Mister Sandman, It Was a Dream:

Was Back to the Future Just a Character’s Dream?

Remember when Marty McFly first arrived in 1955? Remember the song that played? Remember the words, “Mister Sandman, bring me a dream”?  You’re probably singing the song now to yourself as you read this because songs tend to pop in one’s head when they’re mentioned. Anyhow, Mister Sandman has brought his share of dreams to many, including the cast, crew, and characters of the Back to the Future film franchise. In fact, the tune could be Marty’s subconscious telling him that he is indeed having a dream. Perhaps he was influenced by his parents telling him of 1955 and its music, including “Mister Sandman”. Well, what if the entire trilogy was only a dream? Now, an online article by Jonathan Sim suggests that the sequels never happened and were all in Marty’s mind during his repose. That’s all well and good, but let’s take things a bit further: much of the entire trilogy was merely in the imaginations of Marty, Doc, and even George McFly, Lorraine Baines-McFly, and Doc’s dog Einstein.

Now, looking back at the 1980s, particularly the 1985 of Back to the Future, it was a time when the American Dream looked like it could come true. The first film in the trilogy seems to say it will for Marty. Remember when he saw he saw his dream truck before returning home from school? After returning from 1955, the same vehicle is a gift for Marty in the McFlys’ garage. That feels like it’s an embodiment of the American Dream for Marty McFly.

Yes, the Back to the Future trilogy was a dream. Perhaps the biggest point to prove this is one important thing in temporal mechanics: the paradox. The Back to the Future trilogy is full of them, particularly in the sequels. Now, normally paradoxes should be literally universe destroying. Doctor Who: The Revival Series’ “Father’s Day” episode shows what could happen if one should occur. Yet,

nothing happens in latter two thirds of the Back to the Future trilogy, proving the entire film series is a dream. Case in point, when 2015 Jennifer is face to face with her younger self the worst that happens is a screaming fit between the two Jennifers. Now, Doc took Marty and Jennifer to 2015 to save their children. However, if Doc took Marty and Jennifer to the future, they wouldn’t have gotten older or met their middle-aged selves. Dreams have a way of not following the laws of time and space. Therefore, instead of all of existence exploding like a tomato in a microwave, temporal mechanics and paradoxes don’t take effect within the dream that is the Back to the Future trilogy.

That’s just the beginning of the Back to the Future trilogy dream theories. Here are some others to think about as you watch these three cinematic time-travel gems.

After Doc Brown calls Marty: Doc Brown calls Marty in the middle of the night to help with his important experiment in the first film. As we saw, Marty meets Doc at the Twin Pines Mall, and thus begins the trilogy we all know and love. However, what we didn’t see on screen, and the basis of this theory, is Marty went back to sleep. The rest of the first movie and its sequels can be perceived as Marty’s dream. Plus, Marty tends to wake up or regain consciousness a lot throughout the series. The best example of this is after Grandpa Baines hits him with his car in 1955. Marty is even heard groggily saying, “I had a horrible nightmare. I dreamed that I went… back in time. It was terrible.”

Now, young Lorraine says that Marty’s back in “Good old 1955,” but what if his mother actually said 1985? She most likely entered his room to put some things of his in there while he slept. Marty wearily asks if his mother was there before talking about his bad dream. Yet, he’s still dreaming of being in 1955 when his mother responds in 1985.

Marty at the mall: This branch of the theory might be a little dark for some. As many may recall, Libyan terrorists were after Doc Brown in the first film. There is a scene where they killed Doc because he took plutonium from them to power his time machine. They chase Marty, who is driving the car. We all see the vehicle go to 88 miles per hour and travel to November 5, 1955, the day Doc invented time travel. Yet, the possible truth is much darker. The Libyans shot Marty, and he dreamed the rest of the Back to the Future trilogy either while in a coma or before dying. Here are some points to prove this.

Marty knew Biff bullied his father. Biff and those in his family tree became the villains of the trilogy. Biff even murders George McFly. Yet, Lorraine marries Biff in Part II. Why? She could have married anyone. Because it’s Marty’s dream. How many times have you had a dream and thought that it didn’t make a bit of sense. That’s the case with Biff being Lorraine’s second husband.

Did you notice that George McFly and Jennifer Parker are played by other actors in Back to the Future Part II? The dream theory can explain that. In some dreams someone we know can look completely different, but we know it’s them. Sure, behind the scenes, there are other reasons (Walter Koenig not being in “Space Seed” but starring in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan could create a slew of fan theories for Chekov) for thespians to not be in a film, but these speculations are more fun. Anyhow, George and Jennifer changed looks in Marty’s dream. It’s as simple as that.

