So in the third movie he falls in love with her. He does not want to leave her neither take her with them. He is saying the usually "we shall not change the timeline" stuff. But in fact they already did change the timeline by saving Clara. So they should remove her from 1885. Otherwise Clara might end up marrying somebody who was supposed to marry... whatever you get the point.

If they don't want to kill her, bringing her to the future might be a good option. Why is Doc struggeling with that?

I know, this is probably just a plothole, but maybe there are some good explanations, similar to the ones for the second DeLorean in 1885.

  • 1
    AFAIR Doc never refer directly to "timeline change" as a real reason to leave Clara. Eventually in all movies of the series Doc and Marty regularly change timeline themselves. So actually such a change is not a problem for them unless it takes negative effect on their lives.
    – hindmost
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 15:39
  • Is he really struggling with this idea? As far as I remember, he never discusses it, in other words, he simply overlooked that option.
    – Holger
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 14:48

2 Answers 2


You are correct that Doc Brown has already changed the timeline by saving her life, but I don't see this as a plot hole. Rather it's a problem for the heroes to solve. (To me, plot holes imply a logical fallacy in "The True Facts" established in a film, not a logical fallacy in the lies a character tells himself so he can sleep better at night.)

Bringing her to the future is still inserting a person who previously didn't exist into the timeline, just in a different time than before. If she's brought to 1985 (or whenever) she might do things in that time which otherwise would not have happened without her presence. So, that doesn't really solve the root issue of what to do with her.

The only way to absolutely prevent messing up the timeline in any given year is to kill her. She ought to be dead, after all. But of course Doc Brown can't do that, because he loves her (and because killing people isn't what heroes do.)

Ultimately, Doc Brown does end up bringing her on his adventures through time, as we see at the end of BTF III, with the train time machine. Perhaps traveling through time with her at random, raising a family that shouldn't exist by staying on the move, has been judged better than trying to leave her alive in any given time, where she doesn't belong?

I mean, it's not a perfect solution, but at least this way she's no more of a danger to the timeline than Doc Brown himself.

  • Thanks for you answer. You are probably right that bringen Clara to 1985 wouldn't solve the problem ultimately, because she could change the timeline there. But with this argumentation you are basically denying the free will, because all of your current actions might change the future timeline. This is of course rather philosophical and beyond the scope of the movie.
    – casaro
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 23:17
  • Sry, submitted to early. Additional: For me altering the timeline was only forbidden in the past (not present or future) as you dont want to mess up the world you are living in. It might not be perfect but at least you are alive.
    – casaro
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 23:25
  • Yes, all actions taken by everyone will change the future somehow. That doesn't deny free will because as long as we don't know what the future is, the process is "natural." I don't see any reason why altering the past should be any more sacred than altering the future. We know the future already "exists" since they traveled forwards in time in BTF II. To anyone living there, our future (at least part of it) is their past, after all.
    – Steve-O
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 0:42
  • @Steve-O changing the future is no problem, as we do it all the time. The thing Doc fears, is creating contradictions in the time line. Leaving Clara in 1885 could alter Doc & Marty’s history in a way that them saving Clara does not happen or is altered in an incompatible way. Doc once said, such thing could probably destroy the universe, but actually, he doesn’t know, what would happen. So, bringing Clara to 1985 still is risky as it could alter Hill Valley’s history up to 2015 where Doc & Marty were before going to 1885. Bringing her to a year after 2015 bears no risk of contradictions.
    – Holger
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 14:58

I've always liked the definition of the timeline from a book series Time Wars. Think of time like a raging river. Throw a small pebble into the river - the water diverts a little bit for a few inches, but a couple hundred yards down stream, there's no change. Little changes to the timestream are largely washed away. You need to make a MASSIVE change to see any real upset to later times.

As others have said, most of the changes Doc & Marty try to fix are to their own timelines. They're not making any changes large enough to affect time itself.

So let's look further down the timestream - What is actually changed by saving Clara's life? They'd named the gorge after her, and that's pretty much it. Some people in Marty and Doc's present remember that the gorge was named after "some teacher" who fell in, but she didn't become a cultural hero that inspired hundreds of people to go into teaching or anything.

She's no Edith Keeler, in other words.

The small changes in the time line are largely harmless - Twin Pines Mall to Lone Pines Mall, things like that. A new name for the gorge is a pretty small change.

If there's any reason for not wanting to bring her to the future, it'd likely be culture shock. There's no knowing what sort of mental effect being brought a century into the future would have on her, not to mention any potential diseases or infections she'd have no defense for. Her life in the future might be horrifying, painful, and short.

That is, until, just like in the first film, he just said "What the hell", and apparently everything was fine.

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