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Ripple effect works backwards in time as well?

posted by sn939 on - last edited - Viewed by 1.4K users

Again, this is nitpicking, but a LOT of stuff on BTTF forums IS nitpicking after all!

Basically, this is about the Citizen Brown timeline, and more to the point, its history.

In a throwaway line in Ep 4, FCB Doc mentions having a secret lab at Clayton Ravine...at which point Marty mentions Clara and tells FCB Doc about how she's supposed to be his wife in the other timeline(s). From the naming of the ravine, the obvious implication is that since the Delorean was never invented in this timeline, Doc never travelled back to 1885 and thus the original sequence of events, with Clara falling into the ravine, was restored. And on the surface it makes perfect sense...considering the fact that there is other evidence of the 'original histories' being restored; for instance, George and Lorraine are back to their loser selves from the original Twin Pines timeline, since they were never influenced by Marty in 1955. And yet, it seems to conflict with how the ripple effect, and alternate timelines, are portrayed in the trilogy...

Now, based on my understanding of the trilogy, the implication is that at any given point of time, the future is 'not written', and that the actions of a time traveller from the future (or with knowledge of the future) can change the course of the future (i.e. his/her past). As the future changes, objects brought back from the future (photos, newspapers etc) are changed by the 'ripple effect' to reflect the new timeline...and in extreme cases, people from the future may be erased from existence if they do not exist in the 'new future' (as Marty nearly was in BTTF1). The idea is that the ripple effect changes the future and affects objects and people from the future. So, if in 1955, something is done to change 1985, then the ripple effect moves forward from 1985, altering 1985, as well as objects in 1955 which originate from 1985.

However, I think the 1955 segment of BTTF2 clearly implies that while the time traveller, while in the past, can change the future, he cannot change anything in the past from BEFORE his 'arrival point' in the past. This explains why we see Marty from BTTF1 in the background in BTTF2. Old Biff arrived on the morning of November 12th 1955, and his actions radically altered 1985, such that the Delorean was never invented and Marty never travelled back in time...yet, this did not erase the actions of Marty from the original timeline since November 5th 1955 onwards, because Marty's arrival on Nov. 5th, his interfering with his parents meeting, the manure truck crash et all are all part of the 'past' at the point when Old Biff has arrived in 1955...his actions do not affect events prior to the morning of November 12th 1955.

And yet, the Game contradicts this...how? Simply by saying that Clara died falling into the ravine in 1885, in the FCB timeline.

Look at it this way. Marty and Doc arrived in 1931. Their actions in 1931 inadvertently altered 1986, erasing Doc and Einstien in the process as well. Their actions in 1931 also alter ALL the years after 1931, including 1955 (which explains why George and Lorraine have reverted to their 'Twin Pines' incarnations). Fair enough.

But WHY would a divergence created in 1931, alter 1885, a point in time which PRECEDES the divergence? In other words, why would the ripple effect, which usually movesforward in time and changes the future, suddenly move backward in time and change the past? It doesn't make sense.

If we go by the evidence of the game, then logically, when young Emmett hooks up with Edna, 1931 Hill Valley would spontaneously start transforming! The name of the ravine would suddenly change from Eastwood Ravine to Clayton Ravine, Doc's letter with the Western Union would disappear as would the Delorean buried in the Delgado Mine, the pictures of Doc (and Marty) by the newly constructed clocktower, taken in 1885, should also disappear from the book in the library...without anyone noticing anything!

It makes sense for photographs and newspapers from 1986 to start changing, because these objects represent the future, which is not written...but why would objects from the PAST change?

38 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • Well in the case of time travel, the past can be dependent on the future. For instance lets say at the end of part 3, marty arrives in 1985 at 10:59 am, gets hit by the train and dies, then presumably the ripple effect would go forward (no future marty in 2015)

    But you're right the game contradicts itself in episodes 3 and 4

    Some people believe the delorean crashes into the billboard due to it no longer having flying circuits (didnt go to 2015)... fine inconclusive.
    The rationale for 'clayton ravine' is likely that doc doesnt invent the time machine in this timeline. So that in itself i could live with BUT there's plenty of evidence that the 1931 time travels still DID happen at this point (young emmett and edna still remember marty and Carl Sagan, they are still in FCBs photo of kid Tannens arrest).

  • I think it makes perfect sense the future ripple can effect the past where time travellers are involved.

