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In Back to the Future Part II, Doc tells a lot about the future of Marty's family. However, he doesn't mention what happened to himself in 2015. Was Doc supposed to be dead in 2015 (if he had never traveled to 1885)?

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  • I felt my answer to this was pretty comprehensive, given that we actually see some of his later life at the end of the third film. Is there anything else you'd want me to address before considering an acceptance?
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 18:54
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    @Valorum, no, I think your answer covered my question enough. Since no other answers, I accepted yours. Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 19:53

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Doc's life after the events of BTTF II is pretty well recorded in the sequel BTTF 3. He was ejected into the 1880s where he worked as a blacksmith. He met and wooed his future wife and assisted Marty in returning to the 1980s. Some 8-10 years later he was successful in building a time-traveling train and he and his wife (and two children and dog) roamed throughout time and space having adventures.

There's no good indication that Doc Brown spent any time living in the 2010s although we know that he periodically visited in order to pick up hover-conversion technology and fusion power generation equipment.


As to whether he would have lived to 2015 had time travel not been invented, the answer is that we simply don't know. The game, novel and animated feature all give him a different date of birth but we know that he would have been approaching his hundredth birthday. There was certainly rejuvenation technology available in the 2000s, but it's quite reasonable to assume that he would have died before this became widespread.

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  • Let's not forget that rejuvenation technology actually did nothing on him... at least apparently :)
    – Simone
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 6:53
  • BTTF isn't a fixed timeline story though, it involves multiple iterations of the timeline; I think in the version of the timeline we are seeing in BTTF 2 in the 2015 scenes, it is not "already" the case that 130 years earlier Doc was living in the old west in 1885. When Doc goes back to 1885 at the end of BTTF 2, that's actually changing history, causing the world to subtly change around Marty the same way Doc says it will change around Jennifer when they prevent the events that led to 1985-A. See the official FAQ written by Gale and Zemeckis.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 18:44
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    Please point me to some of this rejuvenation technology that's available in the 2000s. I'd like to avail myself of some of it! ;)
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 18:07
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If you're talking about the actual original timeline, then yes, Doc Brown was dead in 2015.

We know this, because we saw him shot to death by the Libyans in the Twin Pines Mall car park in 1985.

Doc Brown being shot by the Libyans in the Twin Pines Mall car park.

That is the original timeline as far as we know, because no one had gone back in time yet, therefore the past hadn't been altered yet. Doc Brown's dog, Einstein, had travelled one minute forward in time, but naturally that wouldn't have changed the past, so there's no reason to believe there was ever a previous version of history where Doc Brown lived beyond that day in 1985.

When Marty travelled back to 1955 for the first time, and pushed his father out of the way of his maternal grandfather's car, he created a second version of the timeline where his parents never got married, and he and his siblings were never born.

Later in the film, Marty managed to get his parents to fall in love again, and also gave the Doc Brown of 1955 the letter informing him of his death at the hands of the Libyans thirty years hence. So by the time Marty returns to 1985 at the end of the first film, he's now in what is at least the third version of the timeline.

This is when Doc Brown travelled to 2015 for the first time, and if you're asking whether he had an older, living counterpart in 2015 at this point, you're not asking about the original timeline, you're asking about what is at least the third timeline that we know about.

As for whether Doc Brown would in fact have had a living counterpart in 2015 at that point, there's no direct proof of that either way to my knowledge. Logically speaking though, he probably didn't.

For one thing, according to both the screenplay and the novelisation, Doc Brown was already 65 years old the first time we saw him in 1985.

The driver is DR. EMMETT BROWN, about 65. He looks like an old hippie, with shoulder length white hair, Hawaiian shirt, faded jeans, an Indian turquoise around his neck and lively -- almost wild -- eyes. He's full of energy, full of life, talks fast, and is immediately likable for his eccentricities.

_Back to the Future_ screenplay by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale

At sixty-five, he was one of the nation's most talented and most unheralded inventors. In fact, no one except Marty McFly even knew of his accomplishments, but that didn't matter. Soon all that would change. His lifetime of struggle, of being the recipient of ridicule, would suddenly turn golden.

Back to the Future novelisation by George Gipe

So if we imagine a 'What If...?' scenario where he didn't travel through time again at the end of the first film, and just lived a relatively normal life from that point forward, he'd have to've lived to the ripe old age of 95 to still be alive in 2015, which is well past the average life expectancy in the US. Statistically speaking, it's probable that he would've passed away of natural causes some time in the 1990s, or in the early 2000s, allowing for a reasonable margin for error.

Also, that theoretical 'normal life' for Doc Brown I just outlined above is highly improbable in the first place, since it just didn't seem to be his 'destiny', so to speak. If we go by the original timeline, then he was seemingly destined to die in 1985. Once that death was averted through alterations to the timeline, his destiny changed to become that of a man seemingly intent on using his time machine to explore different time periods, making him a man with no fixed place in time, like The Doctor from Doctor Who.

Marty and Jennifer's destiny seemed to be very different. They both did some time travelling as well, but from Marty's perspective, he only did that for a few weeks or so. Neither he nor Jennifer were ever intent on making a habit of time travel, and as such, they were always likely to live relatively normal lives between 1985 and 2015, which is why they had older counterparts in every version of 2015 that was either shown or hinted at.

