Is Sarah Connor oblivious to the chance that if she prevents the creation of Skynet, that her son John Connor might cease to exist?

Without Skynet, there will be no time machine, no terminator sent back to kill her, and subsquently, no Kyle Reese sent back to father her child.

This concept is also apparently lost on the characters in the Sarah Connor Chronicles.

  • Probably she thought herself that skyned would have already sent something to "future" and still connor lives. She thought that even going "future" did not help, going "backward" in time would not help too!(creating parallel universe and not changing the current universe). Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 11:08
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    It's this sort of question that makes me dislike time travel plots so much.
    – DWin
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 22:04
  • I do not think Sarah really cared about John Connor. John Connor was just a pregnancy mistake by Reece when they had sex that night. Of course, when she understands the purpose of what she is therefore and THEN she gets pregnant, she probably understand that this baby, named by her as John, would be something in the future. Commented Jun 16, 2019 at 13:49

7 Answers 7


No, he would not - because in the past of the "now" timeline, Reese appearing has happened. It can't be (easily) undone.

According to the Sarah Connor Chronicles, time travel in the Terminator universe works along some variation of the many-worlds interpretation (and is implicitly supported by the fact that John still exists as of T-3, even though that's a different timeline1).

However, it's a very odd variant that suggests time travel into the past is actually pretty restricted by the in-universe laws of physics - you can't go to whenever you want to, which would explain why only a couple of Terminators went after the Connors.

The following is theory based around what shows up in the 4 movies and the TV series.

  1. Prior to T-1, there was a "most likely future". This is where Reese and the Terminator came from.
    • Time travel from possible futures that occur when the "present" is after this point cannot alter this event. You can consider it similar to Doctor Who's concept of "fixed points in time".
  2. Due to the events of T-1, the "most likely future" between T-1 and T-2 is now something different. As I mentioned in my other answer, the Terminator from T-2 did not come from the same Skynet as the one in T-1.
    • The events of T-1 after Reese's arrival have already changed the future. By the logic of the question, he and John should already have blinked out of existence.
    • The events of the "most likely future" prior to T-1, the future that Reese was from, still happened - it's just that, that particular section of the timeline is inaccessible from the current "present".
  3. Timelines continue shifting around like that between T-2 and either T-3 or TSCC, depending on which route through the timelines you want to take

The above theory is supported by TSCC where, at one point, we have two people currently in the present that had time-traveled from different futures. Their memories (including the date of J-Day, if I recall) didn't match up.

On the other hand, there is one point in TSCC that don't quite jive with what I've described here:

  • There was a terminator that arrived nearly a century too far in the past. His target wasn't any of the Connors, but a politician. He became a businessman, built a building, went into suspend mode inside that building, and waited for the politician to be born and have his life on-track to be in that building at a specific date and time, so that the Terminator could assassinate him.
    • This seems to only work if the timeline did not shift drastically upon that Terminator's arrival. However, given the extreme time span between his arrival and the change he intended to make, that could be enough time for events to smooth out. Cameron also put a stop to that plan before it could be carried out, also possibly preventing a timeline split.

1 For why we know it's a different timeline, see this post.

Finally, and put last because it's less fun, we have Word of God:

  • Anton Yelchin talks about his character, Kyle Reese's origins, and the original timeline he came from in The Terminator. "When Connor sent Kyle back, that was a world in which Kyle wasn't Connor's father. So when he sent him back, it then started this chain of the Connor that you have in [all the sequels] where Kyle Reese is his father — it'll be interesting how they tackle that [in future sequels] if we ever get to a point we have to send [Kyle] back."
  • McG states that Terminator Salvation uses "... the spirit of parallel worlds, as theorized by Einstein. We try to pay attention to that approach to a fundamentally theoretical construct."3 This allows Skynet to be aware of the other attempts on the life of John Connor, and allows it make plans based on it's past successes and failures. This likely explains why Skynet would lure John into combat against the T-800 Model 101, because it is the model that managed to successfully kill him in a different future on July 4, 2032.
  • McG goes on to discuss what would happen if Kyle were killed in Terminator Salvation, and the repercussions it would have on the timeline. "Will he be erased in the photograph, like in “Back to the Future”? That’s an excellent question that theorists have been bandying about for the ages. We play it more simply. Kyle Reese must be kept alive, so he can be sent back in time from 2029 to protect Sarah Connor, impregnate her and she’ll give birth to John Connor who will save us all. And the simplest way to understand that is to protect the triangle of Kyle, John, and Sarah. Any deconstruction of that leads to more headache than satisfaction."

