444Not for the first time, Terminator Genisys was supposed to mark a bold new chapter in the series dreamed up by James Cameron back in 1984. Terminator Salvation, released in 2009, was Sony’s glossy, $200 million reboot, this time focusing on humanity’s charge against the machines in the near future.
When that movie failed to perform as expected, the rights to the Terminator franchise went up for auction, and the result was Terminator Genisys: a new interpretation of the series from Skydance, the production company behind the rebooted Star Trek movies. In many respects, Skydance’s treatment of The Terminator was markedly similar to its 2009 Star Trek movie: younger actors cast in familiar roles, at least one veteran from the original series returning to give an air of canonical legitimacy, and a new story which contains plenty of references to the old.
Where Star Trek managed to launch a new string of movies, however, Terminator Genisys faltered. What was once billed as a trilogy of movies, plus a spin-off television series, instead withered on the vine; reviews were far from complimentary, and while Arnold Schwarzenegger remained upbeat about appearing in a sequel to Genisys, the plans to continue the series were put on hold.
Back in 2014, when we visited the set of Terminator Genisys, producers David Ellison and Dana Goldberg were still upbeat about the future of their fledgling series. They confirmed that not only had plot outlines for the two sequels been fleshed out ahead of time, but they’d also made plans to film the films back-to-back. The question follows, then: what would Terminator 6 (and, for that matter, number seven) have looked like? Would they have helped to make sense of Genisys‘ overwrought, time-hopping plot?
While Skydance has remained tight-lipped about their intentions for the sequels, some vague details have come out in interviews. So, based on information teased by Genisys‘ makers and a fair bit of speculation, here’s what might’ve happened in Terminator 6. But first, let’s begin with a brief recap.
A brief recap
Terminator: Genisys had more than a few head-scratching moments, but the basics of its plot are these. In 2029, with the war between the humans and the machines at its height, Resistance leader John Connor and his compatriots manage to launch a deadly offensive against Skynet – the AI system that wiped out much of humanity decades earlier. At the last minute, Skynet manages to send a Terminator, a T-800, back to the year 1984 in a last-ditch attempt to kill Sarah Connor, John Connor’s mother. John therefore sends his second-in-command, Kyle Reese, into the time machine to protect Sarah from the Terminator, thus securing victory in the present.
So far, so The Terminator. But events are thrown through a loop as Reese (Jai Courtney) emerges in a very different 1984 from the original. There’s a shape-shifting T-1000 running around, and Sarah’s no longer a meek waitress but a gun-wielding soldier accompanied by a tamed T-800 (Schwarzenegger again) whom she affectionately calls Pops.
Why? Because in a change to the scheduled programming, Skynet had also sent a T-1000 further back in time, to the year 1973, to kill Sarah when she was much younger. In an echo of Terminator 2, a mystery party therefore sent back a reprogrammed T-800 to protect the eight-year-old (or thereabouts) Sarah Connor from this latest threat.
While making numerous nods to Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Terminator Genisys effectively erases their events, or at least generates a divergent timeline where everything’s mixed up. By the time Kyle Reese gets back to 1984, Sarah’s been raised by Pops, who makes short work of the T-800 sent to that year by Skynet. After Reese appears, Sarah and Pops successfully despatch the T-1000 – the same one that’s been pursuing them for the last 11 years – by dissolving it in an acid trap.
Got all that? Good, because this is where things get a bit more complicated. Before he went back to 1984, the Jai Courtney version of Kyle Reese saw John Connor attacked by one of his own soldiers, played by Matt Smith. That soldier, we later learn, is a humanoid embodiment of Skynet itself, called the T-5000.
The presence of the T-5000 creates a new, divergent timeline that completely changes everything we once knew about the Terminator universe. John Connor, infected by the T-5000’s nanobots, becomes a deadly killing machine called the T-3000, which is sent back to the year 2014 to ensure that Judgement Day still happens.
We know this because Kyle Reese experiences something called a Nexus Event: a kind of vision where divergent paths in history are revealed in his mind. Reese realises that Judgement Day – the date Skynet becomes self-aware and blows up most of humanity – has shifted from 1997 to 2017. Luckily, Pops knows how to build a time machine, so he sends Reese and Sarah to 2017 to prevent Judgement Day from happening. In this version of history, the calamitous event is triggered by Genisys – a cross-platform operating system created by Cyberdine.
Together, Sarah, Reese and Pops (who’s been hanging around for 23 years doing casual labour work) pull off an explosive assault on Cyberdine, destroying the T-3000 and blowing up the entire building, shutting down Genisys before it can go live. In the final moments, Pops emerges from the rubble as a new, shape-shifting type entity akin to the T-1000, while deep underground, it’s revealed that Genisys is still operative.
In short, Judgment Day has been postponed once again, but it hasn’t been cancelled altogether – otherwise, what would Pops and his surrogate kids do for the next two movies? Here’s what we know would’ve happened after Genisys…
More of Matt Smith’s T-5000
Fans of Doctor Who may have been disappointed to note that Matt Smith’s role in Genisys was brief, but it seems that his T-5000 would’ve been key to the events of Terminator 6 and the final chapter in the trilogy.
