A comment to this question raised a point I always found weird as well:

Why would Skynet send back one terminator to 1984, one to 1992 and three hundred terminators to 2007? That was never explained.

Answers only bases in canon please, no guesses.

  • 1
    Wait, 300? Someone made a list in one of their answers on another question, and it came out to something like 20 total, almost all of which weren't going after John Connor.
    – Izkata
    Sep 27, 2012 at 1:37
  • 2
    Got it - I'll see if I can base an answer off of it =P
    – Izkata
    Sep 27, 2012 at 1:42
  • @Izkata - I am guessing "300" was a hyperbole, not an actual estimate in the comment. Good point about the count in the existing Q. Sep 27, 2012 at 1:44
  • 2
    I don't have Word of God for canon, but SCC introduced the idea that that Machines were pursuing a number of operations unrelated to assassination. It looks like the Machines were hedging their bets if they were unable to kill Connor, and had deployed a lot of resources to just a few years before Judgment Day. They were pursuing other targets, taking down a reactor, etc. That the Connors ended up in the line of fire was incidental. Sep 27, 2012 at 2:18
  • @ChrisB.Behrens I suspect assassinating John and his generals made for a good cover story as to why Skynet was using a time machine. Oct 8, 2014 at 13:38

3 Answers 3


So, using another answer as a source, there weren't nearly that many in SCC. The focus of the movies and the series are different, so it had more range of freedom in exploring the world - when on the run as in the movies, there isn't nearly as much time to go on the offensive, as they did in the series. (And I mean "offensive" in terms of stopping Skynet from being formed, not in attacking the Terminator currently after them)

Sarah Connor Chronicles, Season 1

  • Cameron and Cromartie - The protector/terminator of John Connor that parallels the movies
  • Vick Chamberlain's goal was to ensure Skynet would get created. He was to get close to Barbara Chamberlain, one of the key people who created Skynet in that timeline.
    • Would not have been encountered when in the "defensive" mindset.
  • Carter's goal was to protect what would become the endoskeleton factory.
    • Would not have been encountered when in the "defensive" mindset.

Sarah Connor Chronicles, Season 2

  • Catherine Weaver, on the side of the Resistance (sort of).
    • Was avoiding contact with the Connors as long as possible.
  • Carl Greenway replaced the real Carl Greenway and existed solely to ensure that the Serrano Point Nuclear Power Plant would be a failure, so that he Resistance couldn't use it in the future.
    • Would not have been encountered when in the "defensive" mindset.
  • The James Ellison replacement was an unusually inept Terminator, and was focused on replacing Ellison for unknown reasons.
    • Would likely not have been encountered when in the "defensive" mindset. However, its goal may have been to use the Ellison persona to get near the Connors, in which case, they would have encountered him.
  • Myron Stark's goal was to kill New York governor Mark Wyman.
    • Would not have been encountered when in the "defensive" mindset.
  • The Bedell Terminator's primary goal was to kill Martin Bedell. It did have a secondary objective to kill John Connor, though.
    • If he succeeded in killing Bedell, would likely have gone after John later.
  • The "Water Delivery Guy" was trying to terminate Catherine Weaver.
    • Would not have been encountered when in the "defensive" mindset.
  • Rosie's objective is unknown, just that it had something to do with Dr. Boyd Sherman
    • Would likely not have been encountered when in the "defensive" mindset, since IIRC it was only through going after the Turk that they encountered each other.
  • The Fields Terminator had the exact same mission as the Terminator from the original movie: Kill the mother before the kid can be born. But it was the Fields family, not the Connors.
    • Would not have been encountered when in the "defensive" mindset.
  • Unknown Terminator remains were shown to Ellison by Weaver, in a picture from 2002, roughly 6 years before that episode takes place.
    • Not encountered at all.

From this list, we only have 3 terminators that are known to have an objective involving John Connor, and a couple more that might have encountered the Connors.

One of the key differences in the Sarah Connor Chronicles from the movies is that they're no longer simply on the run from the Terminator currently after them - thanks to the time jump forward in the first episode, Cameron gave them freedom and, because she wasn't destroyed in the process, was able to impart some extra knowledge that allowed them to go on the offensive. Most of these Terminators would not have been encountered if they were still in a purely defensive "save John Connor" mindset.

