Emmett Brown

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Emmett "Doc" Brown
Back to the Future character
Doc Brown.JPG
Christopher Lloyd as Emmett Brown
Portrayed by Christopher Lloyd
Voiced by Dan Castellaneta
James Arnold Taylor (Young Emmett Brown, Telltale Videogame)
Appeared in Part I
Part II
Part III
The Animated Series
Ride
The Simpsons Ride
The Game
Information
Occupation Scientist
Physicist
Blacksmith
Original time 1985
Time traveler Yes
Years visited 1885-1888, 1955, 1985, 1985A, 2015

Dr. Emmett Lathrop "Doc" Brown, Ph.D., is a fictional character in the Back to the Future trilogy. He is the inventor of the first time machine, which he builds out of a DeLorean sports car. The character is portrayed by Christopher Lloyd in all three films, as well as in the live action sequences of the animated series. He is voiced by Dan Castellaneta in the animated series. The character's appearance and mannerisms are loosely inspired by Leopold Stokowski and Albert Einstein.[1] In 2008, Dr. Emmett Brown was selected by Empire magazine as one of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time, ranking at #76.[2]

Character background[edit]

Emmett refers to himself as "a student of all sciences" and is depicted as a passionate inventor. His homes in 1985 and 1955 are shown to contain various labour-saving gadgets, and he tests an intended mind-reading device on Marty McFly, during the scene in Back to the Future when the latter visits him in 1955.

He appears to be heavily influenced by scientists of previous eras, naming successive pet dogs Copernicus and Einstein, and having portraits of Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein in his laboratory. He also states in Back to the Future Part III that his favorite author is Jules Verne, and reveals to Marty that his family name was originally von Braun before World War I, possibly an allusion to the real-life and contemporary rocket scientist Wernher von Braun.

Emmett's family moved to Hill Valley, the fictional setting of the series, in 1908. Although initially wealthy because of his family's savings, Emmett states in Back to the Future that he spent his "entire family fortune" on his time travel project. Newspaper clippings at the beginning of the film show the Brown mansion was destroyed by fire in 1962, and the property sold to developers; Doc subsequently resided in the mansion's garage. Once broke, Doc established a privately owned business to offer 24-hour scientific services, building ingenious devices for his customers.

Emmett's work appears to be highly regarded; a scene from Back to the Future Part II shows a newspaper article describing his winning an award for his work. However, he is shown as absent-minded at times, and various statements by other characters inhabiting Hill Valley indicate that he is generally regarded as strange, eccentric, or insane. He often speaks with wide-eyed expressions and broad gestures—"Great Scott!" being one of the character's well-known catchphrases—and tends to be overly verbose in his delivery, referring in one case to a school dance as a "rhythmic ceremonial ritual".

No film in the trilogy shows Emmett having any friends besides Marty and Jennifer, Marty's girlfriend. The films do not depict how Doc and Marty originally met, but production notes and comments by franchise creators Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale have stated that Doc and Marty met several years prior to the events of Back to the Future, when Marty sneaked into Doc's lab after being warned by his parents to stay away from him. Happy to be revered as 'cool', Doc hired Marty as his part-time lab assistant.[3]

In the original timeline, in contrast with Marty's unassertive father, George McFly, Doc is an encouraging and supportive mentor figure for Marty. Doc's positive influence in turn allows Marty to mentor George in 1955, which appears to encourage his later success as a novelist, and help him become a better husband and father. One line in particular, "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything," originates from Doc. Marty repeats it to George in 1955, who repeats it back to Marty in the "improved" 1985 shown at the end of Back to the Future.

Back to the Future alludes to Doc being involved with illegal and criminal enterprises—albeit as a means to obtain items for his inventions he could not purchase legally—but he is naïve and flippant about the consequences of his actions. In an early scene, he excitedly tells Marty how he cheated Libyan terrorists out of stolen plutonium: "they wanted me to build them a bomb, so I took their plutonium and, in turn, gave them a shoddy bomb casing full of used pinball machine parts!"

Doc Brown begins the trilogy somewhat innocent, and very enthusiastic about the possible uses of his time machine, initially actively trying to alter the past or future of the principal characters to improve their lives. However, events throughout the story, particularly in Back to the Future Part II, lead him to conclude that time travel is too hazardous for humankind, and that the time machine should be destroyed. His conviction is strengthened in Back to the Future Part III, when he realizes that he has unwittingly altered history by preventing the death of Clara Clayton in 1885; he concludes that the time machine has "caused nothing but disaster."

