"The way I see it, if you're going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?" - "Doc" Emmet L. Brown
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Chronologically speaking, the DeLorean in the Back To The Future movies must be considered the world's second time machine. The locomotive at the end of Back To The Future Part III was built by Doctor Emmet Brown sometime in the 19th century, while the DeLorean was manufactured in 1982. This is an annoying kind of nitpick, but time travel is like that sometimes. In fact, a lot of the time, by definition.
The DeLorean made its first time journey at 1:20am on Saturday October 26th, 1985. Before its eventual destruction at 11am the following day, by collision with a locomotive, the DeLorean made a total of thirteen time journeys, and approximately 70 years and 330 days had elapsed according to its personal time scale.
The central component of the time vehicle, the "thing which makes time travel possible", is the flux capacitor. It is a nondescript square panel in the back of the DeLorean in which there are three light-filled wires. In order to travel through time, two things are necessary; one, that a burst of 1.21 gigawatts of electrical energy be delivered into the flux capacitor, and two, that the DeLorean is travelling at exactly 88 miles per hour at this moment. These figures do not vary according to the amount of time being traversed, or the direction of time travel. It is, however, unspecified what period of time the 1.21GW must be sustained for. The duration of a bolt of lightning is sufficient. Originally a plutonium-fuelled nuclear reaction was used to generate this energy. Lightning also does the job. A miniature fusion reactor was later installed, eliminating the requirement for plutonium.
The following is an account of the journeys the DeLorean took. Between the arrival point of the previous journey and the start of the next one, it may be assumed that the DeLorean remained rooted in the normal passage of time.
1:20am, Saturday 26th October 1985
1:21am, Saturday 26th October 1985
In the parking lot of Twin Pines Mall, Einstein the dog becomes - well, not the world's first time traveller, but about as close as it gets. The DeLorean leaves blazing tire-trails across the parking lot behind it, and arrives supercooled, covered in ice. The ice and fire-trails reoccur after most later journeys.
1:35am, Saturday 26th October 1985
6:00am, Saturday 5th November 1955
Accidentally turning on the time circuits while pursued by Libyan terrorists, Marty McFly travels back in time to 1955.
10:04pm, Saturday 12th November 1955
1:23am, Saturday 26th October 1985
Lightning strikes the Hill Valley clock tower. The energy is diverted into the DeLorean, sending Marty back to the future. Marty arrives just over ten minutes before he left.
2:00am, Saturday 26th October 1985
2:00am, Monday 26th October 2015
Later that night, after dropping Marty off at home, Doctor Emmet Brown takes his first spin in the time vehicle. He does what he planned to do all along, heading thirty years into the future. Strictly speaking his destination time is unknown, but it's probable that he chose to go exactly 30 years forward in time. He is a scientist, after all.
Unknown time in 2015
10:38am, Saturday 26th October 1985
After spending an unknown amount of time in 2015, Doc Brown returns home. The DeLorean is now fitted with a Mr. Fusion tank, eliminating the need for plutonium as fuel for all future journeys, now requiring only a handful of garbage. It has also had a spiffy hover conversion, allowing it to fly.
10:40am, Saturday 26th October 1985
4:29pm, Wednesday 21st October 2015
Doc, Marty, and Marty's girlfriend Jennifer head to 2015.
7:15pm, Wednesday 21st October 2015
12:00pm, Saturday 12th November 1955
In 2015, the aging Biff Tannen steals the DeLorean and goes to 1955 with the sports almanac. Along with the Doc's adventures in 2015, the exact time of Biff's arrival in Hill Valley 1955 is the only other uncertain point in the DeLorean's history. 12pm is little more than a guess, giving Old Biff enough time to hide the car, talk to his past self, and maybe indulge in a little nostalgic sightseeing on the way.
6:38pm, Saturday 12th November 1955
7:25pm, Wednesday 21st October 2015
Old Biff returns to 2015, with Doc, Marty and Jennifer (for the moment) none the wiser.
7:28pm, Wednesday 21st October 2015
9:00pm, Saturday 26th October 1985-A
With the time-stream drastically altered by Biff's interference in 1955, Doc, Marty and Jennifer return to a 1985 which is very different from the one they left. The dystopian 1985 is usually referred to on fan sites as 1985-A.
