The Back to the Future Timelines (Films, Game, and Comics)
As everyone here probably knows, I'm a huge Back to the Future fan. I've been enjoying the IDW comics, which were co-written by Bob Gale. They've answered a lot of questions that fans have had over the years, so I thought I'd try to do a timeline summary to sum it all up.
Timeline 1 - Original timeline
- 1855: Clara Clayton is born in New Jersey.
- 1885: Clara Clayton arrives in Hill Valley, but no one picks her up at the train station. She rents a horse and a buckboard, but her horse is spooked by a snake and goes over the Shonash Ravine. It is renamed Clayton Ravine in her memory.
- 1914: Emmett Von Braun is born.
- Between 1914 and 1917: Due to anti-German sentiment during World War I, Emmett's father changes their family name from Von Braun to Brown.
- 1910s or 1920s: Emmett Brown decides to get into science after reading the novels by Jules Verne.
- 1931: Emmett Brown's experiment fails at the Hill Valley Science Expo, but he decides to keep up with his dream of being a scientist.
- 1943: Emmett Brown becomes a part of the Manhattan Project after he secures an interview during his tenure as a professor at CalTech.
- 1955: Emmett Brown hits his head and comes up with the idea of the flux capacitor, which would make time travel possible. Lorraine Baines falls in love with George McFly after nursing him back to health after her father hit him with a car. George and Lorraine's love is cemented at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance.
- 1963: General Groves seeks out Emmett Brown, as he is seeking to make a time machine to stop the Cuban Missile Crisis from ever happening. Emmett built a working time machine prototype called the temporal field capacitor that can only send objects forward through time. Sending them too far back causes a build up of flux energy and causes the machine to overheat. Emmett shows his invention and agrees to work for the government, as he used almost all of his family fortune building the time machine prototype. Emmett has regrets since he doesn't want to usher in an arms race through time like he helped create the nuclear arms race while working on the Manhattan Project. He sends a note back to himself, two months in the past.
Timeline 2 - Twin Pines Timeline
- 1963: Emmett discovers the note. He and Copernicus are safe in the fireproof garage. The mansion burns down, Emmett receives the insurance (which is officially classified as cause unknown) and the government men come and leave without talking to Emmett, thinking that he is an insurance thief.
- 1960's or 1970's: Doc builds an improved time machine prototype: the temporal field generator Mk II.
- 1967: Jennifer Parker is born.
- 1968: Marty McFly and Douglas Needles are born.
- 1983: Douglas Needles breaks the fuse in Marty McFly's amp while trying to steal it. He demands that Marty get a new one, so Marty heads to the music shop to buy one. The clerk informs him that Emmett Brown has purchased them all, and warns him against going to his garage, as he is known to be a nutcase (due to his secretive work on the Manhattan Project, Emmett's reclusiveness, and the mysterious nature of the fire that burned down his mansion). Marty sneaks into Emmett's garage, getting around the traps that are set to keep intruders out. Emmett arrives, and Marty at first tries to lie about coming there to become his assistant. He then apologizes and admits that he sneaked in to get the box of fuses. Emmett tells Marty to call him Doc, and offers him the job as his assistant for real, since he was impressed with his ingenuity and his honesty.
- 1984: Doc has purchased two DeLoreans, as the stainless steel construction would aid with the dispersal of flux energy, and a box of pinball machine parts. He works on the DeLoreans in his secret lab, that is not even known to Marty.
- 1985: Doc sent the pinball machine parts to terrorists from Libya, disguised as a bomb, as he told them that he would build a nuclear bomb if they stole plutonium for him. He uses the plutonium to power the nuclear reactor that he installed in the DeLorean time machine, in order to generate the 1.21 gigawatts of energy needed to power the flux capacitor. He calls Marty and they meet at the Twin Pines Mall. He sends his dog Einstein one minute into the future, proving that the flux capacitor and the DeLorean time machine were both a success. He plans to head to 2010, but is killed by the Libyan terrorists, who tracked Doc down to the mall. Marty gets in the DeLorean and accidentally travels back to 1955 when he reaches 88 miles per hour, breaking the time barrier.
Timeline 3: Lone Pine Timeline (Einstein's one minute trip into the future didn't alter anything, so it's not included)
*1955: Marty pushes his dad out of the way of his grandfather's car, and is hit instead. Now his mom falls in love with him. He tries to reunite them at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance by telling George to punch him when Marty pretends to assault Lorraine in the car. Instead, he's captured by school bully Biff Tannen's thugs, and locked in a car. Lorraine is assaulted for real, by Biff, and George knocks him out with one punch. Marty is freed from the car, plays guitar for the injured musician, and his existence is made certain when George and Lorraine kiss on the dance floor. The lighting hits the DeLorean at the clock tower (as Marty knew that the lightning would strike, as the Hill Valley Preservation Society in 1985 was trying to restore the clock, which hadn't worked since), and Marty is sent back to 1985.
