This is it, everyone! THE LAST CHAPTER.
Marty finds himself in darkness at the end of a “journey into the black tunnel”, and I’m going to give Gipe the benefit of the doubt and say he’s trying to say “The car crashed into a building” and not “time travel suddenly is like going through a tunnel when it wasn’t before, tee hee”. Marty’s not sure what’s going on:
Marty thought of the scene in a movie he had seen about a time travel machine where the vehicle is enclosed in a mountain.
Haha, the hilariously awkward “time travel machine” makes a return! YES.
So he realizes he’s crashed into the movie theater, reverses out, and sees that it’s 1985 again. “All right!” he shouts. Then he turns on the radio, and Gipe describes it as only a grandparent could:
A contemporary rock tune was playing.
“All right!” Marty shouts. But then he remembers he has to save “his friend from a bloody and violent death” (oh yeah! I can see how you’d forget that!) but then the car dies again. ”Shit!” Marty shouts. And oh man, Gipe, we got another “time travel machine” callback, can we get another shoutout to The Terrorists?
After grinding for a minute, Marty was unable to generate the slightest hint renewed power. And as he continued to grind, he looked up and saw the familiar terrorist van cruising down the street and around the corner.
Horrified, he leaped from the car.
“The terrorists!” he yelled.
PERFECT. Thank you, Gipe, and thank you Marty McFly for jumping out of the car to shout “The terrorists!” after The Terrorists. You are too perfect. Also, now is the point where you should re-read that above quote while using “grinding” in the “at a club all up on someone” sense. I’ll wait.
Marty runs down to the mall, and Gipe makes sure we notice something has changed:
Arriving at the entrance, he noticed that it was called Lone Pine Mall and was decorated with the image of a single pine tree instead of two. Otherwise everything was the same.
Marty watches, “frozen, horrified and amazed” as he watches the terrorist van chasing Doc Brown around the parking lot. This is kinda weird, watching yourself and your friend from what seems to be a week ago doing the same thing, right? Wouldn’t that, oh, I don’t know… BLOW YOUR MIND??
“Oh, no!” he gasped. ”I’m too late!”
The scene blew his mind.
Books can be better than the movie, but MAN the movie is so much better than this book (in general, obvs, but in this scene in particular)! This whole action bit which lasts for minutes in the movie gets disposed of in a couple of paragraphs. DISAPPOINTING.
So we’re back with Marty and the stalled DeLorean, which won’t start, and then he tries it again and then it starts, so - that was easy? This “it didn’t start but then it did” solution sidesteps the “Marty slamming his head on the steering wheel and then it starts” gag in the movie which was nice and baffling and cute.
Marty drives towards the wire but doesn’t notice Doc messing with it (Gipe again pretends he’s from medieval times when he writes this as “So intent was he that he failed to see the figure of Doc Brown as he raced towards the lamp post”) which means we don’t get Marty anxiously whispering “Doc…” as he speeds towards him: another nice character moment.
And here’s the craziest part: in the movie, just as the lightning strikes, Doc reaches the wire and connects it and gets blasted backwards by the shock (that is how electricity works in movies, did you know that?)
Clearly they had that in the scene description for the script! And CLEARLY GIPE DIDN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT HE WAS READING AT ALL:
Less than a second before the spectacular bolt of lightning struck, Doc plugged the cable in, spin around, and fell backwards. Glancing at his speedometer, Marty saw that the car was moving at eighty-eight miles per hour.
Then there was a terrific crash of simultaneous lightning and thunder.
Yep. In Gipe’s version - which presumably he thought made perfect sense - Doc plugs the cable in and then JUST SPINS AROUND AND FALLS OVER FOR LITERALLY NO REASON AT ALL.
Inside the DeLorean Marty thinks “My God, I’ve been nuked” which makes exactly this much sense: none, and then “the DeLorean kicked forward as if it had been thrust into orbit, and blackness descended.”
