WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME (Isla Nublar)
FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Just woke up, eating some tortellini, glad I could convince Adam to stick around after he had just finished watching The NeverEnding Story with Cinemanaut Becca.
Alright, I went into this Back to the Future viewing with the sole purpose of analyzing the most famous landmark in Hill Valley: the clock tower.
Ahh, the “Death Star’s thermal exhaust port” of time travel.
If you haven’t seen this movie in a while (a predicament I have never found myself in, especially this year), the basic story significance of the tower is that it was struck by lightning at exactly 10:04pm on November 12th, 1955, which stopped all of its timekeeping mechanisms. Following this lightning strike, it was never repaired, for reasons unknown to us, but in 1985, the Hill Valley Preservation Society is determined to keep the clock broken as a historical relic. When Marty McFly accidentally finds himself in 1955, this event on November 12th is a key factor in his return to 1985, as the time machine that brought him to the past requires a staggering 1.21 gigawatts of electricity to do it’s thing, and this lightning bolt is powerful enough to get the job done.
Everybody got that? Good. First question…
1) Who the fuck not only puts up with a clock that hasn’t rung for thirty years, but also actively rallies against its repair?
Quick, how many cats in her apartment? Don’t think, just answer.
She’s credited in the movie as Clocktower Lady, and boy, did her parents give her a fitting name. She’s a member of the Hill Valley Preservation Society, and she interrupts horny couples with blue flyers that claim the clock should stay busted. She blabbers on about “history and heritage” and actually raises money to campaign for this nutty idea.
It’s so stupid that I misunderstood her platform when I was a kid. When she said her little cult wanted to stop the clock from being replaced, I thought she simply meant that a new clock was being ordered, and she would rather repair the old one. I could be on board with that proposal. The ol’ timepiece has her rustic charms. What would a new one be, digital? Ick.
What is entirely unrustically uncharming is visiting a strange town and believing it to be 10:04 all the goddamn time. Hill Valley’s already a shithole, and now you’re actively driving away anyone who stops by the courthouse and has an appointment. But hey, nobody cares about being on time to a trial, right?
Driving 88 miles per hour gets you a lot of speeding tickets.
Look at that screenshot there. That’s Marty in 1955 hearing the clock ring for the first time in his entire life. He’s bewildered! What kind of backwards-ass town [insert metaphor for whichever part of America you hate]? Somebody needs to stop this madness, and I know just the man for the job…
GOLDIE MUTHAFUCKIN’ WILSON
2) Did the events of November 12th, 1955 solidify Goldie Wilson’s political aspirations?
If this is the first article you’ve read on our site, I’ll give you several minutes to look over my unnecessarily detailed essay on why Marty McFly never inspired Goldie Wilson’s political career no matter how you slice the timelines. If it’s too long for you, let me summarize it: I’m right.
However, just because Marty’s outbursts during his week in 1955 couldn’t have been what motivated Goldie to run for mayor doesn’t mean that the catalyst for Goldie’s rise to power didn’t also happen in the same week. What is the only detailed plan of Goldie’s that we hear in the movie? Why, it comes to us from the mouth of C. Lady herself: “Mayor Wilson is sponsoring an initiative to replace that clock.”
Is this what moved Goldie Wilson to become an active participant in improving his neighborhood? On November 13th, I’m sure he nonchalantly agreed, along with most sane people, that Hill Valley really ought to get around to fixing the clock. As days turned into months and months into years, did this incompetence piss Wilson off so much that he decided the only way to eradicate this stupidly simple problem was to take a stand and run for office?
“Your misplaced nostalgia sickens me.”
Regardless of whatever drove him to politics, the fact remains that Goldie Wilson and Clocktower Lady are bitter enemies, and from where I’m sitting, it’s Team Wilson by a landslide. Lightning isn’t magic, it’s a nuisance that has to be dealt with, so stop your soapbox bullshit about some imagined historical significance and quit clockblocking Goldie just for trying to clean up this town.
3) Is there a connection between the clock tower and “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”?
This is why you shouldn’t watch movies alone. While I was sputtering about how Clocktower Lady is a big dumb idiot person, I mentioned that fixing the clock tower isn’t the same as, say, restoring the Liberty Bell. That’s when Adam Fergizard chimed in to mention that one of the lines in “The Ballad of Davy Crockett,” the song playing in Lou’s Cafe when Marty first enters it, claims that Davy “patched up the crack in the Liberty Bell.”
I don’t know dick about Davy Crockett except for his dead animal hat, but here’s a larger chunk of the lyrics for context:
“He went off to Congress and served a spell,
Fixin’ up the government, and laws as well;
Took over Washington, so we hear tell,
Patched up the crack in the Liberty Bell.”