However, after having been left behind in 1885 when Marty departs in the DeLorean for 1985, Doc starts a family with Clara. He eventually creates another time machine and builds it into a steam locomotive, which he uses to return to 1985 with the intent of collecting his dog, Einstein. It is clear that he traveled to an unspecified point further in the future, as his locomotive time machine is shown at the end of Back to the Future Part III with a "hover conversion" akin to that of the DeLorean at the end of the first movie. The trilogy ends with Doc and his family departing 1985 to an unspecified destination that is not in the future, as seen from 1985.

Events from Back to the Future series[edit]

Back to the Future[edit]

Early in Back to the Future Doc describes his inspiration for the flux capacitor (the essential component of time travel in the series) as a "vision" which comes to him in 1955, after he slipped off his toilet while standing on it to hang a clock and bumping his head on the sink. In relaying this story Doc states that it took his "entire family fortune" to realize this vision, the time machine he installed into a DeLorean DMC-12 sports car. He is shot by a group of Libyan terrorists early in Back to the Future, apparently in retaliation for stealing plutonium from them to fuel the time machine.

Marty, during his accidental excursion to 1955, repeatedly tries to inform Doc about the mortal risk he faces in 1985, but Doc refuses to accept any information about the future, saying Marty's good intentions could "backfire drastically." A later scene shows Marty secretly writing and leaving Doc a letter describing the latter's shooting in 1985. Doc discovers and tears up the letter just before successfully sending Marty back to 1985. Doc evidently later decides to use the information, as he is found by Marty, when the latter returns to 1985, to have worn a bulletproof vest on the night of the time machine test, which allows him to survive being shot. He subsequently produces Marty's warning letter, taped back together.

Back to the Future ends with Doc, having traveled alone 30 years into the future, picking up Marty and Jennifer in a now-flying DeLorean to take them "back to the future" because "something's got to be done about [their] kids."

Back to the Future Part II[edit]

The first act of Back to the Future Part II is set in the Hill Valley of 2015. It comprises Doc and Marty's efforts to prevent Marty's son, Marty Jr, from going to jail for participating in a robbery, an event Doc states he learned of after going "further ahead into time," during his solo, unseen, excursions into the future. During these excursions, Doc underwent a "rejuvenation treatment", resulting in him looking like his younger self.

Although Doc and Marty successfully prevent the crime from taking place, Jennifer, who has accompanied the pair to 2015, happens through coincidence to encounter her 2015 self. Although Jennifer simply passes out in shock, Doc also theorized that the event could "create a time paradox...and destroy the entire universe." Doc now appears convinced that time travel is profoundly hazardous, and he announces his intention to destroy the time machine after returning to 1985.

However, an earlier scene, in which Doc discovers Marty has purchased a sports almanac to win bets in the past, is overheard by the now-elderly Biff Tannen. After Doc throws away the almanac, Biff recovers it, and is able to steal the DeLorean while it is unattended. He subsequently goes back in time to 1955, gives the Almanac to his 1955 self, and returns the DeLorean to 2015.

When Doc, Marty, and Jennifer return to 1985, they find a drastically altered Hill Valley, which has been completely subjugated by Biff. A fictional newspaper article shows Richard Nixon is still in office, and the Vietnam War is still being fought. In a later scene, Doc, in his now-abandoned garage, produces a 1983 newspaper article describing his committal to an insane asylum.

After ascertaining from the contemporary Biff when "Old" Biff gave him the almanac, Doc and Marty travel back to 1955 to retrieve and destroy it. Although the pair are eventually successful, the DeLorean is struck by lightning while being piloted by Doc, and disappears. The scene ends with Western Union delivering a letter from Doc to the now-stranded Marty. Doc assures Marty he is alive and living in the year 1885.

Back to the Future Part II ends with Marty returning to the 1955 Doc—who has just sent Marty back to 1985, as depicted in Back to the Future—for help. The latter promptly faints in shock.

Back to the Future Part III[edit]

Marty convinces the 1955 Doc that he has returned by showing him the letter he received from the 1885 Doc. Doc describes where the disabled DeLorean is hidden, and instructs Marty to return directly to 1985, to avoid "unnecessary time travel." However, the accidental discovery of the 1885 Doc's tombstone reveals that Doc was shot shortly after he wrote the letter, which convinces Marty and the 1955 Doc that Marty must attempt to rescue him.

