Emmett Brown

Emmett Brown
Emmett Lathrop 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, AS, Ride, SR, Game
Occupation Scientist/Physicist
Original time 1985
Time traveler Yes
Years visited 1885-1888, 1955, 1985, 1985A, 2015

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

The character was born in 1914 (as established in Back to the Future: The Game).[citation needed] 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 dog, whom he calls Copernicus in 1955, and his later dog, whom he calls 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. When looking through his ancestral history, he reveals to Marty that his family name was originally von Braun, indicating a German background (and possibly alluding to the real-life and contemporary rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, who was brought to America after the Second World War).

His character is one who can be absent-minded at times, and despite being seen around fictional Hill Valley, the setting for all three films, evidence in the three films indicates that he is regarded 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. An article in the July/August 2010 online edition of Autism/Asperger's Digest cites the aforementioned eccentricities and speculates in a tongue-in-cheek manner that Doc may have Asperger syndrome.[3]

The only friends the character is shown to have are Marty, and Marty's girlfriend, Jennifer. The films do not depict how Doc originally met Marty, however production notes and word from creators Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale have stated that they met several years prior to the events of the first film when Marty sneaked into his lab after being warned to stay away from Doc by his parents. Doc was happy to be revered as being cool and hired Marty as his part-time lab assistant.[4]

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 Libyan 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 old 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 (presumably 2015 in order to give the locomotive a hover conversion akin to the DeLorean and to show his wife and children society beyond their natural years, which is also reinforced by Doc's answer to Marty's question if he is going "back to the future", and Brown answered in the negative, stating they have "already been there!"). The trilogy ends with Doc and his family departing 1985.

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 was down the hill from the mansion and was not affected by the blaze), addressed as 1646 Riverside Drive. 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. Another indicator of Doc's moneymaking could have been a large truck he owned which was advertised as "Dr. E. Brown 24-Hour Scientific Services". This truck may simply have been used to transport cumbersome materials, however it also suggests Brown offered himself as a contractor to those in need of technical and scientific help in order to make money to defray the cost of building the time machine.

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 Libyan terrorists who had given it to him as they wanted a nuclear weapon in return, but Doc, in an act of either extreme courage or extreme foolhardiness, merely gave them "a shoddy bomb casing full of used pinball machine parts."

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 clock tower 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. He went to October 21, 2015 and while he was there, he observed 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, just like back in 1955. (This had little effect on his appearance, and was written into the script to allow the actor not to wear "old" makeup through the second and third films). 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 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 become 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 the ground beneath him broke. Doc screamed as he grabbed onto the hands of the clock and dangled there for dear life. He also 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, causing a gigawatt overload. 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, 2 months and 12 days, and 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 vintage 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 on September 7, 1885 (one week after he wrote the letter), Doc would be murdered by Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen, Biff's great-grandfather. 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 wouldn't exist in the United States until 23 years later) 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 (It is also possible that this was supposed to have been the fatal event - Tannen told the Doc that the last man shot with the gun took two days to die along with that with his small gun, he predicted Doc would be dead by suppertime Monday). 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 Doc's train model plan 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 decided to stay behind with Clara in 1885 (or that he realized he had not enough time to get in the time machine and attempting to do so might strand Marty in 1885 as well). 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 pick up Einstein (his dog), and 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 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 comes in handy after Biff steals the time machine again and the audience, in their own time-traveling DeLorean, must help Doc chase Biff through time. The ride was featured at Universal Studios in Hollywood, Florida and Japan. The Florida and Hollywood versions closed in March and September of 2007 respectively and were both replaced with The Simpsons Ride, which opened in May 2008.

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

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. 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.

Back to the Future: The Game

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

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.

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

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.


  1. ^ Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale Q&A, Back to the Future [2002 DVD], recorded at the University of Southern California
  2. ^ "Empire's The 100 Greatest Movie Characters". Empire Magazine. http://www.empireonline.com/100-greatest-movie-characters/default.asp?c=76. Retrieved 2010-05-21. 
  3. ^ Esris, Julie (July/August 2010). "Characterizing Asperger’s Syndrome" (PDF). Autism/Asperger's Digest. pp. 3–4. http://www.autismdigest.com/Portals/0/docs/July10%20Online-Characterizing%20AS.pdf. Retrieved 30 October 2010. 
  4. ^ mental_floss comment by Bob Gale

External links

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