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Echoes of Time Travelers

posted by Rogers on - last edited - Viewed by 1.1K users

There are many instances, particularly in Parts 2 and 3, where Doc or Marty travel to the past to accomplish some goal, but when they succeed in that goal, they eliminate the original purpose of going back. (Going to 1955 to retrieve the almanac, saving Doc from the west and destroying the tombstone, the list goes on.) This would seemingly be a variation of the Grandfather Paradox, as we are led to believe that BTTF exists on one constantly evolving timeline. But even though there is only one timeline, we have several different "realities" or "versions" of that timeline. (1985a, Twin Pines 1985, future where Marty gets in an accident)

The problem is that once one of these alternate realities get erased, people in
that reality aren't supposed to affect the timeline anymore. Take 2015 where Biff steals the almanac. If Old Biff from 2015 goes to 1955, only to create an alternate reality where Doc and Marty don't show up in 2015, how can he go back in time with the almanac? The answer, I think, is that no matter how many times you alter the timeline, an "echo" of older versions of time travelers must still exist to complete whatever action they are meant to complete.

To illustrate this more clearly, let's look at Part 2 when Doc and Marty go back to 1955. They see Old Biff hand over the almanac, an almanac from a version of 2015 that no longer exists. The Old Biff they see can't possibly be who Biff grows into anymore either, because once he gives Young Biff the almanac he creates 1985a. Doc and Marty would have had to take the time machine to 2015a in order for that Old Biff to even have a chance of using it. Therefore, this Old Biff should not exist. BUT HE DOES...He exists as an echo, a remnant from a destroyed reality. As soon as Old Biff drives off from 1955 at 88 mph, he'll just cease to exist because there's no timeline for him to go back to.

There are several "echos" present in the series. Once Marty goes back home in Part 3, the version of him in 1955 who travels to the Wild West must also be an echo. In BTTF the Game, there is a Citizen Brown timeline where the time machine was never invented, yet we still see Doc and Marty in a photo taken in the 30s. They were echoes.

Any thoughts on this theory?

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  • @Jennifer said: Doc said "if I live to be 100, which I almost have" in It's About Time.

    He also said Jules and Verne are going to college, which would mean that 19 years had passed since their conception. That would make Doc 90. Add in the amount of time it took Doc and Clara to be married, and the time it took to conceive a child, and the time definitely lines up with Doc's statement that he's almost 100.


    The DeLorean had the ability to time travel before the crash because the time ripple didn't catch up to it yet since Doc didn't fade from existence until after they traveled through time.

    As for the flying parts, they still exist in the timeline in 2015 (and as I mentioned before the future already exists as evidenced by Marty and Jennifer living in the future despite the fact that they hadn't lived it yet), since Doc Brown wasn't the one who invented them. Since they still exist, the time ripple took longer to catch up to it, as it had with Marty and the DeLorean itself.



    But that would cause a paradox. It doesn't matter how long it takes to catch up with it. You seem to forget when something fades, it fades from existent. Not from that point on. Once the parts for time travel didn't exist it would be impossible to return from 1931 let alone get there, regardless if he got there before it faded.

    I can sort of consider the age thing now. But it's just plain speculation. But I still can't see why Marty didn't fade. If time travel never existed then it would be one paradox after another which once again, makes it impossible for Marty to return from 1931. Same goes for every other time travel.

  • @Michael J Fox is Canadian said: good point. Doc does state in the first episode he visited Marty and Jennifer in 2011 so the future does exist (as we also see at the end of the game)

    the critical junction point of the FCB timeline is Emmett avoiding seeing Frankenstein. He avoids it at basically the exact same time Doc and Marty go back to the future. I don't know why people find it so inconceivable that Doc wont live as long without his rejuvenation.



    The question about whether or not the future 'exists', and in what form does it exist, in the BTTF-verse, is an interesting debate in itself, and surprisingly not one which I've seen much discussion about in the fandom yet. The way I see it, the future does EXIST in the sense that there undoubtedly WILL be a future, which logically follows on from the events of the present...but the future really can't exist in the same way the past does. That's what makes it different from the past...

    Now, when you add time travel to the mix, things get REALLY complicated, because then it becomes a matter of perspective. Personally, I feel that when a time traveler is in the past, the future he came from doesn't really 'exist' for him anymore than it does for anyone else...and let, HE is living proof that there IS a future.