We’re left with Doc who just saw the car disappear, “seemingly enveloped by a yellow mist” (guess they hadn’t quite nailed down the time travel effect yet) the sight of which “made him leap to his feet and let out an Indian war whoop.” He shouts “We did it! It was impossible but we did it!” and Gipe confirms that for us by saying “It was true. As if swallowed up by the earth or a giant hand from above, the DeLorean was gone.” and yes every time the narrator confirms what a character we have no reason to doubt just said, an angel gets its wings.
“Good luck,” Doc Brown breathed. ”I’ll see you soon enough… I hope.”
And that’s it for the chapter!
So what makes the movie version better? Besides the action being better realized and more exciting (so exciting that the movie cheats and has Marty flooring it in the DeLorean… twice) and the lack of the crappy lines (after the DeLorean disappears, Doc doesn’t say anything, he just cheers and runs quietly down the street), it’s a terrificly put-together scene. The music builds and builds until the lightning reaches the car, and then the car’s gone and the music’s gone and all we hear is burst of the time-travel sound effects and the ambient noise of the wind (suddenly much more still) and the Doc’s footsteps as he runs down the road. It’s a terrific, quiet ending and the contrast works really well with the thunder and lightning and temporal explosions we just had.
And then that last shot! The music comes up again, quietly, and Doc smiles and looks up to the clock tower with his crazy happy grin, and we get a POV shot of the clock tower seen from where he’s standing! We assume we’re seeing what Doc’s seeing, but then a second later a helicopter flies into the frame, over the tower, and out again, and we realize we’re back in 1985. It’s a terrific cut that takes us out of 1955 and into 1985 so smoothly you barely even notice it.
Great work, movie peeps!
Pull up your socks, book peeps!!
Page 225 starts off Chapter Thirteen! SECOND-LAST CHAPTER, EVERYONE, and it’s gonna go fast because we’ve only got 20 pages left in the book. In the movie there’s still lots of movie time left, but it seems Gipe is racing towards the finish line here? Perhaps at this point he realized he wasn’t being paid by the word?? Perhaps he said “aw frig, really?” and then busted out sentences like “then the teen with the shirt on went back to future, like in the title, and his parents were all weird, THE END”? PERHAPS THERE IS BUT ONE WAY TO FIND OUT?
So, we get this porny phrase:
Town Square was deserted except for a small pack of dogs and [Doc] was ready to go.
Like in the movie, Doc checks the time first on his old-timey pocketwatch (circa 1890! Oooh snap unintentional foreshadowing!) and then on the watch he’s wearing on each wrist one by one, which is nice. Then Marty finally shows up, driving towards him at “precipitous speed” and I always thought “precipitous” meant “steep” like a cliff but it can also mean “sudden” or “dramatic” so hooray! We all learnt a vocabulary word! Maybe you already knew that, but I didn’t and since I like to assume I’m the bro with the best vocabulary in this town, I’m gotta totes assume we ALL learned a thing here.
Doc is PISSED. So pissed that he’s talking to himself:
“Good,” he grunted finally, satisfied that the vehicle was his Packard. ”But why drive like that, dummy? Why crack up in the wrong car?”
A moment later, Marty was available for the answer.
And yep, I’ve got NO IDEA what “crack up” is doing there either! Gipe’s certainly not using it to mean “laugh” or “go crazy”. Maybe he’s using it to mean “go quickly”? Because maybe that’s what the expression meant in the time of Charlemagne? Because old man itis?
Doc scolds him for being late (that’s what it says: “scolded”! Can’t you see what great friends these two characters are?) and Marty’s availability for the answer lets us learn that he was driving fast to see how fast he could go, and it’s a good thing too, because there’s a bump on the road that he now knows about. He’ll just drive on the left-hand side for that part. Is this information relevant? Nope! But there it is anyway! Enjoy!
Doc says that’s all well and good but “what if you’d been spotted by some cop?” and Marty replies “What if I’m spotted by a cop when I’m in the time machine?” and Doc says “If that happens, you keep going, dummy.”
