2222: Terminator: Dark Fate

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Terminator: Dark Fate
I was sent here to stop the robot that was sent here to protect the human who was sent here to protect the human who was sent here to destroy the robot that was sent here to vacuum the floor.
Title text: I was sent here to stop the robot that was sent here to protect the human who was sent here to protect the human who was sent here to destroy the robot that was sent here to vacuum the floor.


Cueball is on his way to see the new Terminator movie; Terminator: Dark Fate, when Cueball's future self comes back to stop him, trying to convince him that, as always, he will be disappointed by sequels. (This was, for instance, the main joke in the last part of 566: Matrix Revisited.)

Future Cueball (who we shall call Cueball-2) almost succeeds in convincing present-day Cueball (who we shall call Cueball-1) not to go see the movie in spite of good reviews and the fact that the original star Linda Hamilton is back after several movies without her. Due to the nature of time travel, Terminator: Dark Fate actually negates any movie that came after the first two (The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day). However, they are interrupted by a second Future Cueball, Cueball-3, who states that in his timeline he hadn't seen it but wished he had, making present-day Cueball exclaim that they should go see it together.

Cueballs 1, 2, and 3 are interrupted again by the appearance of two more Cueballs, presumably Cueball-1 and Cueball-3 who have seen the movie, regretted it as Cueball-2 did, and travel back in time to stop themselves from seeing it. In the next panel another 5 Cueballs appear, however, their reasons for coming back have degraded, with the last one stating that he came back simply because, at the time he came from, the theater sold out of tickets because all the time-traveling Cueballs purchased all of them.

A common trope in science fiction is to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, where characters travel in time in order to stop a particular event from happening so as to prevent an undesirable timeline. The Terminator series film series is famous for this time travel trope. The initial 3 films feature a time-traveling robot sent from the dystopian future to kill a particular human, with the future resistance in turn sending a protector to ensure the human's survival. However, the series has never been consistent on even the broadest rules of how time travel affects the timeline, with each movie exploring different possibilities. This is another point of spoof for the comic, featuring multiple recursive time loops until it becomes a jumbled mess.

The final panel also invokes the "killing Hitler" trope. Adolf Hitler was the leader of Nazi Germany during World War II, and it has been a common plot idea to "go back in time to kill Hitler" such as in 1063: Kill Hitler, by presuming that the world would be better if World War II and The Holocaust had never happened. There are also works that postulate that such a killing would have unintended consequences, making things worse (for example, if Hitler had been replaced by a more competent leader, the Axis power might have won the war). In any case, this Cueball is over 70 years too late to kill Hitler, as Hitler is now dead.[citation needed]

The title text is what is said by the next Cueball-11 (the 10th time-traveler), with each link in the chain relating to the Terminator movies. Except at the end where the initial "dangerous robot" turns out to be a robot sent to vacuum the floor. Robotic vacuums, such as the Roomba, are a recurring theme on xkcd. Given Cueball's inclination to experiment with roombas, and his unusual tech problems, it's also quite possible that a seemingly benign floor cleaning robot could cause the downfall of civilization.

The title text split up:

  1. A robot was sent to clean the floor.
  2. A human was sent to destroy the robot (this happens in The Terminator)
  3. A human was sent to protect the previous human (in The Terminator a human was sent back to protect another human, though the protectee was not a time traveler)
  4. A robot was sent to protect the previous human (this happens in Terminator 2: Judgment Day)
  5. Cueball-11 was sent to stop the previous robot

Thus Cueball-11 tries to stop the person that needs to destroy the Roomba by stopping his protector's protector, presumably so that the floor will be cleaned in his timeline. It's strange that Cueball would rather execute a complicated time-travel plot than just clean the floor himself, but we've seen him make extreme versions of mundane activities before (e.g. 1017: Backward in Time, which is not actually related to time travel despite the name).

This was the second time travel comic in less than a week, as the comic two comics before this one, 2220: Imagine Going Back in Time, also had Cueball travel back to visit his past self.


