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Review: Back to the Future Season 2 and OUTATIME

July 30, 2011

And so we come to the end of this long month of Back to the Future,  and I can honestly say I’m glad. I have a great love of Back to the Future, but even something you love can get can get tiring after five straight weeks. I never thought it would happen, but I think I’m actually done with Back to the Future for a while. So, without further ado, here it is.

Season two of the animated series is very similar to the first season. In fact, the base format is the same: short intro from Christopher Lloyd, the cartoon itself, and Christopher Lloyd and Bill Nye doing science. The two biggest changes are the opening sequence, which now has clips from the first season of the show, and the experiments done at the end of the show, which take a more dangerous turn. The first episode’s experiment is making a cannon out of a two liter bottle, vinegar, baking soda, and a cork. I’d like to point out that if you put the cork on too tight, it stops being a cannon and starts being a bomb. This is only two ingredients different from a dry ice bomb.

Or the second episode’s experiment, which involves using a ball of clay, a baseball, and some string to simulate gravity, and possibly break a neighbor’s window or a sibling’s teeth. I’m starting to think this may be why the show got canceled. Hitting your sister in the face with a baseball is considered by most parents groups to be a bad thing. Not that I’ve had any first hand experience or anything…

As for the cartoon iteslf, it’s mostly unchanged from the first season. The art style is the same and the focus remains on the Brown family with Marty usually tagging along, either by choice or by accident. It’s a decent enough show, but there’s just the added danger to the experiments that requires parental attention. If you can find a copy on DVD, it might serve as a way to introduce a younger kid to Back to the Future, but as far as watching it for nostalgia, well…it might not hold up over a couple of decades.

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And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the finale to Telltale’s Back to the Future game. Here’s the story so far: After the events Back to the Future, Part III, Doc Brown went back to 1931 to find the cause behind the Hill Valley Speakeasy Fire. He was subsequently trapped after being arrested for the arson. Six months after he left, in May of 1986, Doc’s garage lab and everything in it is being sold by the bank. After getting Doc’s notebook from Biff, Marty heads back to 1931 to rescue Doc from jail, and ultimately from gangster Kid Tannen. After the rescue, Marty begins to fade from existence, finding from tomorrow’s newspaper that his grandfather, Arthur McFly will be beaten and left for dead on the courthouse steps. Marty manages to get Arthur out of trouble through use of chloroform and trickery, and convinces him to stay in hiding near Hill Valley. Marty and Doc return to 1986, finding the town run by the powerful Tannen gang, associated with the Sacramento Mob.

As it turns out, because Arthur stayed in hiding, Tannen’s moll and speakeasy singer Trixie Trotter never turned over the evidence on him to the authorities, leaving him free to embark on a long, fruitful career of crime and making two brothers for Biff. So, Doc and Marty go back  to 1931 to convince Trixie to give all of Tannen’s finances to Officer Danny Parker, and save Edna Strickland from Tannen’s machine gun. This has the unintended consequence of getting Edna and young Emmett romantically linked, and Doc disappearing as they return to 1986. Hill Valley has changed yet again, this time to a totalitarian dystopia ruled over by First Citizen Brown and (perhaps more involved) Edna Brown. George is back to his old peeping tom nerdy ways, and Lorraine is back to drinking. Marty has to rack up enough demerits to get Citizen Brown to take a personal interest in him.

Once there, he manages to convince Citizen Brown that he is from a different timeline, and the rejuvenated Doc agrees to recreate the time machine. At least, until Edna ties him down and tries to brainwash him, also locking up Marty for “conditioning”. With the help of George on the camera, Marty manages to get his guitar, remind Jennifer that she’s a rocker, and escape with Doc in tow. Doc rushes off to his secret lab and recreates the time machine. They go back to 1931…again, and end up in October instead of August because Doc re-wired the time machine wrong. They go about the task of getting Edna to break up with young Emmett, but half way through Doc reverts to First Citizen Brown and can’t go through with it. In the end, he drives off with Edna in the time machine, and that’s where we are today.

Marty wakes up in Emmett’s garage, the first time he’s actually slept since 1986. Emmett calls and asks him to bring a device he’d left charging to the expo at the school. When Marty gets there, First Citizen Brown nearly runs him over in the Delorean. He’s decided that Emmett’s life will be much better with Edna and without science. So, leading up to Emmett’s presentation, he tries to convince Emmett to give up science, while Edna has convinced Danny Parker that Marty is a Soviet agent provocateur by the name of…Yakov Smirnoff. So, now Marty has to get Emmett away from First Citizen Brown, and convince Edna to incriminate herself over the phone. As it turns out, not only was she responsible for the speakeasy arson, she’s completely insane.

After the proof against her is presented to Officer Parker, a chase ensues, with Edna running for the exit. Once you get Emmett away from First Citizen Brown, his experiment is cleared to proceed…until Judge Brown shows up, getting into a legendary argument with Emmett. Eventually, Marty proves that they’re not all that different, by way of revealing how disapproving the judge’s father was about him coming to America. The two patch things up, and Emmett’s experiment is off! Meanwhile, back outside, Edna has stolen the Delorean to try to get away from Officer Parker. She almost mows down Marty, but First Citizen Brown pushes him out of the way, taking the hit himself! As she speeds away, Citizen Brown begins to fade out of existence. After his older self is gone, Emmett bursts out of the school in the chaotic aftermath of his experiment. He sees Marty is visibly distressed, and asks what’s wrong. Marty says that he can’t tell him, and when Emmett presses him, he tears a piece from his newspaper about Doc receiving the key to the city, and tells Emmett not to open it until then.

Soon after, this timeline’s Doc (that is, the adult Emmett) arrives in a Delorean of his own. Soon after, William McFly shows up, looking for Arthur and apparently upset with him over his marriage. At that moment, Hill Valley begins fading around them. They learn that Edna has traveled back in time to 1876 with the intention of burning down the saloon, but that the fire spread to the rest of the town. Doc and Marty head back to the old west to stop her. After she fails to light up the saloon, she takes off in her stolen time machine. Doc hands Marty three transmitters to put on the diagnostic points to allow them to hijack her time circuits. They take her back to 1931, where she’s locked up along side Kid Tannen. The time stream catches up with her time machine and it disappears. Doc and Marty go over to the courthouse, where they see Arthur and Trixie, and he reveals they’ve been married. Marty’s worried until Trixie tells him her real name – Sylvia Miskin, his alpha-timeline grandmother.

Time repaired, Doc and Marty head back to 1986, where there is still a sale going on at Doc’s garage. Not a bank sale – those days are long gone. This is just a simple garage sale, with Doc, Clara, and the boys getting rid of some things they don’t need anymore. Doc spends a lot less time wandering the time stream now, and he has a permanent home in Hill Valley. And having patched things up with his father, he now runs a charity in the judge’s name for budding young scientists. And to tie up the final loose end, he gives Marty a graduation present: The McFlys of Hill Valley, revealing that he was in 1931 to find some information about his grandmother Sylvia. And then, three old Martys from three different futures show up, asking for Doc’s help. And he and 1986 Marty get in their Delorean and speed off to hopefully Season 2.

I thought that the finale did a very good job of finishing up the season, tying up the loose ends that needed tying while leaving themselves somewhere to go. Overall, I had a lot of fun playing the game. It’s, I think, a very faithful adaptation of the theme of the movies. It has a different feel, but mostly because the story is different. It’s kind of like a combination of the movies and the cartoon: The main focus is on Doc and his history, but it’s from Marty’s point of view, and he takes a much more active role, but ultimately, it’s Doc’s story. It isn’t like the movies – and really, that’s not a bad thing.

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