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Movie Paradox that nobody mentions

posted by Rogers on - last edited - Viewed by 3.5K users

I have kept this to myself for about a year, mostly because the semantics necessary to describe this are beyond me...but here it goes.

From movie 2 onwards, there is an atrocious paradox. This is because of the trip to 2015, and the subsequent events that was caused by this. Basically, we have the following events happen in sequence:

-Doc and Marty go to 2015 where Future Marty was in a car accident.
-Old Biff goes to 1955, Doc and Marty follow and get the Almanac back,
-Lightning sends the Delorean to the old West, Marty follows.
-Marty overcomes his "chicken" phobia in the West and goes back to 1985
-Marty with new experiences does not get in a car accident.

This means that the 2015 from movie 2 is erased and Future Marty is no longer a loser. This means Marty Jr. will grow up better and there is no need for Doc to bring Marty to 2015. Biff never sees the almanac/time machine and he doesn't go to 1955 to meet his younger self. This means Marty doesn't go to the Wild West and never gets over his "chicken phobia", but this means that the 2015 with loser Future Marty DOES exist...

So, this is a complete paradox, as bad as there being a Carl Sagan in FCB's timeline.

91 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • @sn939 said: Agreed...though people tend to believe (or rather...hope), that in the final timeline, Marty Jr DOESN'T end up a wimp. In fact, since 2015 Marty in the final timeline would know about the danger of his son falling into Griff's company, he would do his best to stop that from happening.

    But yeah, a LOT of things in BTTF2 and 3 would DEFINETLY lead to paradoxes, logically-

    1. Marty preventing Marty Jr. from taking part in the robbery; in turn prevents Doc from learning about it in the first place.

    2. Old Biff giving the Almanac to Young Biff, which not only erases his very EXISTENCE in 2015, but also prevents the invention of the time machine ITSELF...thus making it impossible, both ways, for him to steal it and give the Almanac in the first place.

    3. Marty and Doc, by burning the Almanac in 1955 and restoring the normal timeline, would also cause a paradox as their earlier selves would be unaware that they needed to travel back and destroy the Almanac.

    4. Marty saving Doc from Bufford Tannen means there won't be any tombstone in 1955 for Marty to learn about his 'death' and have a reason to go back to 1885 in the first place.

    5. And Marty refusing to race Needles might mean that Doc would have no reason at the end of BTTF1/start of BTTF2 to travel back and initiate the sequence of events that culminated in Marty's decision to refuse to race Needles.

    However, these paradoxes only occur if you believe that it is necessary for stable circular loops to be maintained within a timeline...and the time travelers only recall information that exists within the final timeline. But that is clearly not the case. Marty and Doc both remember timelines and events which have been erased. For instance, Marty still remembers his loser parents. Both he and Doc remember Hell Valley long after that timeline was erased. If Marty and Doc visit a timeline, then even after it is erased, they will remember it. And if Marty can remember meeting a version of Biff who killed George, why can't Doc remember learning about a version of Marty who became a loser...even if both no longer exist!

    Exactly. Paradoxes are impossible to avoid. That's why I think it should be done differently in the series. It's fiction after all.

    Also I don't think the knowledge of going back in time would work. It's been 30 years and I don't think they would remember it. It's like how Marty's parents don't recognize him as Marty from 1955.

    You would think that when he was 8 and set the carpet on fire they would find it suspicious because in 1955 he said "if your kid sets fire to the living room rug when he's 8, go easy on him". I know I would find it suspicious if it happened exactly when he was 8. Truth is they forgot after all that time. Memory does it work like that IMO.

  • @Tornreaper said: Exactly. Paradoxes are impossible to avoid. That's why I think it should be done differently in the series. It's fiction after all.

    Also I don't think the knowledge of going back in time would work. It's been 30 years and I don't think they would remember it. It's like how Marty's parents don't recognize him as Marty from 1955.

    You would think that when he was 8 and set the carpet on fire they would find it suspicious because in 1955 he said "if your kid sets fire to the living room rug when he's 8, go easy on him". I know I would find it suspicious if it happened exactly when he was 8. Truth is they forgot after all that time. Memory does it work like that IMO.

    Marty would have been 8 years old in 1976 so 21 years passes and that event may not happen in the new timeline.


