As we learn in the original Terminator movie only living, organic material can be sent back in time:

REESE: "You go naked. Something about the field generated by a living organism. Nothing dead will go."

SILBERMAN: "Okay. Okay. But this... cyborg...if it's metal..."

REESE: "Surrounded by living tissue."

SILBERMAN: "Of course."

If this is the case then how was Skynet able to send the fully inorganic T-1000 and T-X model Terminators back in time?

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    It's got to be something to do with their artificial skin mimicking real skin. But since we don't know why time travel requires a real skin covering (apart from for making a great story), there might not be a "real" answer. Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 14:46
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    Also, why didn't Reese bring some small weapon or explosive tucked under his arm pit or some other body location. Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 17:58
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    The machine is easily fooled. It looks you up and down real quick, and if you look human enough, it lets you travel through time. Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 19:14
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    In Terminator 2 there was a deleted scene that addressed how the T1000 was sent back. It was a scene in the future that showed the resistance reaching the time travel device, and seeing the evidence of the two Terminators being sent back. One was a regular pod for any humanoid, the other had remnants of a biological cocoon that the T1000 was enclosed in before being sent through. I can't find a citation for this, I thought the Terminator wikia had a description of this.
    – user1027
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 16:28
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    Surprised no one has offered "I didn't build the f------ thing!" Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 19:59

5 Answers 5


The simplest explanation is that they were covered with the same sort of "skin" that the T-800 wore in the first movie, and then sloughed it off once they arrived in the past.

  • Could be. Although we see the T-1000 and the T-X "portal" in, we don't actually see them put on their stolen clothes.
    – Xantec
    Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 14:04
  • @Kyle - it's more likely they could mimic skin.
    – Jeff
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 15:48
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    @Jeff Interesting. In TSCC, Savannah said to her T-1000 mother "Your lap is cold." So, the mimicry of living flrdh wasn't very convincing up close. Yet, when Weaver jumped forward in time at the end of the series, her clothing disappeared, which invites the interpretation that the parts of her that were not mimicking living tissue didn't go through. I see no easy way to make sense of this conflicting evidence.
    – Kyle Jones
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 16:56
  • @KyleJones I think she forgot to turn up her lap heat, and learned to mimic the field generated by a living organism from spending much time in intimate contact with humans. Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 16:49
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    According to jamescamerononline.com/T2FAQ.htm , this is indeed the explanation given by the T2 novelization and the T2 Extreme Edition commentary.
    – jamesdlin
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 9:44

According to the film's Visual Effects editor, this was left somewhat ambiguous:

Van Ling: That idea (flesh cocoon) was one we had bandied about during preproduction, but it was something that we thought would be too confusing to show visually it would have been like when Brett finds the shed alien skin in Alien. I still think it's the most logical explanation, given we see a flesh "mold" in the teaser trailer already. The other possibilities are that 1) the T-1000 could mimic the field generated by a living organism or 2) Reese really does NOT know tech stuff. Note that several comics and other media later played off the idea of surgically embedding weapons into human carriers and ripping them out of them once they arrived

Originally there was suppose to be a scene showing officer Joe Austin finding the skin. it was something that we thought would be too confusing to show visually it would have been like when Brett finds the shed alien skin in Alien

That said, the film's official novelisation makes it extremely clear what has happened.

They walked underneath them to the place where the two 20-ton plates met and peered within the small gap there. it was only large enough for a single man to step between and there was an indention in each of the plates, an indention in the shape of a man. Connor squinted at something gleaming at the edge of a small round opening positioned where the neck of a man would be in the lower indention. He squatted, feeling his age in his aching knees, and shined his light at what had caught his eye. He carefully extended the tip of his plasma rifle down into the indention, using the barrel of the well used weapon to prod what appeared to be a large drop of liquid mercury. As the barrel of his rifle touched the liquid it flowed onto the barrel of his rifle and seemed to soak in, disappearing.

