Home > Clement's Game > Science Fiction Round 42: The Terminator

Science Fiction Round 42: The Terminator


As it happens, yes, the first time I’d seen The Terminator was actually within the last month.

Unless you count that time years ago, when all I saw was the last ten minutes.  (I don’t think that counts.)

Given that the movie is iconic, and from 1984, I’m a bit behind the times.  But I’ve got a few thoughts to add.

The Terminator movie poster must, naturally, feature Schwezenegger as the Terminator.  "I'll be back [for lots of sequels]."

The Terminator movie poster must, naturally, feature Schwezenegger as the Terminator. “I’ll be back [for lots of sequels].”

Can’t You Put A Thumbdrive In Your Mouth?

Or even a bit of microfilm?

So, you’re going back in time to protect Sarah Connor from being murdered by the Terminator.  If she dies, her son will never be born to lead the humans in a rebellion to save themselves from genocide by Skynet.

Due to the silliness of the time travel device, you can’t even wear clothes on the way back in time.  But… you could put something in your mouth, as evidence of what’s coming.  Almost anything would do.  Even a thumbdrive, with tech well beyond the present day, would be pretty good.  Microfilm of historical data would be even better.

And if you can’t save Sarah Connor, why not have a backup plan?  Skynet wants to prevent humanity’s rebellion from existing; why not prevent Skynet from existing?  That will take some evidence, for convincing people, of course.  Plus the Terminator itself, in all likelihood.

This “backup plan” wasn’t even mentioned during the movie.  Then again, maybe Reese didn’t want to freak Connor out too much… more.

The Terminator’s Skin: How Does That Work?

The problems with trying to recreate a human at the surface level is that human physical systems are actually integrated.  (Go figure.)

So, the Terminator must have a layer of living tissue on the outside in order to successfully time-travel.  Somehow, it has flesh, blood, and eyes, with a metal interior.

This doesn’t work so well.  Skin needs oxygen and nutrients from blood, as well as blood to carry away waste products.  This starts all well and good — the Terminator does bleed, at least at a surface level.  The problem comes with putting oxygen and nutrients in the blood, and filtering waste products out.  Where’s it getting the blood?  It rather obviously doesn’t have bones with the bone marrow to produce any blood cells.  Perhaps it carried blood extracted from unwilling future humans.

So far, so good.  Blood cells will last for a month or so, so the few days of operations we see shouldn’t be an issue.  A human without kidneys would die in a few days from waste accumulation — hence the typical schedules for kidney dialysis.  It turns out, there’s a similar process for liver dialysis as well, although it’s not as well developed at present.  There’s also heart and lung machines (also called cardiopulmonary bypass) which can handle the oxygen, carbon dioxide, and circulation issues.

So perhaps, theoretically, in a future with adequate tech, blood transfusions, and life-support devices sufficiently small to squeeze into the chest cavity of a Terminator the size of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Which leaves me with just one last question: How did the Terminator see, anyway?  It looks like the eyeballs were complete, whole eyeballs — and that they were in front of the Terminator’s mechanical eyes.  As it happens, normal human eyeballs are opaque in back, so that the retina can collect and process light into something we can see.  So, unless there was a hole there for the Terminator to collect the input, and then a secondary lens to compensate in the event of the loss of the biological eye, I’m not sure I see how that works.

A Decent Character Arc

Sarah Connor’s trajectory in the film is, I think, well done.

She starts out fearful, and not stupid.  When she realizes what’s going on, she goes to a public place with lots of people, in the hopes that whoever’s killing people named Sarah Connor wouldn’t dare do so there.

Over the course of the film, she processes what’s going on, and does things like learning the basics of building pipe-bombs.

In the end, she’s the one who finally puts the Terminator to rest.  She records everything so that her son, in the future, will know what he needs to do.  And she’s clearly doing quite well handling herself.  I think it works.

On the other hand, I also think the sex scene was completely unnecessary.  I did not need to see that.  Seriously.  I would have been quite happy if you had played the nice music while decorously moving the camera to another part of the room, or even just showing the two holding hands.  Come on, a little subtlety, please?

Wibbley-Wobbley

Ah, time-travel.  I’m pretty sure that everyone who has anything to say about time travel has already said it about this film, so I’ll be brief.

This was a very nice self-reinforcing temporal loop.  No paradoxes, aside from the attempt by Skynet to prevent John Connor from being born was the only way that he could be born, but the overall timeline is self-consistent.

Not having seen the other films in the franchise (yet), I can’t say anything about how they play with that later on…

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  1. michaelbusch
    2015/05/10 at 3:21 pm

    I note that nobody in 1984 had the technology to read a thumb drive (the first USB standard wasn’t until the mid-1990s, and the very first flash memory had only just barely entered the market in 1984). But, seriously, Reese, _swallow that microfilm capsule_.

    Least anyone complain that he couldn’t have one: John Connor knew what was going to have happened. He kept an old photo of his mother so that Reese would know what she looked like. He had Reese memorize a message for her. He can have kept a microfilm record of useful data in a capsule, as long as he knew Reese would need to be given it before he was sent back.

  1. 2015/05/16 at 7:43 am

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