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Echoes of Time Travelers

posted by Rogers on - last edited - Viewed by 2.7K 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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  • @Tornreaper said: I don't really buy the echo theory. But I do have to admit it's true in BTTF. This pretty much solves every paradox. However I don't think that solves why Marty faded away. If the echo theory does exist then all that means is even though they get erased from existence or stop them from time traveling then their actions still occurred and they still existed for a short period of time. That doesn't mean that they can freely time travel.

    I stand by my statement. He should have faded. I accept that a paradox didn't happen because of the echo theory though. I think since the critical junction point was the expo he should of been fine as soon as he jumped to 1986 and then he and the time machine should have faded.

    That's why I don't call it the 'echo theory' because I don't believe the time traveler's from erased timelines are mere 'echoes'. They are living, breathing entities with as much free will as any other individual.

    Case in point...Old Biff in 1955 wasn't just an 'echo', even if his timeline was erased. After giving the Almanac to his younger self, he was free to do anything he wanted, as long as he didn't return to 2015 (or pretty much any point in time after 1996, the year he was shot). He could have lived out his life in the past, or could have traveled back and settled down in the 19th century...he could have done ANYTHING he wanted before the date when his alternate self was shot dead. He had complete free will.

    Now, granted, Old Biff's case is somewhat clear cut, in that his alternate self is supposed to be dead, so he clearly erased his existence. But Marty and Doc's case is far different...because their alternate selves were clearly alive in all the alternate timelines they visit; but simply didn't time travel. Logically, that should invalidate the existence of the time traveling versions...but somehow that doesn't really happen.

  • @Tornreaper said: I don't really buy the echo theory. But I do have to admit it's true in BTTF. This pretty much solves every paradox. However I don't think that solves why Marty faded away. If the echo theory does exist then all that means is even though they get erased from existence or stop them from time traveling then their actions still occurred and they still existed for a short period of time. That doesn't mean that they can freely time travel.

    I stand by my statement. He should have faded. I accept that a paradox didn't happen because of the echo theory though. I think since the critical junction point was the expo he should of been fine as soon as he jumped to 1986 and then he and the time machine should have faded.

    Which time are you talking about Marty fadint? In part I he fades because he critical junction point for his conception (the dance kiss) is in jeopardy. In episode 1/2 he starts fading at the same point his grandfather is killed. Both those times he is avoiding his own birth. He is clearly still born in the FCB timeline.

  • @Michael J Fox is Canadian said: Which time are you talking about Marty fadint? In part I he fades because he critical junction point for his conception (the dance kiss) is in jeopardy. In episode 1/2 he starts fading at the same point his grandfather is killed. Both those times he is avoiding his own birth. He is clearly still born in the FCB timeline.

    Marty's fading in Episode 2 didn't really make much sense as per the established rules in BTTF1 either.

    Marty apparently starts fading AFTER his grandfather was beaten to death. Later, even when he travels back earlier in the day, to a time BEFORE his grandfather was in any perceivable danger, he continues to have fading 'spasms' which get progressively worse. But that really doesn't make sense.

    As per the rules in BTTF1, the moment Arthur McFly died, Marty would simply fade from existence. Period. There is no way Marty can continue to exist in a time period where Arthur McFly is dead, because the probability of his existence if 0.

    Also, when Marty goes back to a time BEFORE Arthur McFly was killed, he should be fine. Or at any rate, the fading shouldn't be AS bad, because there is now a probability that Marty could exist.

  • @Michael J Fox is Canadian said: Which time are you talking about Marty fadint? In part I he fades because he critical junction point for his conception (the dance kiss) is in jeopardy. In episode 1/2 he starts fading at the same point his grandfather is killed. Both those times he is avoiding his own birth. He is clearly still born in the FCB timeline.

    Marty doesn't just fade in the movie and episode 1 and 2 because he ceased to exist. It was also because his time travel didn't exist. It should be the same circumstances with Marty as it was for Doc. He couldn't time travel in this timeline so he should be replaced by FCB Marty like Doc was replaced by FCB Doc.

    @Michael J Fox is Canadian said: Marty's fading in Episode 2 didn't really make much sense as per the established rules in BTTF1 either.

    Marty apparently starts fading AFTER his grandfather was beaten to death. Later, even when he travels back earlier in the day, to a time BEFORE his grandfather was in any perceivable danger, he continues to have fading 'spasms' which get progressively worse. But that really doesn't make sense.

    As per the rules in BTTF1, the moment Arthur McFly died, Marty would simply fade from existence. Period. There is no way Marty can continue to exist in a time period where Arthur McFly is dead, because the probability of his existence if 0.

    Also, when Marty goes back to a time BEFORE Arthur McFly was killed, he should be fine. Or at any rate, the fading shouldn't be AS bad, because there is now a probability that Marty could exist.

    Maybe because he already experience the point after his Grandpa died even though he went back a few minutes later?

  • @sn939 said: Marty's fading in Episode 2 didn't really make much sense as per the established rules in BTTF1 either.

    Marty apparently starts fading AFTER his grandfather was beaten to death. Later, even when he travels back earlier in the day, to a time BEFORE his grandfather was in any perceivable danger, he continues to have fading 'spasms' which get progressively worse. But that really doesn't make sense.

