Meta-time in Back to the Future

by look i have opinions

So there’s this great analysis by Ryan North explaining how timeline changes work in the movie Back to the Future (spoilers: they make almost no sense). The “meta-time” concept is brilliant. But when exactly does meta-time run relative to regular time? North implies that the meta-clock is ticking in something like subjective time, so that Marty’s week in 1955 counts, and so does the night Marty spends in 1985 once he gets back. One day in Marty’s life = about 657.71 days in the timeline.

I would argue that it’s more likely meta-time is running relative to objective time, regardless of where Marty is. That is, if Marty ran over a pine in 1955 and then instantly returned to 1985, he would find himself in Lone Pine Mall. Even though only a few seconds have passed from Marty’s point of view, the timeline has had thirty years to repair itself. I haven’t watched the movie in a while, but I seem to recall that after Marty’s return, we don’t get a good look at the McFly house until the next day, so his family may have already changed. (The sequel is totally different, though, so it probably messes up my theory.)

Anyway, B^F is an excellent Tumblr if you like analyzing bad writing and mad science.


The fading isn’t consistent (Brother Dave fades from top to bottom while Marty just gets less and less opaque), but we’re estimating!

Clearly, Dave was born headfirst and Marty was delivered by C-section.