Note that the 2nd bullet point I have copied here (it's the 3rd on the wikia page) indicates that the different versions of Skynet from the future are interacting with each other - the newer versions are learning from the Terminators left in the past by the older versions. Further evidence that neither Reese nor John would simply disappear.

  • Ok, this helps my understanding. A couple things I'm still confused about, though - how do the events in T1 change the future? I mean, the photo that's taken of Sarah at the end of T1 is identical to the one Kyle had in the future. I took that to imply that it did not change anything. Also, did Sarah just not understand how time travel works when she told John on the tape that if he didn't send Kyle, he could never be? Because according to the logic that you gave, not sending Kyle wouldn't cause John not to exist, since Kyle was already in the past and is able to defeat the T-800.
    – Chris Carr
    Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 22:30
  • @ChrisCarr That weirdness was introduced by the existence of sequels: T1 was written as an entirely self-contained stable time loop that was never supposed to have a sequel. It wasn't until T2 was made that they established there was any change, so nowadays we have to kind of explain it away as Sarah/Kyle just not fully understanding how time travel worked.
    – Izkata
    Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 13:38

Perhaps the time line in Terminator goes off the multiverse theory where all decisions make an alternate universe.

Perhaps that stopping Skynet would create an alternate timeline that would then allow for any paradoxes to be completed.

  • It doesn't even require multi-verses. In some theories, the universe "unwinds" back to the time transfer and re-starts from that point. See John Cramer's Einstein's Bridge or Patrick Hogan's Thrice Upon a Time. Cramer's book is newer and the theory better explained. Commented Aug 24, 2012 at 2:32

Effectively, no. The existence of Skynet may have been the original logic behind the sending of Kyle Reese back in time, but if it did not exist, there is no reason they couldn't send Kyle Reese back anyway.

This has been discussed some previously - Asmor's comment on Why did the quality of terminators increase from movies 1 to 3? says "Every time they send someone back in time, it changes the future timeline, so the Skynet that sent the T-1000 in Terminator 2 never actually sent that first T-850."

Conceptually, we are presented with the events as they occur on a particular timeline, and the ontological paradoxes introduced effectively mean that while the future is changing, the past (as it is presented to us, at least) is not. Logically this means that the point in the future where each Terminator is sent to the past changes every time the future changes, and who sent it back may even change.

Logically this may also mean that if the Connors ever eventually succeeded in preventing Skynet from being created at all, they would still have to send to original T-850 back in time to attempt to kill Sarah Connor, in order to keep the current timeline they created (in which there is no Skynet) stable.

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    Wouldn't it be something if the man behind SkyNet was John Connor, who had to create it in order to insure his own existance. Commented Dec 8, 2011 at 17:17
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    I think this answer is halfway there. The movies and the TV show both agree that the future is changing, but the past is not - the timelines are branching, and it's the branches that are no longer accessible from the "present" that sent the T-850 and Kyle Reese. They don't have to be sent from the current timeline because they came from a different one.
    – Izkata
    Commented Aug 18, 2012 at 0:35

There is a presumption here, that Kyle Reese was John Connor's father in ALL timelines. You can make the entire paradox go poof if you assume that in the original timeline, John Connor's father was someone else. After Kyle Reese came back, he (or more likely the entire Terminator affair) displaced the man in Sarah Connor's life who was originally John's father. Yes, this means that the John Connor subsequent to Terminator is a different John Connor in the original timeline - but perhaps what really mattered in John, he got from his mother.

So to answer your question: if you start with the premise that Kyle Reese was John Connor's one and only father, then - YES. If, above, etc. - NO.

