't exist yet.
- Timestream on Wikipedia
- Continuity (setting) on Wikipedia
- Parallel universe (fiction) at Wikipedia
- TerminatorFiles.com - Timelines
- TerminatorFiles.com - Chronology
- M.J. Young's theories on time-traveling
- M.J. Young's analysis of The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day
- M.J. Young's analysis of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
- Terminator Genisys: The franchise timeline, explained | EW.com
- YouTube videos regarding Terminator timelines
- Terminator Timeline EXPLAINED (Terminator Genisys Erased History?) - YouTube
- Terminator Timeline Explained - YouTube
- The Terminator Timeline Explained - YouTube
- TERMINATOR Full Timeline Explained! (Dark Fate Update) - YouTube
- Terminator Timeline Explained : How To Watch Terminator Movies in Chronological Order - YouTube
|Timelines & Theories|
|The Terminator||Alpha timeline - Original Timeline - The Terminator - Tempest - Dark Years - 2029 to 1984 - Terminator 2: Judgment Day|
|Terminator 2: Judgment Day||Terminator 2: Judgment Day - Cybernetic Dawn - T2 Trilogy - The New John Connor Chronicles (Skynet's World / Jade's World / John's World) - The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Rise of the Machines - Dark Fate|
|Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines||Rise of the Machines - Kyla's World - T2 Saga - Terminator Salvation|
|Stand-alone||The Terminator: Future Shock - Terminator Genisys|
|Judgment Day||1995 - 1997 - 2003 - 2004 - 2011 - 2017 - 2021|
|Years||1984 - 1995 - 2004 - 2007 - 2008 - 2009 - 2015 - 2018 - 2020 - |
2027 - 2029 - 2031 - 2032 - 2036 - 2042