At the end of Back To The Future, when failing to get ‘1955 Doc’ to read his letter, Marty runs to Twin Pines Mall (now Lone Pine Mall) to try and stop his friend’s murder for the second time. Arriving there tired and exhausted, Marty once again witnesses the Libyan terrorists shoot his friend. His scream of anguish and tears say more than words ever could, and as he slumps near his friend’s body, our hearts slump with him.
However, as the Doc appears to rise from the dead, reveals his bullet-proof vest and smiles at Marty, our spirits soar along with Alan Silvestri’s wonderful score.
These are two friends who would do anything for each other and literally risk their own lives repeatedly for the other. When Marty goes back to 1885 to prevent Doc’s murder by Mad Dog Tannen and is chastised by Doc for not returning to 1985, he simply defends his decision with, “I know, Doc. But I had to come.”
It’s a friendship that for many of us is an integral part of our childhood movie memories and is as comforting as any beloved film, but in the run-up to the re-release of Back To The Future, I’ve been thinking more and more about the friendship between Doc and Marty and I’ve found myself asking all sorts of questions.
Firstly, how did the two ever meet?
Marty McFly is, let’s face it, a rather cool 17-year-old boy. He’s young and handsome, he’s in a band and he has a gorgeous girlfriend. When he’s not dreaming of rock stardom, he’s skateboarding behind 4x4s to Huey Lewis and the News.
Doc Brown, on the other hand, is a 70-year-old mad professor. As Principal Strickland says to Marty upon him arriving at school late, “Am I to understand you’re still hanging around with Dr Emmett Brown, McFly? Let me give you a nickel’s worth of advice, young man. This so called Dr Brown is dangerous, he’s a real nutcase. You hang around with him, you’re gonna end up in big trouble.”
He’s not wrong. Doc Brown is a weird guy. Not only does he look like he overdid the LSD in the 60s, but he is hired by Libyans to build a bomb. What kind of scientist is hired by Libyans to build a bomb?! Moreover, how many scientists accept the job, with the aim of ripping the terrorists off?
Do Marty’s parents even know about their son’s friendship with this man? You never see Marty mention Doc to them and they never meet him. Hell, if I was a Daily Mail writer I could make all sorts of assumptions about that (especially about a teenage boy that goes to meet an old crazy man in a shopping centre car park at 1am). But seeing as I love the films, I won’t.
You do have to wonder how the two met. I can’t think of any situation where these two mismatched people would run into each other. Was it at Radio Shack? Was Doc picking up some stuff for a new experiment while Marty picking up AA batteries for his Walkman? How did the two get talking? They have nothing in common.
Now, you could argue that they first met when Marty goes back to 1955 and they bond over trying to get him home, and that’s how their friendship works, but they are already friends in 1985, before Marty goes back and, unless (and we’re getting into really geeky territory here) it’s a pre-destinational paradox that Marty goes back to 1985, that just doesn’t fly with me.
I want to know how they were friends in the 1985, when Lorraine McFly was a drunk and George was a wimp.
It’s simply hard to see how they ever became friends in the first place. Whenever the two are talking, Doc seems constantly exasperated by Marty’s lack of understanding of the time-space continuum and the fourth dimension, resorting to drawing everything out for him on a chalkboard, while Marty just seems willing to help out with the Doc’s experiments, no questions asked. All this for access to the Doc’s sound system, which Marty, incidentally, destroys?
Because the films start with the two already good friends, we never question their loyalty to each other, but as soon as you start to ask yourself these things, you start to wonder what Marty and Doc do when they’re not going back to the future? What do they talk about? Does Jennifer find it a bit weird?
It seemed to be a trend in the 80s, films partnering a young, cocky kid with a wiser mentor such as The Karate Kid, The Last Starfighter and Flight Of The Navigator (Yes, I’m counting ‘Max’ as a mentor). However, all these friendships are established and build upon, where, with Back To The Future, we hit the ground running with our leads.
Despite all this, though, Doc Brown and Marty McFly remain, in this writer’s opinion, two of the best cinematic friends of all time, whether it’s Marty standing up to Mad Dog Tannen to prevent Doc being shot, Doc and the DeLorean waiting to catch Marty when he jumps off Biff’s casino, or the two frantically scrambling to get their ‘weather experiment’ ready for when the lighting strikes the clock tower.
It’s a friendship that’s last 25 years and I, for one, will be going to see it on the big screen when it’s released on the 1st October.
It seems only suitable that I finish with the end of the letter that Doc writes Marty from 1885, words that sum up their friendship perfectly and lie at the heart of the trilogy.
“You’ve been a good, kind, and loyal friend to me and you made a real difference in my life. I will always treasure our relationship, and will think on you with fond memories, warm feelings and a special place in my heart. Your friend in time, ‘Doc’ Emmett L. Brown.”
Back To The Future is in UK cinemas from 1st October.