'Doc couldn't live with that': Christopher Lloyd reacts to Back to the Future fan theories

Ahead of a cast reunion at Fan Expo, Doc Brown also reveals what the DeLorean was originally going to be

Ahead of a cast reunion at Fan Expo, Doc Brown also reveals what the DeLorean was originally going to be

(Universal Pictures)

It's been more than 30 years since the original Back to the Future was released, but demand, and fandom, for the film is still going strong.

Starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd as Marty McFly and Doc Brown as a time-travelling duo, Back to the Future went on to become the top grossing film of 1985, and spawned a successful trilogy, which would see the pair travel to the future (2015, which is technically the past now) as well of the Old West.

This year they will hit Toronto for Fan Expo, along with co-stars Lea Thompson (Lorraine Baines) and Tom Wilson (Biff Tannen), for a cast reunion in order to celebrate the film's legacy. It's a topic that Lloyd, even after all this time, doesn't grow tired of.

"It was such a treat to be part of such a successful enterprise," he says over the phone ahead of this weekend's Fan Expo. "People are still loving the film that has had such an impact on so many people all over the world, and it's wonderful to be part of it."

It has so much momentum still and young people today are seeing it like their parents did in their day.- Christopher Lloyd- Christopher Lloyd

The trilogy also holds the distinction of being a successful property that hasn't been rebooted yet, a rarity given Hollywood's obsession with nostalgia and older intellectual property.

"The original is still just rolling along," says Lloyd. "It has so much momentum still and young people today are seeing it like their parents did in their day. It's just cycling, it just keeps moving. Movies come and they have their run and kind of fade away and this just won't fade. It doesn't age. It's not stuck in a particular period of time. It just keeps happening and it's great."

That said, Lloyd does seem open to the idea of a part four, but only if the right idea comes along.

"[Writers] Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale, when they finished three, that was the cycle, that was the full arc of the story for them, and that was that was the end of it," he says. "But if somebody came up with a concept for another film that was just too good to turn away, something that just grabbed their imaginations and they decide 'We gotta do this,' maybe that will still come along. Maybe it isn't time yet, but we'll see."

Another reason why films have endured for so long is that the stories, like any good science fiction, lend themselves to deeper readings. As such, many fan theories have emerged about what's really going on, with some more outlandish than others. (Doc Brown was the original Dr. Who?) We asked Lloyd to weigh in on a few of the more grounded ones.

1. We could have had hover boards in real life, if only Doc Brown got around to inventing them

The theory: Our current reality is actually a timeline that was created by the Back to the Future universe, and in it, we should have had hoverboards by now. Doc Brown, having the technology to make cars and trains fly, actually invented them, but since, in Part III, he decides to stay behind in the Old West, he never gets around to inventing them, thus depriving mankind.

Lloyd: "Well [laughs], I mean, if I stayed back in the West, that certainly would have put a nix on hover boards. That one's plausible, until proven wrong of course."

2. George McFly knows his son is a time traveller

The theory: In the first movie, Marty goes back in time, using the name Calvin Klein, to help connect his father, George, and his mother, Lorraine. It's highly implausible that the two would not recognize the man who introduced them when their son hit a certain age. As the theory goes, George not only knew his son was a time traveller, but depended on it in order to make him a success (as he was at the end of Part I). This theory was given even more credence when one of the original drafts of the screenplay was released, indicating that George may have been aware.

Lloyd: "Wow, I don't remember seeing that version. But I had actually read one of the original drafts, where the power to travel through time didn't come from lightning; it came from everybody going out to where they test atomic bombs in New Mexico. They draw from the charge to course into the future or past. Also, the vehicle at that time was a refrigerator. The original idea was that Marty and Doc would get into some jazzed up old refrigerator. That's the way they go through time."

3. The 'Marty martyr' theory

The theory: Doc Brown was always adamant that Marty could never meet his future self. Near the end of the original film, Marty returns to 1985 just in time to see Doc Brown send an alternate version of Marty (Marty B) back in time. Doc, making sure that the two Martys never met, was actually sending Marty B off to his death to avoid a paradox. Hence becoming the Marty martyr.

Lloyd: "Well you never want to meet yourself in another time because then the space time continuum, something will go wrong and the entire universe will collapse. I mean that's obvious. But Doc would never send Marty off to his death, in any kind of scenario. Doc couldn't live with that."

4. Doc Brown was suicidal

The Theory: The darkest of all the theories posits that Doc Brown was suicidal. After lamenting that none of his inventions ever worked, he designed the DeLorean as a death machine. When it first travels through time, via remote control, Doc stands directly in its path, fully expecting it not to work.

Lloyd: "I don't think so. Because Doc had so much confidence in what he was doing, he didn't worry about that. He knew what he invented and he was very confident. Maybe a little doubtful, but Doc didn't have a grim nature. He was very positive. He had failures, but he just kept on going. He persisted. You've given me a lot to think about though."

Fan Expo takes place Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. For more, visit


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