Richard's comment on this question made me realize that Doc Brown seems to be a bit hypocritical. Allow me to explain.

The whole reason Marty ends up in 1955 (as opposed to any other point in time) is that the 1985 Doc set the controls to that year, because he wanted to visit himself on the night he invented the flux capacitor. Unfortunately, the Libyans show up and gun him down, Marty tries to escape in the DeLorean, accidentally goes back in time, and you know the rest.

Marty finds the Doc in 1955 and asks for his help. He eventually tries to warn the Doc about the Libyans, but Doc refuses to listen, and repeatedly lectures Marty on the importance of not changing the past.

And therein lies the problem. 1955 Doc knows that you shouldn't change the past, but 1985 Doc doesn't. At some point over those 30 years, he managed to forget the whole "time travel paradox" issue, to such an extent that he was going to visit himself 30 years earlier (to be fair, this is sort of explained in the movie itself, albeit in a rather unsatisfactory manner- when Marty gets back to 1985 and sees that the Doc has survived the shooting, he asks how the Doc knew about the Libyans; Doc reveals that he read Marty's letter, and adds "I figured, 'What the hell'").

Is there some explanation for why the 1985 Doc thought it was okay to visit himself, but the 1955 Doc was dead-set against letting Marty tell him about the Libyans? Do we know why the 1985 Doc was going back in time in the first place (apart from the fun of visiting himself)?

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    Ah - Doc didn't want to visit himself in 1955; he wanted to go 25 or so years into the future. He was just putting in dates to show Marty how it worked and put 1955 in as a significant date in human history Jun 15, 2015 at 6:30
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    @N_Soong: …or because he remembers being visited by Marty in 1955 and has to set it up that way to make the accidental travel happen, to avoid paradoxes. So he also played dead and waited until Marty left before getting up again…
    – Holger
    Mar 16, 2016 at 12:04

2 Answers 2


Doc never had the intention to visit his 1955 counterpart during that sequence of events. Here's the script:

DOC: I'll show you how it works. First, you turn the time circuits on. This readout tell you where you're going, this one tells you where you are, this one tells you where you were. You input the destination time on this keypad. Say, you wanna see the signing of the declaration of independence, or witness the birth or Christ. Here's a red-letter date in the history of science, November 5, 1955. Yes, of course, November 5, 1955...

As you can see, Doc is putting in several dates to show Marty how to operate the time circuits in the DeLorean.

Just a little bit later, the follow conversation occurs:

DOC: Who knows if they've got cotton underwear in the future. I'm allergic to all synthetics.

MARTY: The future, it's where you're going?

DOC: That's right, twenty five years into the future.

So, Doc wasn't planning to go back to his 1955 self, it was just an accident that Marty activated the time circuits and the DeLorean took him to the last date entered, which was November 5 1955. Doc actually planned to go to the future, so

No - Doc was not about to break his own rules

Admittedly, Doc does contradict himself at the end of Back to the Future by reading Marty's letter on the reasoning of 'What the Hell!', but that's another matter...

  • beat me to the typing.. nice +1 Jun 15, 2015 at 6:42
  • The draft script that I read suggested that he did indeed intend to visit himself. Good answer, though- +1.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jun 15, 2015 at 6:42
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    @WadCheber really? Well, according to the film, which is the authoritative source, he wasn't! Jun 15, 2015 at 6:43
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    We have no evidence in the film that Doc originally intended to go check up on himself in the future.
    – phantom42
    Jun 15, 2015 at 6:52
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    I never said anything about visiting. I said "check up on himself". This includes so much as looking up information about himself. And you'll note that we never learn anything about the fate of Doc past 1985.
    – phantom42
    Jun 15, 2015 at 7:03

Well you see Doc technically didn't break his own rules. I'll explain: You see by Marty changing the past he creates a new version of Doc Brown. In the 1985 Marty left that Doc is a completely different Doc. A Doc that never said changing the past is dangerous.

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