    We interact with 1931 Emmett and alter his future; saving Clara is part of his future, not his past. By changing his future he never went to the past to save Clara. Its a slight spin on the old paradox of going back in time and shooting your grandfather; if you killed him you wouldn't be born so then you couldn't of killed him so you would be born.

    tl;dr: Saving Clara may be a past event in terms of chronological date; however in terms of Doc's life in chronological order it is part of Emmett's future, which allows the future altering ripple to tweak the past.

  • @Michael J Fox is Canadian said: Well in the case of time travel, the past can be dependent on the future. For instance lets say at the end of part 3, marty arrives in 1985 at 10:59 am, gets hit by the train and dies, then presumably the ripple effect would go forward (no future marty in 2015)

    But you're right the game contradicts itself in episodes 3 and 4

    Some people believe the delorean crashes into the billboard due to it no longer having flying circuits (didnt go to 2015)... fine inconclusive.
    The rationale for 'clayton ravine' is likely that doc doesnt invent the time machine in this timeline. So that in itself i could live with BUT there's plenty of evidence that the 1931 time travels still DID happen at this point (young emmett and edna still remember marty and Carl Sagan, they are still in FCBs photo of kid Tannens arrest).



    The Delorean suddenly no longer having flying circuits because of the 2015 trip being erased just doesn't make sense! If the Delorean was affected by the timeline being altered, then the entire car should disappear, because the 1985 it came from no longer existed! It makes absolutely no sense for one component of the car to fail because of the ripple effect.

    Also, I believe the 1931 trips still happened because the FCB timeline was directly dependent on them. Furthermore, the point of divergence which created the FCB timeline WAS the trip to 1931...any point in time chronologically after the 1931 trips would be altered to fit the FCB timeline, including 1955, 1985 and 2015, erasing all trips made to THOSE time periods during the course of the trilogy. However, it doesn't explain why this would erase the trips to 1885, which precedes the divergence in 1931!

    @Michael J Fox is Canadian said: I think it makes perfect sense the future ripple can effect the past where time travellers are involved.

    We interact with 1931 Emmett and alter his future; saving Clara is part of his future, not his past. By changing his future he never went to the past to save Clara. Its a slight spin on the old paradox of going back in time and shooting your grandfather; if you killed him you wouldn't be born so then you couldn't of killed him so you would be born.

    tl;dr: Saving Clara may be a past event in terms of chronological date; however in terms of Doc's life in chronological order it is part of Emmett's future, which allows the future altering ripple to tweak the past.

    I agree...saving Clara is part of young Emmett's future, and that future has been erased. But likewise, in the context of BTTF2, we can argue that Marty preventing his parent's first meeting, causing Biff to crash the manure truck etc. is in the future of the young Marty in 1973 who's father was just shot dead...and that future has been erased because of Old Biff's actions in 1955. Yet, we see Twin Pines Marty in 1955 and all his actions in the week leading upto November 12th 1955 still occurred in the Hell Valley timeline, because they occurred before the divergence called by Old Biff's trip. So why wouldn't Doc and Marty have appeared in 1885 and saved Clara, even in the history of the FCB timeline (of course, Doc, Clara and the kids would be erased from existence the moment they travelled out of the 19th century).

  • Because the actions of Marty in 1955 directly led to Old Biff being able to alter the timeline and as such are necessary for events to transpire. If Marty hadn't gone back to 1955 Doc would still be shot dead in the parking lot; thus making going to the future impossible and making Biff's coming back impossible. Paradoxes do form in BTTF universe timelines, even in the movies, but they are all unavoidable ones based around event x cannot be erased (even though logically it should be) by event y as without event x event y can't happen. (see the Grandpa analogy again here) If Biff's actions erased Marty going to 1955 the first time it would erase Marty giving Doc the note that stops him being shot dead. If Doc is shot dead they can never go to the future for Old Biff to steal the delorean. If Old Biff can't steal the delorean he can't alter the past... etc.

    Plus the Marty we follow doesn't have his timeline altered at all; using the Delorean he is straddling timelines. In BTTF2 there is a Marty who has been run out of town and in his absence our Marty can get around. Same as in FCB timeline there is a nerdy Marty who is out of town.

