I still don't understand why the T-1000 went back in time to well after the original T-800's attempt at assassinating Sarah Connor. Why didn't it just get sent back to right after this failed attempt?

Are the Terminators only able to travel a certain number of years into the past?

  • Sending terminators back in time is very, very risky - as the ultimate outcome showed - so it would only be done if the risk/effect of not sending one was worse than the risk/effect of sending one. Further, it would have to be sent back to perform a very limited function to prevent future undesired effects. Going back further than useful would leave a bigger footprint on the future.
    – Adam Davis
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 15:58

3 Answers 3


The original Skynet estimated Sarah Connor to be in LA around 1984.

Policeman: Why were the other women killed?
Reese: Records were lost in the war.
Skynet knew almost nothing about Connor's mother.
Her full name, where she lived. They just knew the city.
The Terminator was just being systematic.

The second Terminator, coming through from the altered timeline probably didn't know where Sarah Connor was for the first terminator. They knew that at some point Cyberdyne Systems appropriated the first Terminator's remains. By then Sarah Connor had skipped to Mexico and disappeared.

It wasn't until Sarah Connor was in the mental institution and John Connor was in foster care that the new Skynet was able to locate records of their whereabouts.

I suppose you could send a Terminator back and let it wander around for 12 years hoping that it bumps into Sarah Connor. But really you send it back to when you have confirmed where she is, the mental institution in 1992.

  • I don't buy that most of the records got destroyed. Even if they were, it wasn't even that long ago (less than John Connor's lifetime), so SkyNet/others should still have memory of events before the destruction of any other records.
    – Rondo
    Commented Apr 6, 2012 at 15:08
  • @Rondo I have added the quote from the first movie to which I was referring. Commented Apr 6, 2012 at 15:12
  • 6
    @Rondo Where did your cousin live in 1985? How many Sarah Connors live in the LA area? I find it perfectly plausible that without written records it would be difficult to find someone with reliable memories of someone's whereabouts on a specific date 25 years ago. Especially if the city/country has been devastated by war, how would you even find where a building you remember was located?
    – ghoppe
    Commented Apr 6, 2012 at 23:46
  • 1
    @Rondo: Nukes are extremely efficient at wiping out paper records, especially those that the slow bureaucracy hasn't yet transferred to an electronic storage medium and it's offsite backups.
    – Jeff
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 18:24

I've only seen the first two films so don't know if the later films confuse the issue, but my understanding from the two I saw, was that they sent back two terminators at more or less the same time, one to kill Sarah Connor, the other to kill John. They didn't know the outcome of the first terminator's mission at the time they sent T-1000.

  • This is exactly what happened
    – Stefan
    Commented Aug 2, 2012 at 13:49
  • 2
    @Anton. Skynet did know the outcome of the first terminator's mission. It knew the original T-800 had failed. It's easier to explain if you read S.M. Sterling's T2 series books. There are three books in the series and they explain a lot of things the movies didn't explain, including how skynet's "intuition" tells it that the terminators have failed. Obviously Skynet is not in 1984 to know that the T-800 failed the mission, but there was no change in future events (again, some weired, alternate reality Quantum level of thinking by Skynet). The books explain it better. As far as the records go,
    – chuck
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 18:09
  • 2
    you have to think outside the box on that one. Try imagining the past (the present for Sarah and Reese), and the future (the present for Skynet), moving forward, and parallel with each other. At some point, Sarah pops back up on the grid (again, in the past, the mental institution), while in the future, Skynet gets sort of a Quantum "text message" as the past moves forward, letting it know that Sarah is back in LA at a mental institution, and that John is living with foster parents. Skynet then passes the "text message" along to the T-1000 and sends it back to 1995 to try and kill John there.
    – chuck
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 18:09
  • 2
    This is what happened the SECOND time. The first Terminator movie changed the future, and the second terminator movie featured Skynet (v2) sending back 2 Terminators instead of 1 - the first went on it's (known to be futile) mission to kill Sarah, the second went to kill John.
    – Jeff
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 18:26
  • @Jeff If you have knowledge of the actual past, there is no need to change it. T1 Skynet, being built on the leftovers from pre-T1 assassin, sent T-1000 to the only known location of Sarah. It could've idled around the factory where the arm was found, but didn't know Sarah would be there. Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 17:49

My personal view of that "universe" is that time mutates, it's written that skynet must rise - hence it does despite the attempts to make it not do so. John Connor must also come to fruition, hence he does. Skynet probably tried killing Sarah Connor's grandmother, hence someone else became Sarah Connor's grandmother. Tried killing Sarah in the womb, hence the 2nd daughter became Sarah Connor. Time mutates, until the milestones are achieved.

Do I have any evidence of this? No. But we're still discussing how things came to be despite all the effort put in. Skynet was killed/stopped/halted/detoured/delayed how many times now? and yet it still happens. John Conner also happens, again despite all the effort put into him not doing so.

Rereading this: "Time" might trigger some, timeline of the story told might be a better description.

  • We're looking for canonically backed answer to answer the questions users pose. Head canon or speculative evidence is not very useful.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 9:54

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