Are Doc and Marty Idiots in Back to the Future III?

Back to the Future Theme Week

DeLorean in Old West

One thing that always bothered me when I was a kid watching Back to the Future III was the fact that there were two DeLoreans in the Old West. Why couldn’t they have just drained the gas out of one of them and gotten back home? “What? Two DeLoreans?!” you may be asking yourself. “Has Vincent gone coo coo bonkers?!” Let me explain.

At the end of Back to the Future II Doc accidentally travels back in time to the Old West. While Marty is in 1955 he gets a note that Doc had written in 1885 telling him where (when) he was. Doc had tried to fix the DeLorean in 1885, but was unable to, so he stored it in a cave. In 1955 Marty and Doc uncover the DeLorean that was stored by 1885 Doc. They fix it up and now Marty is ready to go… ah hem… back in time to rescue Doc in 1885 (okay, I’ll stop linking to that song).

When Marty appears in 1885 he’s driving the DeLorean that he took to get there. However, that same DeLorean is still stored in the cave waiting for Marty to discover it some 70 years later. I hope your mind hasn’t been destroyed yet.

So now that we’ve established that there are two DeLoreans in 1885, why didn’t they use the parts and/or gas from one to get the other working?

back to the future 3 delorean


If there’s on thing Doc Brown hates, it’s a paradox (followed closely by a Libyan terrorist). The easiest explanation for why they don’t use the first car is that it would create one hell of a paradox. If you use the 1885 car that’s in storage to fix the car that Marty arrived in, then it messes with the car that Marty is supposed to find in 1955 (you know, the one he shows up in). You’re kind of messing with time either way you try to work it.

  • Use the gas from the 1885 version in the 1955 version: Paradox.
  • Use the 1955 car to fix the 1885 version: Paradox alley.

By doing this you also end up with a car that has less parts (or more broken parts) when Marty finds it in 1955. Doc could simply have wanted Marty to have the best possible chance of getting home to his own time by having a DeLorean that was as in as tip top shape as possible.

Another fear Doc could have had is that since there’s always some kind of crazy complication in their lives, simply uncovering the stored Delorean might have caused an unintended cave in or some such business, so again Marty couldn’t use the car in 1955. Though Doc seems to be a lot less self aware of his own wacky situation than we are.

But let’s just say for a moment that Doc is cool with using the parts/gas from one Delorean to fix the other. What is another explanation?

Doc Drained the Fluids

DeLorean in cave

So Doc is a car guy and he knows to drain the fluid in a car when you store it. It’s the easy answer for why there’s no gas in the car for them to use. If you have any hope of keeping a car working after a long time in storage, draining the fluids is the first thing you’d want to do. This isn’t a car blog, but that kind of stuff is nasty to leave in a vehicle that’s going to be parked for years. He knows Marty is going to be stranded in 1955, so Marty is going to need to use the DeLorean in order to do so. That car needs to be as in as good of condition as it can be for Marty to get home. A DeLorean’s mechanical parts were fairly exotic for 1985 much less 1955. The less you need to fix on it in 1955, the better.

Well hold on there, partner! Doc is also a scientist! Even if Doc thinks he’s not getting home, it’s logical to assume that Doc would have saved the gas and oil. He knows that stuff isn’t easy to come by in 1885 and he might possibly have some sort of crazy use for gas. Hell, the dude made an ice machine in 1885. Who knows what he can make with the aid of gasoline? It’s entirely feasible and logical that he would have saved it. However, it is possible then that he used the gas on something dumb like a helicopter for cats before Marty showed up.

Let it Go

doc brown ice maker

Our third and most reasonable option is to simply let it go. If they had used gas from the stored DeLorean then the movie would have been over before Doc could knock boots with Mary Steenburgen, make some kids with her (one of whom liked to point at his penis), and go on adventures in a crazy time traveling locomotive. We wouldn’t want to take that away from Doc, would we?

  • Ur Dad

    Another possibility, no Stabil in either time. Gas gets old and varnishes.

  • pafan

    Send another letter to Marty in 1955 telling him to put a container of gas in the trunk of the DeLorean before he leaves.

  • Justin Van Reese

    I too, had wrestled with the fact there were two Deloreans. Why couldn’t one be used to fix the other? Well, if you mess with the one stored in the mine, you are going to alter the machine that got Marty Back there in the first place. So, you aren’t going to strap time circuits into the 1885 car.

    But what about the leftover gas?

    That stuff is as good as gone. Doc made a home and a life for himself in the old west. He didn’t need it. Or maybe it was all spent. The purpose of storing the DeLorean was so Marty could go home. Marty didn’t go home.