    BTTF honestly plays with this both ways-we're told in BTTF3 that the future isn't written...it's a blank slate which is constantly shaped by the actions of the present. On the other hand, the changing photographs and newspapers seem to give the impression of the future existing in some concrete sense...but being in a constant state of flux depending on the actions of time travelers in the past.

    I think Jennifer being left behind in 1985 while Marty and Doc are gallivanting about in the past is an interesting study in perspectives-on the one hand, while they're in 1885, Doc says that the future isn't written and can be 'whatever one wants it to be'. Hell, the changing picture of the tombstone clearly indicates that the events of September 7th 1885 are not yet set in stone...let alone the far future. And yet, Marty and Doc talk about Jennifer, who was left behind on the porch in 1985, in the sense of her being someone they've left behind in a clearly definable place which they can easily return to. They also speak of Marty burning the Almanac in 1955, almost as if '1955' was a country Marty had recently visited, before moving to 1885! The truth is that going by the 'future isn't written' philosophy in the strictest sense...NOTHING is set in stone yet! If the outcome of Marty's confrontation with Bufford Tannen on September 7th 1885 hasn't been 'written'...then how can one even speak of someone being left behind on a porch in 1985, or someone burning a book from 2015 in the year 1955, in any absolute sense?

    The characters have a tendency to refer to different time periods as places, which is what leads to this whole idea of the future 'existing' in some form. When Marty tells Jennifer at the end about how "Doc's never coming back", he speaks in terms of Doc being trapped in some place, with the time barrier merely being like a wire fence preventing him from getting back home. He simply doesn't think in terms of the fact that Doc would logically have been dead for DECADES already...so any question of him being 'trapped' somewhere or not 'coming back' is a moot point already. But I guess time travel being as troubling to logic as it is, requires this kind of rationalization as the only sane way to deal with it!

  • @sn939 said: The question about whether or not the future 'exists', and in what form does it exist, in the BTTF-verse, is an interesting debate in itself, and surprisingly not one which I've seen much discussion about in the fandom yet. The way I see it, the future does EXIST in the sense that there undoubtedly WILL be a future, which logically follows on from the events of the present...but the future really can't exist in the same way the past does. That's what makes it different from the past...

    Now, when you add time travel to the mix, things get REALLY complicated, because then it becomes a matter of perspective. Personally, I feel that when a time traveler is in the past, the future he came from doesn't really 'exist' for him anymore than it does for anyone else...and let, HE is living proof that there IS a future.

    BTTF honestly plays with this both ways-we're told in BTTF3 that the future isn't written...it's a blank slate which is constantly shaped by the actions of the present. On the other hand, the changing photographs and newspapers seem to give the impression of the future existing in some concrete sense...but being in a constant state of flux depending on the actions of time travelers in the past.

    I think Jennifer being left behind in 1985 while Marty and Doc are gallivanting about in the past is an interesting study in perspectives-on the one hand, while they're in 1885, Doc says that the future isn't written and can be 'whatever one wants it to be'. Hell, the changing picture of the tombstone clearly indicates that the events of September 7th 1885 are not yet set in stone...let alone the far future. And yet, Marty and Doc talk about Jennifer, who was left behind on the porch in 1985, in the sense of her being someone they've left behind in a clearly definable place which they can easily return to. They also speak of Marty burning the Almanac in 1955, almost as if '1955' was a country Marty had recently visited, before moving to 1885! The truth is that going by the 'future isn't written' philosophy in the strictest sense...NOTHING is set in stone yet! If the outcome of Marty's confrontation with Bufford Tannen on September 7th 1885 hasn't been 'written'...then how can one even speak of someone being left behind on a porch in 1985, or someone burning a book from 2015 in the year 1955, in any absolute sense?

    The characters have a tendency to refer to different time periods as places, which is what leads to this whole idea of the future 'existing' in some form. When Marty tells Jennifer at the end about how "Doc's never coming back", he speaks in terms of Doc being trapped in some place, with the time barrier merely being like a wire fence preventing him from getting back home. He simply doesn't think in terms of the fact that Doc would logically have been dead for DECADES already...so any question of him being 'trapped' somewhere or not 'coming back' is a moot point already. But I guess time travel being as troubling to logic as it is, requires this kind of rationalization as the only sane way to deal with it!