Marty travels to 1885 and locates Doc, but the DeLorean is damaged on arrival, rendering it unable to move under its own power. While planning their return to 1985, Doc and Marty observe a woman on a wagon being pulled by out-of-control horses. Doc plucks the woman from the wagon before it falls into a ravine, and she introduces herself as Clara Clayton. Doc later realizes that the ravine is called 'Clayton Ravine' in 1985, and surmises that Clara was "supposed" to die there. He gravely states that he may have "seriously altered history" by rescuing her, and regrets ever inventing the time machine.

Nonetheless, Doc and Clara share a strong attraction, and to Marty's despair, they begin a relationship. Their happy scene together at the Hill Valley Festival is interrupted by Buford Tannen, who Marty narrowly prevents from shooting Doc in a dispute over money. Doc later takes Clara home, and the pair share their mutual love for Jules Verne, and their first kiss.

Despite Doc's wish to remain in 1885 with Clara, Marty convinces him that they must return to 1985. In the scene in which Doc explains to Clara why he is leaving, she reacts angrily, believing Doc has lied to her, and rejects him. The following morning Marty finds Doc in the local saloon, where he has spent the night nursing a glass of whiskey and lamenting his loss, and emphatically insists they return to 1985 as planned. Doc agrees, downs his whiskey in an act of finality, and immediately collapses. Marty and the bartender use a concoction called "wake-up juice" to revive Doc, but by then Buford has arrived for a showdown with Marty, and the scene ends with Doc captured.

Meanwhile, the train the pair plan to use is departing with Clara on board, who is abandoning Hill Valley in grief. In a scene aboard the train she overhears two passengers discussing a man's heartbreak and, after establishing they are talking about Emmett, stops the train and returns to Hill Valley. In Doc's workshop, Clara discovers the model train he had built to illustrate the plan to return to 1985, and realizes Doc was telling the truth.

Meanwhile, Marty resolves his showdown with Buford without bloodshed, and departs with Doc. After the two intercept and hijack the locomotive, Clara catches up to the train on horseback, having deduced their plan. Doc quickly decides to take her to 1985 with them, since the train cannot now be halted before reaching the unfinished bridge at the end of the track. Clara slips and falls while trying to traverse the locomotive to reach Doc. Doc rescues her, but they are too late to get back to the DeLorean, which reaches 88 mph and departs with Marty. After emerging in 1985, the DeLorean is almost immediately destroyed in a head-on collision with a diesel locomotive, which Marty narrowly escapes.

In a later scene, Marty surveys the remains with Jennifer, sadly observing that Doc can now never return. The pair are surprised by Doc's reappearance in a time machine built into a steam locomotive, having returned to pick up his dog, Einstein. He is now married to Clara, and they happily introduce their two sons, Jules and Verne. In an optimistic parting speech, Doc tells Marty and Jennifer that their future "hasn't been written yet," and that they should "make it a good one." Back to the Future Part III ends with the train taking off, and the Brown family departing for times unknown.

Back to the Future: The Ride[edit]

Although Back to the Future: The Ride is not taken as canon by some,[citation needed] it reveals that the Brown family eventually moved back to the 20th century and that by 1991, Doc had set up the Institute of Future Technology. He modified a time-traveling DeLorean to seat eight, which is used when Biff steals the time machine again and the audience, in their own time-traveling DeLorean, help Doc chase Biff through time. The ride was featured at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, Hollywood and Japan. The Florida and Hollywood versions closed in March and September 2007 respectively and were both replaced with The Simpsons Ride, which opened in May 2008.

Back to the Future: The Animated Series[edit]

This series starts in 1991 after the events from Back to the Future Part III and the Ride, where Doc, Clara, Jules and Verne now live in a farmhouse outside Hill Valley with Einstein. The family, along with Marty, have traveled through time in both the train time machine and a rebuilt and improved DeLorean (which looks the same externally as before it was rebuilt, but is drastically different inside).

The Simpsons Ride[edit]

Doc Brown's appearance in The Simpsons Ride.

In The Simpsons Ride, in a tribute to the ride it replaced, Back to the Future: The Ride, Emmett Brown has a brief cameo voiced over by Christopher Lloyd. In the animated series of Back to the Future, Brown was voiced by Dan Castellaneta, also the voice of the Simpson family patriarch Homer Simpson.

