October 21, 2015.
It’s a date that’s been etched in my mind since I was a kid. For those of you that don’t know, and given the amount it’s been mentioned all over the media as well as the internet I doubt that’s many, today is the day that Marty McFly, Doc Brown and even poor Jennifer go forward in time to in Back To The Future II. Back when that movie was made in 1989, that future was a long way off, but here we are today and “the future is now”.
I never saw any of the Back To The Future trilogy in the cinema. My exposure to the series was limited to the early days of my parents having Sky Movies, and even then that had a very nasty habit of never showing the original movie! Indeed, for a long time we only had the second and third movies recorded from Sky on a VHS tape and as such those would be the movies that I’d sit and watch with my sisters on weekends when my dad was at work and my mum was sleeping after another nightshift.
They were a very welcome break from the likes of Disney’s The Little Mermaid! Although, to be fair, my sisters can be just as geeky as me at times so Back To The Future was a popular choice for them as well. And yes, we all enjoyed the third one too!
My geeky side is a big part of who I am, and Back To The Future is definitely a part of that. There’s something about the idea of time travel that has always fascinated me, but while Back To The Future may well be a fun trilogy of movies I’ve always thought it does a terrific job with the science behind time travel as well.
One of the criticisms you always hear about the idea of time travel is “if people could travel in time, wouldn’t we meet people from the future?” Well… no, not necessarily.
The first movie touched on it a bit, but the second movie more than any hammered home this point to me. The act of going back in time immediately changes the future because you influence it. You see the difference between the success of the McFly family in the first movie because Marty influences his father to the point he deals with Biff and so is no longer bullied by him. But in the second movie we see Biff change the past so drastically that Doc Brown gets his chalkboard out to explain the idea of alternate realities.
And that concept is the one that has fascinated me ever since I first saw this movie. There’s an entire area of Physics that is dedicated to the “many worlds theory” of parallel universes but the gist of it is that “anything that can happen, does happen”. Every decision that is made in this universe sees an alternate reality where the other choice is taken. Ultimately, anything can happen in those alternate realities.
Think of it this way. If you have any regrets over something you did in the past, somewhere there’s a universe where you chose differently. There’s another version of you living out what you regret. There’s comfort in that idea, don’t you think?
So going back to the point about seeing people from the future, would we see them? No, because maybe this reality that we’re in is the one where people don’t travel back in time. There’s another reality where people do and our versions of ourselves see them all the time.
I’ve seen this theory crop up in a number of places. Star Trek episodes, the TV series Sliders, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and even Red Dwarf. But Back To The Future II is the first place I saw it and truly understood it, and it inspired me arguably more than any other concept I’ve seen in science fiction.
Of course, it’s just a movie. 30 years ago they took a shot at predicting what the future would be and now we’re in it we can see how accurate it was. We don’t have a Mr Fusion to deal with our recycling and turn it into power. I had to cook a full size pizza tonight for dinner rather than hydrating one. The rain we get in Scotland doesn’t stop on schedule from the weather control people. The Cubs made the playoffs but look like they’re going to lose out to the Mets – although they could never have met Miami in the World Series anyway. And no, sadly I don’t have a hoverboard!
But on the plus side, my house isn’t full of fax machines and I don’t wear two ties to the office. I do have a big screen TV hanging on my wall though, and there is a baseball team in Miami now, something there wasn’t in 1989 when the movie was made!
The simple fact is, I loved these movies as a kid. They’re great fun, they made me think about science, and every time I hear the theme tune I get goosebumps. It’s probably one of my favourite theme tunes. I wish I’d managed to have a shot on the ride at Universal in Florida, but by the time I made it there the ride was so old they’d replaced it with The Simpsons – which is a cracking ride in itself.
I did get my picture taking with the Delorean though!
The movies might all finally be in the past now, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy them.
And that, more than anything, is what matters most.