    The future (in BTTF) is similar to the past in the sense that it can not be changed without time travel; look at 2015; doc clearly maps out what will happen on that day and everything happens on schedule. It's not just a possible future, it is part of the timeline as the same events occur until they are changed by time trave; the newspaper of the next day still exists as do the almanac and biffs cane. also the fax of marty being fired; this functions similar to photos and newspapers that we see change; they change when the junction point causing them changes; All Marty's life (up to 2015) he has the flaw of not being able to back down when being called chicken. The events of the old west make him start to believe he shouldn't care what others think; any combination of Seamus brother Martin getting killed by being like him, the fact that Doc wouldn't have been stuck in the old west if Marty backed away from Biff, and that using logic over emotion (cheating in the duel with Buford) prevails leads him to that conclusion. The car accident was a critical point in Marty's life which led to the future we see in 2015. But in that timeline Marty did not have the events of 1885. Once Marty avoided it (again showing him that backing down clearly was the better choice), the fax erases.

    Now there's many reasons the fax could erase. One being that if in that situation again in 2015, Marty wont reply to Needles calling him chicken but also that he does not give up on his music (as the car accident does so).


    It is difficult to get a good gage on what you're saying because the only time travel during the films or games that we do see on screen which doesn't end up changing the timeline is Einstein going one minute into the future. But the 2015 experience is a good indicator on how the timeline plays out.



    So in episodes 2/3 the delorean still exists in the FCB timeline for the same reason the almanac and cane from the future still exist in Hell valley; they weren't erased from existance.

  • @Michael J Fox is Canadian said: The future (in BTTF) is similar to the past in the sense that it can not be changed without time travel; look at 2015; doc clearly maps out what will happen on that day and everything happens on schedule. It's not just a possible future, it is part of the timeline as the same events occur until they are changed by time trave; the newspaper of the next day still exists as do the almanac and biffs cane. also the fax of marty being fired; this functions similar to photos and newspapers that we see change; they change when the junction point causing them changes; All Marty's life (up to 2015) he has the flaw of not being able to back down when being called chicken. The events of the old west make him start to believe he shouldn't care what others think; any combination of Seamus brother Martin getting killed by being like him, the fact that Doc wouldn't have been stuck in the old west if Marty backed away from Biff, and that using logic over emotion (cheating in the duel with Buford) prevails leads him to that conclusion. The car accident was a critical point in Marty's life which led to the future we see in 2015. But in that timeline Marty did not have the events of 1885. Once Marty avoided it (again showing him that backing down clearly was the better choice), the fax erases.

    Now there's many reasons the fax could erase. One being that if in that situation again in 2015, Marty wont reply to Needles calling him chicken but also that he does not give up on his music (as the car accident does so).


    It is difficult to get a good gage on what you're saying because the only time travel during the films or games that we do see on screen which doesn't end up changing the timeline is Einstein going one minute into the future. But the 2015 experience is a good indicator on how the timeline plays out.



    So in episodes 2/3 the delorean still exists in the FCB timeline for the same reason the almanac and cane from the future still exist in Hell valley; they weren't erased from existance.



    Its true the future is shown to be just like the past in BTTF2...with events unfolding the same way until they are changed by the time travelers intervention. Okay...maybe that reasoning is a bit flawed. But at least in the case of the past, it was made amply clear in BTTF1 that the past wasn't just another room where you went, made changes to, and returned to the present like nothing happened. The causal link between past and present is clearly illustrated in BTTF1, with virtually EVERY action caused by Marty's presence in 1955 has some repercussions in 1985...from the smallest ones (running over the pine tree causing the mall name to change) to the biggest ones (George's confidence which translates into the McFly family's success).

    But this causal link becomes a lot less clear with 2015 though. Because, every second Doc and Marty spend in 2015, they change not only the future, but also the PAST. Because both Doc and Marty are from 1985...every action they take, which wasn't taken in the previous timeline, affects 1985 as well, and consequently, 2015 should logically be changing, even imperceptibly if nothing else, every second as well. Everything 'our' Marty sees in 2015 is something he hasn't seen 'before' (in the previous timeline), and so he his very presence in 2015, by changing HIS timeline and therefore the timeline of 1985, should be changing 2015 as well! But instead, 2015 seems to be like this parallel universe or possible future, which Marty and Doc can observe and interact with to change stuff directly, but which has seemingly no causal connection to them.

    The original 'Number Two' script, despite its flaws, actually did attempt to illustrate this causal connection between 1985 and 2015...when 1985 Jennifer pricks her finger on a thorn, we see 2015 Jennifer experience some residual pain from that. Now personally, I'm glad this 'pain transference' thing didn't make it to the finished film, but at least it illustrated the fact that the future Jennifer was causally dependent on the present Jennifer, and her past was changing in some sense with every action of Jennifer's in the future.