    As per the rules in BTTF1, the moment Arthur McFly died, Marty would simply fade from existence. Period. There is no way Marty can continue to exist in a time period where Arthur McFly is dead, because the probability of his existence if 0.

    Also, when Marty goes back to a time BEFORE Arthur McFly was killed, he should be fine. Or at any rate, the fading shouldn't be AS bad, because there is now a probability that Marty could exist.

    i'm kind of unclear on the timeline for those few days; Marty arrives June 13th 1931, June 14th is the day the murders happen so I'm assuming the newspaper he reads was printed june 15th? (I know Marty says in episode 1 he's going to the day before doc gets killed)
    Arthur gives his deposition around 4 pm, in episode 2 Marty goes back to 4:45. The question is at what point is Artie killed? Also what time is the ending of ep1/begginning of 2? Seems artie got beat to death (doesn't make sense to me how he'd be found, Kid has an underground speakeasy, you'd think he'd dispose of the body?) Kid is obviously driving the police truck doc is in, had he killed Artie yet?

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    Jennifer Moderator

    @sn939 said: Marty's fading in Episode 2 didn't really make much sense as per the established rules in BTTF1 either.

    Marty apparently starts fading AFTER his grandfather was beaten to death. Later, even when he travels back earlier in the day, to a time BEFORE his grandfather was in any perceivable danger, he continues to have fading 'spasms' which get progressively worse. But that really doesn't make sense.

    As per the rules in BTTF1, the moment Arthur McFly died, Marty would simply fade from existence. Period. There is no way Marty can continue to exist in a time period where Arthur McFly is dead, because the probability of his existence if 0.

    Also, when Marty goes back to a time BEFORE Arthur McFly was killed, he should be fine. Or at any rate, the fading shouldn't be AS bad, because there is now a probability that Marty could exist.


    Artie was beaten to death, so he didn't die instantly (the paper said he was "left for dead" which is a term that means that he wasn't dead when he was dumped there). He was alive at the start of episode 2 but bleeding to death from his injuries (Doc said that he was dumped on the courthouse steps only five minutes before the start of episode 2), so Marty's fading would certainly still make sense within the rules of the Back to the Future universe.

    As for Marty's rate of fading out, you have to remember the ripple theory. The moment time was changed the ripple started catching up with Marty. Going back in time wouldn't stop the ripple, but it would slow it down (as going into the future past the point of erasure speeds it up). If you'll notice he wasn't fading as bad when he went back in time. At the beginning of episode 2, he was fading out. When he went back to the events of episode 1 he would remain solid for periods of time.

  • @Jennifer said: As for Marty's rate of fading out, you have to remember the ripple theory. The moment time was changed the ripple started catching up with Marty. Going back in time wouldn't stop the ripple

    Pretty much what I was trying to say.

  • @Jennifer said: Artie was beaten to death, so he didn't die instantly (the paper said he was "left for dead" which is a term that means that he wasn't dead when he was dumped there). He was alive at the start of episode 2 but bleeding to death from his injuries (Doc said that he was dumped on the courthouse steps only five minutes before the start of episode 2), so Marty's fading would certainly still make sense within the rules of the Back to the Future universe.

    As for Marty's rate of fading out, you have to remember the ripple theory. The moment time was changed the ripple started catching up with Marty. Going back in time wouldn't stop the ripple, but it would slow it down (as going into the future past the point of erasure speeds it up). If you'll notice he wasn't fading as bad when he went back in time. At the beginning of episode 2, he was fading out. When he went back to the events of episode 1 he would remain solid for periods of time.

    I agree its been a while since I've gone through the games so I agree that I may have got the details wrong, but somehow I've always considered the 'ripple effect' to be probability-based rather than time-based.

    For instance, in BTTF1, every moment George and Lorraine DON'T get together, the probability of the McFly kids being born drops closer and closer to 0, hence they gradually begin to fade from the photograph. When they (nearly) don't kiss and the probability of Marty existing drops VERY close to 0, Marty starts to fade himself. Its not that the ripple effect takes a week to catch up, but rather there was a week between the divergence Marty caused in the timeline and the critical event which determined the fate of George McFly and Lorraine Baines one way or another.

    But the Game seems to be showing the ripple effect as being time-based...almost like a disease of sorts which continues to follow Marty wherever and WHENever he goes. And this theory is reflected in Episode 5, when Marty and Doc are in 1931 when it transforms around them into the 'Burnt Hill Valley'. Doc somehow calculates that they have about an hour before the ripple effect catches up with them and erases them. How exactly DO you make a calculation like that? The way I see it, Marty and Doc should either have faded from existence the MOMENT Edna went back, or they should be able to exist indefinetly in the alternate 1931, depending on how the probabilities of their being born (or not) work out as off 1931.

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    Jennifer Moderator

    @sn939 said: I agree its been a while since I've gone through the games so I agree that I may have got the details wrong, but somehow I've always considered the 'ripple effect' to be probability-based rather than time-based.


    If the ripple effect were probability-based rather than time-based, in Back to the Future II Biff would have faded out the instant he arrived in 2015 since the probability of him existing as an old man was zero since he was killed in the 1990's.

  • @Jennifer said: If the ripple effect were probability-based rather than time-based, in Back to the Future II Biff would have faded out the instant he arrived in 2015 since the probability of him existing as an old man was zero since he was killed in the 1990's.

    Well, that's pretty much what DID happen as per the deleted scene.

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