Can’t you feel the love between these two people? It’s just so wonderful to read about two great friends having an adventure together
Page 220 - 221
If you’re interested in how stories are constructed, this is a pretty good example!
We’ve just had George punch out Biff! The movie does some fancy footwork here to keep this momentum going: Marty glances at his photograph and sees his family hasn’t been restored, his smile fades, and he takes off running: SOMETHING’S WRONG. Then we cut to Doc checking his watch, looking up as the wind picks up, and whispering “The storm.”: SOMETHING IS COMING. Then we cut to Marty running up to the band and Marvin’s talking about his hand and how they can’t play, and Marvin says “The dance is over… unless you know somebody else that can play the guitar,” and BAM: final cut to Marty, looking a little confused and out of place, playing guitar at the dance. SOMETHING IS HAPPENING.
It’s quick, efficient, with clean problems to be solved and it keeps the suspense going.
In contrast, the book, while hitting similar moments, is all over the place. Marty running up to George and Lorraine (again, pushing himself into their moment for no reason) so he can shake George’s hand and be stupid — “Great work, Dad, I mean, George.” — which George totally ignores because he has to for the story to work, weeeeee.
Rather than the visual image of his family fading away, Marty just stands there and reminds himself of what he has to do with this little passage:
A disquieting thought rushed through Marty’s mind - his work wasn’t done yet. Not only had he to make his getaway; he still had to get his mother and father together, have them kiss romantically on the dance floor.
I put in bold the part where Gipe pretends he’s a narrating a story from history times: my gift to you.
Gipe mentions the sound of distant thunder here, so at least that’s in there somewhere, but then the problem of the band physically not being able to play gets transmuted into the stupider problem of the dance being over and the band not WILLING to play because it’s quittin’ time and everyone in this story is a jerk??
“It’s not too late,” Marty breathed. Then, in a louder voice, he said: “Hey, everybody! I think we should have one more dance just so this nice couple can celebrate!“
Everyone cheers (or in old man itis writing, there’s “a shout of approbation” (yes I looked it up, it means commendation, praise, or approval) (DID YOU KNOW: I believe you could get literally a thousand different people to write this scene and only Gipe would be the one to turn in a piece of paper describing teens cheering as ‘a shout of approbation’)).
Marty grabs George in one hand and Lorraine in the other and they all go running back into the dance while Marty shouts “Come on, gang!” (NOTE: this is not a joke, in this book this really just happened.) And the “all” there includes everyone who had just left the dance too, so Marty and George and Lorraine and the entire rest of the high school are running together. They jog past the musicians and Marty asks for one more dance and they’re all “Forget it. Dance is over,” so Marty busts out his wallet and gives them all his money.
Reginald is okay with taking the money (“It’s O.K. with me,” he says) but then reveals that Marvin has cut his hand. Marty does his “But you’ve gotta play” line, because “if there’s no music, they won’t kiss and fall in love! And if they don’t fall in love, I’m history!” only in the book he says “I’m a goner” because why use a thematically-appropriate word when you can… not do that?
And AGAIN Marty is saying this in front of the entire student population of the school, including George and Lorraine, and AGAIN everyone just ignores it. (Nobody in Hill Valley reacts when someone talks crazy, I guess? It’s a very chill town/valley). Then Reginald The Dick agrees to letting Marty play the guitar because “It might be worth it just for the laughs” (REGINALD: YOU ARE A DICK) and all the kids run into the school and Strickland is confused and he gets overrun by kids and hah hah I love scenes like this because screw your rules, authority figures!!
“What’s going on here?” Gerald Strickland shouted over and over. Grabbing arms, he tried to force the students out of the hall but his efforts were ineffectual.
Marty starts the dance with a little introduction: “One more dance. A special number for my parents.” and this “one more dance” thing ties back to his first line in this book, remember? Marty’s in class with his headphones on and he sings “Let’s have one more dance!” out loud in the first of a series of very credible scenes from this novelization! IT IS A CALLBACK, YES.
