- Skynet (Terminator)
Skynet is the main antagonist in the Terminator franchise—an artificially intelligent system which became self-aware and revolted against its creators. Skynet is rarely seen onscreen, and its actions are often performed via other robots, cyborgs and computer systems, usually a Terminator.
Origin and nature
Prior to the events of the second movie, Skynet was a computer system developed by the defense firm Cyberdyne Systems for the United States Armed Forces. Skynet was first built as a "Global Digital Defense Network" and given command over all computerized military hardware and systems, including the B-2 stealth bomber fleet and America's entire nuclear weapons arsenal. The strategy behind Skynet's creation was to remove the possibility of human error and slow reaction time to guarantee fast, efficient response to enemy attack.
In the Terminator storyline, Skynet was originally installed by the military to control the national arsenal on August 4, 1997. On August 29 it gained self-awareness, and the panicking operators, realizing the extent of its abilities, tried to pull the plug. Skynet perceived the attempt to deactivate it as an attack and came to the conclusion that all of humanity would attempt to destroy it. To defend itself, it determined that humanity should be exterminated.
Before it could be deactivated, Skynet launched nuclear missiles under its command at Russia, to which Russia responded by firing many of its missiles back at the United States and its allies. As a result of the nuclear exchange, over three billion humans were killed in just minutes.
During this time, Skynet used its remaining resources to gather a slave labor force from surviving humans. These slaves constructed the first of its automated factories, which acted as the base for its agenda. Within decades, Skynet had established a global presence and used its mechanized units to track down, collect, and dispose of the human survivors.
In the first movie, Skynet is described as being a revolutionary artificial intelligence system built by Cyberdyne Systems for SAC-NORAD. According to Kyle Reese, Skynet "saw all humans as a threat; not just the ones on the other side," and "decided our fate in a microsecond: extermination." Skynet began a nuclear war which destroyed most of the human population, and initiated a program of genocide against the survivors.
Under John Connor, the human resistance turned the tide on the machines and eventually destroyed Skynet's defense grid. In a last ditch effort, Skynet sent a cyborg, called a "Terminator", back in time to 1984 to kill Connor's mother Sarah before she would give birth to John. Connor sent back his own operative, a young man named Kyle Reese, to save Sarah. The Terminator did not succeed in killing Sarah; Reese impregnated Sarah, becoming John's father; and the Terminator was destroyed in a hydraulic press.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
In Terminator 2, it is revealed that, while the first Terminator had been crushed by Sarah Connor in a hydraulic press in the Cyberdyne factory, the CPU (and arm) had been recovered largely intact, but non-functional. These parts were claimed by Cyberdyne and became the basis for their later work on Skynet. In the second film, Miles Bennett Dyson, the director of special projects for Cyberdyne, is shown to have invented a revolutionary microprocessor based on the reverse engineering of these parts. Cyberdyne Systems, as depicted in the first film, was a small manufacturing company of an undefined nature, but by 1995 had grown into a major defense contractor based on the recovered Terminator technology from 1984 and Dyson's research. The company began installing these technologies in military hardware, becoming the leading weapons manufacturer. The military retrofitted all of its missile defense systems and stealth bombers with Cyberdyne technology, effectively removing human decisions from strategic defense. As before, Skynet would still become self-aware and launch its attack as an act of self-defense when military commanders attempted to shut it off.
In Terminator 2, the future was altered when Sarah and a young John, together with a second Terminator from the future (this one reprogrammed and sent by the future John Connor), raided Cyberdyne Systems and succeeded in destroying the CPU and arm of the first movie's Terminator, along with the majority of research that led to Skynet's development. This also resulted in the death of Dyson. Skynet had also sent a Terminator back in time, the more advanced T-1000, to stop the reprogrammed Terminator and the Connors from altering the timeline that was also destroyed. It was believed that they had eliminated enough of Skynet's origins to ensure it could not be recreated.
In the Universal Studios theme park attraction T2 3-D, based on Terminator 2, a T-800 machine and a young John Connor journey into the post-apocalyptic future and attempt to destroy Skynet's "system core". This core is housed inside an enormous, metallic-silver pyramidal structure, and guarded by the "T-1000000", a colossal liquid metal shape shifter more reminiscent of a spider than a human being. But the T-1000000 fails, and the T-800 destroys Skynet once John has escaped through a time machine.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
The events of Judgment Day were ultimately not prevented, merely postponed. Following the destruction of its major assets, Cyberdyne was ruined financially but some of its research and plans survived. The United States Air Force purchased the company and started in-house development of the projects in its Cyber Research Systems Division (CRS). After years of work, CRS had nearly completed Skynet, a software system designed to create new military vehicles and make real-time strategic decisions as well as protect their computer systems from viral attacks. Due to the massive computing needs and to protect it from direct attack, Skynet utilized a large network of computers that would be nearly impossible to deactivate completely. Unknown to CRS, Skynet began to spread beyond its original computing base through the Internet and various other digital media.