    The reality is that ANY time travel with the intention of changing the timeline (which is all the intentional on screen time travels except for Doc initially going to 2015 and any of the returns to 1985) should be a paradox.

  • @Michael J Fox is Canadian said: Marty would have been 8 years old in 1976 so 21 years passes and that event may not happen in the new timeline.


    The reality is that ANY time travel with the intention of changing the timeline (which is all the intentional on screen time travels except for Doc initially going to 2015 and any of the returns to 1985) should be a paradox.

    To be precise it's the intention to change the timeline (Or accidentally changing the timeline). That succeeds. You could intend to change time but fail or change your mind.

    Anyway it should not work like that in the series because it's too complicated.

  • @Tornreaper said: To be precise it's the intention to change the timeline (Or accidentally changing the timeline). That succeeds. You could intend to change time but fail or change your mind.

    Anyway it should not work like that in the series because it's too complicated.

    Actually not accidentally; take part I. The only intentional change to the timeline Marty makes is telling Doc about the Lybians (which I'll get to in a second).

    Let's assume for a second what would happen if marty from lone pine mall makes the trip to 1955; He never would have heard the story of Sam hitting George, he may or may not have heard about a mysterious 'Marty'. But assuming the picture still fades, he'd figure out pretty quick that him pushing George out of the way of Lorraines dads car likely prevents them from meeting. He'd still know about the enchantment under the sea dance.
    As for doc getting shot, that plays out the exact same way in both timelines so LP Marty likely assumed Doc is dead and still would warn him. So no paradox in part I.

  • Now I got more confused. I think I will have to watch the series one more time.
    Thanks for all the inputs though. Now I have to think about other movies too, like Source Code, Frequency, and Time Traveler's Wife. OMG.

  • @Michael J Fox is Canadian said: Actually not accidentally; take part I. The only intentional change to the timeline Marty makes is telling Doc about the Lybians (which I'll get to in a second).

    Let's assume for a second what would happen if marty from lone pine mall makes the trip to 1955; He never would have heard the story of Sam hitting George, he may or may not have heard about a mysterious 'Marty'. But assuming the picture still fades, he'd figure out pretty quick that him pushing George out of the way of Lorraines dads car likely prevents them from meeting. He'd still know about the enchantment under the sea dance.
    As for doc getting shot, that plays out the exact same way in both timelines so LP Marty likely assumed Doc is dead and still would warn him. So no paradox in part I.

    Agreed. In fact I believe Doc deliberately made it look like he was shot dead so as to avoid a paradox. However, he probably realised soon enough that Marty retained his memories from the original timeline...

    But yeah, you're right...any attempt to intentionally change the timeline, which succeeds, would logically result in a paradox. And in BTTF2 and 3, nearly every trip to the past involves an intent to alter past events. However, Marty and Doc both retain their memories of the timelines they erase so there isn't really a problem from that end. The problem is-what happens to the Marty and Doc of the altered timelines who WOULDN'T have reasons to make those trips back?

    Now, I believe in the case of Marty Jr., when Griff got arrested instead of Marty Jr., the timeline 'skewed into a tangent'...the original October 22nd 2015 (where Doc had got the newspaper on his initial trip) was simply erased and replaced by a new October 22nd 2015...in which Doc wasn't present because his trip to the future occurred before (in meta-time) the timeline skewed. The same applies for the entire future we see in BTTF2...that future timeline is erased, and I believe that in the final 2015, Marty, Doc and Jennifer WON'T show up.

    When it comes to all changes pertaining to Hell Valley-well, I believe that its again a case of the LP timeline being erased in favor of 1985-A owing to Old Biff's trip skewing the timeline into a tangent...and Marty, Doc and Jennifer were simply shifted into this new timeline by virtue of being in 2015 when the ripple effect hit. Later, when Marty and Doc restore the LP timeline, Jennifer and Einstien are shifted back to the LP timeline because they belong to that timeline...in the final timeline there simply WOULDN'T be a Marty, Doc, Jennifer and Einstien during those late night/early morning hours.

