The original Terminator, from the very first iconic film, ruthlessly hunted Sarah Connor in a bid to kill her and alter the future. There was no pity, no regard for bystanders – just the mission, that the Terminator would never stop following, no matter what.
The picture above is what a T-800 looks like minus its flesh and blood covering – I often wonder if the skeletal appearance was deliberate – designed to spark fear in humans. It certainly looks like an evil son of a bitch!
Not that the appearance of a T-800 with skin is much less intimidating. They are imposing, with the appearance of great physical strength to match the strength they possess. So, what exactly can they do?
As touched upon, T-800s are strong. The endo-skeleton is powerful, and allows a T-800 to toss human beings around like rag dolls. In the first film, the T-800 punches clean into the stomach of a thug that tries to attack it. It also takes an array of gun fire, from pistols, shotguns and assault rifles, without slowing down (in particular, the scene in the police station shows the T-800 coming under intense fire).
The Terminator is also running past a car as it explodes and suffers no ill effects from this. Nor is it seriously damaged when involved in a high-speed car crash (though one of its arms is momentarily disabled, it is able to repair itself quite easily, and it is forced to remove one of its organic eyes, which is damaged in the crash – no damage is sustained it its mechanical eye).
We also see the T-800 sustain damage to one of its legs when it’s crushed against a barrier at speed whilst on a motorbike, and its visual display starts to glitch after it’s hit by a truck soon afterward. It remains functional though, and even survives being blown up inside a petrol tanker (though its skin coating is completely destroyed in the fire).
Shortly afterward, Kyle Reese (the poor sod sent back to try and protect Sarah) whacks the thing round the head several times with a metal pole, but the Terminator shrugs this off with contempt.
You think it’s finally killed when Kyle, which virtually his last breath, sticks a home-made pipe bomb into its abdomen, and the resulting explosion blows the thing in half.
Yet, despite losing both legs and an arm in this explosion, the T-800 is not destroyed or disabled – it continues to drag itself after an injured Sarah, through the factory where the film’s finale is set.
Until, finally, Sarah traps it in a hydraulic press and crushes it.
This is of course, is only what the T-800 endures in the first film. I haven’t even gotten to Terminator 2 yet.
In Terminator 2, the T-800 (identical to the first one in every way, but re-programmed to be a young John Connor’s protector) once again deals with a dizzying array of bullets from different guns, and also handles being physically thrown about by the T-1000, being involved in car crashes, and ultimately, being repeatedly rammed by a steel girder (wielded with great strength by the T-1000), and pierced through the chest by a metal pole (an act that even temporarily disables the T-800, but it is able to reroute its power supply and reactivate itself).
The last parts are especially important – the T-800 is clearly badly damaged at this point, but can remain functional despite this. The endurance of this machine is considerable, which makes killing them a very tall order (especially for 20th Century weaponry).
There are further examples, from Terminator: Salvation, of what T-800s can endure. John Connor repeatedly shoots up with explosive rounds from his weapon, and it keeps coming without even appearing to be scratched. A half-Terminator hybrid by the name of Marcus tosses it around and smashes it about and it keeps coming. John shoots a hole in a vat of molten metal and the T-800 is literally covered by the stuff, but it gets up and keeps on coming, seemingly unperturbed by this.
The last part is quite interesting, because the T-800 in Terminator 2 is destroyed when it allows itself to be lowered into a vat of molten steel. However, the T-800 in those circumstances had been skewered, smashed and was in a bad state. It literally had a hole going right through it, into which molten liquid could easily get into and perhaps fry internal systems. The T-800 in Salvation didn’t have this problem and was in full working order.
In Terminator 2, John asks the Terminator how long it can last, to which the T-800 replies that its power cell can last for a maximum of 120 years. In Terminator 3, the T-850 (physically identical to the 800 series but perhaps with a few modifications) reveals it is powered by two hydrogen fuel cells, which, when ruptured, can become unstable (and explode like mini nukes). The T-800 in T2 doesn’t go up in a small nuclear fireball, despite its main power source being interrupted when the pole impales it, so either the T-800 isn’t powered by the same cells as a T-850, or it takes a lot to actually damage them. We also see a production line of power cells in Salvation, that are designed for the T-800, and these look very similar to the ones the T-850 used in T3.
Killing a T-800
The plasma-based rifles of the Resistance are seen to destroy or disable T-800s in the Future War at the start of Terminator 2, and we know they can be damaged by carefully placed explosives or by enough physical force. Humans of course, lack the strength to physical damage a T-800, and explosive rounds in Salvation barely slowed one down.
It might be that enough rounds from things like RPGs, or enough grenades detonated at close range, could damage or even destroy a T-800. concentrated fire from heavy weapons might do the trick, but it would require considerable concentration of such fire, Taking down one T-800 might require the resources of several combatants armed with grenades, grenade-lauunchers, armour-piercing ammo, and the setting of traps with C4 and other explosions. So clearly, dealing with even one Terminator is no easy feat.