At the end of T2: Judgement day, when Sarah Connor lowers the T-101 into the molten steel; how is that that the T-101 just allows her to do this? Would that not be forcing itself to self-terminate?

It's understandable that the T-101 could not just jump into the molten steel because that would be self-terminating. But isn't allowing someone to help in the assistance of self-terminating the same thing?

Calculations that had to have been going through its head. "Well, I am allowing Sarah Connor to help me self-terminate. Override. I am allowing her to...override." Etc.

  • 5
    Computer logic being rather specific, "don't harm yourself" is different to "don't allow yourself to be harmed by others"
    – Adeptus
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 4:56
  • Funny thing is, I found that through the entire movie, the T-101 never selected only John Connor to listen to or did it? If John ordered it NOT to go, it technically should have stayed. Also, Sarah Connor was the individual who helped him self-terminate. Why would it still allow someone else, knowing that John Connor was not the one, to help lower him into the steel? Crazy right? Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 4:59
  • I think the idea was that thanks to having his learning ability turned on he was developing a degree of free will, allowing him to act beyond his programming, at least to some extent.
    – Joe L.
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 5:44
  • 1
    Hw wouldn't get into robot Heaven.
    – Daft
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 10:31
  • Joe L. And we all know what would happen if it became self aware. Bad terminator. Dum dum DUMMMMMM! Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 12:32

2 Answers 2


The Terminator was initially programmed to follow John Connor's orders with the explicit remit of keeping John safe from harm ("My mission is to protect you") unless ordered otherwise (“You have to do what I say?” “That is one of the mission parameters.”).

When John placed the Terminator's CPU into read/write mode, he created a situation where the machine was able to start thinking for itself and becoming self-aware, something that Skynet was evidently against.

By the end, it's clear from both the script and screenplay that the Terminator has begun to exceed its initial programming. It has gained an awareness of human emotion (and in the novelisation begun to have outright feelings) and has realised that its continued existence puts John at greater threat. On top of that, it openly ignores its own primary directive by disobeying a direct order from John not to allow itself to be destroyed.

It appears that the proscription from self-termination is hardwired into the Terminator in a way that can't be immediately overwritten but that there's nothing to stop it from allowing itself to be terminated, especially given that doing so will enable it to keep John safe.

Note that in each of the novelisation, the original screenplay and the finalised shooting script, the terminator does self-terminate, throwing itself into the molten steel. The line about not being able to kill itself (and the scene where the Terminator is lowered into the steel) seem to have been inserted later on.


SARAH : Are you afraid?


He turns and steps off the edge. They watch him sink into the lava. He disappears... the metal hand sinking last... at the last second it forms into a fist with the thumb extended... a final thumbs up. Then it is gone. Terminator Shooting Script Rev. 2

Frakes Novel

“No. There was another chip.”
He touched a metal finger to the side of his head.
Terminator looked at Sarah. They both knew what must be done.
John’s eyes went wide as he suddenly understood what he meant. He shook his head as his eyes began to fill with tears. “No!”

Terminator faced John. A hideous visage, with all the punishment it had taken, but somehow noble ...kind.

The man/machine said, “I have to go away, John.
It must end here ... or I am the future.” It turned a little so that the battered human side of his face was in shadow. John saw the chrome skull and the red eye.

Still, John pleaded, “Don’t do it. Please ... it’ll be okay. Stay with us—”

Terminator put his hand on John’s shoulder. “I must complete my mission.” And as he said that, the human side of his face came back into the light. He reached toward John and his metal finger touched the tear trickling down his cheek.

It was the revelation.

“I know now why you cry, although it is something I can never do.”

He turned to Sarah and said, “Good-bye.”

“Are you afraid?”

There was the briefest instant before he responded.

“Yes,” he said. Not because he was going to cease functioning as a terminator, but because he had sensed a vision beyond his programming of a cosmic order vast beyond even Skynet’s comprehension. And it gave him the sense of his first feeling.


Of where he was going next, if anywhere.

Of course, he hadn’t been asked for further details on his answer, so he didn’t say any of this. He simply turned and stepped off the edge.

As Terminator fell, time stretched, and a flash of light engulfed his mind. He was floating down a tunnel, following the flash of light into something like oblivion.

Or salvation.

The artificial brain was seared when the chassis hit the molten steel. Almost all electrical activity was stopped.

  • This is a very good answer. The other answer did add in that it may have been for a more dramatic effect to get the audience into feeling for the machine, like John did. Anywho, thanks! Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 1:02
  • @ArvinGBorkar - I'm assuming test audiences wanted him to die in a more dramatic fashion. Suicide (even of a machine) isn't the most fun to watch.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 1:02

I think it was a fairly simple matter for it - somewhere in its programming was obviously a very cardinal instruction not to 'self terminate'. Asimov explains his own version of this same law by tying it to the very valuable and expensive piece of equipment that a robot represents - the investment its owners have made. Skynet probably thought along the same lines.

However Connor had reprogrammed the model to obey his commands and more importantly to remove itself from the time line assuming its mission was successful. Therefore - the expected, lethal resistance to being terminated by a third party was removed, but not the underlying and very deeply buried rule not to self-terminate in the first place... The desire for self-preservation is supposedly similarly deeply-ingrained inhuman psychology. You could perhaps explain it in narrative terms as having something to do with the limited time Connor had to reprogramme an obsolete model he just happened to have on hand to frustrate the T1000 he already knew had been sent back to murder him. Maybe he could only strip away the logic that made it obey skynet - or perhaps he could just swap the existing compulsion to obey skynet's commands to one that obeyed his own... Really though it was a weak point in the script - or a cynical one. Cameron knew it would be a really good tear-jerker to end on, but maybe the idea of suicide was not so rosy. Therefore a heroic sacrifice - from a machine - for the good of humanity.

  • Good answer. I would have thought along the same lines as well. Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 1:01

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