As noted previously, problems with hosting of the original award-winning Temporal Anomalies in Popular Time Travel Movies site have led to the decision to reformat those original articles and republish them through The Examiner. Editing is being kept minimal, sufficient for the serialized format encouraged by this site with a few touches to the writing but none to the content but for the addition of links to more recent explanatory articles. The original site went live (as a GeoCities site) in 1997, when the Multiverser game system originally presenting the theoretical base for Replacement Theory was published. The first articles to appear analyzed the first two of the Terminator films, but they were immediately followed by these three movies, and since we have since done a fresh explanation of the Terminator series through Terminator Salvation (and anticipate the release of Terminator Genisys) it seemed better to begin with this franchise.
The old site put each film in a single article (except the first two Terminator films, which were combined in one long analysis), sometimes running thousands of words. The Examiner prefers shorter articles, so these republications are being given in weekly installments. We have already covered the first film as Back to the Future I part I: Beginnings, Back to the Future I part 2: Altered, and Back to the Future I part 3: Resolution. The second film appeared in five parts, Back to the Future II part 1: Sideways, Back to the Future II part 2: First, Back to the Future II part 4: Third-Fourth, and Back to the Future II part 5: Fifth. The first article of this, the third, film, appeared as Back to the Future III part 1: Reconstructing, and the series will conclude next week with Back to the Future III part 3: Marty. Hopefully you will find these entertaining and enlightening, whether or not you have previously seen them on the other site.
In the second main timeline, as we mentioned, Doc prevents the death of Clara Clayton. Although it is colorful to imagine that he rescues her dramatically as we see in the movie, it is far more likely that he meets her at the station, preventing her from driving the horses to town, being spooked by the snake and carried off the cliff. Neither of them were aware that he had saved her life. Doc had previously sent the letter to Marty, two days before Clara arrived. By that night, the two had discovered their common interests, and were enjoying the night at the town festival. But, in events similar to those seen in the film, Buford Tannen fires a bullet from a derringer into Emmett Brown when the elder scientist stands up for the lady. She undoubtedly remained close by his bedside, talking with him and comforting him, until he died two days later. Although Clara Clayton did not drive into the ravine, she did not marry, have children, or severely impact the timeline in any other way. By 1955, the changes made were minimal, consisting principally of a tombstone and a few newspaper articles and photos.
Now we reach one of the peculiarities of this anomaly. To accept this, the reader will have to perceive the deterministic nature of temporal anomalies, and the nature of determinism itself. Let us assume that, the world being a certain way, a person must make a choice between thing one and thing two. Let us assume that for any reason or for no reason the person chooses thing one. That choice having been made suggests that the person ultimately would not have chosen thing two. Thus, were we to erase all of the events leading up to that choice, and repeat them such that every event and circumstance which was relevant to the choice was the same, the person would again choose thing one, because the reason he chose thing one the first time would still have the same force this time: because this time is still the first time, even though we perceive it as repeated. No matter how many times the first time repeats, it will always be the first time. It is as if a stereo tape has been rewound, and the left channel re-recorded: the right channel will always play the same thing, no matter how many times the left channel is changed. As long as nothing which is changed is relevant to the present circumstances, the events will play out the same way.
Some will argue with this by suggesting that certain actions could be random. But if the choice between thing one and thing two was decided by a coin toss, the person would still conclude that the coin toss was the way to choose, and would reach into the same pocket at the same instant, grab the same coin, flip it the same way with the same force and angle at the same moment, catch it (or miss it) the same way, and get the same result. Even the wind which affects the way it flips would be the same. Thus, if nothing which is altered in the past matters to a specific chain of events in the present, those events will occur in the same way.
All of this is essential in order to understand that the second major timeline also leads to George McFly being hit by the car, Marty escaping to the past, the various travels of the second film, and Doc being hit by lightning. In the second major timeline, the only things which are different which matter to us is that there is a tombstone for Doc Brown not far from the cave in which the time machine is hidden, and that Clayton Ravine does not have that name.
This is a flaw that the movie overlooks. Marty should not know the name of Clayton Ravine, nor the story which accompanies it, because at the moment that Doc gets hit by lightning, Marty’s entire history shifts to this second timeline. However, we will overlook this noticeable but small mistake; it is there for a plot purpose–the movie could not have any other way to tell us the name of the Ravine, unless it had done so before Doc was hit by lightning.
After Doc gets hit by lightning, Marty is in the second main timeline. The letter was not delivered in the first main timeline, since it was not yet sent (although the Western Union man will have won his bet several times, since our tracing of the temporal anomalies shows that this time comes once in the line in which George gets hit by the car, once in the line in which Marty interferes, once in the repeat of that line with the more affluent Marty interfering, once in the line in which Biff gives himself the book, and once in the line in which Marty takes it away–and each time in this second main timeline the letter is brought for delivery, but only in the last repeat is Marty there to receive it). The letter itself alters this timeline, as Doc now is instructing himself in understanding discoveries not yet made. Fortunately , we can accept the idea that Doc does not alter the timeline thereafter, choosing to make his time trip (either by intent or due to the availability of the plutonium) on the same day in 1985. But Marty chooses to end the second main timeline and begin the third by going back to rescue Doc, because he learns–and Doc in 1955 learns–that Doc is shot in 1885 by Buford Tannen.
This is the second article in the series, which will conclude next time with Back to the Future III part 3: Marty.