The teaser trailer for T2 showed a device the sounds very similar to the "20 ton plates" described above

  • So I take it the context of that paragraph makes clear the "two 20-ton metal plates" are meant to be part of the system for enveloping terminators in flesh, rather than part of the time travel equipment?
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 18:57
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    @Hypnosifl - Yes, used for encasing the T-1000 in some sort of flesh-emulating covering.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 19:07
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    And showing a scene where the police officer found the shed skin would have ruined the surprise that Robert Patrick's character was not human. (Even though the film's marketing already ruined that...)
    – jamesdlin
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 9:29
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    @Jamesdlin - I often find it amazing how badly the marketing for a film can ruin a film's premise. Groundhog day is a perfect example. If you watch it completely cold (having not seen the trailer) the 'reveal' about the day looping has a very different character. The film doesn't even seem like a fantasy for the first twenty minutes, just a light-hearted comedy about a grumpy weatherman.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 10:11

[EDIT] After discussing this with Jeff, I've come to a different view on events. My original stance was that there is only one timeline and John was always fighting with the same "version" of Skynet. Jeff says:

Aaron, there can't be only one timeline. That's the whole point, as made clear in the second movie.

He refers to the "NO FATE" carving which led Sarah on her crusade to kill the engineer who build the first T-800.

In this light, the events play out like this:

Timeline 1: Skynet is built with the normal technology that we know today. The resistance struggles and eventually overcomes all of Skynet's defenses. Skynet was calculating this as the likely result and built a time machine to save a different version of itself in a different timeline. In the nick of time, Skynet 1 sends the first T-800 (T-800-1) back into the past of Skynet**-2** (timeline 2).

Resistance sends Reese-1 back into timeline 2 as well.

Note: In timeline 1, Reese-1 can't be the father of Conner-1 - nothing was sent back into timeline 1 from any other timeline. This timeline is basically the start of the whole war.

Also note that the first movie starts with timeline 2. Timeline 1 is only visible in Reese's flashbacks.

Timeline 2 starts to split itself from timeline 1 when the T-800-1 arrives. This is a new timeline and events unfold differently. In this version, Skynet-2 is much stronger to begin with since it has the design of the T-800-1 to build upon.

But Skynet-2 is not yet strong enough. Skynet-2 also sees that it will eventually be overcome but it has better technology and maybe already knows that a time machine is possible. So Skynet-2 sends T-1000-2 back to try again while the resistance sends T-800-2 back (each side goes up one notch in available technology). In "R

Skynet-3/Conner-3 meet the new T-1000-2/T-800-2 and Skynet-2 gets his circuits kicked in by Conner-2.

Timeline 3: Conner-3 and T-800-2 fight with T-1000-2. This leads to Skynet-3 who builds T-800-3 (who manages to kill Conner-3) and T-X-3.

Timeline 4: T-800-3 helps to save Conner-4 and his wife. Skynet-4 learns how to merge Terminator technology and humans. No terminators are sent back in the movie but of course, this Conner must have met a version of T-800-1 and T-800-2.

It's important to note that the timelines split when a machine arrives from the future. This means that Conner-1 never meets any terminators before Skynet becomes conscious. Conner-2 meets one T-800 (T-800-1), Conner-3 meets two, etc.

Also, upto the moment the machines arrive, Conner-(x-1) and Conner-x are the same person. If that were not the case, we would need many future timelines to provide for all the terminators in the past.

To repeat Conner-3 has met T-800-1 (tried to kill his mother) and T-1000-2 but those two were sent back by different versions of Skynet from different future timelines. Conner-4 has met the same T-800-1 as Conner-2 and Conner-3 but each of their timelines split as soon as they met someone from the future (one version didn't meet anyone from the future - this isn't visible in the movies - and the other version follows a new timeline).


Original post:

You could also interpret this differently: "Something about the field generated by a living organism."

