Back to the Future (and back again)

21 October 2015. Make a note, because thousands of people already have. Today is “Back to the Future Day”; the date that Marty McFly and Doc Emmett Brown travelled to from 1985 in Back to the Future 2.

Back to the Future – a timeless classic

Back to the Future (BTTF) is one of the classics in time travel movies. When the first installment was released in 1985 it brought the idea of time travel to the silver screen – not just to sci-fi fans but to a young generation. Paradoxes, alternative histories, projected futures and the space-time continuum…all on a comedic setting and the underlying story line of trying to get your parents together. BTTF is a milestone in time travel movie production.

It was and still is a dramatic success. Time travel and sci-fi are niche areas within fiction, but mention BTTF and most of the general public will have heard of it. And I think most will have enjoyed it. It’s an incredible feat that 30 years later the “Back to the Future” franchise is not only being talked about but there are gatherings, parties, re-enactments (with time machines?) – and today…”Back to the Future Day”. And it seems that everyone is getting on board.

The movies

The first film took us back to the fifties. We already know that era (it’s already been!) and much of the beauty of the movie is in how a teenager from 1985 deals with being a teenager in the 50s. It’s more of the destination kind of time travel fiction.

BTTF2 takes on a different tone. It plays more with travelling in time, now forwards as well as backwards, and introducing not only the idea of an alternative future but a branch in the time line causing an alternative history (and hence ‘another’ alternative future). It’s this movie, where Marty and The Doc travel to 21 October 2015, that we thank for “Back to the Future Day”.

Back then, and now

It’s easy to see how true to the fifties the original BTTF movie is. We can compare memories and / or records with the movie. I wasn’t around then so I can’t perform the first person analysis, but I am around now in what was back then considered to be the future. I found a cartoon today which highlights the lackluster of today when compared to ideas in the past of where we’d be today.

“21 October 2015 – it strikes me it doesn’t go well. Jaws 19, no hoverboards and no flying cars. You hate sequels, you can’t skateboard and you have no driving licence. What do you make of that? Answer: It’s the thought that counts.” (Dating For Geeks, Metro, 21 October 2015).

Compare this attitude to just last year. Even in the short term, our present is falling behind past expectations at an increasing rate. How does the eighties idea of the future measure up to today?

Spitter in public transport
Translation: “Spitter in public transport will soon be caught by DNA”.

I was both pleased and disgusted to see the front page of the Metro, a Dutch free newspaper available at train stations this morning. At the top we have the dashboard control from the time machine used on the movie. Remember – this is the time machine which sits in a DeLorean (“If you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” – The Doc) and powered by a flux capacitor.

Notice the date: 21 October. 2015. Yes, that’s today, and it’s in the free paper, largely aimed not at sci-fi or time travel fans, but at the general public who revel in celebrity gossip, and at commuters who need something to read whilst we wait for trains that will never turn up. At least not on our time line.

And the news item for today? If you work in public transport and someone spits on you, DNA analysis can help find the culprit. Presumably passengers don’t get any help if the ticket conductor spits on you. (A lot of them do if you sit in second class.)

I couldn’t help notice the sickness of the editor who placed a picture of a homeless refugee nearby…dressed in waterproofs *growl*. But this is in line with the low mentality of the paper, and yet it still has an interest in Back to the Future, and assumes that it’s readers do too. And that’s a good thing, even if all that spitting isn’t.

Spitting at people? What kind of a world do we live in? In what kind of a time?

Maybe Biff did get his evil future time line after all.

warning - new future dawns
A new future dawns. My photography skills don’t show it, but the sky was really red. That’s a (shepherd’s) warning, right?


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