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Doctor Emmett Lathrop "Doc" Brown, Ph.D. is a fictional character and one of the lead characters in the Back to the Future motion picture trilogy, in which he is the inventor of the first time machine, which he builds out of a DeLorean sports car. The character is played by actor 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.

The character was born in the early 1920s, although the animated series and novelization disagree as to the exact year. He refers to himself as a "student of all sciences", and is shown to be a passionate inventor. Scientists are his role models, as evidenced by the names of his pet dogs (Copernicus in 1955, and Einstein in 1985) and the portraits of Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein found in his laboratory (which were on a wall in his home in 1955), and his favourite author is Jules Verne.

Doc can be absent-minded at times, and despite being seen around Hill Valley, the setting for all three films, he is regarded by many of the residents as strange, eccentric, or crazy. He often enunciates his words with wide-eyed expressions and broad gestures ("Great Scott!" being one of the character's well-known catchphrases), and tends to use large words or phrases over short ones: for instance, referring to a dance as a "rhythmic ceremonial ritual" in the first film.

The only friends the character is shown to have are his dogs, Marty, and Marty's girlfriend Jennifer. The films do not depict how Doc originally met Marty, although after the events of the first film they meet in 1955, before Marty is born. Doc keeps this secret from Marty until the latter's return from 1955 to 1985.

Doc has been involved in illegal and criminal enterprises within the scope of the films—albeit as a means to obtain items he could not purchase legally—but shows naïveté over the repercussions of his actions, excitedly telling Marty how he cheated Libyanmarker terrorists out of stolen plutonium, saying "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!"

The character begins the trilogy somewhat innocent and very enthusiastic over the possible applications of his discovery, and actively tries to alter the past or future of various principal characters, in efforts to improve their lives. However, events throughout the story, particularly in the second film, bring him to the conclusion that time travel should not be used because of the hazards involved, and that the time machine should be destroyed. In the third film, after realizing he has unwittingly altered history by preventing the death of Clara Clayton in 1885, Doc expresses regret for inventing the time machine at all, remarking that it has "caused nothing but disaster."

However, after being left behind in 1885 when Marty departs in the DeLorean for 1985, Doc starts a family with Clara. He creates another time machine and builds it into a steam locomotive, which he uses to transport his family to 1985 (to collect his dog, Einstein) after having traveled to an unspecified point further in the future. The trilogy ends with Doc and his family departing 1985, presumably returning to 1885.

Fictional biography

Pre-Back to the Future

Doc's back story and early life have been considerably elucidated by looking at draft scripts and spin-off series. One draft script suggests that his mother was called Sarah Lathrop, which would explain his middle initial "L" in the films (Doc's middle name, "Lathrop", is revealed in the animated series). She also has a brother named Abraham and carries a rag doll she named Emma, suggesting she named her son after her doll. Doc's mother's side of the family have lived in Hill Valley since around the 1880s, while his father's side of the family arrived in Hill Valley in 1908, when they were known as the Von Brauns – they changed their name to Brown during World War I, possibly due to the anti-German sentiment at the time. It has been speculated that the fictional Doc is supposed to be a relative of the real scientist Wernher von Braun. Doc's family was presumably from the German Empiremarker or Austria–Hungary. According to the animated series, Doc has an uncle Oliver who lived in Milwaukeemarker, Wisconsinmarker and young Emmett would go to visit him in the summer. The animated series also showed that Doc Brown was a wrestler briefly in the 50s, but never really competed, and that his college roommate was Mr. Wisdom, a man who stole his science fair project, and won first prize for it.

At age 11, Doc discovered the works of his favorite author, Jules Verne. From that point, he decided to dedicate his life to science. A draft script suggests he got into science when he stuck his finger in an electrical socket. Around 1932, one year later, Doc tried digging to the center of the Earth, inspired by the 1864 novel Journey to the Center of the Earth. Robert Zemeckis, co-writer/director of the films, has suggested that during the early 1940s Doc worked on the Manhattan Project, though this is never mentioned on screen (but it would give credence to his knowledge of nuclear physics and plutonium). Zemeckis also mentions that Doc had attended the University of California, Berkeleymarker and MITmarker.