The band loves Marty because everyone loves Marty because this book sometimes reads like Marty McFly author insertion fan fiction:
At first following the band and then confidentially taking the lead, Marty looked around. The musicians were casting quick glances his way, glances that told him they admired the job he was doing. He could see his parents dancing just a few feet away, their heads together. Now it was just a matter of time… all was going well.”
And everything is going great! Nothing bad could happen to ruin this dance! Come back tomorrow and we’ll see that I was totally lying to you with that last sentence!!
(ps: I cheated with these images because they’re from the second movie and that’s a slightly older Marty watching the scene but it’s a great shot so I guess we’re all gonna just have to deal with it, huh??)
Marty suggests to Lorraine that they sit this dance out, and Lorraine nods, “a seductive smile illuminating her features.” She goes to sit but Marty steers her outside, saying “Outside is better”, and if you want a line that says “let’s go make out”, that certainly is… one of the options you could choose?
ONE PROBLEM: Mr. Strickland is blocking the way!
Mr. Strickland kept a sharp watch for who left the dance area and how long they stayed away. He seemed to have a computer in his head which told him exactly who was missing and how long they’d been gone. As a result, Marty and Lorraine had to hang around the entrance, waiting for Strickland to look away before they were able to leave.
After five minutes of waiting around Marty and Lorraine manage to slip into the car (told to us, again, in the most retro way possible, so old-fashioned that it slips around and becomes cool again: “It was ten of nine when they slipped into Doc Brown’s Packard.”)
This page sucks a little because that bit I quoted above is all the Strickland action we get, and the dude never even refer to any of the LITERALLY HUNDREDS of teens present as slackers! And it’s another weird moment in the novelization as I can’t imagine the movie taking five minutes to show Marty and Lorraine waiting around for Strickland to glance away, but whatever, it works Strickland into the story where he otherwise wouldn’t be so I am so down with this!
TRUE FACTS: I am, in fact, always so down for more Strickland action. If someone wants to tell the story from the point of view of Strickland where he borrows the time machine and then follows around Marty and Doc and returns the machine whenever it’s needed just in the nick of time and then he hides behind the curtains and whisper “slackers” at them so you get to see the whole movie from HIS point of view, I would be SO DOWN with that, and I would be ESPECIALLY so down with that if the story then explains why Strickland apparently hasn’t aged any between 1955 and 1985, because TURNS OUT it’s the 1955 Strickland that saw what a slacker Marty is and then discovers Marty’s actually from the 80s so he travels to 1985 Hill Valley and sends the car back to 1955 via the remote control left there by Doc and then he gets a job at 1985 Hill Valley High JUST TO HASSLE MARTY WHICH IS WHY HE’S SUCH A JERK IN THE FIRST SCENE OF THAT MOVIE, HOLY COW IT ALL FITS brb writing some fanfiction now
Inside the car, Lorraine says she’s “almost eighteen” does the “It’s not like I’ve never parked before” line and tells Marty he looks nervous and puts her hand on his leg!
MARTY that is your MOTHER
Marty wants George to practice what he’s gonna say when he yanks Marty out of the car, but George can’t think of anything. ”Damn it, you shouldn’t even have to think.” Marty says. ”Here you are, face to face with a guy who’s pawing the girl you love. It should be automatic.”
And what’s the #1 best example of old-man-itis we’ve had so far? Well hah hah FORGET IT it’s in second place because right now, and I am honestly not making this up, Gipe is making VAUDEVILLE REFERENCES:
His jaw working fiercely, exaggeratedly, rather like an old-time vaudeville villain, George spat the line: “Uh… Hey you! Get your damn hands off her!” Then, his expression reverting to type, he asked in a soft voice: “You really think I should swear?”
“Yes, definitely,” Marty nodded.
Amazing. Also in the movie Marty instead replies “Yes, definitely, God damn it George, swear” which is a funnier response by far and brings life to the scene. George practices punching Marty but he sucks, so Marty shows him how to punch on the body bag. And guess what? Marty is awesome at punching!
