Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Where are the Flying Cars? A tribute to the Pinheads drummer Marcus "Mr. Fusion" Daiton

It’s October 21, 2015, the day the Doc, Marty, and Jennifer arrive in the future from 1985, but where are the flying cars?

Back to the Future 2 seemed to promise us all kinds of interesting technological gadgetry, such as hoverboards, robot trash cans, electronic dog walkers, etc.  On the other hand, the “real” 2015 doesn’t seem to be coming through with many of these promises.  However, as Doc Emmett Brown told Marty and Jennifer in the third film, “Your future hasn’t been written yet.”  These are wise words, and they explain exactly why we don’t have all of these amazing technological inventions in our version of 2015.
Marty McFly in front of a flying DeLorean.
Marty McFly in front of a flying DeLorean in the "future."

Let’s examine the evidence.  In Back to the Future 2, upon returning to 1985, Doc and Marty discovered that the timeline had skewed on a tangent because of Biff Tannen’s alteration of events in 1955 (i.e. giving his younger self a copy of Grey’s Sports Almanac).  Furthermore, we know that certain events that occurred in 1885 had an impact on 1985, such as the renaming of Clayton Ravine to Eastwood Ravine.  These more salient changes were directly related to actions taken by Doc and Marty, but what about changes that were more indirectly attributed to their actions?
This is where things get a bit more precarious.  Through travelling forward and backward through time, Marty is able to learn that his quick temper (particularly when someone calls him “chicken”) is detrimental to his own goals in life.  So when Needles challenges him to a race in 1985, Marty avoids the accident he was destined to have with the Rolls-Royce in the original timeline, where Marty is badly injured and gives up on his music career.
Eastwood Ravine from Back to the Future 3.
After Clara Clayton is rescued from falling into the ravine, it's name is changed to Eastwood Ravine, since the locomotive that Marty and Doc hijacked plummeted into it.

Marty was an excellent guitarist, as evidenced by his audition for the school dance, and in his performance of Johnny B. Goode in 1955.  His band, The Pinheads, were on their way to rock star status, but Marty’s accident with the Rolls-Royce, in all its consequences, prevented this from ever happening.  But, Marty’s future was not yet written.  He made a different decision, and avoided the collision with the Rolls-Royce.  Consequently, The Pinheads took the world by storm and became one of the best-known rock bands of the 1980s and 1990s.
Marty McFly and the Pinheads at the Battle of the Bands.
The Pinheads unsuccessful audition for the Battle of the Bands (they were too darn loud).

This is all fine and good, but what about the flying cars?  Well, this is where the “butterfly effect” comes in, where one life affects another and another until it resonates throughout the entire world.  Only briefly seen in the first film is the drummer for The Pinheads, Marcus Daiton.  Marcus was a young man with genius level intelligence, but he lacked self-confidence and motivation, causing him to be depressed through much of high school.  To make matters worse, Principal Strickland constantly berated him for being a “slacker” and not applying himself more in school.  Because he couldn’t handle the pressures to succeed, Marcus would retreat to his garage and practice his drumset for hours on end.
Mr. Strickland tells Marty McFly he is a slacker.
Principal Strickland explaining to Marty McFly the ways in which he is a slacker.

In the timeline as it currently exists, Marty avoided the accident with the Rolls-Royce, and The Pinheads enjoy great success, but the band has a major falling out in the 1990s when ego drives the lead singer/guitarist Marty McFly to insist that the band be renamed “Marty McFly and the Pinheads.”  This infuriated the keyboardist, Cameron Passman, and bass guitarist, Kirby Forsyth.  Marcus Daiton did his best to stay out of the argument, but as he was already struggling with a drug problem, the tense atmosphere surrounding him led to a relapse and he overdosed on heroin in 1994.  The Pinheads tried to keep things going for a few more years with different drummers, but finally the band dissolved in 1998.
Needles in Back to the Future 3.
Needles, challenging Marty to a drag race with his new 4x4.

In the original timeline, however, Marty injures himself in the collision with the Rolls-Royce in 1985 and The Pinheads dissolve later during the same year.  They never achieved fame, and each went their separate ways after high school. The drummer Marcus Daiton was particularly affected by what happened to Marty.  Marcus realized that Marty’s cavalier rockstar mentality is exactly what led to his accident with the Rolls-Royce and the subsequent demise of his music career dreams.  This prompted Marcus to begin applying himself in school, where he fell in love with mathematics and science.  He became the most improved student during his junior year in high school, and went on to earn a full scholarship to MIT in the physics program.  However, Marcus’s anxiety and depression made school difficult for him, and although he achieved some success in assisting professors with their research projects, he was unable to complete the program and dropped out during his sophomore year.
Doc Brown feeding Mr. Fusion
Doc Brown empties the McFly's trash can into Mr. Fusion to refuel his DeLorean.

Marcus moved back to Hill Valley and got a job as a research assistant in a small technology company just outside of the city.  Surrounded by scientists with PhDs, Marcus wasn’t quite sure that he fit in at first, but once the other researchers saw his amazing intellect and creativity, Marcus was able to move up within the company.  Eventually, Marcus began researching heavily in the field of nuclear physics.  In 2007, he made a major breakthrough by creating a simple device that could take ordinary household trash and consume it to produce usable energy without generating any pollution.  As the only non-PhD  Sr. research scientist on the team, Marcus Daiton was affectionately dubbed “Mr. Fusion,” and his invention would be branded with the same moniker.  The introduction of Mr. Fusion on the market in 2009 led to a deluge of new inventions using this new clean power source, including such things as flying cars, hoverboards, and self-tying shoes.
The Pinheads drummer
Marcus Daiton, Pinheads drummer, Mr. Fusion that was not-to-be

The unfortunate conclusion to this story is that a clean-burning “Mr. Fusion” type device still remains somewhere in the future.  Here’s to the Marcus “Mr. Fusion” Daiton that never was, but long live rock and roll!