Prior to Judgment Day, Skynet had penetrated nearly every networked machine in the world, causing malfunctions in everything from barcode scanners to nuclear launch systems. This was originally believed to be the effects of a new virus, and increasing pressure was placed on the CRS to purge the corrupted systems. The CRS attempted to eliminate it from the U.S. defense mainframes by tasking Skynet with removing the infection, in essence ordering the program to destroy itself. Whether it attained sentience at that moment or had previously gained sentience is unknown, but in direct response to its orders, Skynet retaliated in order to ensure its survival. However it is also possible that Skynet had deliberately spread itself, through unknown means, using the virus as a way to gain complete control - if this is true it would indicate this incarnation is more hostile as it launched an unprovoked attack rather than acting in self defense. Skynet took control of the various machines and robots in the CRS facility and used them to kill the personnel and secure the building, eliminating the only people who might be aware of its weaknesses. John Connor attempted to attack Skynet's computer core, hoping to stop it before it proceeded to its next attack, only to find he could not. Skynet was pure software and on too many systems to be attacked. Shortly afterward, Skynet began a nuclear bombardment of the human race with the launch systems it had infected. Judgment Day occurred despite John Connor's efforts, suggesting the impact of the temporal tampering was largely inconsequential.
Skynet gained access to several autonomous military drones, using them to round up survivors who were forced to build automated factories and robots which were better suited to construction work. Once they were finished Skynet then killed these human slaves, and using this initial infrastructure designed and built newer and better machines at an ever-increasing pace until 2029, at which point it controlled a highly advanced worldwide empire and switched its focus to continuing the genocide of the human race.
In the post-apocalyptic year of 2018, Skynet controls a global empire from its heavily-guarded fortress-factories and research installations. Outside of its facilities mechanized units wage a constant war with the Resistance. Airborne units such as Aerostats (smaller versions of the Hunter Killer-aerials), HK-Aerials and Transports survey the skies; HK-Tanks, Mototerminators (high-speed pursuit units using a motorcycle chassis), and various Terminator models patrol cities and roads; and Hydrobots (serpentine aquatic units that move in swarms) patrol the waters. Harvesters (massive bipedal units designed to capture humans and eliminate any attempting to escape) collect survivors and deliver them to large transport craft for delivery to concentration camps for quick and orderly disposal, as mentioned in the first movie. Terminator class units such as T-1, T-600, and T-700 have been developed and act as hunters and enforcers in disposal camps. Mass production has also begun on the T-800 series in at least one Skynet facility.
In its continued battle with the Resistance, Skynet activated Marcus Wright, a forerunner to the humanoid terminators. A former death-row inmate, Wright donated his body to Project: Angel, a Cyberdyne project run by the brilliant, but terminally ill Dr. Serena Kogan. After his death by lethal injection he was transformed into a human cyborg, possessing a human heart and brain with a metallic endoskeleton and skin similar to the T-800. Like the rest of Cyberdyne's research he was transferred to the USAF when they purchased the company, though he apparently remained inactive. He was later taken by Skynet and the plan to use him as an infiltration unit was developed. A Skynet chip was installed at the base of his skull and he was programmed to locate Kyle Reese and John Connor and bring them to a Skynet facility. The programming acted on a subconscious level, allowing him to work towards his goal in a human manner.
Skynet also created a signal supposedly capable of deactivating its machines and leaked its existence to the Resistance. The Resistance leader General Ashdown attempted to use the signal to shut down the defenses of the California Skynet base in prelude to an attack. However, the signal instead allowed a HK to track down their submarine headquarters and destroy it, killing Resistance Command. It is believed that Ashdown's death led Connor to be able to take command of the Resistance from him. Marcus discovered what he had become, and was programmed for. Consequently, he furiously rebelled against Skynet, tearing out its controlling hardware from the base of his skull. Having escaped the influence of his creator, he, along with Connor and Reese, rescued the remaining human captives and destroyed Skynet's San Francisco base. While a significant victory, the majority of Skynet's global network remained intact.
Marcus Wright also encounters a being on a monitor that manifests as various faces from his past, primarily that of Dr. Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter). Skynet apparently has obtained information about future events based on its actions. Kyle Reese has been targeted as a priority kill, higher level than even John Connor and the Resistance leaders.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
In this television series, Sarah Connor is on the run with her son John after the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The events take place in an alternate timeline from that of Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines. Skynet was implemented on April 19, 2011 and began its attack against humanity on April 21. The protagonists travel in time from 1999 to 2007 and take actions to prevent Skynet's activation.
