Near the end of 12 Monkeys, the terrorist mad man OPENED one of the vials of virus at the screening, so wouldn't that have initiated the collapse of society anyway, by starting the death of all who were in the airport at that time, and wouldn't that have traveled everywhere those travelers were going?

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    It's not clear what your question is. Are you asking whether Cole failed in his attempt to stop the virus? That's was quite clearly the case: it's a stable-time loop universe. Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 1:11
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    I think the answers are right, but I also think (from memory) that the people in the future never knew the vials were opened already. So they were fighting to prevent something that had already happened, only because they thought they could still stop it.
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 10:37
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    @Nathaniel, they were never trying to stop it, only study to help in the future.
    – Tom Bowen
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 11:02
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    this answer suggests that Cole is indeed trying to change the past at that point, and the scientists in the future are actually trying to stop him. It seems open to interpretation though.
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 15:14
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    @Nathaniel that's correct. His mission is not to stop him, and the scientists understand he can't change th future, but that doesn't stop him trying.
    – Tom Bowen
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 18:05

2 Answers 2


Because the plan was never to change the past but to obtain the original virus, as he told to Railly:

COLE: I just have to locate the virus in its original form before it mutates. So scientists can come back and study it and find a cure. So that those of us who survived can go back to the surface of the earth.

The issue was in current time virus was mutating and they needed the original form to craft a cure.

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    A better answer than mine because of the quotation. +1, and also *1 as a bonus. Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 13:01

The goal of the scientists of the future was never to stop the outbreak (their past cannot be changed) it was to develop a cure.

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