Geek Thought of the Week: Who Is John Connor’s Father?

Geek Thought of the Week: Who Is John Connor’s Father?

In which we discuss time travel, grandfather paradoxes and how you really shouldn’t be able to knock a girl up fifty years in the past.

So, let me understand something about the Terminator franchise. You have these two guys – one of them a robot (cyborg, technically), one of them a soldier – go back in time. The robot is supposed to kill the mother of the man who will lead the humans to victory against the machines and the soldier is supposed to protect the woman.  The soldier and the woman knock boots and hey, she gets pregnant. Turns out the soldier is the father of the leader of the soldiers who defeat the machines. That’s all well and good except for one simple thing: none of that makes any friggin’ sense.

You see, time travel is a sticky thing to work out. It requires the most minute planning of all plot devices in any form of story telling. You have to figure out who goes back in time, what time, who they meet, how things could change, etc. Myself, I subscribe to the Back to the Future rules of time travel. Don’t touch anything. It’ll cause you to make out with your hot mom. Or something like that. Or like that Simpsons Halloween episode where Homer wished he wished he hadn’t squished that fish. Time just doesn’t like being screwed around with. Except in the Terminator series where the entire basis is screwing around with time.

So, let’s look at the central issue here. Who is John Connor’s father? Kyle Reese, the guy from the future, right? No, wait, not so fast. Let’s look at this logically. Who sent Kyle Reese back in time? John Connor, right. So, in the future there is a John Connor before he ever sends Kyle Reese back in time. Which means that, in the timeline that existed right before Kyle Reese went back in time, there is a Sarah Connor who never met Kyle Reese. Which means that Sarah Connor, the small town mild mannered waitress met a different guy and had a son named John and somehow still taught him to be the best soldier in the whole dang world. Remember, that’s a critical part of the back story. Sarah taught John everything, even before the time travel part. Which means that somehow, some way, John Connor grew up to lead humanity to victory over those bastard robots without any influence from the future whatsoever. Which makes no damn sense! This is a version of the grandfather paradox which, if you don’t know it, is stated as thus: say you go back time and kill your own grandfather as a boy. First of all, you’re a bastard and/or bitch. Secondly, who gives birth to your father/mother who then helps in creating you? Thus you don’t exist. But then, who goes back in time to kill baby grandpa? See? It just doesn’t work.

Yeah, time travel. It sucks. I can see your eyes going cross eyed. Well, I’m not done yet. As an added bonus, let’s talk about the Terminator’s mission. Two things about it. First, if it wants to kill John Connor, why not go back and kill his grandfather in the 1800’s? No big crushing machines there? Or hell, just go back and kill the first unevolved monkeys. Obviously the rules of time travel mean squat anyways, let’s just go whole hog with this concept. Establish a world where the machines already rule the Earth. And speaking of the rules not mattering, let’s get to the second thing. Let’s assume that the Terminator succeeded. Sarah Connor gets shot six times in the head. No more John Connor. That means no resistance, no war, no more humans in the future. So in this new timeline, why did the Terminator go back in time? It existed in 1984, so it had to have gone back in time. But with no reason to, with no humans, why would it be there to kill the mother of the human who saved humanity but didn’t because there’s no humans because the Terminator oh God dammit do I hate time travel!

So you know what? If you ever go time traveling, just don’t touch anything. It’s for the best.

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