2:42pm, Sunday 27th October 1985-A
6:00am, Saturday 12th November 1955
Realising their error, Doc and Marty leave for 1955 in order to set things right. Jennifer is left in 1985-A where the Doc assures Marty that she will be safe.
9:45pm, Saturday 12th November 1955
12:00am, Thursday 1st January 1885
While hovering over 1955 Hill Valley, the DeLorean is struck by lightning, accidentally sending the Doc back to 1885. The hover units are fried beyond repair in the process. Doc hides the DeLorean in a mine shaft where it remains untouched for nearly 71 years.
10:00am, Monday 14th November 1955
8:00am, Wednesday 2nd September, 1885
The DeLorean is excavated from the mine. Marty takes it back to 1885 in order to prevent the tragic murder of Doc Brown. During his bumpy arrival in the desert outside Hill Valley, Marty ruptures the DeLorean's fuel tank. Out of gasoline, the DeLorean now has no way to reach 88mph and take Marty home.
9:00am, Monday 7th September 1885
11:00am, Sunday 27th October 1985
Riding on railway tracks and pushed by locomotive, the DeLorean reaches the required speed and Marty is finally transported home. The DeLorean is completely destroyed minutes later by a modern train on the same railway he arrived on.
Other offscreen jumps have certainly taken place. In the second movie, while in 2015, the Doc refers to having been forward in time one week already to witness the repercussions of Marty's son's crime. Later on in the movie, Doc produces a briefcase full of American currency from many different eras - this could not have been put together without many additional time journeys which also presumably took place while the Doc was briefly offscreen.
- Altogether the DeLorean crossed nearly 571 years in time jumps: 321 years back in time, and 250 years forward.
- Two of the thirteen time jumps were made accidentally. Three were powered by plutonium reactions, two by lightning, the remainder by Mr. Fusion.
- A total of five individuals took part in the DeLorean's time journeys. In chronological order from the DeLorean's point of view: Einstein the dog (1 journey), Marty McFly (7 journeys), Doc Brown (6 journeys), Jennifer (2 journeys), Biff Tannen (2 journeys).
- As far as we know, in its entire existence the DeLorean never travelled faster than the critical 88mph. In all cases, it started decelerating immediately after arriving at its destination time. (This leads to the interesting question of what would happen if the DeLorean was speeding out of control at a higher speed than 88mph - perhaps loaded on a high-speed bullet-train, or free-falling out of an aircraft. Presumably one would have to find a way to slow it down sufficiently to use the time circuits! An interesting twist!)
- On Saturday 12th November, 1955, between 12:00pm and 6:38pm, there were four versions of the same DeLorean in Hill Valley. In chronological order from the DeLorean's point of view:
- The instance when Marty was marooned in 1955 during the original movie
- Biff Tannen's visit from 2015 when he gave his past self the sports almanac, in BTTF2
- Doc and Marty's attempt to take the almanac back from young Biff, again in part 2
- The DeLorean that Doc buried in the mine in 1885, in the third part of the trilogy.
- The precise location of the DeLorean is known almost throughout the entire trilogy. If, however, it was ever decided to make a fourth movie (which BTTF screen writer Bob Gale has gone on record saying will not happen - it wouldn't be the same without Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly), and the DeLorean had to appear, then there are two unknowns in its history which could be exploited.
- During the Doc's solo trip to 2015. Given the monetary resources he produces in Part 2, we know he visited many different eras while he was offscreen, so any amount of adventures could have taken place during this time. And after all, he refers on his return to youth-restoring procedures that he has undergone, so these adventures could have taken him anything up to 20 years.
- While the DeLorean is buried in the mine. It remains supposedly undiscovered for almost 71 years, but again, provided it is returned to its hiding place intact, there is room for all kinds of temporal shenanigans. With the possibility of accidental discovery by a third party, these journeys needn't even involve the existing cast.
Sources: the IMDb, the movies themselves, the official fan site at www.bttf.com, and most importantly Keith Gow's awesome BTTF Chronology at http://home.vicnet.net.au/~kwgow/. Go read it. Seriously.
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