  • Why is Kyle Reese's time travel dependent on Skynet's existence? Commented Sep 21, 2011 at 21:31
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    He has no reason or opportunity otherwise. Commented Sep 22, 2011 at 0:48
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    +1. I don't agree with you, but I'll give you points for an outside-the-box answer.
    – Neil
    Commented Sep 22, 2011 at 8:08
  • Assuming the premise that Kyle Reese was John Connor's one and only father - it's time-loop causality. The reason to send Kyle Reese back in time to become John Connor's father is because he is John Connor's father, and has to be sent back in time in order for that timeline to exist. Commented Sep 22, 2011 at 12:47
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    And toss in a bit of Fridge Logic: No wonder the actor for John Connor kept changing...
    – Izkata
    Commented Aug 18, 2012 at 0:39

I just add this from Terminator wikia, John Connor article, Paradox Theory section:

Many people believe that Kyle Reese is John Connor's father, which would create a paradox: John must send Kyle back in time so that he can exist to defeat Skynet and send Kyle back to protect his mother in the first place. But this opens up the potential that John may have had another father, as otherwise he may not have existed in the original timeline (i.e. a timeline prior to TDE existing). This leads many fans to one of four possible options that:

  1. The man that Sarah was dating in the first film, Stan Morski is the true biological father of John Connor. However, there is no evidence that Sarah and Stan were actually involved, only that they had a date (which he canceled).
  2. Kyle Reese was sent back in a different timeline to alter the future outcome against Skynet and John Connor was born then creating the timeline in which John led humanity to victory against Skynet and sent Kyle back to protect his mother and ensure his survival.
  3. Without presuming temporal intervention as some part of the unaltered original timeline that somehow gave rise to the first "John Connor, Leader of the Resistance" before anyone went back in time. Given that Sarah was basically just out there dating, any of a dozen one-night stands or blind dates could certainly have led to a pregnancy. And the "flake" nature of the guys she was dating (or blind-dating like Morsky) can easily lead to Sarah being a single mother. So could whatever hook-up she may have made with any unnamed stranger in Club Noir as a rebound for Morsky breaking their date. Since without TDE intervention, no one was coming to the club to kill her that night. Perhaps it is this original situation that leads to Sarah abandoning the conventional lifestyle of College, Waitressing, and City life to somehow become a recluse militant survivalist on her own, placing her in a position to be John's mentor through the unaltered original timeline Judgment Day that has to have happened prior to any TDE intervention.
  4. The whole entire theory of a paradox is untrue just alternate universes all together exist even without the same events happening, this comes from the fact that the Terminator 3's T-850 is from a world where John Connor went to a basement and hooked up with future wife Kate Brewster. However this was not shown in T2, and was only mentioned in T3. As in the first film Kyle mentioned that John Connor was the leader of the resistance, but as soon as the T-800 Terminator and Kyle Reese go back to 1984 (originally John's father would be someone else) an altered timeline is in which Kyle Reese is John's father is created. To make it more confusing, in Terminator Salvation John Connor thinks that if Kyle Reese (his father) dies in the present, he would not exist; this is untrue as he already does exist, it just means that John Connor will have to send someone else back to 1984 to protect his mother, and his father would be someone else, it also might mean that he might not exist in an alternate reality at all.

Without time travel, there is no knowing if John Connor would exists, but we do know that Kyle Reese Couldn't be the father. For all we know, Sarah Connor is killed by a drunk driver that night on her way home if Kyle Reese cannot be there to meet her at the club.

The question asserts that without SkyNet, time travel wouldn't exist. Time travel and SkyNet are mutually exclusive. SkyNet could have been stopped and a normal future would result, however, time travel could still be discovered in the late 2020's by humans (lord knows we have enough scientists looking into it right now!). In this altered future, Kyle Reese would live in a timeline where he might be capable of traveling back to the 1980s, meeting Sarah, and having a child.


if the Terminator the unit that was sent Sarah Connor after first film had succeeded in killinhg Sarah Connor then skynet would not exist. because if the Terminator unit had not been destroyed leveling it arm to be found by a military engineer to reverse engineer. Terminator unit would not be reverse engineered from. so skynet would not exist in the first place

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