During the 1950s, Doc worked as a professor of physics at Hill Valley University. Through unspecified means, Doc's family had amassed a large fortune that Doc had inherited by the 1950s. It allowed him to finance his projects and afford the lavish Brown Mansion, played by the real life historic landmark Gamble House in Pasadena, CAmarker for exterior shots on Riverside Drive (later renamed John F. Kennedy drive), which is one block past Maple street, in Hill Valley, CA, in the movies. In the opening sequence of the first movie, a framed Hill Valley Telegraph newspaper dated Thursday, August 2, 1962 can be seen with the headline, "Brown Mansion Destroyed." It burnt to the ground, presumably on Wednesday, August 1, 1962, the day before the article was printed, and Doc sold it along with a large amount of surrounding land to developers, explaining why he lived in the remaining lab/garage, next to the Burger King in 1985.

By this time, having lost his home and having spent most of his fortune to build his time machine, he has a "day job" as something of quasi repair man. As pointed out in DVD commentary to the first Back to the Future film, the van he is seen using to bring the DeLorean to the mall for its first test is marked "Dr. E. Brown Enterprises: 24 Hr. Scientific Services." Writer/producer Bob Gale explains "our thinking was that the folks in Hill Valley, if they needed a scientist day or night, could simply call Doc Brown and he'd be there in his truck to do whatever service a scientist would be required for."

Doc may have played the alto saxophone at some point in his life, as evidenced by the instrument lying next to the phone in his garage in Back to the Future.

Events from Back to the Future series

Back to the Future

On Saturday, November 5, 1955, Doc came up with the idea of the flux capacitor (which is what makes time travel possible) after slipping off his toilet while standing on it to hang a clock and bumping his head on the edge of the sink. The idea came to him in a vision he had after being knocked out. The time machine project suffered a setback on Wednesday, August 1, 1962 when Doc's mansion at 1640 Riverside (later John F. Kennedy) Drive burnt down.

In the original movie, after the fire Doc moved into his former garage (which had been detached from the mansion and so had survived the blaze). There were rumors that he had deliberately burnt it down to claim the insurance money to fund the time machine. Whether or not that was the case, Doc still had to use up most of his family's fortune to fund the creation of his time machine. Doc moved to his garage and sold the rest of his estate to developers, but he was soon back on track. On Monday, May 23, 1983, he was commended and given a civic award for unspecified reasons.

Doc finally finished installing his time machine into a DeLorean sports car in 1985, using plutonium to power the time circuits and the flux capacitor, and was apparently killed by the group of Libyanmarker terrorists who had given it to him (they had wanted a nuclear weapon in return, but Doc, in an act of either extreme courage or extreme foolhardiness, merely gave them "a shiny bomb casing full of used pinball machine parts." - a reference to the overly elaborate and colorful nuclear bomb interior seen at the climax of Goldfinger) .

Marty, who had witnessed the first time travel experiment, was accidentally sent back to 1955, where he tried to warn the 1955 version of Doc about the terrorists. Doc did not want to know too much about his own future and ripped up the warning letter Marty had written him. Doc successfully sent Marty back to the future by harnessing the energy from a bolt of lightning as it struck the Hill Valley clocktower on Saturday, November 12, 1955 at 10:04 pm. Sometime after these events, one can surmise, Doc decided to take the risk, taped together Marty's warning letter, and discovered the truth about that night in 1985. When 1985 rolled around again, it turned out the Doc wore a bulletproof vest for protection, apparently modified to resist rifle fire.After dropping Marty home, Doc went 30 years into the future. While it is known that he visited October 2015, it is not known exactly how long or during which days he was there – it is known, however, that he had skipped ahead far enough after 2015 to observe a chain of disastrous incidents that destroy Marty's life and then skipped back in time to find the origin, tying it to a specific incident in 2015 that occurred between Marty's son, Marty Jr. and Biff's grandson, Griff. While there, he got an "all natural overhaul" to his body which added 30 or 40 years to his life, and made him look younger (though in actuality this had no impact at all on his physical appearance, he still felt the need to come back in disguise as his older self). He also got the DeLorean hover-converted and installed a "Mr. Fusion". The Mr Fusion reactor eliminated the need for plutonium, and allowed the time machine to operate off of ordinary household garbage. Afterward, Doc returned to 1985 to pick up Marty (and Jennifer, who happened to be there) to take them to 2015.