Doc at the mall: As stated before, the Libyans murdered Doc Brown. His near-death experience is a dream which is pretty much the same as Marty’s in the previous point. People and places he and Marty know are important to this dream, as they see the possibilities of Doc’s time-travel successes and failures along with him.

Now, before we go to the next theory, it should be pointed out that westerns, particularly Sergio Leone’s Man with No Name films starring Clint Eastwood, play an important part in the Back to the Future trilogy. Biff watches one in Part II, and Part III takes place in the Old West. Marty even names himself Clint Eastwood in that film. How do westerns influence our main characters in the points mentioned? Well, one could surmise that one or more of Leone’s films was on television while Doc and / or Marty were catatonic in the hospital. Marty could have also been watching one of the movies before Doc’s call had awakened him in Part I. In Doc’s case, it’s simpler. He is / was a voracious reader, a lover of grand adventures. Both he and Marty longed for such exploits, hence the addition of the Old West in their dreams.

Doc Brown on November 5, 1955: Doc Brown in 1955 was fixing his toilet seat. He hit his head. The idea for the Flux Capacitor, which makes time travel possible, came to him at that moment. Now, once again we may go into some dark territory here, but poor Doc never awoke from the incident. It’s likely that his cranial injury resulted in a coma or death. Everything in the entire film trilogy is Doc Brown’s dream.

Doc Brown Committed: This is another dark theory. It stems from a headline on the front page of the Hill Valley Telegraph in Biff’s altered timeline in Back to the Future Part II. The entire trilogy is, sadly a delusion of Doc Brown after he is committed at some point in his life. Another twist of fate in this could be that Marty McFly is not the youth taking part in Doc’s time-travel adventures. He is Doc’s psychiatrist.

Lorraine: Lorraine Baines-McFly is not a happy woman at the beginning of Back to the Future. She frequently overeats and binge drinks to dull the pain of her life. Her husband doesn’t stand up for himself and lets his boss, Biff, walk all over him. Alcohol and food aren’t Lorraine’s only means of escape. She dreams of a better life for George, her children, and herself in her waking hours and in her sleep. The entire Back to the Future trilogy was her dream of that better life and other possibilities for her, no matter how dark (her marriage to Biff, George’s murderer) or Oedipal (being infatuated with Marty in 1955) they may be. Her phrase, “Isn’t he a dreamboat?” most likely planted the seeds of her dream as it was a popular 1955 slang, and maybe she said that about Marty when he was born or George when she met him.

A Novel by George McFly: As we all saw in the first Back to the Future film, George McFly’s love of science fiction led him to write in the genre. The entire trilogy of films is either a novel or a series of novels. And what are books if they aren’t writers’ dreams? Inspired by the news and the people of the time and those he knew, George McFly used the DeLorean as his time machine of choice for characters whom he had based upon those most important in his life; his family and Doc Brown, whom he possibly encountered in his youth and discussed science fact and fiction. Back to the Future became a New York Times Bestseller for George. He’d later sell the movie rights on the condition that his friend Christopher Lloyd play Doc Brown.

Einstein: Perhaps the most overlooked character in the Back to the Future trilogy is Doc Brown’s dog Einstein. Scientists have proven animals do actually dream. Einstein, being exposed to Doc Brown’s various experiments, dreamed every event that occurs in all three of the movies. The people Doc talked to, the audio / visual media Doc consumed, the books Doc read aloud all had a hand in influencing Einstein’s dream. Because Marty and Doc were the people with whom Einstein interacted the most, it only makes sense that they play a prominent role in his dream.

At the end of the first Back to the Future film, Doc Brown says, “Where we’re going we don’t need roads.”

Roads are not needed in time, nor are they needed in dreams. Those roads are created by our minds. The entire Back to the Future trilogy is a dream with many facets, but aren’t all stories dreams? As the song Row Row Row Your Boat says, “Life is but a dream.” What if we and all see, including Back to the Future, is part of a grand dream? It’s something to ponder next time you see a DeLorean speeding down a street at 88 MPH.

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James Heath Lantz has written a variety of fiction and nonfiction, from tales of space adventure to comic book and pop culture history. His work can be found in his self published TRILOGY OF TALES, PS Artbooks' ROY THOMAS PRESENTS CAPTAIN VIDEO, ROY THOMAS PRESENTS SHEENA QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE VOLUME 3 and PRE-CODE CLASSICS: WEIRD MYSTERIES VOLUMES 1 and 2, the TwoMorrows Publishing magazines ALTER EGO and BACK ISSUE. James currently lives in Italy with his wife Laura and their family of cats, dogs, and humans from Italy, Japan, and the United States.

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