Doc Brown seems pretty concerned about keeping things consistent at least when it comes knowing about his own future or making sure Marty's parents meet and marry. However, he never seems to either notice or be concerned with the positive effects on Marty's family or the negative effects on Biff. Further, the whole premise of 'II' is that he wants to bring Marty forward in time to make alterations in his family's favor.

It's been a while since I've watched all three films, so, can anyone say whether I'm forgetting something? Not to mention that I was on a pretty awkward date for 'III' so I don't remember it as well. Does Doc ever worry about those changes at all?

  • 1
    I believe Doc answered this question himself when he said: What the Hell. – Major Stackings Nov 3 '15 at 7:42
  • 2
    Doc actually does show some pause when Marty comes back from the dance and tells Doc, "My dad laid Biff out in one punch! I didn't think he had it in him! He's never stood up to Biff in his life!" Doc doesn't really say anything, but you can see he thinks about how things have changed, but then dismisses it, probably because at that point there wasn't really anything he could do. He also talks repeatedly about his concerns about ruining the space time continuum. Furthermore, in part 3, he vows to destroy the Delorean because it's too dangerous. – Kai Nov 3 '15 at 15:56

Regarding his general position, I would sum it up as:

He is okay with using the machine to avoid catastrophes, especially catastrophes caused by his time machine, but this is flexible

Just, to point out though:

This wasn't the purpose of the time machine

Doc states quite clearly in II that he invented the time machine to understand humanity i.e. he wants to see where humanity has been and where it is going. So, let's be quite clear that Doc didn't invent the time machine to manipulate the timeline; he only wanted to observe.

Back to the Future Question

Let's consider the major alterations to the timeline made in the trilogy:

  • In I, he wants the timeline to be restored, which has to involve altering the timeline, but for the greater purpose of avoiding a paradox
  • In II, he wants to alter the timeline, but that was because Biff had altered the timeline
  • In III he doesn't want to alter the timeline, but is okay with doing so (only slightly) to save Marty and his own life

But, in my opinion, the two most important alterations of the timeline were the beginning of II when he comes back from the future to prevent Marty Jr from being caught which starts a chain reaction, and at the end of I where he wears a bullet proof vest, preventing his own death.

Regarding the first, this clearly involves changing the timeline, not for a greater good, but to help out Marty and his family. So, based on this, I believe that Doc's position on altering the timeline is something along the lines of the fact that he was okay with making alterations for a greater good.

Similarly, when he wears the bullet proof vest, it's for his own gain (okay, you could argue that it was for Marty's gain as well as it would be devastating for Marty to lose Doc, and our gain because if Doc had died we wouldn't have had BTTF II or III). His rationale behind this was 'What the Hell' - not exactly a hard and fast rule to apply.

On your last point about is he ever worried about these changes, he most certainly is! Near the beginning of III after Clara is saved and Marty tells Doc the story about the ravine, Doc is very worried about the potential implications of changing the timeline like that. At the end of I when he learns that Marty may have seriously altered the timeline by having George punch Biff Doc also expresses concerns, but doesn't go into this much due to the time constraints.

As for his concerns about the positive effects for the McFlys and the negative effects for the Tannens, as I mention above Doc is concerned about the former at least. He clearly shows some concern when he speaks to Marty for the last time in 1955 about George having punched Biff. Regarding the Tannens though, he doesn't show much concern generally. This is possibly because Doc doesn't have a great deal of interaction with Biff throughout the films.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    So, short answer: his position was flexible. At least with the I and Evil!Biff scenarios he had the justification of cleaning up his own mistakes. Not clear what his moral argument in favour of saving Marty's kids was, though – Jason Baker Nov 3 '15 at 5:27
  • @JasonBaker his moral argument was 'Marty is a nice guy!' – Often Right Nov 3 '15 at 5:28
  • 2
    Good answer. I would also add on how Doc Brown changed the timeline in I with the bulletproof vest (which he only wore after Marty had warned him via the note written in 1955). When Marty challenged him on why he took precautions despite his staunch resolve never to mess with the timeline, he replies: "Well, I figured...what the hell!". So Doc's position on timeline alterations, even for selfish reasons is, umm, flexible. – Deepak Nov 3 '15 at 5:44
  • @Deepak good point; added that into my argument :D – Often Right Nov 3 '15 at 5:48
  • I was certainly thinking about that bulletproof vest when I wrote this - however, I wasn't able to say with complete certainty that this was a change in time because we never knew with 100% certainty that he hadn't (randomly) decided that a vest was just the thing that would complete the look of his outfit that night. :) – johntreml Nov 3 '15 at 13:24

When Marty first learn about the time machine, Doc Brown is thinking of this as his crowning achievement. When Doc first learns about the time machine, Doc Brown is just happy to have an achievement. In the final scene of the series, Marty asks him about concerns of changes to the time continuum, and Doc demonstrates an attitude of being unconcerned.

Yet at other times, he insists on dismantling the machine which he sees as doomed to cause catastrophe, and a source of uncontrollable risk despite what benefits could occur.

The films are films of humor. This is disguised, compared to many comedies, because the films are also films with compelling concerns driving plots, and some action scenes, and commentary about different times in life (what it's like in 1985, what life was like in 1955, and what life was like-- er, will be like back in 2015-- er, I mean forward in 2015). Despite these various elements dominating the films, humor exists throughout the series.

I considered the roller-coaster inconsistency of Doc Brown's attitudes to one of the multiple aspects to be able to poke some fun at the character.

So what are his thoughts right now? I venture to say that they are different than they were a couple of days ago. And since children are bound to get involved in some amount of trouble throughout their childhood, the chances that Doc Brown will be threatened by catastrophe seems to be a near certainty.

As a fun aside, I'm totally on cde's side, based on cde's comment to Eric Towers's answer that offers an entertaining speculation of Doc Brown activity beyond what was shown in the movies.

So, in summary, the appropriate question is not, "What is Doc Brown's attitude?" The appropriate question is, "When is Doc Brown's attitude?"

| improve this answer | |
  • My own speculation: At some point, Doc Brown probably decided to settle down with Clara Clayton, and protect his family by destroying the flux capacitor, only to be horrified when he later learns his children exceeded expectations by being smart enough to study the remains and repair and re-create as necessary to have their own time traveling adventures. Though, mom will have taken the side of kids actively living life, and Doc's initial outrage will eventually fade in comparison to pride in offspring. (This is a comment since off-topic, not answering the question of "throughout the" films") – TOOGAM Feb 18 '16 at 22:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.