At the end of Back to the Future, Marty wakes up

and meets his new, successful parents and family.

He of course, doesn't remember them or their history together, since it's a result of his time traveling. Earlier in the film we see that changes to the timeline take time to propagate into the future.

Did this occur to Marty's memory? At some point did the changes in the timeline impact Marty's memory, so he remembers the changed timeline?

  • Not canon, but the changes seem to be 100% instantaneous in effect (within seconds, at least). If his memories didn't get fixed by end of film, they never will. Which chimes in with many time travel models – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 29 '15 at 20:31
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    There's no evidence from the film/s, or the novelisations that his memory is affected. Although his personal existence seems to be at risk, his memories seem insulated from the changes in the timeline. – Valorum Oct 29 '15 at 21:15

An important thing to remember about time travel in Back to the Future's time travel is that the character who goes back after changing the timeline is not the same person as the character who grew up in the altered timeline.

There's no canon evidence of Marty gaining memories because he isn't the Marty from that universe in which those events happened [which I will refer to as Timeline B], he's the Marty from the universe in which they didn't happen [Timeline A]. Marty from [Timeline B] is elsewhere, with full memories of the changed timeline but no memories of the time travelling. Except, as Hypnosifl brought up -- they're just the same timeline with different events.

  • But we see the Marty from timeline B in the parking lot at the end of the first movie, he tries to escape the Libyans in the DeLorean and disappears when he hits 88 mph just like the Marty of timeline A, so he must go back in time too. There is also some reason to think that BTTF doesn't follow the model of multiple coexisting timelines--when they left Jennifer in the Biff-dominated 1985, Doc said that if they succeeded in getting the almanac back in 1955, the world would just change around her, rather than her remaining in a parallel 1985 while Marty returns to a more familiar 1985. – Hypnosifl Oct 29 '15 at 21:35
  • @Hypnosifl Assigning the timelines names is just shorthanding the sequence of events within that timeline. You are correct about the lack of coexisting timelines. I have editted my response to clear that up. – Carpe CM Oct 29 '15 at 21:49
  • But if you say the Marty from Timeline B is elsewhere, doesn't that imply coexisting timelines? In the 1955 of Timeline B, the Marty that arrived in 1955 had memories of the original Timeline A. Are you saying there's another coexisting 1955 in which the Marty that arrives in 1955 has memories of Timeline B, expecting his parents to be the self-confident and well-adjusted versions he knows? I suspect the only way to make sense of BTTF without coexisting timelines is to imagine that when Marty from Timeline B went back to 1955, his memories reset to those of Marty from Timeline A. – Hypnosifl Oct 29 '15 at 22:11
  • @Hypnosifl You're mixing up timelines here. The other Marty in 1955 was Marty A earlier. Marty B, who was elsewhere in the future, is a totally different person. – Carpe CM Oct 29 '15 at 22:14
  • You're missing my point--at the end of the movie we see that Marty B reaches 88 in the DeLorean while trying to escape the Libyans and disappears, presumably getting sent back to 1955 just like Marty A was. When you said the Marty from timeline B is "elsewhere", where would he be after that moment? Do you think he created yet another altered sequence of events in 1955 (different from the sequence we saw in the movie with Marty A), or just vanished from the timeline at that point? The only alternative I can think of is that his memories reset to those of Marty A when he arrives in 1955. – Hypnosifl Oct 29 '15 at 22:31

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