Paradox to the Future

Back in 2009, I sat down and graced my eyes upon Michael J. Fox’s magnum opus entitled Back to the Future, but recently I was apart of an argument at work about why the continuous time paradoxes and time travel inconsistencies have caused me detest the movie.


If you don’t already know, towards the end of Back to the Future, Doc Brown travels back to 1985 from the future once again seeking the aid from our young hero Marty McFly. He begins to explain to Marty and Jennifer that they need to return with him to the year 2015 because their kids are in grave danger. So after re-fueling the Delorean with some old fruit and a Miller High Life (with a substantial amount of beer remaining) found in a nearby trashcan, the gang heads off into the future to help Marty’s future kids. Although, before they disappear into the space time continuum, the series antagonist, Biff Tannen, witnesses their departure and realizes the Delorean is actually a time machine and has exactly 10,950 days to concoct the absolute perfect plan to completely unravel our heroes’ future plans. Simple enough, right? Wrong. This is exactly where the movie’s idea of time travel begins to crash and burn.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some Back to the Future 2. Who doesn't love all of the wild predictions of what the year 2015 would be like: the Mattel Hoverboard, video conferencing from AT&T, and of course, the Nike MAGs. Although, the time travel inconsistencies and paradoxes have caused me to loathe the trilogy. The one problem that I constantly bring up when discussing the trilogy is that Marty and Jennifer can’t have a family if he travels from 1985 directly to 2015. Ordinarily, people will believe this is totally feasible and tell me that I’m looking into the movie way too deeply, but I’m just trying to inform the public of how horrible this movie really is.

Let me begin my argument by first stating that Marty and Jennifer skipped forward thirty years, which negates any future they could have had because they didn't exist between the two time periods. Thus, they can not have any kids yet. Most people I explain this to tend to reply that they’ll eventually return to 1985, so their future with children is possible. But you have to think about it from the perspective of the character at that current moment and not from their future pending actions. For instance, if Doc Brown is currently residing in the year 2015, he can easily go meet up with Old Marty. This is only possible because Young Marty stayed in 1985 and lived out his entire timeline up to that point. Although, since Doc went back to the past and relocated Young Marty to 2015, Old Marty shouldn't exist until 2045. It should have drastically changed 2015 as Doc knew it and created a new branch on the timeline where Marty’s parents put out a missing persons report and Doc Brown was a wanted criminal for felony kidnapping.

There is a chance I still might not have convinced you to my way of thinking, so here’s another example where we’ll look at everything that has happened so far from the perspective of our antagonist Biff. As I mentioned early in this essay, in 1985, Middle-Aged Biff witnessed our heroes’ departure with his own eyes. He watched Marty vanish into then air, he doesn't see Marty for weeks, and he continues on with his life as an auto-detailer. The Biff in 1985 counts down each of those 10,950 days, marking his calendar, and checking the streets awaiting the day when he’ll once again see our hero. Biff lives on to the year 1995 and begins transcribing his handwritten notes on his new personal computer with Windows 95. Another ten years go by and Biff is at a crossroads about how he feels about Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, but he greatly enjoyed the romantic comedy Hitch. Alas, another ten years of waiting and watching for the Delorean’s return passes by and it’s now the year 2015. Biff’s grandson, Griff, is trying to convince Marty’s son to participate in a robbery with his gang. Wait. What? Let’s analyze this part of the story really quick. It’s totally possible for Old Biff to raise a family seeing as we know that he continued to live his life from 1985 to 2015, but this is not possible for Marty. The movie suggests that if you were to go into the future, two versions of yourself will be created. This only works if you go back into the past and watch your past actions because history has already been recorded.

Another piece of evidence involves the test run from the first movie involving Einstein. Doc and Marty stand directly in front of the Delorean’s path and Doc uses a remote control to send it forward. The car reaches 88 miles per hour and both the car and Einstein are sent sixty seconds into the future. For exactly one minute, Einstein doesn't exist, he can’t procreate, and both Doc and Marty are aware of this. If you were to performed this same test again, slap on thirty years, and you’d have the same results just with a longer span of time. Which raises the question, why is Marty such an unique case when it comes to time travel? His future should be immediately rewritten once he leaves 1985, but somehow miraculously, he’s still able to see himself in the future.

Before I bring this essay to an end, I want to take a look at one last example of how the basic laws of time travel don’t apply to Marty. The Back to the Future trilogy (sometimes) uses the branching universe hypothesis of time travel, where if you go back in time and alter the past, a new branch on the timeline will be created. Doc Brown also acknowledges this theory when they both return to 1985 and realize that they've returned to an alternate version of the year. He even goes as far as to draw a diagram visually explaining the phenomenon to Marty in Layman’s terms. If you recall earlier in the second movie before these events, Old Biff stole the Delorean and traveled back to 1955 to give his younger self a sports almanac from the future. These events cause a new branch on the timeline which creates the alternate 1985 for Marty and Doc. But Doc’s removal of Marty from 1985 caused exactly zero effects to his future and kept the timeline in a straight path. This type of tampering with the past should have created a time paradox where Marty’s future family no longer exists.

In closing, I am amazed at what has come from this essay based off a simple argument, free time, and a bunch of alcohol. This essay has been long past due since this particular time paradox is an argument I seem to have on a yearly basis. Now my mind is at ease now that I am properly equipped with this written piece that greatly explains why Marty and Jennifer’s future is nothing more than a time paradox where their children are never conceived. Doc could have easily traveled back to 1985 and just given them a note, because, you know, Doc loves leaving notes. Another option could have involved Doc calling Old Marty, setting a lunch date, and discussing the problem at hand. Nevertheless, the trilogy’s story line is in the past, it’ll forever be set in stone, and its future can never be (canonically) rewritten. And because of this constant tampering with the space time continuum we have Teen Wolf.