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(Credit: Universal)

Film

The hilarious original time machine Doc Brown used in 'Back to the Future'

Back to the Future, directed by Robert Zemeckis, debuted on movie screens in 1985, becoming a landmark of American culture and cinema, still adored over 35 years on by sci-fi lovers and casual movie-goers alike. The ultimate immortalisation of the 1980s, the film’s legacy is ineffable, spawning two sequels, released in 1989 and 1990, as well as an animated TV series and musical, which is currently touring the West End.

However, Back to the Future’s significance is partly down to the presence of the DeLorean, the time-travelling car that transports Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) to 1955 with the help of mad scientist Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd). After the DeLorean breaks down upon arrival in 1955, Marty must enlist the help of a younger Doc to get back to the present day, whilst ensuring that his high-school-aged parents fall in love so that a paradoxical universe where he doesn’t exist is avoided.

In the franchise, the DeLorean time machine is made out of a retrofitted DMC DeLorean car with a ‘flux capacitor’ needing 1.21 gigawatts of power and a speed of 88 miles per hour to capacitate time travel. However, in the original script, written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, the DeLorean was not found inside of a car, rather a fridge. The flux capacitator – the key component for time travel – was absent from the original script. Instead, the time machine was a “power converter” devised from a laser device and kept inside a refrigerator, which was loaded into a truck before being driven into a nuclear blast, which would initiate time travel.

The rather complicated process, which would involve Marty climbing into the fridge in order to survive the nuclear blast and transport to another place in time, was simplified by scrapping this idea and placing the device in the now-iconic DeLorean car. The image of Marty stepping out of the spaceship-like doors of the DeLorean fit the film’s sci-fi genre way better than the household image of a fridge. But this wasn’t the only reason for the change of script…

In the 1980s, most fridges were equipped with a latch to prevent food from turning stale, however, this led to the tragic deaths of many children that managed to get themselves locked inside. The film’s producer, Steven Spielberg, was afraid that young children would attempt to time travel from the confines of their own fridges after watching the film, thus the legendary DeLorean was born. Little did the creators know the influence that their invention would cause – it’s one of the most recognisable hallmarks of the 1980s, despite merely being a film prop.

It is strange to think that one of the most well-known symbols of American cinema almost never existed, all because of fridge latches. The resultant image of American sci-fi was a mixture of old and new – a failing car model designed to transport the user anywhere, with the help of some plutonium. The image of eccentric white-haired scientist Doc Brown sitting inside the DeLorean would not be half as memorable if he was squashed inside a fridge, that’s for sure.

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