A Series 800 terminator , a robot-only version of the cyborg played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In the Terminator film series, a terminator is an autonomous robot, typically humanoid, originally conceived as a virtually indestructible soldier and assassin, as well as an infiltrator.
James Cameron introduced the first terminator character in the 1984 movie The Terminator, featuring a single cyborg simply called “The Terminator”, portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. When later Terminator movies introduced additional models, some sources retroactively gave Schwarzenegger’s character a model number, leading to multiple conflicting names.
In the Terminator universe, the Terminator is a formidable “cybernetic organism”, robotic assassin and soldier, designed by the military supercomputer Skynet for infiltration and combat duty, towards the ultimate goal of exterminating the human resistance. It can speak naturally, copy the voices of others, read human handwriting, and even genuinely sweat, smell, and bleed. To detect the Terminators, who are otherwise indistinguishable from humans, the human resistance uses dogs to alert humans to their presence.
A trait persistent throughout the series is the faint red glow of the “eyes” when online, which dim to nothing when a Terminator shuts down. In all four movies, the lack of the glow has been used to show when one is out of action. The trait is so characteristic that light-up eyes are often found on Terminator merchandise, with some even replicating the dimming/re-illumination effect that occurs during shut down or start up.
Guardian Terminator Cameron Phillips states to John Connor in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles episode “The Mousetrap”, that Terminators’ densities deny them the ability to swim. T-888 Cromartie demonstrated in the same episode, however, that they can survive submerged and walk along the bed to the shore.
As seen in the movies, a Terminator can withstand standard 20th century firearms, crash through walls intact, and survive explosions to some degree. Repeated shotgun blasts have enough force to knock it down and temporarily disable it, while heavy amounts of automatic fire are able to compromise the organic disguise layer. In the second film, the Terminator says he can run for 120 years on his existing power cells. In the finale to Terminator 2, his power source is damaged, and he is able to find an alternate source, described on the DVD commentary as heat sinks, harnessing the thermal energy from the hot surroundings. In the third film, the T-850 series Terminator operates on two hydrogen cells and discards one of them early due to damage. It explodes shortly thereafter with enough force to produce a small mushroom cloud; the fact that many of them are powered by nuclear fuel cells is confirmed by the fourth film.
The endoskeleton is actuated by a powerful network of hydraulic servomechanisms, making Terminators superhumanly strong. For instance, in the third movie, Schwarzenegger’s character was able to break through a cement wall, while being able to handle firing a machine gun from the hip with one hand, while holding a coffin containing John Connor and a heavy cache of weapons, showing no signs of the extra weight being any real concern; in the second film, Schwarzenegger’s character was able to resist the recoil of firing a minigun without any noticeable difficulty.
Late in the first film, the Terminator is stripped of its organic elements by fire. What remains is the machine itself, in James Cameron’s own words “a chrome skeleton”, “like Death rendered in steel.” In the later Terminator films, armies of endoskeleton-only Terminators are seen. They are visually identical to the one in the first film, and feature prominently in the “future war” sequences of those films.
Despite what Kyle Reese claimed in the first film of “cyborgs do not feel pain,” in the second film it was revealed that they are capable of sensing injuries, which their datalines would indicate as pain, according to the Series 800 Model 101. In an episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, “Mr. Ferguson Is Ill Today,” which another cyborg, Cameron, revealed to have an intolerance to some degrees of temperature of its surrounding as humans do. Unlike humans, however, they are capable of resisting this discomfort sense. In the following episode, “Complications”, Cameron elaborates that Terminators can appreciate physical sensations such as the wind blowing through her hair and toes, and process them in a psychological manner. It is unclear if all series of Terminator are capable of appreciating sensory data like this or only Cameron’s series.
The Terminator CPU is a room-temperature superconducting artificial neural network with the ability to learn. In Terminator 2, The Terminator states that “the more contact [he] has with humans, the more [he] learns.” In the Special Edition, he says that Skynet “presets the switch to ‘read-only’ when [Terminators] are sent out alone”, to prevent them from “thinking too much”. Sarah and John activate his learning ability, after which he becomes more curious and begins trying to understand and imitate human behavior. This leads to his use of the catch phrase “Hasta la vista, baby.” A line spoken by the Terminator at the end of the movie indicates that Terminators may have the potential to understand emotion: “I know now why you cry, but it is something that I can never do.” Sarah muses in the closing narration that the Terminator had “learn[ed] the value of human life”.
Other Terminators place little or no value on life, and will pragmatically kill or injure without remorse in order to further their mission. Nevertheless, they do not kill nor cause injury for sport. When discussing a variation on the Blade Runner ‘tortoise test’ in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles episode, “Complications”, Cameron states that a tortoise did not pose a threat and “We are not programmed to be cruel,” implying that Terminators would right an overturned tortoise. Terminators had to be trained to torture – by humans, such as engineer/criminal Charles Fischer – as shown in “Complications”.