    Finally, when it comes to Doc's tombstone...well its difficult to get around the fact that there SHOULD be a Marty in 1955 who doesn't see the tombstone (since SOMEONE had to get the Delorean out of the Delgado Mine and read the Western Union letter...which would both exist in the final timeline). I believe that this Marty will see the picture of him and Doc by the Clock Tower, figure out he needs to go back, and will get 'folded into' 'our' Marty, who DOES remember seeing the tombstone.

  • Sn there is no evidence that the pre destination theory is present, according to these films, the only part of the future which is not written is time travel. That doesn't mean it's not possible, we seem to see it from the first occurance.

    @riojdn said: Now I got more confused. I think I will have to watch the series one more time.
    Thanks for all the inputs though. Now I have to think about other movies too, like Source Code, Frequency, and Time Traveler's Wife. OMG.

    I'll help you.
    Source code is pretty easy since all the events are within the same day.
    Frequency; kind of a hybrid of time travel theories. The timeline does get changed (not through time travel but communication with the past) and it indicates the future son remembers both timelines (which is Sn's theory of what should happen with Marty.
    Time Traveler's wife; does not follow the same rules as BTTF. According to this film, time travel is already written into the timeline (much like 12 monkey's) so there are no alternate timelines or paradoxes. For instance we see the main character attempt to save his mother's death several times without success. He realizes whatever is meant to be is meant to be and the timeline can't be changed.

  • @Michael J Fox is Canadian said: Sn there is no evidence that the pre destination theory is present, according to these films, the only part of the future which is not written is time travel. That doesn't mean it's not possible, we seem to see it from the first occurance.

    I'll help you.
    Source code is pretty easy since all the events are within the same day.
    Frequency; kind of a hybrid of time travel theories. The timeline does get changed (not through time travel but communication with the past) and it indicates the future son remembers both timelines (which is Sn's theory of what should happen with Marty.
    Time Traveler's wife; does not follow the same rules as BTTF. According to this film, time travel is already written into the timeline (much like 12 monkey's) so there are no alternate timelines or paradoxes. For instance we see the main character attempt to save his mother's death several times without success. He realizes whatever is meant to be is meant to be and the timeline can't be changed.

    Frequency to my mind is the most unrealistic and convoluted time travel movie. Sure, the premise is very interesting, and the plot is great, but it really ranks WAY below BTTF in terms of plausibility...especially with regards to the memory issue.

    I mean, let's consider the memory thing. The protagonist (can't recall his name) communicates with his father in the past using an old radio. This leads to the past being altered, and suddenly the protagonist remembers BOTH timelines. But why? What's so special about the protagonist that he remembers the original timeline when no one else did? After all, he's not a time traveler...he was in the present like everyone else when the timeline change happened...why is he immune to the 'ripple effect'? (they don't call it that...but you get the idea).

    At least in Marty and Doc's case, they are actually time travelers, so it makes sense for them to remember their original histories.

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    Jennifer Moderator

    @sn939 said: Frequency to my mind is the most unrealistic and convoluted time travel movie. Sure, the premise is very interesting, and the plot is great, but it really ranks WAY below BTTF in terms of plausibility...especially with regards to the memory issue.

    I mean, let's consider the memory thing. The protagonist (can't recall his name) communicates with his father in the past using an old radio. This leads to the past being altered, and suddenly the protagonist remembers BOTH timelines. But why? What's so special about the protagonist that he remembers the original timeline when no one else did? After all, he's not a time traveler...he was in the present like everyone else when the timeline change happened...why is he immune to the 'ripple effect'? (they don't call it that...but you get the idea).

    At least in Marty and Doc's case, they are actually time travelers, so it makes sense for them to remember their original histories.


    I love Frequency, and never really had a problem with the two memories plot line. The way I see it, the atmospheric interference that gave him the ability to communicate with his dad via HAM radio in the past is very localized since only that particular radio that seems to be affected. So it's the localized atmospheric interference around the radio that created the bubble effect for him. No one else was in the vicinity of the radio, so they retained only new memories.

  • @Jennifer said: I love Frequency, and never really had a problem with the two memories plot line. The way I see it, the atmospheric interference that gave him the ability to communicate with his dad via HAM radio in the past is very localized since only that particular radio that seems to be affected. So it's the localized atmospheric interference around the radio that created the bubble effect for him. No one else was in the vicinity of the radio, so they retained only new memories.

    Hey, now that you put it that way...it makes a bit of sense :)

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