Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Back To [My] Future

I was reading this news article today in The Hollywood Reporter about the 25th Anniversary trilogy box set of Back to the Future, which is coming to Blu-ray later this month (oh yeah!). In it, they brought up a factoid that many of us fans already knew: that the original Marty McFly was played by none other than Eric Stoltz for a period of about five weeks before they pulled the actor and went with Michael J. Fox instead.

Click on the link above and catch a clip of Stoltz in a few of the now iconic scenes we all love and cherish. I really, really like Eric as an actor, don't get me wrong. Hell, he's frakking AWESOME in the "Battlestar Galactica" spinoff, "Caprica," now running on the SyFy Network. But Marty McFly he was NOT!

Phew, they really lucked out by snagging the plucky Canadian off the set of Family Ties long enough to make this now seminal sci-fi flick. And I'll be sure to snag my copy of the entire set come Oct. 26th. Can you believe I never owned these films on DVD? Good thing, too, because for once I won't have to double dip!

Anyway, it got me to thinking about time travel again, one of my favorite day-dream subjects as of late. I've been trying for years to work out a viable time travel premise for a short story or novella, yet so far all my attempts have been duds. But that doesn't mean I can't still fantasize about what it would mean for me, personally, to be able to travel back in history.

What usually ends up happening when I think of such matters, though, is that I'll come up with two different time travel scenarios:

On the one hand, I imagine a traditional vector wherein the time traveler uses a device to take him back to any point in Earth's timeline.

On the other hand, I imagine the traveler can only travel back within his own personal timeline, and only while occupying the body and mind of the younger version of himself whilst in the period of time he's chosen.

Hmmm, which do you think would be more exciting? The first option obviously offers more freedom, as you can travel as far back as, say, Ancient Egypt, and learn things about that time that even the oldest and most experienced Egyptologists today don't know. Woo-hoo! But the second option is also just as cool, no? Just think of all the mistakes you made in your past that you would now be able to fix. And before you go there . . . let's leave out the time paradox school of thought, or the Butterfly Effect. Two areas of temporal theory I don't particularly agree with, but which have no place in this fun little thought experiment anyway.

So, what would I do given either of these options?

Well, with the first, I would travel back to the 1950s. I don't know why, but I find it a fascinating time period in America. Sure, I could travel further back in time, but the more you go the more you risk entering an alien culture and society that you are not equipped to handle long enough to keep yourself alive. Not knowing the language alone might be enough of an excuse for some Roman centurion to run you through with his Gladius and ask questions later.

No thanks.

For my first time travel venture, I would play it safe and only go so far back in time that I wouldn't immediately stand out as some rube, yet still be far enough back from my own lifetime for it to be a cool and interesting experience. I would explore New York and see for myself the city expand in all its post-war exuberance. Then I'd take a cross-country trip and eventually make my way to Hollywood, and be there when all the great classic films of the Golden Age are starting to take shape. Maybe I'd stop by this sleepy little desert resort town known as Las Vegas and invest in the local real estate boom going on there, too.

For the second option, this one is the most difficult for me to envision. How far back into my own past would I want to go? What would I do all over again or, more importantly, what must I be sure to keep the same?

I think I would travel back to 9th grade and re-do those next 4 years all over again. Isn't that what they all say? I mean, who here didn't have a difficult go of it in high school? But to be in my 14 year old body with all the knowledge and foresight I possess now? Whoa, it would be a whole different story!

Of course, why would anyone want to repeat high school all over again, right? And let's be honest, if I had the knowledge I have now back then, I would probably just drop out of high school, get some bullshit job at McDs or something, and invest my paychecks in all the companies that I know are going to go BIG in the Internet explosion of the mid-90s -- like AOL, Netscape, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, and eventually Google. Not to mention other big corporate entities these days like Amazon, Dell and Best Buy! And in the oughts, there's always Facebook! The sky's the limit on just how much I could benefit knowing what I know now. Plus, I'd get to relieve both the Michael Jordan-era NBA *and* the Yankees resurgence to dominate baseball in the latter half of the 90s. Double win!

The danger of this second option, of course, would be if I went back far enough to effect big events in my life, such as the death of my mom. It's a very heavy subject with me, but surprisingly I'm not so sure that I would do something as drastic as that. I mean, a part of me does in fact believe that some things happen for a reason. It's a hard truth, but it's one I've lived with ever since the age of 9. If I had the chance to change the outcome of that fateful night back in 1985, I'd have to go against everything that made me who I am today.

Wouldn't it be worth it, though? To have my mom back, I mean?

Hmmm . . . as you can see, the possibilities are both exciting and woefully complex at the same time. The more I think of it, the more I believe that the further back into your own past you travel, the more damage you can potentially cause to yourself and those around you. Maybe what you think would be a mistake worth fixing might in turn precipitate another much larger problem in the new future timeline you've just created. And once you made this change, or any change for that matter, you'd run the risk of never being able to return to your future time--the present time--again.

Maybe, on second thought, it's better to just stay put where I'm at for now. It's probably a good thing we can't time travel, eh?

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