* 1985: Marty rushes to the mall (which is now known as the Lone Pine Mall, since Marty ran over one of the two pine trees in 1955), only to see Doc get shot, see himself leave to 1955, and see the terrorists crash into a photo stand. He learns that Doc survived as he kept and repaired a note that Marty had given to him in 1955 warning him of his death. Doc drops Marty off at home, and heads to 2015. Marty goes home and sees that things have changed. His dad is now more confident, Biff is no longer a bully to George, and owns his own business, rather than working in a position that he is not qualified for, where he used George to file his reports for him, and his mother Lorraine is happy in her marriage and no longer is an alcoholic. Marty also now has the truck that he has dreamed to own, and his mother is now happy with his relationship with his girlfriend Jennifer.
Timeline 4: Doc in 2015 Timeline
- 2015: Doc goes to 2015, wins an 80s car contest, and wins 10% off a hover conversion by Goldie Wilson III. He goes to the Hill Valley Public Library to surf the internet to discover what is the most valuable commodity in 2015. He then travels back to 1938 to get it.
Timeline 5: Payroll Robbery Timeline
- 1938: Doc uses one of his silver dollar heirlooms to purchase 10 copies of Action Comics #1 (the first issue featuring Superman), then travels to 2015 to sell it.
- 1985: Marty drag races Needles and crashes into a Rolls Royce, injuring his hand and ruining his future, making him in the same situation his dad was in the Lone Pine timeline (in a low paying job where his high school bully pressures him into doing things for them at work).
- 2015: Doc discovers that Marty's son is convinced by Griff Tannen to rob a Hill Valley Payroll Station. Griff and his gang blame it on Marty Jr, and he goes to jail. Then Marty's daughter, Marlene is sentenced to 20 years in prison for trying to break him out (and she then ends up committing suicide). Doc sells one of his comics for 2.5 million dollars. He purchases a hover conversion, converts his nuclear reactor to use a Mr. Fusion nuclear home energy device that runs on trash. He buys a fake identification under the alias Leroy Brown, and uses it to open a bank account to store his other comics. He also purchases bills from different eras in case he finds himself stuck in any era needing funds, goes to a rejuvenation clinic to add 30 years to his life, and puts Einstein in a suspended animation kennel. He then goes back to 1985, with his emergency money and the upgrades to the DeLorean, to pick up Marty so that he can fix his son's future.
Timeline 6: Arrest of Griff Tannen's gang timeline (the timeline went into a ripple effect when Marty and Jennifer were picked up from 1985 - and continued on as if they weren't picked up - so the 2015 to 1985 trip isn't counted as a separate timeline)
- 1985: Doc picks up Marty and Jennifer in 1985 and takes them to 2015
- 2015: Marty poses as his son and stops the robbery. He also gets into a hoverboard chase and causes Griff and his gang to be jailed for crashing into the Courthouse Mall. Jennifer is mistakenly picked up by the Hill Valley police who think that she is the 47 year old Jennifer. Jennifer discovers that Marty hit the Rolls Royce in 1985, and picks up a fax stating that the 47 year old Marty was fired from his job. While Marty and Doc head to the McFly home to pick up Jennifer, 77 year old Biff Tannen steals the DeLorean and hits the time circuits with his cane, heading to the past with a sports statistics book to make his past self rich.
Timeline 7: Jurassic Griff timeline (interestingly, this timeline actually can explain an error in the animated series - when they traveled to 3 million BC and saw the meteor that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs - Biff's interference could theoretically have changed the migration patterns of the dinosaurs - making it a different meteor that killed the dinosaurs, many millions of years later)
- Jurassic era: Biff's cane smack caused the time circuits to malfunction, and he notices that he is over the ocean. He flies towards the land, and sees that it is full of wilderness with no civilization in sight. He also sees that the nuclear reactor is flashing that it is out of fuel. When he gets out to try to find something to put in the Mr. Fusion reactor, a baby raptor takes the bag with the sports statistics book in it. Biff kills the raptor, and puts it in the Mr. Fusion, then works out how to use the time circuits and heads forward to 1955.
Timeline 8: Rich Biff timeline
- 1955: 77 year old Biff gives his 17 year old self the book. He then spends some time reminiscing in the past, and heads back to 2015.