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  • I don't think the OP is still around, but I'd guess that "original timeline" was meant more loosely to mean the "original" version of 2015 we see in part II, as opposed to whatever future will exist by the end of part III (when Marty no longer gets into the car accident, for example). I think that would make more sense of the OP's question "Doc tells a lot about the future of Marty's family. However, he doesn't mention what happened to himself in 2015" which suggests it's about whether Doc would have checked out what happened to himself when he visited 2015 (already in 'Lone Pine' timeline).
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 23:00
  • @Hypnosifl - Yes, I agree that the OP was likely thinking of the first version of 2015 that we see in Part II, and I tried to cover that scenario as well in my answer. Still, I think it was worth pointing out that this was not the original timeline, and that Doc apparently didn't live beyond the age of 65 in the first timeline, partly because I circled back around to the idea of what Doc's 'destiny' was at the end of my answer. Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 23:54
  • Going by item 1.13 in the official FAQ by Gale and Zemeckis, I think when Doc went to the future it wouldn't be a what-if where he never traveled through time at the end of the first film, rather it would be a "logical extrapolation" of the simplest outcome of his traveling to the future and then returning to 1985. And when he took Marty and Jennifer to 2015 this extrapolation should take into the fact the fact that he went to the rejuvenation clinic which he said "added a good 30 to 40 years" to his life. Maybe he just avoided himself!
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 0:40
  • @Hypnosifl - As I indicated in my other comment, I don't buy into the "logical extrapolation" explanation, as it isn't consistent in my eyes with what is implied by films themselves. And even if I did buy it for the sake of argument, it doesn't follow that Doc logically would've returned to 1985 and stayed there to live out the rest of his days like a normal person. That isn't, to my mind, a logical extrapolation of what Doc would've done, in light of what we know about his character and tendencies. Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 1:32
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That doesn’t answer the question. After bttf1, Doc is alive in 1985. He then travels to 2015. In that year, he should be “an old man.” Now is where the question comes in as bttf time travel suggests that since doc brown has not yet traveled to 1955 for the second time, he has also not been sent to 1885 and thus did not get married, have kids, and presumably lived out his life time traveling/not in his original timeline. Therefore, doc should still have a 2015 counterpart, even if he’s 6 feet under the ground as when Marty and Jennifer come to 2015 w doc Marty hasn’t yet bought the sports almanac and thus the alternate 1985 has not yet be created . It stands to reason something outside the trilogy info available (what is said and happens onscreen in the movies) may answer this question but I’m not going to buy a bunch of video games , books, etc to find out.

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    If in every timeline Doc leaves 1985 to go time traveling, then who is this 2015 Doc you are hypothesizing? Please be more specific about which timeline you're referring to.
    – DavidW
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 16:35
  • "I can't be bothered to answer properly this because it might involve looking at other sources" isn't as impressive a claim as you might think.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 16:46
  • Yes, but before he takes Marty and Jennifer, his future history is in wrote, just like 2015 Biff’s future history, demonstrates by him existing in 2015 at the start of bttf2 but the vanishing into nonexistence only after returning from 1955. At least at the start of bttf2, 2015 doc has to be somewhere, other than 1885 or sometime /place as in that reality he hasn’t a) caused 2015 Biff to take to almanac back to 1955 biff and thus b) has not yet traveled to 1885 to meet Clara as reinforced by 1955 doc and 1985 Marty still knowing about Clayton ravine in bttf3. Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 18:25
  • @Valorum - I don't think most other sources would be considered "canon" by BTTF fans, though ones actually written by Bob Gale like the comics might be a gray area (but I've read the comics and they don't answer this question).
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 18:47
  • @DavidW - I think the "native" 2015 Doc would be the Doc who took a trip to 2015 in 1985 but returned to 1985 and aged normally, just like the "native" 2015 Marty (the one who was 47 years old and got fired from his job) was probably an extrapolation based on the assumption that 17-year-old Marty would return to 1985 after helping out his kids. See item 1.13 in the official FAQ by Gale and Zemeckis which talks about the idea that when you go forward in time you end up in a "logical extrapolation", "based on the events of the time you left".
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 20:51
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I know that we're talking about the timeline at the time they went to 2015 early in Bttf 2. Doc may've been dead by then but it wasn't by the Libyans because that destiny was already altered by the end of the first movie. So as for the timeline they were in at the start of Bttf 2, either Doc was dead by 2015, or he was so destined already by that time to keep time traveling that his absence in 2015 meant that he lived out the rest of his days in another time period. It was already officially set by then. Doc probably most likely went to the 1880s because he was already talking about how much he wanted to go there earlier in Bttf 2, before he was sent there when struck by lightning. Also, if Doc automatically went to 1885 when the lightning hit, that means that he already had the 1885 date programmed into the DeLorean, it was something he already set up by the time of their trip to 2015, which was why he wasn't seen there

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    I'm not sure I follow you. Since they travelled with Doc to 2015, it's obvious that in that timeline, Doc is evidently alive in 2015. And you say "either Doc was dead by 2015 or he was destined already by that time to keep time traveling" and that pretty much sum up the possibilities, so which one was it?
    – DavidW
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 17:59
  • @DavidW - I believe the both the question and this answer are referring to the hypothetical, 95-year-old version of Doc who would've been native to 2015, assuming he lived that long. The version of Doc you're talking about is the 65-year-old version who time travelled to 2015 from 1985, but was native to the latter time period. That said, this answer appears to be covering ground I already covered in my answer, except with some added speculation about the hypothetical older version of Doc possibly settling down in 1885. Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 19:09

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