Time Travel Fun

Over at Crooked Timber, one of the contributors, Brian, is apparently going to be teaching a course at Brown this coming semester on…Time Travel. He warms up any prospective students by taking on the Back to the Future Trilogy…
Modifications to my obvious misremembering of the article’s argument and conversations in BTTF itself are italicized in the text. Thanks to Blacksheep for pointing some of them out. Of course his theory about merging Martys stands on its own irregardless of my goofs. Thanks!


Being a fan of time travel books and movies, I like the first two of the three BTTF movies. Number three, in my opinion, was really just “let’s put Marty, Doc and Biff in the Wild West”. But the first two movies are eminently watchable, and as Brian points out, as you watch them, the paradoxes don’t really enter into your mind. It’s only later that you begin to wonder about the logical gaps.
I recall, years ago, there were a couple of articles in a magazine , of which I can’t even remember the title, that dissected the two movies in terms of the time travel anomalies.
My recollection of the article is hazy, but the author did, by necessity, take a few liberties to explain away the inconsistencies that Brian outlines in his own thesis. I’ll just stick to the first movie, the second one is even more convoluted.
The basic thrust is a many-timeline universe with some modifications. Concentrating on the first movie, Marty starts in 1985, and goes back to 1955. He changes history (by getting hit by the car himself) so that, if things go on, he will not exist.
And thus, Marty begins to “fade” as we see in the course of the movie. Once his existence is assured, he returns to normality. And since he, in 1955, moved past the branching point, when he goes back to the future…he goes to his new future, in 1985.
So where IS the Marty that should be here? That long ago article suggests he went back to the past and by turns wound up on the other timeline.
How?
The author did some handwaving to suggest that he went back to the future *before* Marty interferes with the timeline that creates the better future. He cites that Marty II probably drives better than Marty I given the fact that he owns a car of his own, and thus does not crash the car, and likely manages to turn around and get back to the present. However, when Marty II moves forward in time, he slides up into Marty I’s future…because his future does not exist “yet”, in 1955.
Talk about Dystopia! Doc is dead, and unless he handles the plutonium himself to reload the car, he’s stuck there with his less-successful parents and life.
All of this talk about Time Travel and the conservation of stuff reminds me of the role playing game Continuum, which I would like to run someday. It does neatly handle a lot of time travel paradoxes without invoking Multiple Worlds. (In point of fact, the antagonists of the game seem to be trying to create such an environment by their attempts to change history). The unpublished companion game, Narcissist, seems to have been designed to show the side of the bad guys.

2 thoughts on “Time Travel Fun”

  1. Ahem!
    In the sceane with Jennifer and Marty in front of the clock tower, Marty belittle’s his dad. Jennifer replys:
    “Oh come on now Marty, he isn’t that bad. At least he is letting you borrow the car tomorrow night” ( For the camping trip )
    In the sceane with Marty and his dad after Biff wrecked the car, had it towed , and left the McFly residence, Marty says to his dad
    “Do you know how much I needed that car tomorrow dad?”
    *Marty I* obviously knows how to drive. There is no inconsistency. *Marty II* knows how to drive and had (as yet)did not get the 4×4 for a gift. So *Marty II* skateboards around town the same, knows Doc Brown ect. ect. *Marty II* goes back in time, has the exact same advenutres in the exact same way and when they both come foward…they merge so *Marty III* would have memories of both exsistances.
    Becasue *Marty II* lifed a slightly different life from *Marty I* some of the conversations between *Marty II* and Doc Brown while they were in the past(1953)would have been different but the actions and outcome would have been the same.

  2. “He cites that Marty II probably drives better than Marty I given the fact that he owns a car of his own”
    I wasn’t knocking your memory of the article, or your memory of the movie. The author Brian is the one who has things mixed up. *Marty II* does not own his own car. The 4×4 truck is seen arriving at the dealership in the start of the movie. We can assume this truck would arrive irrespective of which universe (*Marty I* or *Marty II*)at the same time. The difference is, in the second universe *Marty II*’s Dad just sold his first novel and probibly used the royalties to get the car for his youngest son.
    *Marty I* (and by default *Marty II*)knows how to drive fairly well. Before the time trip, Marty was crusing around the Twin Pine (Lone Pine) Mall in a standard-drive DeLorian. It is hard enough to learn how to drive a Automatic.
    Another point that Brian makes incorrectly is saying that in the second universe Biff works for George instead of the other way around. Biff doesn’t work for George, he owns his own Auto detailing shop. George, inaddition to being a published author probibly has the job that Biff has in the first. *whew*

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