- 2015: Biff suffers pain as he begins to fade out of existence, as he didn't live to be 77 years old in this timeline. Marty, Doc and Jennifer head back to the DeLorean, unaware that the timeline had changed. They then head back to 1985.
Timeline 9: Hell Valley timeline
- 1958: Biff wins his first million in a horserace,
- 1959: Biff continues winning in sporting events, earning the nickname "the luckiest man on Earth"
- 1973: On the way to pick up an award for one of his books, Biff shoots and kills George McFly. He then marries Lorraine, and becomes step-father to Marty and his siblings.
- 1983: Doc Brown is committed to the mental ward at the Hill Valley Hospital. He is then sent to the County Asylum and lobotomized.
- 1985: Doc, Marty, and Jennifer arrive in 1985. Jennifer, unconscious due to the shock of seeing her older self in 2015, is left on her porch swing. Marty and Doc realize that the timeline had changed, discovered that Biff had the sports almanac, and found 77 year old Biff's cane in the DeLorean. They confront Biff and discover that he had given the book to himself in 1955.
Timeline 10: Duplicate time travelers timeline
- 1955: Doc and Marty head back to 1955, and are careful not to let their other selves discover them as there are two of each of them in that time period. Marty manages to get the book back from Biff at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance but is knocked down by his other self when he leaves the school's gym. Marty then uses the hoverboard to take the book back from Biff while Biff is in his car. Marty burns the book, while Doc is in the DeLorean above him. The DeLorean is hit by lightning and sent spinning on its axis up to 88 miles per hour, sending it back to 1885. Simultaneously, the temporal disturbance makes a duplicate DeLorean, sending it forward in time to 2025.
Timeline 11: Mad Dog Tannen kills Doc timeline
*1885: Doc becomes a blacksmith. He hides the DeLorean in a mine, as the parts necessary to fix it won't be invented until the 1940s. He writes a letter to Marty telling him that alive in 1885 and gives his 1955 counterpart instructions to fix the DeLorean with parts available in 1955. Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen tries to get Doc to pay for the horse that threw a shoe. Doc refuses, and Buford tells him to watch his back. Doc volunteers to pick up Clara Clayton at the train station and they fall in love based on their mutual interest in science and Jules Verne. Buford shoots Doc in the back during the festival celebration, and he dies from his wounds two weeks later.
*1955: Marty gets the note from Doc, via a Western Union deliveryman who states that the letter was given to the office 70 years later with instructions to be delivered to a man fitting Marty's description at the exact location and exact time that Marty received it. Marty reads that Doc is alive, and heads to the clock tower where Marty's other self just left 1955 for 1985. He tells Doc that he came back from the future and needs his help. Doc and Marty head to the mine to get the DeLorean, discover Doc's grave, and fix the DeLorean using Doc's instructions. Marty heads back to 1885 to save Doc.
Timeline 12: Marty in 1885 timeline
*1885: Marty arrives in the middle of a chase between a Native American tribe and the US Calvary. He drives the DeLorean into a cave, and pulls an arrow out of it. He's spooked by a bear, and rolls down a hill, hitting his head. He's rescued by his great grandfather, who gives him a hat, so Marty can walk into town without getting heat stroke. At the saloon, Marty knocks a spittoon onto Buford Tannen, and then gets strung up in a noose. Doc arrives and shoots him free with a homemade sniper rifle. Buford tells Doc that he owes him money for the horse, and Marty explains the situation to him. When they go to get the DeLorean, they discover that it has no gas. Since the Mr. Fusion is only for the nuclear reactor, and there is no gasoline in 1885, Doc has to come up with another way to get home. He decides to use a train. In this timeline, Clara isn't picked up at the train station, and her buckboard is about to go over the cliff. However, Doc and Marty see her and Doc rescues her. They fall in love at first sight, and then their love solidifies when they learn of their shared interests. When the festival occurs, Doc keeps facing Buford so that he won't be shot in the back. Buford tries to shoot Doc with his hidden gun, but Marty throws a pie tin at Buford's gun, saving Doc. Buford sets his sights on Marty, who is going by the name Clint Eastwood, instead. The day of the arrival of the train, Marty faces Mad Dog and tries to surrender without a fight. Mad Dog shoots him, and Marty reveals that he used a trick from a Clint Eastwood movie, making a bullet proof vest out of a door from a stove. Marty and Doc steal the train while wearing bandit masks, and Clara jumps the train while it's in motion. It's too late for her to get in the DeLorean, but Doc uses the hoverboard to rescue her from the train. Marty heads back to 1985, but Doc stays behind with Clara.