    The difference here is saving Clara isn't integral to events working out the way they do, Hill Valley exists in both the Clara dying and the Clara living version of events, only the ravine name alters. Therefore with no Emmett time travelling it didn't happen. If you track events BTTF1, BTTF2 and part of 3 take place in Clara dead time line, then 3 concludes in Clara alive; then episode 1 and 2 are in the Clara alive timeline; while 3 4 and 5 are in Clara dead timeline then Clara alive is restored at end of 5

  • @Emo Hoe said: Because the actions of Marty in 1955 directly led to Old Biff being able to alter the timeline and as such are necessary for events to transpire. If Marty hadn't gone back to 1955 Doc would still be shot dead in the parking lot; thus making going to the future impossible and making Biff's coming back impossible. Paradoxes do form in BTTF universe timelines, even in the movies, but they are all unavoidable ones based around event x cannot be erased (even though logically it should be) by event y as without event x event y can't happen. (see the Grandpa analogy again here) If Biff's actions erased Marty going to 1955 the first time it would erase Marty giving Doc the note that stops him being shot dead. If Doc is shot dead they can never go to the future for Old Biff to steal the delorean. If Old Biff can't steal the delorean he can't alter the past... etc.

    Plus the Marty we follow doesn't have his timeline altered at all; using the Delorean he is straddling timelines. In BTTF2 there is a Marty who has been run out of town and in his absence our Marty can get around. Same as in FCB timeline there is a nerdy Marty who is out of town.

    The difference here is saving Clara isn't integral to events working out the way they do, Hill Valley exists in both the Clara dying and the Clara living version of events, only the ravine name alters. Therefore with no Emmett time travelling it didn't happen. If you track events BTTF1, BTTF2 and part of 3 take place in Clara dead time line, then 3 concludes in Clara alive; then episode 1 and 2 are in the Clara alive timeline; while 3 4 and 5 are in Clara dead timeline then Clara alive is restored at end of 5



    I distinctly remember posting a reply to this before but it somehow got deleted :p Oh well...

    I agree with you that Clara isn't integral to events working out the way they do. But Marty's 1955 trip isn't really integral to Old Biff giving himself the Almanac either. The 'Hell Valley' timeline is anyway founded on a paradox-since Doc was committed in 1983 he never built the Delorean, so there was no way Old Biff could have stolen it in 2015 in this timeline, regardless of Marty's 1955 happening or not. (Plus, according to Bob Gale, in this timeline, Biff was killed in 1996 by Lorraine). The Old Biff we see in 1955 is from Lone Pine 2015...he is not the future self of the alternate Biff who married Lorraine and owned the Pleasure Paradise.

    We see Twin Pines Marty in 1955 because Marty's actions in 1955 prior to the morning of November 12th are all already in the past at the time of Old Biff's arrival. When Old Biff arrives in 1955, he arrives at a point when Marty's getting hit by the car instead of George, Marty causing Biff to crash into a manure truck, Lorraine asking Marty out to the dance et all are already part of history and set in stone! While Old Biff's actions can influence future events, he cannot influence past events unless he time travels further back in the past. Say, Old Biff arrived at around 9:00 AM in the morning on November 12th 1955...his actions only influence events which occur after that time, and not before! So, anything that happened before 9:00 AM on November 12th 1955, including the arrival of other time traveller's from different futures, is set in stone and isn't affected.

    So shouldn't the same apply in the case of Doc and Marty's adventures in the Old West! Marty and Doc made changes on August 25th 1931 (I think that's the date) which inadvertently resulted in the FCB timeline. That means August 25th 1931 is the point of divergence that led to the FCB timeline. It makes sense for anything AFTER August 25th 1931 to be altered to fit the new timeline, but why would stuff like Doc saving Clara, Marty beating Bufford Tannen etc., which occured BEFORE August 25th 1931, be affected!

    Don't get me wrong...I loved the Clayton Ravine reference, and the fact that Clara was dead in the FCB timeline did drive home the point that Marty (and us) needs to 'fix' the timeline...but it just doesn't make sense based on the vague 'rules' established in the trilogy.

  • Because Clara being saved does happen AFTER 1931, yes the event themselves take place in 1885, but they are performed by Doc and Marty FROM 1980s.
    Altering 1931 changes the 1980s and thus has a knock on effect to anything the 1980s Doc & Marty did, in this case in 1885. This is the absolute key to why it works; saving Clara is still a future event for Emmett; it doesn't matter that it happens at an earlier date it is still his future. It perfectly fits the rules, its a fundamental fact of time travellers: their personal timeline doesn't run in the same chronology as normal dates; as Emmett is a time traveller it does not matter that 1885 pre-dated 1931 in date chronology all that matters is saving Clara post-dates 1931 in Emmett's personal chronology, therefore the ripple erased it.