Terminators appear incapable of “self termination”, in Terminator 2 the badly damaged Terminator states this to Sarah before asking her to lower him into molten steel (so that his chip cannot be used to help create Skynet). Cameron is however able to place a destructive charge next to her chip, and entrusts John with the button that would immediately kill her if pressed. To prevent reprogramming of defeated Terminator, as the television series
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles episode “The Tower Is Tall But The Fall Is Short” reveals, Skynet treats later drones’ chips with a phosphorus compound which cause them to self destruct when their chips hit oxygen.
The flesh-covering that is used on the majority of Terminator models has similar qualities to real human muscle fibre and dermis, including soft tissue and skin, as well as the ability to sweat, simulate breathing and produce realistic body odor. Although Terminator flesh does contain blood, it only displays very minimal bleeding when damaged and has never been shown to experience any kind of profuse bleeding even from massive lacerations and dozens of gunshot wounds. It is unknown what manner of circulatory system, if any, is employed, nor what biological processes take place to sustain the flesh covering. James Cameron’s 1982 Treatment reveals, “it has to eat and breathe to keep the skin alive, though a lot less than us… and there’s a little tiny heart and internal organs about the size of a chicken’s in a recessed compartment.” At least some Terminator models can consume sustenance. Cameron eats a corn chip in the Sarah Connor Chronoicles pilot, and later a piece of a pancake. The liquid metal T-1001 is also shown to have this capability. The T-888s presumably consume food, given Vick Chamberlain’s ability to maintain a human cover for years while married to a human woman. Whether the T-888s, Cameron, and other flesh-covered Terminators process food to maintain their outer covering, or simply store the chewed food for later disposal, is currently unknown.
Under 2007-era analysis Terminator blood is shown to be similar to human blood, using a synthetic oxygen carrier rather than human red blood cells, as Terminator endoskeletons contain no bone marrow. Terminator flesh heals by itself, and at a much faster rate than normal human tissue and has never been shown to bruise or discolor from trauma, even after several days. However, a Terminator’s flesh covering can die if it sustains adequately massive damage, at which point it takes on a waxy, corpse-like pallor and begins to decompose. More advanced flesh use on T-888s appears to not suffer the effects of age or deprivation, as shown in the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles episode, “Self Made Man,” where a T-888 known as Myron Stark is able to maintain his organic covering while sealed within a wall for eighty years; no explanation for this ability was provided. Terminator flesh lacerations can be repaired; the T-800 and Sarah Connor closed each other’s wounds with sutures in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Cameron Phillips sealed her wounds with heavy duty staples in The Sarah Connor Chronicles episode “Samson and Delilah”.
Although clearly not the normal procedure, a bare T-888 endoskeleton was able to grow itself a new flesh covering using 2007 technology (with the assistance of a geneticist and its own knowledge of future formula) by submerging itself in a blood-like bath. This improvised process resulted in a deformed covering that had the appearance of a burn victim and lacked its own biological eyes, requiring it to steal those of the geneticist and subsequently undergo cosmetic surgery to produce a more normal appearance. The theft of the scientist’s eyes suggests that Terminator flesh is capable of accepting some degree of organ grafts from ordinary humans, that it can circumvent transplant rejection, and is capable of sustaining the life of the grafted tissue via its own unknown biological process.
It has been shown that Terminators’ flesh coverings are somehow grown identically, producing many multiple copies of the exact same physical appearance, indicating the use of specific physical templates for different variations of a model or series. The most well known is that worn by multiple Model 101/T-800/850 units portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as a T-888 model known as “Vick Chamberlain” having a memory of facing a room (presumably in the factory where it was created) of several dozen units sharing an identical template to itself, naked and moving in unison. Some terminators’ outer coverings are custom-designed to copy the appearances of humans whom they are intended to kill and replace. Three such examples in The Sarah Connor Chronicles include Carl Greenway in “Automatic for the People”, James Ellison in “Brothers of Nablus” and Cameron’s pattern, Allison Young, in “Allison from Palmdale”.
Development of the Terminators
According to the films, the terminators were created by an artificially intelligent computer, Skynet, to wipe out the remains of humanity. Some models are designed to look exactly like humans in order to infiltrate their bases, progressing from fake rubber skin, to artificially grown human flesh over their electronics, to mimetic polyalloy able to mimic any person or object.
According to the first two films, terminators were Cyberdyne Systems models created after the war between man and machines started. In the altered timeline of T3 created by the destruction of Cyberdyne in T2, terminators were created by the Cyber Research Systems division of the U.S. Air Force to replace soldiers on the battlefield prior to Judgment Day, starting with the T-1.
In the television series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Cameron Phillips establishes that modern terminators are made of coltan for heat resistance, while previous models were made of titanium.
The first terminator model shown, simply called “The Terminator”, was introduced in the first film, with a new model terminator added for each subsequent film. In addition to those models shown on screen, other spin off sources have introduced more, including T-800s with different appearances from Schwarzenegger, the T-70 from T2 3-D: Battle Across Time and the female I-950 from T2: Infiltrator.