[Cueball is walking to the right. Another Cueball, Cueball-2, appears behind him in a bubble of energy that appears with a loud sound. The bubble floats in the air behind the walking Cueball, with Cueball-2 inside holding his arms out to the side and having his legs bend.]
[Cueball-2 from the sphere is standing to the left of Cueball, pointing at him. Cueball has stopped and is looking back over his shoulder]
Cueball-2: I've traveled back in time to stop you from seeing Terminator: Dark Fate!
[Cueball-2 is looking at Cueball who has turned around and holds his arm a bit out to the sides.]
Cueball: But it looks so good! Reviews are actually decent! Mackenzie Davis! Linda Hamilton is back!
[Cueball-2 is holding both arms up, hands held down as Cueball stands normally.]
Cueball-2: I know, but you always think this, and you're always disappointed.
Cueball: I guess...
[Zoom out as another Cueball, Cueball-3, appears to the left in a similar bubble of energy and noise as in the first panel, his arms are out to the sides and his legs are bent. Cueball-2 is holding a hand in front of his mouth, while Cueball throws his arms out to the side.]
Cueball-3: Hi, I'm from the future where you didn't watch it and I realize I still kind of want to see it.
Cueball: Let's go together!
[Another bubble appears from the right of the three Cueballs, the one in the middle (Cueball-2) holding his arms out. This new bubble contains two Cueballs. The first, Cueball-4, throws up his arms over his head, while Cueball-5 has one arm out in front of him. Both have their legs bent.]
Cueball-4: No! We're both of you from the future! We're here to stop you!
[In a large panel, five more individual energy bubbles with five Cueballs appear. Two of the bubbles float over the now five Cueballs on the ground. The other three are a bit lower and in line to the right. Cueball-6 to 10 are in different poses, all with their legs bent, all the way to sitting on the knees in one case and most of them throw their arms out to the side. All look down at the five regardless of their bubble's position. Their text is alternating between being up and down, so the text goes over or below the other text, making it hard to decide which comes first. This may be intentional. But here they are in the order of Cueballs as they come from left to right:]
Cueball-6: I'm here to stop you!
Cueball-7: I'm here to stop the robot sent to stop you!
Cueball-8: I'm here to protect you from...you? I lost track.
Cueball-9: I'm here to kill Hitler. Did I get the right year?
Cueball-10: I'm here to get tickets because in like 20 minutes you people buy them all.

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Has anyone read Branches on the Tree of Time? This reminded me of that story. 22:12, 30 October 2019 (UTC)

Can someone add a category for The Terminator series? There is this comic along with 1046: Skynet, 104: Find You, 652: More Accurate, 1978: Congressional Testimony, 534: Genetic Algorithms, and probably others. 22:25, 30 October 2019 (UTC)

Done: Category:Terminator; apart from this and your five others I found 11 more... Good call. --Kynde (talk) 15:45, 31 October 2019 (UTC)

Although not explicitlt mentioned, the idea of going back in time to warn yourself to do or not do something is also reminiscent of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure Barmar (talk) 01:04, 31 October 2019 (UTC)

Could there be a meta-joke here with having the same cueballs in a bunch, this comic being number 2222 ? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Not enough to put it in the explanation. But now it will be mentioned here... :-) --Kynde (talk) 15:00, 31 October 2019 (UTC)

Awfully similar to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back_to_the_Pilot (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

But... they're all NAKED! Cueball doesn't have enough sets of clothes for them all. 08:29, 31 October 2019 (UTC)

I don't think any of them besides the second are actually guaranteed to be Cueball. They could be other people sent back, who cared strongly about Cueball watching the film for some reason. That's right, Jacky720 just signed this (talk | contribs) 11:22, 31 October 2019 (UTC)

They are of course all Cueball that is the joke. Also the two coming together even states that they are both you... --Kynde (talk) 15:00, 31 October 2019 (UTC)

You guys are missing the whole point: does this mean I should or SHOULD NOT go see the movie? Right now I'm doing both because I'm stuck in a box with a cat and a radioactive decay trigger... -- Cellocgw (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I just want to link to the deja vu family guy episode Youtube - Brian and Stewie go Time Travelin -- 22:23, 31 October 2019 (UTC)

AS SOON as I saw this comic, I knew I had to read the comments to make sure somebody essentially said "Family Guy Did It First!" (which comment is in itself a South Park reference). :) Jeez, this comic is essentially a copy of that scene in that episode! :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:35, 1 November 2019 (UTC)

I came here to comment that this strip seemed awfully similar to this sketch video but it turns out that general hilarity caused by people time traveling and then talking to themselves is just a common comedic topic. Oh well. 10:01, 1 November 2019 (UTC)

Maybe it is worthwhile to simply append a list of other takes on the comedic topic. My contribution is "What do the Teenage Boys do" Episode 4 06:09, 4 November 2019 (UTC)

It seems that a future version of Randall traveled back to stop him from referencing Terminator in xkcd, because he has not done it again after this comic. 01:27, 26 November 2023 (UTC)