39

In Back to the Future, Marty famously frightens his father into action in 1955 by pretending to be Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan:

Presumably, Star Trek and Star Wars had their respective debuts in 1966 and 1977 in-universe, in the timeline that led up to the unaltered 1985. (Although, it is possible that his universe had neither franchise and he just made up the names on the spot.)

Upon returning to 1985, we see that George has written a novel, A Match Made in Space, with Marty's "Darth Vader" on the cover:

enter image description here enter image description here

In Back to the Future II, we learn that A Match Made in Space was successful enough to be turned into a film.

Was the yellow-clad alien in George's book named Darth Vader, and was there a Star Wars Darth Vader in that particular timeline?

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    @randal'thor : It's all in-universe (no out-of-universe) and star-trek because of the planet Vulcan. I'll tighten up the wording. – Praxis Oct 20 '15 at 21:53
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    @randal'thor - Maybe you should, you know, WATCH SOME SCIENCE FICTION MOVIES. – Wad Cheber Oct 20 '15 at 21:54
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    @randal'thor : It's clear from "Upon returning to 1985..." and George McFly's face on the back cover that we're talking about a book written by George McFly. – Praxis Oct 20 '15 at 21:55
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    I don't know the answer, but this question is quite clever. +1 – Wad Cheber Oct 20 '15 at 21:59
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    George McFly actually wrote A New Hope and Empire. George Lucas adopted those stories and put them to film - then, he himself wrote Jedi and the three prequels. So what we really need is Marty to hop in the Delorean and fix the prequels.... – lunchmeat317 Oct 21 '15 at 0:49
23

McFly's character wasn't called Darth Vader.

According to the USA Today newspaper based off of the one from Back to the Future: Part II, the character is named "Garth D'Vade."

Back to the Future newspaper

Newspaper close-up.

Matt Urbanos, vice-president of brand and creative strategy at Gannet (which own USA Today) says

We worked with Universal and Bob Gale to update the bottom half and add content that was relevant and cohesive as our way to finish the story and punctuate this moment.

Therefore, it can probably be accepted as canon.

Based on this, Lucas almost certainly thought of Darth Vader by himself.

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    Fantastic, @RogueJedi!! – Praxis Nov 26 '15 at 23:49
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    This version of the paper is a replica that USA Today put out on Oct. 21 2015, but the bottom half was a new addition and wasn't part of the original movie prop (they also changed a headline about 'Queen Diana' to one about 3D billboards). See this article for example. – Hypnosifl Nov 27 '15 at 4:25
  • This article goes into more detail on the lower half being a new addition: "Since the newspaper prop in the actual film only featured above-the-fold content, Matt Urbanos, the vice president of brand and creative strategy at Gannett publishing, was taken with creating additional stories to fill in the gaps." It does say he worked with Bob Gale to create it though, so maybe that's enough to include it in your notion of "canon" for BTTF. – Hypnosifl Nov 27 '15 at 5:26
  • @Hypnosifl Updated. Thanks for the info. – Rogue Jedi Nov 27 '15 at 21:09
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    Absolutely loved the bottom-right article! :-D – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 9 '16 at 9:50
48

The book A Match Made in Space is introduced in the movie with this dialogue:

Biff: Mr. McFly, Mr. McFly, this just arrived, oh hi Marty. I think it's your new book.

Lorraine: Ah, honey, your first novel.

Since Biff describes it as George's new book, this implies its publication date was 1985. And since it was his first novel, George wouldn't have written any previous novels featuring these characters (and I know of no evidence about whether he actually called the character "Darth Vader" in the novel). I suppose this doesn't rule out the idea he introduced a character named Darth Vader in a short story prior to 1977, or that Marty's trip to 1955 changed the timeline enough that no Star Wars movies featuring Darth Vader ever got made, but we can at least say that if Star Wars did exist in the altered 1985, George Lucas hadn't gotten the idea for a character by that name from a novel by George McFly.

Also, in general the effects of most changes to the timeline in BTTF tend to be fairly logical and linear--most changes only affect the lives of the characters whose life history was changed without affecting the outside world, and the only large change to the outside world (Biff becoming rich and powerful) has a straightforward explanation (the sports almanac). We don't see examples of any butterfly effects where seemingly unimportant changes can have huge and unpredictable effects on the history of the outside world. Writers Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis comment on something related to this in question 1.19 in the Official BTTF FAQ, discussing why Doc Brown learning about the future in 1955 didn't change 1985 too much:

There's a theory (we like to call it the "Self-Preservation Instinct of the Space-Time Continuum Theory") that says that the continuum is always trying to keep itself "on course," and when things happen to change it, it always tries to correct itself. It is much like a river, which tries to keep its overall course. Although earthquakes, fallen trees, floods, or other circumstances might disrupt it at points, the river would cut a new channel so that it would end up back at the same place. Thus, the overall physics (or metaphysics) of the space-time continuum would insure that any of Doc's memories of events that might create paradoxes would become hazy — or be erased.

So, this combined with the fact that we don't see random butterfly effects would probably suggest that if Star Wars existed in the original timeline (as evidenced by Marty calling himself Darth Vader), this little tweak to his father's timeline probably didn't have any cascading effects that caused Star Wars not to exist in the altered version of 1985.

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    As good an answer as you can hope to get I think. +1 for official FAQ mention, which is chock full of good answers to crazy questions – Dpeif Oct 20 '15 at 22:29
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    Nice work, @Hypnosifl. :-) – Praxis Oct 20 '15 at 23:55
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    Actually there is something similar in naturla science: the Le Châtelier's principle says "When a system at equilibrium is subjected to change in concentration, temperature, volume, or pressure, then the system readjusts itself to (partially) counteract the effect of the applied change and a new equilibrium is established." So I wouldn't call it "metaphisics". – mg30rg Oct 21 '15 at 11:24
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    @Lightness Races in Orbit - Only in the case of the Biff-ruled 1985, and I already addressed that one in my answer--I wouldn't call that a "butterfly effect" because it follows in a linear way from Biff getting the sports almanac, whereas a true butterfly effect is one where any seemingly insignificant small change, like the path of a few air molecules being altered, will lead to enormous changes affecting the whole system later on down the line. If the butterfly effect were in operation, than the trip to 1955 in part I and 1885 in part III would have totally changed the whole world in 1985. – Hypnosifl Oct 21 '15 at 15:06
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    A good sci fi example of the butterfly effect would be the story A Sound of Thunder, where it is literally the killing of a butterfly that totally changes the future (although even here the changes are less radical than is realistic, for example humans still evolved the same way), and the point is made in the story that killing any creature in the past would have such an effect, it wasn't like they killed one especially crucial butterfly. – Hypnosifl Oct 22 '15 at 17:02

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