Back to the Future Part II

Doc had discovered that Marty's son, Marty Jr, was to go to jail for committing a crime, an event which would end up destroying the McFly family. Doc devises a plan for Marty to pose as Marty, Jr. (since the father-son resemblance was uncanny), as well as to prevent the crime from occurring. Doc then discovered that Marty had bought a sports almanac to take back to 1985 with him. Doc lectured Marty about how he had not invented the time machine for financial gain (though, ironically, he had mentioned in the first movie that he would go ahead in time 25 years and one of the things he would do is find out the next 25 World Series winners. Even so, it is never said that he would use it for gambling, or any other profitable trick.) Unknown to Doc or Marty, a now-elderly Biff Tannen overheard the conversation and later stole the DeLorean and the Almanac while Doc and Marty were rescuing 1985 Jennifer from the future McFly family house. Later in the film, it is revealed that Biff went back to November 12, 1955 and gave the Almanac to his 1955 teenaged self. On their way back to the DeLorean Doc had becomed convinced of the profound hazards involved in time travel and decided once they return to 1985, he would destroy the time machine, as time travel is just too dangerous to be used.

Doc, Marty, and Jennifer arrived back in 1985 only to discover that history had been altered. Biff's wealth had led to a total alteration of Hill Valley to Biff's wishes and supposed alterations to the entire world's history (such as Richard Nixon still being in office and the Vietnam War still being fought in 1985). In this version of history, Doc has been committed to an insane asylum since 1983 (he was committed on the same day he won his award in the "proper" history). It is speculated that since Biff was warned by his older self upon delivery of the almanac that a "crazy, wild-eyed old man who claims to be a scientist" would ask about it someday, Biff was the one who had Doc committed, but no concrete evidence is provided in the film. It is also possible that Doc actually went insane due to the changes in the timeline, which only he would be aware of and be unable to reconcile with how he knew history should have unfolded.

Doc and Marty headed back to 1955 to correct the timeline, and while Marty tracked down Biff to get the almanac from him, Doc attempted to make repairs to the time circuits, which had developed a fault and kept re-setting the Destination Time setting to January 1, 1885. When Doc discovered Marty had got the Almanac, he went to the roof of Hill Valley High School, but accidentally switched on the time circuits, which was set at 1885. Their mission of stealing the almanac and setting history straight was accomplished. However this success was quickly followed by Doc, in the DeLorean, being sent back to 1885 when a bolt of lightning struck the DeLorean, making it spin at 88 mph . Once in 1885, Doc set himself up as a blacksmith while trying to fix the DeLorean, but had to give up as suitable parts to repair the DeLorean's destroyed microchip would not be invented until 1947 (the actual date of the invention of the transistor.) He buried the DeLorean in the abandoned Delgado Mine on the outskirts of town and wrote a letter to Marty to be delivered just minutes after the DeLorean was struck by lightning. The letter was held by Western Union for the next 70 years, given to Marty in 1955.

It also appears that Doc has made other travels to different time periods before coming back for Marty in 1985 because he has a suitcase full of money for, as he calls it, "all monetary possibilities."

Back to the Future Part III

Marty received the letter and ran to the 1955 Doc, who had just sent the younger Marty back to the future. He initially disbelieved that Marty had returned, but eventually came to his senses. Marty and Doc uncovered the DeLorean and repaired it, but Marty discovered that in 1885, Doc would be murdered by Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen, ancestor of Biff. Marty headed back to September 2, 1885, the day after Doc wrote the letter and five days before Doc's death, to save his friend.

Marty located Doc, and once again Doc had to make repairs to the time machine after it ran out of gas (hard to come by in 1885 since cars didn't exist yet) when its fuel line was ruptured. While making a plan to use a train to push the DeLorean to 88 mph, Doc saved a teacher, Clara Clayton, from falling into a ravine after a snake spooked her horses. The ravine was, in the proper timeline, called Clayton Ravine after Clara fell into it. They fell in love at first sight, much to the despair of Marty who saw Clara as a distraction. Doc and Clara danced at the town festival on September 5, where Marty managed to save Doc from being shot early by Buford Tannen. Doc and Clara also had their first kiss that night.

