It’s hard to be a geek of our generation without having at least some nostalgic feeling towards the Back to the Future franchise, and probably a lot more than just that. (Perhaps it’s most often subtly mainfested in the geek war cry, “Where’s my hoverboard?!”) But I suspect few have invested the passion that Rich Handley brings to A Matter of Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Lexicon
And that’s not just the hyperbole of an enthusiastic reviewer. If you don’t believe me, perhaps you’ll believe Bob Gale, co-writer of BttF, who recently emailed Handley saying, “And now YOU are THE authority on all things BTTF! Jeez, there’s stuff in here even I didn’t know … or didn’t want to know … or wanted to forget!” This book is really that thorough. By way of example, I’ll give you a pop quiz based on random flips of the pages throughout the book. Answers at the end of this post.
1. Which Jaws movies are referenced throughout BttF creations?
2. What is Mundania?
3. Where can you get a banana pizza?
4. What does Marty, when posing as Darth Vader in 1955, use as his heat ray, and to whom does he report?
5. What two real-life Clint Eastwood movie posters are displayed at The Pohatchee Drive-in Theater in BttF 3?
Encompassing not only the trilogy of movies, but the Universal Studios ride, animated series, comics, card game, video games, and novels, Handley has compiled a 291-page lexicon with more than 3,000 items wrapped in lovely drawings by Pat Carbajal and a few personal anecdotes from someone for whom BttF is clearly personal. (How could it not be, when it starts with proposing to your wife and comes to a book of this depth?)
One appendix catalogs Dr. Brown’s 213 inventions, from the ELB Sunshine Umbrella for Rainy Day Tans to tablets and phones that sound a lot like the devices we really use every day now. Another lists all 151 known relatives, dogs, horses, monkeys, dinosaurs, and temporary fiancees on the Brown and McFly family trees, as well as their combined 27 aliases. (The next argument you get into should be settled by who can name the most Marty McFly aliases. Conveniently, if you have this book, you’ll win.) Yet another appendix gives the cover art for not only the various releases of the movies, TV shows, comics, video games, and books, but also Happy Meal boxes and even titles seen in-universe, like A Match Made In Space by George McFly and Jaws 19 by Max Spielberg. In the book’s only real shortcoming, this section couldn’t be in color, as the whole book is black-and-white only. The printing is still quite good, though, and gives you a good starting reference.
Each listing comes with a notation of the storyline from which it comes, for example, easy ones like “BTF2” for the Back to the Future Part II film or more obscure ones like “BFHM” for Back to the Future themed Happy Meal boxes or “MITS” for the BttF Mitsubishi Lancer commercial. With such a long list, I appreciate that the key is repeated in the margins of each page. Suffixes on those notations indicate whether the information is more specifically from a deleted scene or outtake, a specific draft of the screenplay (-s1 through -s4), a novelization, etc.
And if all this leaves you wanting to talk to good ol’ Doc Brown, his number is 1 Klondike 5-4385. The last page of the book shows the Brown section of the telephone directory, scanned from an on-set prop page.
Ready for the pop quiz answers?
1. Jaws and Jaws 2, as well as the fictitious Jaws 14, Jaws 17, and Jaws 19
2. A small, third-quadrillionth-century empire somewhere around Florida or so
3. From Emmett Brown’s Digi-Chef digital food molecularizer. It’s banana-shaped pizza in a peel.
4. A Conair hair dryer and the Supreme Klingon
5. Tarantula and Revenge of the Creature
I received a copy of this book for review.