    And Marty's 1955 actions are integral to the Biff timeline; yes its a paradox but it still stands: Erase Marty's actions from 1955 = Doc is dead = Doc never goes to the future = Old Biff can't go back in time. Marty in 1955 has to be sustained in order for it to be possible for Biff's actions to have happened.
    Same way Marty's 1931 actions have to be sustained for FCB timeline to be possible.

    The Biff disappearing factor seems best explained by something FCB timeline touches on: It appears in the bttf universe when the timeline is altered enough to create a dramatically alter you in your original time that the original is erased if you come into close proximity. Old Biff is erased, presumably his grave is in Hill Valley, and Doc is erased being near FCB Hill Valley; but in both cases Marty remains as the Marty of that timeline is absent from town. It seems this proximity erasure maintains any past of that person necessary for the timeline to be created however (so Old Biff in 1955 and Doc as Carl Sagan in 1931 + The Delorean, though as we see in bttf episode 5 it seems time will eventually catch up and remove the delorean) but the rest is erased.

  • @Emo Hoe said: Because Clara being saved does happen AFTER 1931, yes the event themselves take place in 1885, but they are performed by Doc and Marty FROM 1980s.
    Altering 1931 changes the 1980s and thus has a knock on effect to anything the 1980s Doc & Marty did, in this case in 1885. This is the absolute key to why it works; saving Clara is still a future event for Emmett; it doesn't matter that it happens at an earlier date it is still his future. It perfectly fits the rules, its a fundamental fact of time travellers: their personal timeline doesn't run in the same chronology as normal dates; as Emmett is a time traveller it does not matter that 1885 pre-dated 1931 in date chronology all that matters is saving Clara post-dates 1931 in Emmett's personal chronology, therefore the ripple erased it.

    And Marty's 1955 actions are integral to the Biff timeline; yes its a paradox but it still stands: Erase Marty's actions from 1955 = Doc is dead = Doc never goes to the future = Old Biff can't go back in time. Marty in 1955 has to be sustained in order for it to be possible for Biff's actions to have happened.
    Same way Marty's 1931 actions have to be sustained for FCB timeline to be possible.

    The Biff disappearing factor seems best explained by something FCB timeline touches on: It appears in the bttf universe when the timeline is altered enough to create a dramatically alter you in your original time that the original is erased if you come into close proximity. Old Biff is erased, presumably his grave is in Hill Valley, and Doc is erased being near FCB Hill Valley; but in both cases Marty remains as the Marty of that timeline is absent from town. It seems this proximity erasure maintains any past of that person necessary for the timeline to be created however (so Old Biff in 1955 and Doc as Carl Sagan in 1931 + The Delorean, though as we see in bttf episode 5 it seems time will eventually catch up and remove the delorean) but the rest is erased.



    In terms of conventional logic, I agree, your explanation makes PERFECT sense. And I have never denied the fact that time traveller's have a personal chronology which differs from that of actual chronology. There is no doubt that being trapped in the Old West and saving Clara is very much a part of young Emmett's future, which as we know, can be changed.

    However, I am talking about how erasing the events of BTTF3 in 1885 contradicts the logic seemingly established in the movies themselves.

    With regards to your example of how Marty's 1955 trip is integral to the eventual creation of the Hell Valley timeline; again, I must reiterate that while the latter is logically dependent on the former in terms of meta-time; when you consider how things actually play out along the Hell Valley timeline, you find that it cannot possibly be dependent.

    I mean, consider the Hell Valley timeline in its entirely (even before Old Biff's divergence). Marty arrives from Twin Pines 1985 on November 5th 1955. He goes through the week doing whatever we see him do for most of BTTF1. Then, on the morning of November 12th 1955, Old Biff arrives from Lone Pine 2015, gives himself the Almanac, and leaves.

    What happens then?

    Young Biff, starting from 1958, uses the Almanac to get rich. In 1973, he kills George McFly and marries Lorraine. He sends Marty off to a boarding school in Switzerland, and in 1983, has Doc Brown committed. On October 26th 1985, there is NO temporal experiment at Lone Pine Mall, Doc is NOT shot at by Libyans and Marty does NOT go back in time. Doc is in an asylum, and in any case, the Delorean was never built, so he does NOT go into the future, and does NOT bring Marty and Jennifer to the future later to sort out their kids. Also, in 1996, Biff is shot dead by Lorraine. Hence, in 2015, not only is there NO Delorean, but there is also NO Old Biff to steal it and the Almanac and go back in time!

    So, in terms of the chronology of the Hell Valley timeline, it does NOT matter whether Marty's 1955 trip happened or not...it was anyway impossible for Old Biff to have gone back in time.

