‘Back to the Future’ Series Takes Place in an Alternate Timeline

in Movies & TV

Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) shocked at seeing his younger dad in the diner in 'Back to the Future'

Credit: Universal Studios

Back to the Future is one of the most beloved franchises of all time, and the three films are collectively regarded as one of the best movie trilogies, so much so that fans condemn the idea of the original 1985 film being rebooted or a fourth installment ever being made.

Even the filmmakers have repeatedly gone on record to oppose another installment. But over the past year, the idea of another film in the series, whether a reboot or a sequel, has come up in many conversations, some of which have involved two iconic actors from the films themselves.

Doc Brown looking confused in 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Credit: Universal Studios

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Michael J Fox (Marty McFly) put forward the idea of a female-led Back to the Future film, a concept his co-star Christopher Lloyd (Doc Emmett Brown) would later echo. Lloyd even expressed an interest in returning for a fourth film, however, Fox did not.

Marvel’s Tom Holland has even been fan-cast as the new Marty McFly on more than one occasion. There are likely some fans who want another installment in the series, but it seems the majority don’t.

Michael J Fox as Marty McFly in 'Back to the Future'
Credit: Universal Studios

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But if we cast our minds back eight years, the idea of another ’80s classic being rebooted seemed impossible. Somehow, though, Ghostbusters (1984) went under the Hollywood knife, and in 2016, the reboot Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016) was released.

Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) looking surprised at Kevin's stupidity in 'Ghostbusters: S
Credit: Sony Pictures

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Back to the Future Other Media

It’s easy to forget that Back to the Future reaches beyond just the three films: Back to the Future (1985), Back to the Future Part II (1989), and Back to the Future Part III (1990). For starters, there was an animated television series of the same name that aired in 1993.

Now, there’s even a musical adaptation of the original 1985 film, titled Back to the Future: The Musical (2020), which is currently showing in London’s West End and on Broadway in New York City. There’s even a long-running comic series from IDW Publishing.

Diehard fans of the franchise will obviously be aware of all the additional Back to the Future media, but the more casual fans probably aren’t as tuned in.

Back to the Future: The Game

The franchise doesn’t just stop with movies, musicals,  cartoons, and comic books, though. In 2010, a fourth installment arrived in the form of Back to the Future: The Game (2010), which, to this day, is regarded by fans as an official follow-up to the film trilogy.

Check out the trailer for the game below, courtesy of Telltale Games:

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Back to the Future Characters

Developed and published by Telltale Games and co-written by the writer and producer of the films, Bob Gale, Back to the Future: The Game is an episodic adventure that follows on chronologically from the trilogy, picking up six months after the events of the third film.

Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd gave the developers their permission to use their likenesses for their respective characters in the game. However, Lloyd also voices Doc Brown, while Fox shares Marty McFly duties with actor AJ Locascio.

Marty McFly in 'Back to the Future: The Game'
Credit: Telltale Games

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Back to the Future: The Game Synopsis

Per Telltale Games, here’s the synopsis for the game:

Six months after the events of the third film, the DeLorean Time Machine mysteriously returns to Hill Valley — driverless! Travel through time as you meet up with McFlys, Tannens and Browns through the ages to right wrongs, amend timelines, and prevent terrible terrible mistakes.

As is the case with Telltale Games (if you’ve played The Walking Dead and Jurassic Park: The Game, you’ll already be familiar with the format), Back to the Future: The Game is divided into episodes. All five of them were released separately, just like a television series.

As such, it can be enjoyed like one, as you can watch all five episodes online, or you can just play through the game as normal. Each episode is around the 35 — 40 minute mark (some are shorter), while the overall game takes around 12 — 15 hours to fully complete.

It features other characters from the movies, too, like Biff Tannen, and introduces new ones like Irving “Kid” Tannen, Biff’s father. The game feels like an authentic Back to the Future installment. And though it’s fully licensed, it isn’t necessarily a sequel to the films.

Doc Brown in jail in 'Back to the Future: The Game'
Credit: Telltale Games

Related: Does ‘Back to the Future’ Exist Within the ‘Star Wars’ Universe?