    You do make a good point about the newspapers and the Almanac. In fact, that's one of the peculiar points about causality in BTTF. The information contained in objects from the future change based on the time traveler's actions in the past (relative to the origin point of those objects), but the objects themselves are never erased, even if the causal chain which leads to their presence in the time traveler's hands, is erased. So, the 'GEORGE MCFLY MURDERED' newspaper changes into the 'GEORGE MCFLY HONOURED' newspaper when the Almanac is burnt, which makes perfect sense given that the future has changed...but the newspaper itself still exists in Marty's hands in 1955, despite the fact that the chain of events which LED to the newspaper's presence in his hands has been erased. Which makes me wonder...could the same apply to the Delorean? Can the Delorean still exist, even if the chain of events which led to its creation has been erased?

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    Jennifer Moderator

    @Tornreaper said: But that would cause a paradox. It doesn't matter how long it takes to catch up with it. You seem to forget when something fades, it fades from existent. Not from that point on. Once the parts for time travel didn't exist it would be impossible to return from 1931 let alone get there, regardless if he got there before it faded.


    In the Back to the Future universe, objects exist until they completely fade out, or else Biff wouldn't have been able to time travel back to 2015 since he faded from existence due to having died in the 1990's in the new timeline.

  • @sn939 said: Its true the future is shown to be just like the past in BTTF2...with events unfolding the same way until they are changed by the time travelers intervention. Okay...maybe that reasoning is a bit flawed. But at least in the case of the past, it was made amply clear in BTTF1 that the past wasn't just another room where you went, made changes to, and returned to the present like nothing happened. The causal link between past and present is clearly illustrated in BTTF1, with virtually EVERY action caused by Marty's presence in 1955 has some repercussions in 1985...from the smallest ones (running over the pine tree causing the mall name to change) to the biggest ones (George's confidence which translates into the McFly family's success).

    But this causal link becomes a lot less clear with 2015 though. Because, every second Doc and Marty spend in 2015, they change not only the future, but also the PAST. Because both Doc and Marty are from 1985...every action they take, which wasn't taken in the previous timeline, affects 1985 as well, and consequently, 2015 should logically be changing, even imperceptibly if nothing else, every second as well. Everything 'our' Marty sees in 2015 is something he hasn't seen 'before' (in the previous timeline), and so he his very presence in 2015, by changing HIS timeline and therefore the timeline of 1985, should be changing 2015 as well! But instead, 2015 seems to be like this parallel universe or possible future, which Marty and Doc can observe and interact with to change stuff directly, but which has seemingly no causal connection to them.

    The original 'Number Two' script, despite its flaws, actually did attempt to illustrate this causal connection between 1985 and 2015...when 1985 Jennifer pricks her finger on a thorn, we see 2015 Jennifer experience some residual pain from that. Now personally, I'm glad this 'pain transference' thing didn't make it to the finished film, but at least it illustrated the fact that the future Jennifer was causally dependent on the present Jennifer, and her past was changing in some sense with every action of Jennifer's in the future.

    You do make a good point about the newspapers and the Almanac. In fact, that's one of the peculiar points about causality in BTTF. The information contained in objects from the future change based on the time traveler's actions in the past (relative to the origin point of those objects), but the objects themselves are never erased, even if the causal chain which leads to their presence in the time traveler's hands, is erased. So, the 'GEORGE MCFLY MURDERED' newspaper changes into the 'GEORGE MCFLY HONOURED' newspaper when the Almanac is burnt, which makes perfect sense given that the future has changed...but the newspaper itself still exists in Marty's hands in 1955, despite the fact that the chain of events which LED to the newspaper's presence in his hands has been erased. Which makes me wonder...could the same apply to the Delorean? Can the Delorean still exist, even if the chain of events which led to its creation has been erased?



    Well the chain of events leading to the deloreans creation have no relevance to Doc Brown or time travel, it was DMC and John Delorean. Presumably the parts that eventually become the time circuits still exist in some respects. I can't remember the date George McFly is murdered/honoured, i think around March 15th 1973 but either way there still would be a newspaper printed that day (although admittedly Marty would have no reason to grab it and bring it to 1955)

  • @Michael J Fox is Canadian said: Well the chain of events leading to the deloreans creation have no relevance to Doc Brown or time travel, it was DMC and John Delorean. Presumably the parts that eventually become the time circuits still exist in some respects. I can't remember the date George McFly is murdered/honoured, i think around March 15th 1973 but either way there still would be a newspaper printed that day (although admittedly Marty would have no reason to grab it and bring it to 1955)



    Which begs the question...in all probability, there is ANOTHER Delorean out there somewhere in FCB 1986 which is IDENTICAL to the time travelling Delorean (but stayed as a 'normal' car)? So do both the FCB Delorean and the 'Original' Delorean indefinitely co-exist? Or eventually...will one fade from existence?

