This question is aimed at Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Would one think that he was weighing the decision that "It is either that this T-800 could end up going rogue" or "It is worth a shot or else I would have to send a human back again and this time another Terminator (what we come to find is the T-1000) would be way too advanced for a human to fight."

Is there any explanation in sources (particularly the novel or from James Cameron) on why John would risk doing this?

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    Worst case scenario if sending a human against the T-1000: human gets squished, as well as young John. Probability: 99,99%. Worst case scenario if sending a (presumably well) reprogrammed T-800 against the T-1000: young John gets squished. Probability: <99% if your hacker knows their job. Seems pretty straightforward?
    – Jenayah
    Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 12:40
  • Jenayah: Not hacker, the chip being self aware itself. Something tells me that a Skynet microchip is susceptible to going rogue by itself. The whole cybernetic organism is basically advanced AI. Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 22:56
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    "Something tells me that a Skynet microchip is susceptible to going rogue by itself." I'm gonna turn this back on you. "Is there any explanation in sources (particularly the novel or from James Cameron)" to suggest that a Skynet microchip is susceptible to going rogue by itself? Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 14:42
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    @Gregor - Well, Skynet itself was a system that went rogue. I think that speaks to the possibility of its systems going rogue. Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 20:08
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    Skynet "doesn't want you to do too much thinking". It's a "learning computer" but the default when sent out alone is read-only. Terminator 2 deleted scenes
    – Mazura
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 2:24

3 Answers 3


The film's official novelisation gives us the only answer that could possibly suffice. John Connor sent the T-800 back in time to protect his younger self...because he remembered being rescued by one when he was his younger self.

They passed numerous galleries filled with hulking machines, now cold and motionless; a vast library of strategic technology Skynet had designed and built. Even John’s vaunted techs would need years to study it all. And once having deciphered the machines’ functions, John would have to decide whether to destroy them, or trust that the new society rising up from the ashes could use them responsibly.

He had no information to guide him in this, no memories of the past resonating with his future. On what happens after today, John didn’t have a clue. But as he walked up to a massive steel door, the memories of the past flooded into his present. John knew he was looking at the door of fate. He knew that behind it he would find what he was looking for: the final answer to the question that had haunted him all his life. Was all of it true? Even to the last?

It's not clear if this is a stable time loop (in which case, there doesn't need to be an original causation) or whether the earlier (later?) John had a different motivation.

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    I'd also add, because he knew that getting to know that machine would be/was a major asset later/earlier in the war when he needed to understand them - mentally and physically. Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 22:49
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    This is technically the correct answer. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy in the original continuity. Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 23:21
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    @MarkRogers it also plays nicely with how time travel worked in the first movie. It's all a loop, apparently. There are definitely other problems with time travel, however, at least there is consistency between the two installments in this regard.
    – VLAZ
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 5:23
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    I'd note the extended version (that I watched yesterday) adds a scene with old Sarah in 2029 explaining how they saved the day, the nuclear war didn't happen, and John is a US Senator. It would seem paradoxical to me for him to remember T-800. Although I'd also note that ending doesn't address the T-800 arm they leave behind in that steel mill, even though half the movie is spent trying to destroy the T-800 arm from the previous movie. Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 14:27
  • @AmiralPatate They took that arm to be thorough; their objective was to stop reverse engineering of the CPU. Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 12:39

In the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles episode "Today is the Day (part 2)", young John Connor answers this question in a speech he makes to Jesse.

You know, I've been running from the machines my whole life. They tried to kill my mom before I was even born. When I was twelve they sent one after me. I was a kid. I was stupid. I didn't know what it was all about. Both times future me sent someone back to stop them. The first time it was a soldier. His name was Kyle Reese. And he died saving my mother's life. The second time it was a machine. I used to wonder why I did that, why I took that chance. I don't wonder anymore.

Human beings can't be replaced. They can't be rebuilt. They die and they never come back.

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    This seems to be just a fanciful retcon from a separate source (canonicity regardless), when the official novelisation has its own explanation which is at least more directly related, as cited in Valorum's answer.
    – Nij
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 5:13
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    @Nij There's nothing wrong with answering a question using information that comes to light later, retcon or not. Addressing characterization and continuity questions is one of the reasons why retcons happen in the first place.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 16:43
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    @Nij, the neat thing is that the two reasons (in Kyle's answer and Valorum's) aren't mutually contradictory in the slightest. He was willing to risk it in the first place because people die, but machines can be rebuilt/replaced. He knew it could succeed, because remembered that it was done, so he did it. (Note: I say 'could', because remembering that one was sent to save him doesn't mean that the one in Valorum's answer was necessarily the one that was sent and succeeded. Older John could have sent dozens, but only one found younger John. Younger John would never know that.) Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 20:15

There is a third possibility: simple escalation.

As an adult having both grown up with Sarah's stories and having seen what the more advanced cyborgs could do as a child, John would have known that leaving his past-self defenseless against an advanced future weapon would be both dangerous and foolhardy, and that his chances of survival would increase if he sent back some other type of weapon to even the playing field.

"Pops", the T-800 which became Sarah's protector, was simply one off the assembly line...and is a possible alternate universe version of the same T-800 which would eventually have been sent back to protect John himself. So in truth, there are hundreds or maybe even thousands of T-800s with that particular face and body which could have been used. In the second movie, it was stated that that specific unit [we'll say "Pops" for clarification against the others] was "reprogrammed" to be used as a Protector.We have seen humans reprogram Skynet tech of various forms for their own use in Terminator: Salvation. As Kyle is still a teenager, it's clear that this point of the future is set some time before Kyle could father John, so it may simply be that they only had the programming tech necessary to hack an 800 model or below. By the time the T-1000 was deployed, the Resistance may not have been able yet to fully control a liquid metal nano-tech Terminator, but still needed to send some Terminator as a counter measure.

Again, this makes logical sense; sending a human back resulted in Sarah just barely surviving, so obviously something with a bit more power needed to be used. Without wrapping them in human flesh, sending weapons back is impossible, and they'd likely end up in the wrong hands. Sending back a thinking machine which could double as a guardian and a weapon, however, while also being somewhat of an exception to the rule is sensible.

There is another, also likely answer: simple availability.

In most of the future scenes shown in T2, the most numerous and commonly used combat Terminators by far are the T-800; we see them stepping on skulls and massacring hordes of soldiers on a few occasions. Obviously, it was mass produced, so it's likely this is the unit the Resistance had the most opportunity to study to facilitate their reprogramming. From there, it was a simple matter of gaining a fully cyberized version [likely one mass produced with Pops' face], resetting the programming, and sending it out. In hindsight, it might have made more sense to send a T-1000 to defend against a T-1000, but in that film it was stated to be a "new model", so it was either rare at that point, or they hadn't deciphered how to reprogram one yet.

If that was the case, John simply would have gone with what was available.

All subsequent appearances of Pops, however, would then be influenced by John's memories of the specific model; even Pops himself alluded to it being "a face John would trust" in the second film. And in the third film, they were banking on John recognizing his former protector and thus trusting him/it more off the bat. I can't speak to how the latest films may alter that continuity.

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