Canonicity

While many fans consider the third-person interactive adventure game to be canon with the film series, mainly because it picks up after the events of the last film and features Christopher Lloyd and Michael J Fox (to some capacity), it isn’t actually canon.

This happens a lot with games. For a long time, Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009) was regarded as canon not only by fans, but by Ghostbusters actor Dan Aykroyd himself. However, the events of Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) have seemingly retconned the game.

There are many other examples of this, such as The Thing (2002) video game, which is widely considered canon with the 1982 John Carpenter film of the same name. And when it comes to franchises like Star Wars, take your pick — almost everything post Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm is canon (with the exception of the LEGO titles).

Marty McFly in the DeLorean in 'Back to the Future: The Game'
Credit: Telltale Games

Related: 5 Actresses Who Could Play Female Marty McFly In ‘Back to the Future’ Reboot

But in the case of Back to the Future: The Game, Bob Gale has already confirmed that only the three films are canon, while the likes of the comic books, the cartoon series, and the 2010 video game take place in an “alternate” Back to the Future timeline.

In a 2010 interview (via The Telltale Blog), while discussing the game, Gale said, “Only the movies are canon. Everything else [the cartoon, the comic books, and so on] fits into the ‘what-if?’ category, or might be canon in some alternate universe.”

Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown (L) and Michael J Fox as Marty McFly (R) testing the DeLorean in 'Back to the Future'
Credit: Universal Studios

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This makes sense, as the franchise is no stranger to alternate timelines. In Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) finds himself in an alternate 1985, where Biff Tannen (Thomas F Wilson) has married his mother Lorraine Baines (Lea Thompson).

Considering Back to the Future deals with time travel, it’s hardly a stretch to suggest that other timelines may exist as part of a multiverse. Who knows how many Marty McFly and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) have created with all their time-traveling adventures.

Doc Brown prepping the DeLorean for time travel in 'Back to the Future'
Credit: Universal Studios

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In fact, in the original film, when Marty returns to the present day, everything is different, so what has happened to the original 1985 present day, in which his parents are miserable, and his siblings haven’t amounted to much in their adult life?

So, Back to the Future: The Game takes place in an alternate timeline. Technically speaking, though, if you apply DC Universe and Marvel Cinematic Universe logic, it could still be canon. After all, Gale describes the game as fitting into the “‘what-if'” category. If that’s the case, it may very well be canon, as Marvel’s What If…? (2001) is canon, because it takes place in the Marvel Multiverse, which has now been introduced in the recent films.

Either way, there are plenty of Back to the Future timelines to enjoy, such as Back to the Future: The Musical, which is now on Broadway with an all-new cast.

Per the official website, here’s the synopsis for the stage show:

When Marty McFly finds himself transported back to 1955 in a time machine built by the eccentric scientist Doc Brown, he accidentally changes the course of history. Now he’s in a race against time to fix the present, escape the past, and send himself… back to the future.

Experience this high-voltage comedy as the iconic story is adapted for the stage by the movie’s creators, Bob Gale (Back to the Future trilogy) and Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) and is directed by the Tony Award-winning John Rando.

Back to the Future the Musical features original music by multi-Grammy winners Alan Silvestri (Avengers: Endgame) and Glen Ballard (Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror), alongside hit songs from the movie including The Power of Love, Johnny B. Goode, Earth Angel and Back in Time.

When BACK TO THE FUTURE: THE MUSICAL hits 88mph, you’re gonna see some serious… entertainment.

A North American tour of the production has been set for 2024.

Back to the Future the movie stars Michael J Fox (Marty McFly) and Christopher Lloyd (Doc Emmett Brown) in the lead roles. The supporting cast includes Lea Thompson (Lorraine Baines-McFly), Crispin Glover (George McFly), Thomas F Wilson (Biff Tannen), Claudia Wells (Jennifer Parker), James Tolkan (Principal Strickland), Marc McClure (Dave McFly), and Wendie Jo Sperber (Linda McFly).

Have you played Back to the Future: The Game? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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