“My density has brought me to you.”
November 5, 2019
“Your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one.” – Doc Brown
To be able to travel through time has long sparked the imagination of mankind. It has been fictionalized in countless books, TV shows and movies. But there is one movie so original in its interpretation that when it was released it spent 11 weeks in the top box office spot and was the top grossing film of 1985. That film is Back To The Future.
November 5 was not the date the film was released. But for those of us who are cult followers of the film, we know that when Marty McFly stepped into Doc Brown’s DeLorean the date on the computer was set by the Doc to November 5, 1955. With the aid of plutonium stolen from Libyan terrorists, the Doc’s time machine – once it reached 88 mph – sent Marty back 30 years. There he encounters his parents, George and Lorraine, who are both teenagers.
From the Infallible Wikipedia:
“Marty finds himself transported to 1955 without any plutonium to return. He encounters the teen aged George, who is bullied by his classmate Biff. After Marty saves George from an oncoming car, he is knocked unconscious and awakens to find himself tended to by Lorraine, who is infatuated with him.
Marty tracks down Doc’s younger self for help. With no plutonium, Doc explains that the only power source capable of generating the necessary 1.21 gigawatts (1,620,000 hp) of electricity for the time machine is a bolt of lightning. Marty shows Doc a flyer from the future that recounts a lightning strike at the town’s courthouse due the coming Saturday night. Doc instructs Marty to not leave his house or interact with anyone, as he could inadvertently alter the future; because of this, Doc refuses to heed warnings from Marty about his death in 1985. When they realize that he has prevented his parents from meeting by saving George from the car, Doc warns Marty that he must find a way to introduce George to Lorraine or he will be erased from existence. Doc formulates a plan to harness the power of the lightning, while Marty sets about introducing his parents.
After Lorraine asks Marty to the school dance, Marty devises a plan: he will feign inappropriate advances on Lorraine, allowing George to ‘rescue’ her. The plan goes awry when a drunken Biff gets rid of Marty and attempts to force himself on Lorraine. George, enraged, knocks out Biff, and Lorraine accompanies him to the dance floor, where they kiss while Marty performs with the band.
As the storm arrives, Marty returns to the clock tower and the lightning strikes, sending Marty back to 1985. Doc has survived the shooting, as he had listened to Marty’s warnings and worn a bullet-proof vest. Doc takes Marty home and departs to the future. Marty awakens the next morning to find that his father is now a self-confident and successful author, his mother is fit and happy, his siblings are in their own successful businesses, and Biff is now an obsequious auto valet.”
There is so very much to like about Back To The Future, that I don’t even know where to begin. A couple of great scenes come to mind, however.
- Marty is in the soda fountain and tries to order a “Tab” which, of course, is a beverage from 1985. The soda jerk chastises him and tells him he can’t give him a tab when he hasn’t ordered anything. The gag continues with Marty trying to order a ‘Pepsi Free’ which really makes the guy mad.
- When he meets his teenage mother she has rescued him after his being hit by his grandfather’s car and Marty wakes up – having been put to bed for recovery from the previously mentioned accident – and she addresses him as ‘Calvin.’ Marty questions Lorraine on why she calls him this and she tells him it’s on his underwear… there was no designer underwear by Calvin Klein in the 1950’s of course. But even more disturbing is the thought of how Lorraine found this information.
- Doc Brown, upon meeting Marty, is skeptical as to Marty’s story about traveling from the future and peppers him with questions in the following memorable exchange:
“Then tell me, “Future Boy,” Who’s President in the United States in 1985?”
“Ronald Reagan? The actor? Then who’s VICE-President? Jerry Lewis?”
When asked for a list of my top ten favorite films, this is one of three films which I love and can watch over and over, never tiring of it.
This past weekend was my father’s funeral and, because my older siblings declined to do so, I was the designated eulogist. It is very difficult to distill someone’s life down into a ten minute speech. Ultimately I decided to share a couple of stories which were illustrative of my dad’s spirit and determination. Upon reflection I realized I had gotten, during the past ten years of going to Yakima and staying with him to cook meals and help, my own version of time travel. Although is not possible to actually experience it, this was the next best thing. Here’s what I wrote:
“In those early days (2009-2014), Dad was starved for conversation and companionship. While I know he appreciated the meals, I think he liked getting to tell his stories and talking with me more. Over time I heard about his time in the Army Air Corps and the day he buzzed the tower at Chanute Field in Chicago; or the hurricane he went through while stationed in Lakeland Florida in 1943. I learned that before he knew Mom, there were a number of young women he dated – one in every town it seemed – and one of them brought her mother along and followed him from Buffalo New York to Dothan Alabama. Fortunately for all his kids and grand-kids, he was not ‘catchable’ at that point.”
But there was one particularly memorable moment in Back To The Future which has always resonated with me. When Marty returns to the future, his parent’s lives have changed and his father – who never once stood up to anyone before Marty altered the past – is completely different. Instead of being in a dead end job, George McFly is now a successful author.
The message is clear: each of us is in charge of our own destiny and it’s possible to create your own Back To The Future moment. Mine came when I walked into a novel writing class in the fall of 2004. As I sat there listening to the fictional pages others had written and were sharing that day I had an epiphany. I knew – and believed – that I also could write the stories which rolled around in my head. Six completed novels later – with others still knocking about in my brain – perhaps now is the time for me, like George McFly, to take that next step.