Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Back to the Future I timeline - anomalies

Cracked have posted one of their amusing video's regarding a flaw with the first Back to the Future. Of course there are several, but the flaw they point out took me some time to understand. In the end I laid it out as follows.

We start with the original timeline and its inhabitants that I'll refer to using a subscript OT. In this timeline DocOT hits his head invents the flux capacitor, and build the time machine. MartyOT watches his father GeorgeOT being picked on by BiffOT and hears about how his mother LorraineOT fell in love with his father after being hit by her father's car. Now things get fun.

MartyOT sees DocOT get shot by the PalestiniansOT jumps into the time machine and ends up back in 1955. At this point using the theory explained in Back to the Future Part II a new timeline is created. As this is one where Marty's family end up successful I'll refer to it as ST.

MartyOT rescues GeorgeST and LorraineST subsequently falls for him. MartyOT meets up with DocST to try to get the time machine working. As an outcome GeorgeST punches out BiffST causing MartyOT to exclaim that his father had never done that.

MartyOT and DocST get the time machine working and return to just before DocOT was killed. However MartyOT doesn't make it in time and thus sees DocST getting shot and MartyST jump into and use the time machine. The PalestiniansST crash and burn and MartyOT rushes over to find DocST unharmed thanks to the knowledge that MartyOT brought back to him.

MartyOT then discovers that his parents are successful and BiffST cleans his car.

The question posed by Cracked is what about MartyST. At first this seems a closed loop, but it's a whole different Marty that leaves the 'second' time around. MartyST grew up with successful parents and siblings and on stories of how GeorgeST stood up against BiffST to help LorraineST. Cracked propose the DocST bumps him off. There is another option.

When MartyST pops into the past we get a third new timeline NT. Suppose MartyST doesn't save GeorgeNT or get involved with his family the outcome would be the same as the OT. Worse yet MartyST would return to find DocNT to be dead and GeorgeNT working for BiffNT. On the other hand If MartyST did take a hand in things then NT would be identical to ST.

From our outsider's perspective though we see no changes created by MartyST thus, if the Doc's take on time travel from the second film is correct, MartyST made no changes and must have died. This means DocST purposefully befriended MartyST so as to get him into the time machine and be sent 4.5bn years into the past or whatever because otherwise we'd have MartyOT and MartyST existing at the same time which could cause the destruction of the entire universe.

In the second film things get worse We're in the ST universe. DocST takes MartyOT and JenniferST into the future to meet with MartyOT's son. So far all players apart from Marty are ST.

However BiffST takes the time machine back to 1955 to give his younger self (also BiffST) the Sport's Almanac. Somehow he returns to the FutureST despite technically this future no longer existing. With the handing over of the Sport's Almanac we now have the BiffWorld Timeline BT. With BiffST being able to return to the FutureST there's a suggestion that the timelines don't change instantaneously.

MartyOT DocST and JenniferST return to 1985 and find themselves in the Biffworld Timeline. DocBT is in an mental institution and MartyBT is away at school.

They both return to 1955 and wait for BiffST to hand over the almanac. As MartyOT already exists here this is in fact still the Successful Timeline. MartyOT and DocST do nothing to alter events regarding their present selves thus preserving the ST or at least creating a new timeline that is identical to the ST.

In the third film things get even worse. DocST ends up in 1885, but this creates a whole new timeline I'll call Western Timeline WT. But this new timeline must create a timeline either identical to our original (thus allowing MartyOT to go back and change it) or one identical to the Successful Timeline allowing our MartyOT to drop back in and substitute for MartyST.

However given that both MartyOT and DocST make the same reference to the ravine name we now have MartyWT who calls the ravine "Eastwood" watching Doc WT being shot. As DocWT never met MartyOT he's totally dead unless MartyWT alters the past which he could do given that DocWT would not know to kill him to preserve the timeline.

MartyOT returns to the Western Timeline evidenced by the change in ravine name, but technically this overwrites the alterations made creating the Successful Timeline, unless MartyWT makes the changes, but where does he return to?

A way around all this is to take that delay in the time shifts into account from Part II. MartyOT returns from 1955 to the Original Timeline to see himself jump into the time machine; the timeline then shifts to the Successful Timeline with DocST being alive etc. However this doesn't explain the instant shift to the Western Timeline and the change in the ravine name.

Ah artistic licence.