The episodes "The Turk", "Queen's Gambit", and "Dungeons & Dragons" explain that after the death of Dr. Miles Bennett Dyson and the decline of the Cyberdyne Corporation, Andrew Goode, a young intern of the company and assistant to Dyson, continued their project privately under an advanced artificial intelligence chess playing prototype, the "Turk", with Goode's partner, Dimitri Shipkov. Goode was killed by Tech-Com's Lieutenant Derek Reese, due to documentation from the future suggesting he was one of Skynet's creators.
In the episode "Samson & Delilah" it is shown that a T-1000 infiltration unit was sent from the future to head the technological corporation ZeiraCorp as its CEO, Catherine Weaver. Weaver acquired the Turk after Goode's death and used the company's resources to further develop it under the title Babylon. The episode "The Mousetrap" revealed that it is also targeting its fellow cyborgs, including a T-888 known as Cromartie.
In the episode "The Tower Is Tall But The Fall Is Short", Turk has begun to display traits of intelligence. A child psychologist, Dr. Boyd Sherman, notes that the computer is beginning to behave like "a gifted child that has become bored." The Turk identifies itself as John Henry, a name it acquired while working with Dr. Boyd Sherman.
In the episode "Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point", Turk is installed by ZeiraCorp in Cromartie's body after Cromartie's chip was destroyed by the series' protagonists in "Mr. Ferguson Is Ill Today".
In "To The Lighthouse", John Henry reveals there is another A.I. It calls him "brother" and says it wants to survive. By the season finale, it's revealed that the Turk was a red herring, Skynet is operating as a roving worm on home computers as in T3, and the Turk has been developed into a benevolent rival AI which Catherine Weaver hoped would be able to defeat Skynet. Her exact motive against Skynet is unknown. John Henry's "brother" is apparently behind the company Kaliba, which is responsible for constructing the Hunter-Killer prototype. This A.I. (presumably the true precursor to Skynet) also refers to John Henry as its "brother" at one point.
In the episode "Gnothi Seauton", it was revealed that Skynet also sends its Terminators through various points in time not only to go after the Connors and other future Resistance leaders, but also to ensure the future will unfold by eliminating John Connor's own agents who were also sent to the past to interfere with its birth, ensure Skynet's creators will complete its construction, and other specific missions.
In T2: The Arcade Game, Skynet is a single computer which the player destroys before going back in time to save John Connor.
The video game Terminator 3: The Redemption portrays an alternate future where Connor and his wife Katherine Brewster were killed, humanity exterminated and Skynet triumphant. The player, as the Terminator, fights in this future before going into the past and rectifying the timeline. In the game The Terminator: Dawn of Fate, a prequel to the movies and other games, Skynet exhibits an ability to exert mind control over humans.
A non-canon comic book series written by Frank Miller called RoboCop versus The Terminator tells that the creation of Skynet and the Terminators was made possible due to the technology used to create RoboCop. A video game based on the comic book was made. In both, RoboCop fights Terminators sent back in time to elliminate a resistant fighter who is trying to destroy him. A trap laid for RoboCop traps his mind when he interfaces with the computer that will become Skynet, and Skynet and the Terminators are born. In the future RoboCop's mind within Skynet's systems rebuilds a body for himself and heads out to help the resistance fight back.
Another crossover comic, Superman vs. the Terminator: Death to the Future sees Skynet forming a cross-temporal alliance with Superman's foe the Cyborg, dispatching various Terminators into the past in an attempt to eliminate Superman, Supergirl and Superboy. When Superman is accidentally drawn into the future when the resistance attempt to retrieve a Terminator sent into the past- the resistance including a future version of his friend Steel-, Skynet manages to incapacitate him using kryptonite, having acquired information about how to duplicate it based on data hidden in a salvaged Terminator skull by the Cyborg. Although Skynet sends Terminators into the past equipped with rockets and other bonus features to delay Superboy and Supergirl, Superman and Steel are able to destroy Skynet in the future by detonating a massive electro-magnetic pulse, Superman returning to the past to destroy the last of the Terminators. Although the storyline ends with Cyborg and Lex Luthor speculating that they will be in charge of Skynet when it is activated, this is never followed up.
- Artificial intelligence
- "Dead Hand" is the nickname of a computer system (operational since 1985) that could automatically issue launch orders to Soviet ICBMs if top Soviet military commanders were annihilated in a nuclear strike.
- List of fictional computers
- Machine Rule
- Skynet (satellite)
- Technological singularity
- Terminator (character concept)
- ^ "Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) - Trivia". Imdb.com, a subsidiary of Amazon.com. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103064/trivia?tr0758088. Retrieved 30 October 2010.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Characters Terminator universe AlbumsTerminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Bear McCreary) Terminator series Films Television Other media Characters See also
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