Anyone who’s been on social media for the last few years will likely have seen one of the hoax screenshots from Back To The Future Part II (in today’s mostly numbered-sequel averse industry the second instalment would probably have been called ‘Back From The Future’). These would show that the date Doc, Marty and Jennifer travel forward to matches whatever date the image was posted. It’s a bit of a surprising trend to look back on in these post 21/10/15 days after seeing all the fuss made online when the real date finally came. You wouldn’t have thought people would believe it as a piece of under-the-radar trivia as we now know the whole world would be… er, has been talking about it (they told us tenses would be hard in the future). Except for a few youngsters on Teens React.
Prompting the intended reaction in the audience of Kids/Teens React – adults shaking their fists at young people and feeling old.
In fact it’s become such a landmark date that the thirty-year anniversary celebrations of the franchise have been focused around it rather than the actual anniversary date of December 4th, when the first film was released in 1985. For a generation, this is the mark that we truly are living in the future. And, of course, part of the online phenomenon has been endless articles about how much Back To The Future Part II got right in its predictions These mostly skirt around the obvious answer “Not much, really.” Flying cars and hoverboards still elude, if not science, then practicality, and thankfully we’re still a long way off from seeing Jaws 19. Thus the franchise’s optimistic views of the future become officially dated and a little of the Back To The Future magic seems to have faded. Subsequent audiences will be taken out of the film for a brief moment whenever the ‘future’ year is mentioned, and the trilogy becomes another franchise removed a little farther from the realm of possibility and toward the category of ‘fantasy’. Or does it?
There is a way that a hypothetical Back to the Future Part IV could take place in the 2015 of today and still keep the internal logic and continuity of the trilogy. It concerns the running sub-plot bridging the second two parts of the trilogy – Marty gets in a car crash with a Rolls Royce while drag racing, he injures his arm and his budding music career never takes off. Thus the future which Jennifer eavesdrops on is one where her son is a delinquent, her husband is fired from the office and her gut-fear of temporal paradoxes hasn’t eased in the slightest.
Nor, unfortunately, had her overacting.
She takes the fax (remember how I said they didn’t make many accurate predictions?) informing future-Marty that he’s fired and over the remainder of the trilogy Marty learns to be less sensitive to poultry metaphors, matures a little and backs out of the drag race when it comes near the end of the final film. The fax that Jennifer still has with her has the words erased, proving that, in Doc’s words “…the future is whatever you make it.” We now know that, at the very least, Marty’s professional future had been altered, so why not more?
Whatever the events following that misleadingly uplifting ending, they may well lead to a 2015 without hoverboards or self-drying clothes (which, combined with a weather-control system, does seem like a particularly odd invention) and, perhaps, one with iPads and Netflix. In a rather horrifying reversal of the Bill and Ted timeline, Marty could well have engaged in a music career so terrible that it somehow prevented technological innovations like levitating transport and hydratable pizza.
“Shoes that you have to tie yourself, Marty. That’s the future your kids will have to live with.”
This might seem a little dark an approach purely to keep a film franchise’s continuity within the realm of possibility, and perhaps it’s better to leave the world of Back To The Future as it is. But it gives us hardcore fans another alternate timeline to chew over. And when you realise that the averted 2015 included ‘Queen Diana’, that’s when the conspiracy theories can really start.