THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

He'll be back...and back...and back

May 21, 2009, when 'Terminator Salvation' opens, is just the latest in a long list of dates in the killer-cyborg timeline

By Tom Russo
Globe Correspondent / May 17, 2009
  • Email|
  • Print|
  • Reprints|
  • |
Text size +

"The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make." So goes the mantra of the "Terminator" franchise - a message that time-hopping future soldier Kyle Reese shares with Sarah Connor to help her keep getting out of bed in the morning when she'd rather just say, Annnh, it's the apocalypse. Call in sick.

Of course, this theme has also given license to James Cameron and the directors and writers who've followed him to treat continuity like something as ridiculously malleable as that liquid-metallic T-1000. (It probably hasn't helped that seemingly half the production outfits in Hollywood have at some point called the shots for the 25-year-old series.) Here's a timeline tracing how the various pieces of "Terminator" mythology fit together — or don't — from the original installment to the cancellation-threatened TV incarnation to this week's new big-screen relaunch, "Terminator Salvation."

1984
An inexplicably accented Terminator cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger, below) is sent back through time from the year 2029. His mission: Kill LA fashion victim Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton, left) before she can conceive her son, John, eventual leader of the human resistance against the sentient machines ruling the world. The daddy of Sarah's baby? The adult John's lieutenant, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn, left, with Hamilton) — shipped from the future like the ultimate mail-order man-bride. ("The Terminator," 1984)

2.28.85
John Connor born, according to police records. ("Terminator 2: Judgment Day," 1991)

Circa 1995
John Connor (Eddie Furlong), now age 10, and his mom are stalked by a new T-1000 Terminator prototype (Robert Patrick). Fortunately, John's 45-year-old future self reprograms the original T-101 model (Schwarzenegger) to help him bid hasta la vista, baby, to the bad guy. ("T2")

8.4.97
Cyberdyne Systems' Skynet, the advanced military computer behind the Terminators' rise, goes online. ("T2")

8.29.97
Skynet becomes selfaware (oops!), and wages nuclear war against humankind. Warns Sarah (Hamilton), "Anyone not wearin' 2 million sunblock is gonna have a real bad day!" Or would have, at least, if the Connors hadn't succeeded in preemptively destroying the technology (read: junk salvaged from the pulverizing "T1" finale) used to develop Skynet. ("T2")

1997
Per her grave marker (and her son's exposition), Sarah Connor dies following a three-year battle with leukemia. ("Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," 2003)

1999
Sarah Connor (Lena Headey) lives(!) under the radar with teen-emo John (Thomas Dekker), until they're discovered and a slinky new guardian-angel Terminator (Summer Glau) helps them flee to 2007. ("Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," 2008-09)

2003
(Or is it 2005? 2007? The dates don't fully compute) — A 20-something, perpetually jittery John Connor (Nick Stahl, above left) and future wife Kate Brewster (Claire Danes) are visited by a new, enigmatically reprogrammed T-101 (Schwarzenegger, above center, mere months away from the Governator's office). Connor: "You shouldn't even exist! We took out Cyberdyne over 10 years ago. We stopped Judgment Day!" Terminator: "You only postponed it." Enter the Terminatrix (Kristanna Loken) to kill some time before the nukes do go off, as an alternate Skynet is activated and achieves self-awareness within an hour. ("T3")

4.21.2011
Judgment Day, per TV. ("Sarah Connor Chronicles")

2018
A hardened John Connor, now as nuttily intense as, well, Christian Bale (below), tangles with "old-school" hardware like the pre-Arnold T-600 Terminator, and bonds with a young Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin). ("Terminator Salvation")

2029
John Connor's army has Skynet on the brink of defeat, prompting the machines' temporal Hail Mary. ("The Terminator")

7.4.2032
In offscreen action, John Connor is assassinated by a T-101 who buddies up to him by exploiting sunny memories of the "no problemo" days. His widow, Kate, subsequently reprograms the cyborg to go protect their younger selves. Yet again, he'll be back. . . . ("T3")

1984

An inexplicably accented Terminator cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger, below) is sent back through time from the year 2029. His mission: Kill LA fashion victim Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton, left) before she can conceive her son, John, eventual leader of the human resistance against the sentient machines ruling the world. The daddy of Sarah's baby? The adult John's lieutenant, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn, left, with Hamilton) - shipped from the future like the ultimate mail-order man-bride. ("The Terminator," 1984)

2.28.85

John Connor born, according to police records. ("Terminator 2: Judgment Day," 1991)

Circa 1995

John Connor (Eddie Furlong, above), now age 10, and his mom are stalked by a new T-1000 Terminator prototype (Robert Patrick, below). Fortunately, John's 45-year-old future self reprograms the original T-101 model (Schwarzenegger, below left) to help him bid hasta la vista, baby, to the bad guy. ("T2")

8.4.97

Cyberdyne Systems' Skynet, the advanced military computer behind the Terminators' rise, goes online. ("T2")

8.29.97

Skynet becomes self-aware (oops!), and wages nuclear war against humankind. Warns Sarah (Hamilton, left), "Anyone not wearin' 2 million sunblock is gonna have a real bad day!" Or would have, at least, if the Connors hadn't succeeded in preemptively destroying the technology (read: junk salvaged from the pulverizing "T1" finale) used to develop Skynet. ("T2")

1997

Per her grave marker (and her son's exposition), Sarah Connor dies following a three-year battle with leukemia. ("Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," 2003)

1999

Sarah Connor (Lena Headey) lives(!) under the radar with teen-emo John (Thomas Dekker), until they're discovered and a slinky new guardian-angel Terminator (Summer Glau, above) helps them flee to 2007. ("Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," 2008-09)

2003

(Or is it 2005? 2007? The dates don't fully compute) - A 20-something, perpetually jittery John Connor (Nick Stahl, above left) and future wife Kate Brewster (Claire Danes, above right) are visited by a new, enigmatically reprogrammed T-101 (Schwarzenegger, above center, mere months away from the Governator's office). Connor: "You shouldn't even exist! We took out Cyberdyne over 10 years ago. We stopped Judgment Day!" Terminator: "You only postponed it." Enter the Terminatrix (Kristanna Loken) to kill some time before the nukes do go off, as an alternate Skynet is activated and achieves self-awareness within an hour. ("T3")

4.21.2011

Judgment Day, per TV. ("Sarah Connor Chronicles")

2018

A hardened John Connor, now as nuttily intense as, well, Christian Bale (below), tangles with "old-school" hardware like the pre-Arnold T-600 Terminator, and bonds with a young Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin). ("Terminator Salvation")

2029

John Connor's army has Skynet on the brink of defeat, prompting the machines' temporal Hail Mary. ("The Terminator")

7.4.2032

In offscreen action, John Connor is assassinated by a T-101 who buddies up to him by exploiting sunny memories of the "no problemo" days. His widow, Kate, subsequently reprograms the cyborg to go protect their younger selves. Yet again, he'll be back. . . . ("T3")