Maybe Reese was referring to the fact that the time machine was a living organism that would not send a pure machine back. For him, this could have been obvious but in the nick of time, everyone else misinterpreted his words.

On top of that, Reese is a soldier and he probably doesn't know much about how the machine works - maybe he's just repeating something that the scientists were mumbling as they tried to understand how to make the thing work (note that they probably knew what it was because John Conner knew because of Reese).

Or more likely, the script writer needed a reason that sounded at least slightly plausible ;-)

Lastly, some time passed between the first and the second attack through time. Maybe Skynet was able to improve the design.

But that doesn't explain why the first T-800 didn't come with a huge arsenal of weapons to level the playing field.

There are a lot of holes here:

In the first movie, Skynet is defeated, so who sent the second terminator back? Where did the second machine come from? How and when did Skynet send the T1000 and the TX back? Or did some subsidary of Skynet re-conquer the original machine?

Obviously, no RPG players were present when this was designed. As Skynet, I'd have skinned a couple of humans and wrapped my original T800 in the (dying but still living) tissue covering some really nasty gear. To gory? Well, why didn't Skynet simply put guns and ammunition under the skin of the T800? It doesn't feel pain. It would have looked a bit bulky but only for a few moments until the trip is over.

One possible explanation is that Skynet feared that the advanced technology could fall into the hands of the resistance but then, it knew in detail what had happened in the past (it had access to the whole story by accessing the various government computers when it came alive - maybe it became so hostile because it read there that it would ...). That would mean it didn't send the technology back because it hadn't done it or because there was really a risk that we don't know about.

So IMO, the most likely explanation is: Because there wouldn't have been a sequel otherwise. It's a glitch.

  • After sending back each set of travellers, the future changes. In the 2nd iteration (which created T2) Skynet had better technology (a result of the T-800, as seen in T2) and was doing better against the Resistance. It still sent back the T-800 (and allowed Reese to be sent back) to maintain the timeline, but also sent back it's newer, shiny tech. The same thing happened in T3.
    – Jeff
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 15:46
  • :-/ Then why did John Conner send back a T-800 when the T-1000 was "state of the art"? Especially since the T-1000 was so much more powerful? Or why did Skynet bother to build any 800ers when it had access to the much better technology? Lastly: No matter how you turn it, Skynet must have been able to send three machines into the past in some sequence and the same must be true for John Conner (who, arguably, might have been able to send all three rescue parties in quick succession because he knew where to send them) Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 13:40
  • The T-1000 was a 'state-of-the-art' PROTOTYPE - there was only one. And if Skynet hadn't built T-800s (and likely worked out production kinks) it wouldn't have developed all the tech it needed for the T-1000 - the 800 left in the 80s gave Skynet a leg up, but it was still decades before it could build even T-800s - they were still the next best after the new prototypes.
    – Jeff
    Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 14:31
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    Aaron, there can't be only one timeline. That's the whole point, as made clear in the second movie.
    – Jeff
    Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 18:50
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    @AndresF. You initial argument must be wrong: Skynet sent a Terminator back but its past didn't change. So it knows that it can't change its own past. Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 14:29

The T-X and T-1000 were able to pass as human when in a humanoid form - when they touch a human, that human doesn't give any indication that the touch feels unusual (excepting strength or it being an inappropriate situation). Thus we can gather that their false skin feels like human skin - it is warm and of appropriate texture.

It is probable that, given Skynet has better technology the second time (see the other Terminator answers - Skynet's tech improves each cycle) he developed the T-1000 and T-X (in the second and third cycles) with the ability to mimic whatever property of living organisms it is that permits them to travel through time (my theory is the bioelectic field they generate).

Thus, if the T-1000 or the T-X were in a human shape, and mimicking skin correctly, the would be able to travel without problem.


Because as stated it would be riped apart,which does not affect the T1000. As soon as the T1000 arrived it would be blobs of liquid and just form the shape it wants

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