    Also, there's one other thing with regards to the Delorean we've ignored...its a 'temporal duplicate' of the original...so the question is, what exactly counts as THIS Delorean's 'creation'? Being manufactured by DMC in the 1980's and modified into a time machine in 1985...or being struck by lightning on November 12th 1955? If the latter...then the Delorean should logically have been erased, since that event never happened in this timeline...

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    Jennifer Moderator

    @sn939 said: Which begs the question...in all probability, there is ANOTHER Delorean out there somewhere in FCB 1986 which is IDENTICAL to the time travelling Delorean (but stayed as a 'normal' car)? So do both the FCB Delorean and the 'Original' Delorean indefinitely co-exist? Or eventually...will one fade from existence?


    If the First Citizen Brown timeline wasn't rewritten, one of the DeLoreans would fade from existence. We saw Edna's DeLorean fade from existence in OUTATIME.

    @sn939 said: Also, there's one other thing with regards to the Delorean we've ignored...its a 'temporal duplicate' of the original...so the question is, what exactly counts as THIS Delorean's 'creation'? Being manufactured by DMC in the 1980's and modified into a time machine in 1985...or being struck by lightning on November 12th 1955? If the latter...then the Delorean should logically have been erased, since that event never happened in this timeline...
    Good question. I'd say it's creation was in the 1980's based on what I've read about temporal duplication in other literature (that being that the temporal duplication would make it the same car at two different points in time).

  • @Jennifer said: If the First Citizen Brown timeline wasn't rewritten, one of the DeLoreans would fade from existence. We saw Edna's DeLorean fade from existence in OUTATIME.


    Good question. I'd say it's creation was in the 1980's based on what I've read about temporal duplication in other literature (that being that the temporal duplication would make it the same car at two different points in time).



    'Temporal duplication' in the conventional sense simply refers to a situation where two of the same person or object, originating from different points of time, co-exist (the two Marty's in BTTF2 and Ep 2 of the Game, young Emmett and Doc in 1931 etc.)

    However, in this case, when they're talking about 'temporal duplication', they mean the Delorean was LITERALLY duplicated, such that the two cars had an existence independent of each other.

    Case in point, if you consider all the Deloreans in Hill Valley on November 12th 1955...each one is dependent on its 'predecessor' for its existence. One couldn't tamper with, say, the Delorean Old Biff brought with him from 2015 without affecting the Delorean Marty and Doc brought from 1985-A, or the one buried in the Delgado Mine.

    But the Delorean in the Game had an independent existence of the Delorean in BTTF3. One went to 1885, stayed in a mine for 70 years, went back to 1885 AGAIN, returned to 1985 and was destroyed. The other went to 2025, later (presumably) made a few time jumps, before going to 1931, and then returning to 1986 at the start of the game.

  • @sn939 said: 'Temporal duplication' in the conventional sense simply refers to a situation where two of the same person or object, originating from different points of time, co-exist (the two Marty's in BTTF2 and Ep 2 of the Game, young Emmett and Doc in 1931 etc.)

    However, in this case, when they're talking about 'temporal duplication', they mean the Delorean was LITERALLY duplicated, such that the two cars had an existence independent of each other.

    Case in point, if you consider all the Deloreans in Hill Valley on November 12th 1955...each one is dependent on its 'predecessor' for its existence. One couldn't tamper with, say, the Delorean Old Biff brought with him from 2015 without affecting the Delorean Marty and Doc brought from 1985-A, or the one buried in the Delgado Mine.

    But the Delorean in the Game had an independent existence of the Delorean in BTTF3. One went to 1885, stayed in a mine for 70 years, went back to 1885 AGAIN, returned to 1985 and was destroyed. The other went to 2025, later (presumably) made a few time jumps, before going to 1931, and then returning to 1986 at the start of the game.



    I'd think it follows the same rules as a clone; i've never seen a story involving clones and time travel. You go back in time and kill a clone before the cloning (or prevent it from being born) both die.

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