Later, Doc realized he would have to leave Clara behind when he went back to the future with Marty on Monday. He said goodbye to her and told her the truth about where he came from. Naturally, she did not believe him and slapped him. Broken-hearted, Doc went to have a glass of whisky at the Palace Saloon, where Marty found him next morning (Monday) with the same glass of whisky. After drinking the whisky, he immediately fell down drunk. Marty and Chester the bartender managed to revive Doc with an extremely spicy concoction called "wake-up juice" which included tabasco sauce, and afterwards Doc and Marty hijacked a train to use to push the DeLorean up to 88 miles per hour (141 km/h). Clara reappeared, having seen everything and realized Doc was telling the truth, but nearly fell off the train. Doc managed to save her, with help from Marty's hoverboard (a piece of technology from 2015), but got left behind with Clara in 1885. Marty managed to get home, but the time machine was destroyed less than a minute after his arrival by a modern locomotive plowing through it, meaning he could not go back to rescue Doc and Clara from the past.

Over the next 10 years, Doc and Clara married (they marry on December 15, 1885 according to the animated series episode, "Solar Sailors") and had two sons, Jules and Verne, named after their favorite author. Doc also built a new time machine, this time using a steam locomotive. The Brown family take off to visit the future (to get the train hover-converted) and then back to 1985 to visit Marty and Jennifer (when and where Marty thought he would never see Doc again due to the time machine being destroyed), before heading off to times unknown.

Back to the Future: The Ride

Although the ride is not taken as canon by some, 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 be an 8-seater, which comes in handy after Biff steals the time machine again and the audience, sitting in one of these 8-seaters, has to help Doc chase Biff through time. The ride was at Universal Studios Hollywood, and Universal Studios Japan. One half of the ride at Universal Studios Floridamarker closed on September 10, 2006. The Universal Studios Floridamarker version had a confirmed close on March 30, 2007 to make way for the new Simpsons ride, planned to open in 2008. The Hollywood version closed on September 3, 2007, also to be replaced by the Simpsons ride.

Back to the Future: The Animated Series

This series starts in 1991 after the events from Part III and the Ride, where Doc, Clara, Jules and Verne now live in a farmhouse outside Hill Valley with Einstein the dog. 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

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. It should be noted that 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. So, he drives 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 becomes upset at 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.

Appearances in popular culture

Universal Studios Florida promo

In 1988, Doc Brown (again portrayed by Christopher Lloyd) appeared as an assistant to Universal corporate employees who are in charge of the plans for the future Universal Studios Floridamarker park. They request Brown to travel to 1990 via DeLorean in order to videotape and document how the future park will appear. Brown follows instructions and soon finds himself experiencing and comically interacting with various characters and components from an array of attractions. At the end of the promo, he recaps his journey and soon realizes that he has seen every attraction except the upcoming Back to the Future: The Ride, in which he evidently stars. Brown then departs back to his present-day.

DirecTV television commercial

After 17 years since his last visual appearance as the character, Christopher Lloyd briefly reprised his role as Doc Brown in a 2007 DirecTV television commercial. In the ad, Lloyd filmed a new scene that was incorporated with pre-existing clips from the first BTTF film. In the newly filmed scene, Lloyd promotes the DirecTV product, exclaiming that it is "TV from outer space."

There is a continuity error in the commercial where the mark on Doc's forehead was on the left side of his head, but the mark in the trilogy was on the right side of his head. However, the footage was later found out to be horizontally flipped.

Microsoft TechEd

Doc Brown's next appearance would be as a guest performer during the opening keynote of Microsoft TechEd on June 4, 2007. He mainly served as a comic foil for Bob Muglia, Microsoft's Senior Vice President, Server and Tools Business. Doc carried with him a squeeze-operated horn touted as his "Vision Speak" disruption device, threatening to interrupt Muglia if he should slip into corporate cliché language.

O'Neal McKnight

Doc Brown and the DeLorean make an appearance in O'Neal McKnight's video for "Check Your Coat" featuring Greg Nice.

References

  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=318p8SsqMJg


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