In the cameo, Professor Frink, Doc's colleague as it is revealed in the ride, is shocked to discover that Doc's Institute has been turned into Krustyland, a theme park built by Krusty the Clown. He takes a DeLorean time machine back in time to save the institute, where two years earlier, Doc is about to sign a contract with a banker, named Mr. Freidman, to save the Institute. However, as Doc is about to sign, Frink drives the DeLorean into the banker. Doc is upset with Frink, and complains that he has to sell his Institute to "that mercenary clown", who happens to be Krusty. Krusty then appears and puts a Krustyland sign in front of the Institute, and Frink complains that he created a time paradox. Doc asks Krusty if there's anything he can do for him, to which Krusty responds he can sell tickets at the front gate if he "gets a haircut". Doc says it takes him three hours a day "Just to get it like this!". It is then presumed that the Institute of Future Technology became Krustyland.

Back to the Future: The Game[edit]

Christopher Lloyd reprises his role as Dr. Brown in Telltale Games' Back to the Future: The Game. As of July 2011, five episodes have been released. Set 6 months after the end of Part III, Marty is missing Doc as the bank sells his belongings. Suddenly, the DeLorean arrives and Marty finds he is imprisoned in 1931, destined to be gunned down by a mob. By collaborating with a younger Emmett Brown, (voiced by James Arnold Taylor), Marty is able to rescue Doc, as well as ensure the safety of his grandfather, Arthur McFly.

However, their meddling inadvertently changes the future of Young Emmett, and Marty winds up in an alternate 1986 ruled over by Doc, who is now Hill Valley's First Citizen. Marty is able to convince Doc to go back to 1931 and try to fix the timeline, but in 1931 Doc changes his mind and attempts to stop Marty from fixing it. The original timeline was restored, however, and he was erased from existence, but later events cause the entire city of Hill Valley to be erased, back in 1876. Marty and Doc fix the timeline once more, but upon returning to 1986 three alternate versions of Marty appear.

In other media[edit]

Doc is a playable character in the first level of the video game of Back to the Future Part III. In the game, he must ride his horse to prevent Clara Clayton from falling into the ravine, using a pistol to fend off enemies.

Christopher Lloyd played Emmett Brown on The Earth Day Special during 1990. In the special, Doc gathers information on the environment to present to the doctors (including Doogie Howser as played by Neil Patrick Harris) in order to help an ailing Mother Nature (played by Bette Midler).

In 2011 American Singer Britney Spears joked that Dr. Emmett Brown was her favorite scientist for "I Am FIRST: Science is Rock and Roll".

Doc Brown has made several non-canon appearances. Lloyd first reprised the role for the 1985 Huey Lewis & The News "The Power of Love" video. In the mid-2000s, Lloyd reprised the role of Brown in commercials for satellite giant DirecTV, in newly filmed footage interspersed with clips from the first Back to the Future film. In one variation of the commercials, Lloyd runs down the fiery trail left by the Delorean in a scene taken directly from the film, while in a newly recorded voiceover Lloyd hails the service as being "TV from outer space!" In 2007, Lloyd starred as Doc in a Microsoft commercial which parodies Back To The Future, complete with Marty- . Biff-, and George-like characters as well as an Intel 80386-powered DeLorean. In 2011 Lloyd appears as Brown in commercials for the Argentine Electronics Store Garbarino and for Nike.

In September of that year, Lloyd reprised the role for an eBay charity auction promotion. Nike had produced 1500 reproductions of the futuristic trainers Doc gave Marty McFly in 2015 (Back to the Future Part II), with all net proceeds from the auction going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for research into Parkinson's disease.

Back to the Future Part III footage of Lloyd was incorporated into the 1990 ZZ Top "Doubleback" video.

In 2012, YouTube series Epic Rap Battles of History episode 24, titled "Doc Brown vs. Doctor Who", features Doc Brown (portrayed by Zach Sherwin) rapping against the Tenth and Fourth incarnations of the titular Doctor (portrayed by Nice Peter and George Watsky) from the science fiction TV series Doctor Who.[4][5]

Christopher Lloyd reprises the role for a cameo in Seth MacFarlane's A Million Ways to Die in the West when Albert Stark (MacFarlane) finds Doc Brown trying to hide the DeLorean in a building where Albert sees a strange light.[6]

References[edit]

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