In summary, if you want to restore a monument, you’ve got to become part of the political system. And who was sweeping the floors at Lou’s Cafe and had to listen to this song over and over and over at the height of its popularity in 1955?
“You’re on to something, Fess Parker!”
Even if the song didn’t infect Goldie’s mind with visions of mayoral authority, the Liberty Bell connection is certainly interesting. While the clock tower symbolizes little more than Zeus being a cockwad, the Liberty Bell has gone on to become One of Those Things People Care About. Is the crack important? There’s some debate. The damn thing split the first time they tried to ring it, so it had to be reinforced, and Benjamin Harrison found it symbolic of the fact that England sucks and America rules or something. Then they melted it and… oh my God, this is boring. Where’s the time travel?
Is that all? Make it do a trick.
Look, the Liberty Bell is famous because of some completely fake fairy tale about it being rung on July 4th, 1776. The clock tower is famous because some lightning fucked it up on November 12th, 1955. Both are silly, and both can be simultaneously replaced and preserved. The Liberty Bell is not taking up space where a perfectly ringable bell could go. The clock tower, on the other hand, is still in its place of usefulness being entirely useless. Take it down and stick it in a museum or restore it to perfect working order. Put a little plaque in the corner: “This shit got zapped in 1955.” This really shouldn’t be a big deal.
No, I’m not oblivious to the fact that I’m mocking the obsessions of fictional characters in a movie that I’m obsessed with. Thank you for noticing.
4) Hey, how do they know the clock tower stopped exactly at 10:04pm? Shouldn’t there be a 60-second margin of error? *fart noise*
I hear this one a lot, but the clock has been sitting there for thirty freaking years. You’d think some sort of investigation happened in that amount of time. No, there is no second hand on the clock tower, and the hands don’t move gradually around the face; we clearly see them tick. Can you say “tick” when they’re giant iron bars that make more of a ka-chonk sound? Anyway, a clock that ka-chonks away the minutes can still be analyzed. All it takes is one Elias P. Clockfiend to go look at the gears at any point between 1955 and 1985 and say, “Oooooh, nifty, this configuration means it died at exactly 10:04:00. I can’t wait to jot down this juicy morsel in my clock diary!” And then he quivers with excitement as he straps a Rolex around his throbbing–
4b) What about the flyer? Did it specifically state that it was exactly–
Yes. It did. Doc reads the following from the Save the Clock Tower flyer: “It says here that a bolt of lightning is gonna strike the clock tower at precisely 10:04pm next Saturday night!” You can cite the replica props if you want to, but those are just filled with junk text. Maybe the flyer goes into detail on how they figured out the exact time. Maybe it doesn’t. All we know is that Doc worked from the best information he had at hand, which is good for such a wild-eyed ball of random chance.
“Wait, the human body isn’t immune to electricity?”
5) In the new timeline after Marty returns to 1985, was Doc blamed for the lightning strike on the clock tower?
We never really see any clock tower propaganda again for the rest of the movie or the other two films in the trilogy, but it still makes you wonder if Doc Brown was interrogated after the lightning strike. For starters, he was caught red-handed by a police officer while rigging up the wire to the tower. He even says it’s “specialized weather-sensing equipment.”
“Level with me, Doc… is this a sex thing?”
So lightning struck the exact location where a local scientist claimed to be conducting a weather experiment… yeah, I’d at least bring him in for questioning. You may argue that Doc got away with it because he paid off the cop, which we don’t see in the finished film, but it is one of the deleted scenes. (Yes, the cop takes the money.) Deleted scenes don’t count, of course, but since we’re talking pure hypotheticals, Doc could have slipped him cash at another point in time, maybe the day after. Still, there would have to be some witnesses, right?
It would be one thing if time travel via DeLorean were conducted subtly, Looper-style, but it’s not. That DMC-12 hatefucks the fabric of space and time into submission with all the flashing light and booming noise of a rave-themed MythBusters episode. A lightning strike coupled with Satan’s orgasm is going to turn a few heads. This is when Doc Brown quickly and quietly gathers up his equipment and skips town for a few weeks, right?
Oh, wait, no, he skips down the street shouting gleefully and then takes a moment to smile at the giant fucking wire hanging off of the clock tower.
I’m pretty sure that’s the guy, officer.
Bottom line: even if they buy Doc’s story about a weather experiment, he’s paying for those clock tower repairs. Unless he can convince a group of goofy old ladies that it shouldn’t be fixed for historical– SON OF A BITCH.
She’s Doc’s cousin! I’m calling it! This goes deeper than I thought!