Timeline 13: Time travel in the 19th century timeline
- 1886: Jules Brown is born to Emmett and Clara Brown.
- 1888: Verne Brown is born.
- 1890: Doc tries unsuccessfully to generate enough electricity for time travel
- 1893: Doc completes the time train, using a frictionless dynamo from the hoverboard to generate multiples of the 1.21 gigawatts needed for time travel. He paid to have 50 yards of track built, and improved his presto logs to burn hotter. The family went to travel to the future, but the train crashed. Doc was going to give up, but Clara told him that she had always wanted to time travel (since she's a woman, she's shunned for her interest in science and would love to be in Emmett's time, whereas Emmett is happy in hers). Doc sees a steam tricycle, and decides to use one of those instead for a time machine. He successfully builds the steam time car, using the time circuits, flux capacitor, and frictionless dynamo from the time train prototype. He has to wear a diving suit to protect himself from the pressure of the timestream, and plans to go to 2015 to pick up everything he needs to get the time train working. He also devises a method for a time parachute which can be used in case the steam time car wouldn't be up to another journey through time. However, the 19th century parts caused a diversion in the timestream, and he was sent forward to 2035 instead. When Doc doesn't show up for days, Clara sends a note through Western Union to reach Marty, addressing it with the note to be delivered when he reaches the highest level of education available before university.
- 1986: Marty receives the note while in class, and visits Doc's lab with Jennifer to try to find something related to time travel they can use to find Doc. They don't find anything, and Jennifer guesses that Doc must have a secret lab as Marty never saw the DeLorean until it was revealed at the Twin Pines Mall. They head to the hall of records, which is being overseen by Goldie Wilson Jr. who is working his way up on his ultimate goal of becoming mayor like his father. They find the secret lab, which is registered under Von Braun. At the secret lab, Marty is looking through Doc's inventions, and flips on the temporal field capacitor Mk II. He then backs away when it starts to hum. Since they didn't find anything there except for a DeLorean without any time travel enhancements, Marty writes a note to Doc telling him the date and place where they are, and that Clara wrote him a note stating that her husband was in trouble. (Marty and Jennifer mention Doc and Clara visiting them in the time train, which would mean that the story in the comic takes place in timeline 17 at the earliest - meaning that in timeline 13 - 16 Doc wouldn't have visited Marty in the time train in 1985)
Timeline 14: Doc in 2035 timeline
- 2035: Doc goes to his secret lab to get his 2015 clothes, and sees the note. Confused since he doesn't think he's in any trouble, he puts the note in his pocket. He then goes to the bank to try to withdraw his comics, but is stopped by the teller who thinks he's a cheap clone, as the scan of his DNA doesn't match the age of "Leroy Brown", as he'd need to be at least in his 90s. The Hill Valley police are called, and Griff Tannen, now an officer (as he'd had a rewrite of his bionic implants done after his arrest) comes to arrest him. Doc escapes and plans to take the steam time car back to 2015, where Doc knows that he'd be able to withdraw what he needs at the bank. Griff corners him before he can reach 88 miles per hour and ends up firing an electric pulse to short out the bionic implants in Doc, but since he doesn't have any, he ends up suffering amnesia. He finds the note in his pocket and takes the steam time car back to 1986, since that is his only clue as to why he is missing his memory.
Timeline 15: Amnesiac Doc timeline:
- 1986: Doc crashes his steam time car and walks to his secret lab. He meets Jennifer and Marty there, but reveals he is suffering amnesia when he doesn't know who they are. Marty, Doc, and Jennifer go to the crash site and see that the car has been towed. They go to the tow service and the man working there won't release the car without a bribe, so they end up climbing the fence to take the car. Needles shows up, and Marty ends up taking the whole tow truck to outrun him, since Needles threatens to smash the steam time car as he is upset that Marty won't be intimidated anymore after backing down during the attempted drag race. Needles runs into a van, and Marty, Doc and Jennifer head to the Lone Pine Mall. Marty intends to travel to the date marked on the time departed dial on the time circuits, but the steam time car is in bad shape and won't survive another trip through time. Doc's memory is slowly coming back, and he reveals the time parachute. Doc dons the diving suit and Marty dons Doc's radiation suit. They activate the included hot air balloon, which rises up high enough that the drop will have them reach 88 miles per hour while in free fall. Since the time circuits, flux capacitor, and frictionless dynamo from the steam time car are attached to the parachute, they successfully travel to 2035.