Also mentioned in the series is that both Skynet and the Resistance are sending people all throughout the past century or so in an attempt to shift the timeline in their favor. If you accept SCC as canon (rather than solely T-3), it's fully possible that Skynet was sending Terminators into the past during the events of T-1 and T-2, but because the focus of those movies was on protecting John Connor, it just never came up.

So 3ish Terminators being sent to kill John Connor still seems rather high, right? Well, not quite:

  • Cromartie was sent in 1999
  • The Ellison replacement, the Bedell Terminator, and Rosie were all sent to 2008, and we don't really know for certain their goal was to kill John Connor.

9 years is a fairly decent gap.

  • 2
    I also admit to it having been quite a while since I've seen the movies, but I do vaguely remember them going on the offensive in T-2, when they went after the hand that was left over at Cyberdyne. But that was just their own cleanup - they weren't really using information from the future, like they could in SCC
    – Izkata
    Sep 27, 2012 at 2:49
  • Do you have specific quote for "Also mentioned in the series is that both Skynet and the Resistance are sending people all throughout the past century or so in an attempt to shift the timeline in their favor."? To be honest, that quote would have been the main thing in your entire answer as it directly addresses the discrepancy I asked about Sep 27, 2012 at 10:26
  • @DVK Unfortunately, I no longer have the series, so I can't look for the quotes myself. I think it was either in the pilot or the first episodes Vick or Carter appeared in - the phrase would be something along the lines of "John Connor is only one front in the war".
    – Izkata
    Sep 27, 2012 at 12:41
  • It's been a while, but I think it's been in the pilot, where they said they sent multiple people back with parts for the time machine. Although don't quote me on that, because I've never had that huge interest in the actual series (I still prefer the first two movies).
    – Mario
    Sep 27, 2012 at 12:49
  • Also, killing Bedell would result into the capture of John Connor early in the war. So, the real goal of The Bedell Terminator was to indirectly put Connor out of harm's way.
    – DavRob60
    Sep 27, 2012 at 13:59

My theory is that Skynet learned that playing with time travel could be dangerous for itself and alter is development.

Skynet's creation was dangerously compromised by the chain of event of Terminator 2. Sure, sending the first Terminator boosted it's development with the research made by Cyberdyne Systems on the salvaged chip. But, is the Skynet resulting from this time-line the same as the original one? Probably not.

Skynet figured that out by the time it reach T:SCC timeline, so it decided to avoid to interfere with it's own development. However, it judged sending Terminators back in 2007 didn't affect his development since it was too advanced to be significantly changed.

  • "So, instead of trying to drastically alter the future, as Chris B. Behrens mentioned in his comment, it tried to get a tactical advantage over the human resistance by a series of smaller missions." Isn't it essentially the same in the first three movies? None of the protagonists is actively trying to influence Skynet's creation until a Terminator shows up. Also none of the Terminators is actively trying to protect or force the creation of Skynet. It just aligns with their goals of stopping the Connors, essentially creating an advantage in the future as well.
    – Mario
    Sep 27, 2012 at 12:52
  • Yeah, but by doing it earlier in the history, it made John Connor and is mother aware of it's existence and put it's creation in jeopardy. So, altering the past too early was proven too dangerous and the final result where too unpredictable. Killing John Connor would drastically alter the sequence of events in the whole war. The 2007 missions are more surgical maneuver, to subtly change the outcome of singles battles. However, killing John Connor remain an objective for must of the Terminators sent in 2007.
    – DavRob60
    Sep 27, 2012 at 13:55
  • I removed the last line, because it was moving the focus out of the main point. Skynet wanted to alter the future, but not too much.
    – DavRob60
    Sep 27, 2012 at 14:08

I'm sorry but there doesn't seem to be a real canon reason for this. Either time travel and terminators are readily available or they are so rare that they must be used only for vital missions. The two apporaches don't line up without a big fudge.

We know the real reason is that there's a difference between movies and TV shows so we'll just have to put up with this as it stands.

  • Both could co-exist as long as Skynet doesn't prematurely trigger a war with humanity. Oct 8, 2014 at 13:57

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