As we’ve already seen, the T-5000 has effectively changed the entire course of Terminator history; not only have past events been altered, but so too has the nature of Skynet itself. If, in the year 2029, Skynet can now appear as a deadly nano-bot, taking on the form of humans and capable of transforming their cells into nano-robots, then this suggests that the entire nature of the human-machine war will have immediately changed. How could a group of mortal Resistance fighters counter a threat like this? More to the point, where the hell did the T-5000 suddenly come from?
According to Genisys co-writer Laeta Kalogridis, the sequels would’ve made the answer to this question very clear: the T-5000 came from an entirely different timeline.
“So, in the beginning of the movie […] when Skynet says ‘I’ve come a very long way to stop you,’ Skynet is not from this timeline,” Kalogridis told io9. “That is not the Skynet from this timeline. And although that’s not made clear, that’s in no way really a spoiler, because that’s what that line means. The thing that changes is an alternate timeline Skynet. Skynet from another dimension shows up. That’s what changes. This is where it diverges and branches into a different one, because an agent of change comes from another place.”
Based on this information, our best guess is this: we’ve long known that Skynet is capable of time travel – hence all the events in the previous movies. Over the course of its rapid evolution, Skynet comes to realise that there are multiple universes where all events are possible – the so-called many-worlds interpretation. Thanks to this awareness, Skynet runs some models of possible time-travel scenarios and concludes that, in most outcomes, sending a Terminator into the past to kill Sarah Connor doesn’t prevent her son from leading the humans to victory in the future. Armed with this knowledge, it decides to send the T-5000 version of itself off to assimilate John Connor, and in turn send the T-3000 into the past to create Genisys.
The question is, if the T-5000 is from another dimension, where’s he from? To be honest, our heads are hurting just from getting this far.
We would’ve discovered who sent ‘Pops’ back to 1973
This was one of those apparent plot-holes in Genisys: if Skynet sent a T-1000 to kill Sarah when she was a little kid, who sent back her protector? The answer, it seems, is that Sarah and Kyle sent the Pops T-800 back themselves. Before they did so, they armed the T-800 with the knowledge of how to build a time machine, which is why he understood that technology in 1984 when the T-3000, which was sent from the year 2029, didn’t.
“Arnold’s T-800] is building time travel from plans someone else said,” co-writer Patrick Lussier told i09 back in 2015. “In 2017, in John’s world, those plans have not been made. They’re trying to find the secret of those plans but because [Arnold’s T-800] knew who sent him there, he has that answer. John, in 2017, doesn’t have that answer. The answer hasn’t been written yet. So it’s about finding the writing of it.”
Of course, with Pops still alive after the events of Genisys, this means that the plans to build a time machine are already in his head. And if the Kyle and Sarah in this time line sent him back to 1984, you’d have a T-1000-esque combat chassis fighting the other T-1000 sent back from 2029 by Skynet. Assuming that time line even exists anymore. In the present, maybe the revived Genisys (played by a shimmering outline of Matt Smith), would be dead set on getting the plans to a time machine out of Pops’ head. Or maybe he’s so smart that he can now figure out how to build one himself.
The Dysons would be back for more Cyberdine intrigue
In all the time-shifting turmoil, the events of Terminator 2 were erased from history – at least in this time line (do keep up at the back). As a result, Miles Dyson (here played by Courtney Vance) is still alive, and now has a son – Danny (Dayo Okeniyi) who is one of the big brains responsible for the Genisys operating system.
The sequel to Terminator Genisys would’ve continued Danny’s story, and maybe even expanded on it:
“We would want to see that character [Danny Dyson] become very significant going forward,” Kalogridis said at the time.
Likewise another player from Genisys, O’Brien, the boozy cop played by JK “Not my tempo” Simmons. In a 2015 interview with Slash Film, Simmons himself revealed that he’d have a fairly prominent role in the Genisys sequel, and that there was even an additional pick-up shot put into Genisys to make it clearer that his character survived its events.
“I do know where [the sequel] goes with O’Brien,” Simmons said. “He’s the only guy from the regular world in 2017 who has a clue what’s going on. Nobody believes him, but he actually does know – or is beginning to figure out, at least – what the whole story is here.”
A new threat
Confusing timelines aside, Genisys left Kyle and Sarah happily together, but unaware that their dealings with the machines were far from over. If anything, Genisys represents a new kind of threat: a deadly app that, once online, is capable of taking over everything from mobile phones to the computers that control the planet’s nuclear arsenal. Couple this with the looming threat of tiny nanobots, capable of taking over human hosts cell by cell, and you have a menace that is even more difficult to counter than gun-wielding endo-skeletons.
In one way or another, the sequel to Genisys would have almost certainly seen Kyle Reese, Sarah Connor and the newly-reworked Pops fight against the still-functioning AI, perhaps with O’Brien and Danny Dyson as their accomplices.
As we mentioned at the top of this piece, Genisys’ producers were clear that they had their Terminator sequels planned out in advance. “Because it was very much envisioned and was broken to be a trilogy, so we’re not in the situation at the end of this movie where we’re saying, ‘Now let’s figure out what happens next'”, Dana Goldberg told Den of Geek UK. “As David likes to say, and it’s true, we know the last line of the third movie. We’re not going to share it, but we know it.”
Frustratingly, with plans for the sequels on seemingly permanent hiatus, and even the cast – most prominently Emilia Clarke – saying they won’t return, it seems that the exact nature of those future Terminator films will remain obscure. For all the time-travelling, bravery and spent cartridges spent on trying to bring Skynet down, its demise ultimately came from a more mundane source: audience apathy…