    You are right of course about the existence of time traveller's and their actions in the past being preserved in the new timeline, even if their personal timelines have been erased. This is how Old Biff appears in 1955. This is ALSO how Marty from the first film appeared in 1955 (as he was already present in 1955 BEFORE the divergence). It is ALSO how Doc and Marty's actions in 1931 have been preserved even though the timeline they came from has been erased. My question is, WHY haven't Marty and Doc's actions in 1885 been preserved? After all, they occurred BEFORE the divergence caused in 1931...if Marty's 1955 trip, which had no connection (as per BTTF's logic) to Old Biff's trip, was preserved in the Hell Valley timeline, why can't his and Doc's 1885 trip (which has no connection to the 1931 trips) ALSO have been preserved in the FCB timeline.

    The best explanation I can come up with is that screwing around with Emmett Brown's personal timeline totally messes up the space-time continuum because he's the inventor of time travel!

    BTW, your idea about the originals being erased by being in close proximity with the doppelganger's is intriguing, but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It would have made sense if you said the mere EXISTENCE of an alternate self can erase the original as soon as he/she enters the time period (and again, we know that's not true because Marty 'survived' in various alternate timelines without being erased). Why would physical proximity determine whether someone is erased or not? If that were the case, then one or more of the three adult Marty's at the end should have been erased (since its obvious they were all alternate selves).

  • The physical proximity thing is the only explanation we can find for the BTTF universe given Old Biff ceased to be in 2015 when he returned, because there was a dead Biff and Doc ceased to be in FCB as FCB was there; yet Marty survived both and both Hell Valley Marty and FCB Marty (and Marty in the Tannen Gang timeline) were out of town.

    And the three Marty's can survive if you consider this effect ONLY applies in you're original time, we clearly see in 1955, 1931 and 2015 people can exist from different points in their time stream side-by side. As all 3 Marty's are from the future and imply they have been jumping around a lot and thus are not in their original time. This also holds true if you consider Old Biff vanished in 2015 (in the deleted scene) and Doc disappeared in FCB on arriving back in the 1980s.

    It's certainly not a perfect rule, but it works to explain how/why people variously fade out or not when jumping back to their original time; all those who fade out their counterpart was in close proximity all those who don't their counterpart was not in the nearby area. It could be the proximity simply accelerates the process and in all 3 examples had Marty stayed he would of eventually been erased, this would certainly seem logical based on the Delorean: It survives happily in other timelines, but when Edna's Delorean and Doc's Delorean are close together Edna's gets erased.

  • @Emo Hoe said: The physical proximity thing is the only explanation we can find for the BTTF universe given Old Biff ceased to be in 2015 when he returned, because there was a dead Biff and Doc ceased to be in FCB as FCB was there; yet Marty survived both and both Hell Valley Marty and FCB Marty (and Marty in the Tannen Gang timeline) were out of town.

    And the three Marty's can survive if you consider this effect ONLY applies in you're original time, we clearly see in 1955, 1931 and 2015 people can exist from different points in their time stream side-by side. As all 3 Marty's are from the future and imply they have been jumping around a lot and thus are not in their original time. This also holds true if you consider Old Biff vanished in 2015 (in the deleted scene) and Doc disappeared in FCB on arriving back in the 1980s.

    It's certainly not a perfect rule, but it works to explain how/why people variously fade out or not when jumping back to their original time; all those who fade out their counterpart was in close proximity all those who don't their counterpart was not in the nearby area. It could be the proximity simply accelerates the process and in all 3 examples had Marty stayed he would of eventually been erased, this would certainly seem logical based on the Delorean: It survives happily in other timelines, but when Edna's Delorean and Doc's Delorean are close together Edna's gets erased.



    Hmm...I still don't buy the proximity theory, but you MIGHT just be onto something there. At the very least, I'll complement you on a very original theory :)

    But as far as the Delorean goes, I felt it was something to do with Edna's Delorean being forcibly pulled through time that rendered it unstable and caused it to disintegrate. Remember, that Delorean was a temporal duplicate of the original and thus unstable to begin with.

    If we take your theory at face value, then Edna's Delorean would have faded as soon as Doc's Delorean appeared in 1876 Hill Valley.

  • everyone the delorean was gonna be erased from time because in episode 5 u can see it all broken down when ur at endas shack thats because enda didnt treat it well and the timeline catching up with it and when u place the flux overrides on endas delorean doc says the timeline was catching up to it faster now (and i know he says something different but this means the same thing)

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