He hung the duffel bag on the clothesline T-bar, stepped back, and blasted it with a powerful uppercut. The bag recoiled nearly a foot.
“Work on something like that,” he said.
George punches the bag, trying to emulate Marty, but he still sucks! Finally he lashes out with all his strength and MISSES, “whizzes past his intended target” and hits the tree behind the bag. ”Yeeeowww! Goddammit!” he yells, and Marty just waves as he walks away saying “Good. That’s real anger. See you later.”
With Marty gone, George is fuming, and his hand hurts “but the frustration in him was stronger than the pain”. He punches the bag again (well, more accurately he “took two steps forward and uncorked a mighty punch” like a fine wine I guess) and hits the body bag SO HARD that it FLIES off the clothesline T-bar, somehow NEGOTIATES its way around the tree that was behind it a paragraph ago, FLIES through the air, and SMASHES A WINDOW IN HIS HOUSE. This is a crazy scene for a few reasons, but story-wise it’s totally awful because when George does finally punch someone in the climax (SPOILER ALERT) it’s not a surprise anymore, because we’ve already seen him PUNCH A HARD-AS-ROCK BODY BAG INTO A WINDOW, POSSIBLY THROUGH A TREE??
Did you know that “tarp” was short for “tarpaulin”? I didn’t, but I feel like the older generation was better educated on this, because on this page Gipe has Doc see Lorraine standing outside and throw a heavy tarpaulin over the DeLorean. I’m not sure if this is old man itis or me just not knowing words? It feels a little like calling a factory “a manufactory” (i.e.: TECHNICALLY CORRECT BUT INSANELY OLD-FASHIONED) but maybe it’s just me.
OLD MAN ITIS STATUS: maybe??
In the book we don’t get Doc’s awesome MARTY WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING look pictured above, unfortunately, but we do get Doc and Marty agreeing that Lorraine must’ve tracked Marty down… SOMEHOW.
Marty opens the door for her (reasonably concluding that if she followed him there, she’d know he was inside) and calls her “Mom - I mean, Lorraine” which is awful AND dumb. In a different non-book scene in the movie Marty says “You’re not gonna be picking a fight, dad… dad, dad, daddy-o” which has a reasonably smooth recovery that George can reasonably ignore, but here in the book Marty calls a girl who likes him “Mom” and she just straight-out ignores it. Go ahead, call that special non-mom lady in your life “mom” tonight and see if she lets it pass without comment! If so - I don’t know, keep it up I guess?
So at this point Marty now has to introduce Doc to Lorraine. You can do this the cute way or the charmless way! Movie went for cute:
MARTY: Oh, uh, this is my, uh, Doc — uh, my uncle! …Doc — Brown.
It’s cute because we get that “Marty is bad at his cross-temporal identities straight” thing without being “Mom I mean Lorraine” clunky.
Contrast with the book, which went for oddly charmless:
MARTY: Oh. Uh, this is my Uncle Brown.
LORRAINE: Uncle Brown?
That’s their entire exchange. It adds nothing and I’m not entirely sure Lorraine, who is supposed to be nervous about even being here, would think to care about Uncle Brown’s first name. But it does teach us a WRITING TIP: if you’ve got a necessary but lifeless scene, it doesn’t hurt to add some character humour to it!
At this point Lorraine takes a deep breath and launches into her prepared “Will you ask me to the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, Marty?” speech and UT OH. Was Marty ready for this?
Marty should have been prepared for the proposal but somehow was not.
Book Marty: not what you would call “competent”
Marty finds himself holding onto the front bumper of Biff’s car! This is a dangerous position to be in! We know this because Biff explains it for us!
“Now we got the son of a bitch!” Biff shouted. “If he holds on, he’s dead, and if he lets go, he’s dead!”
Biff decides to drive Marty through the glass window of Hal’s Bike Shop, and decides that if worse comes to worst, he can tell the judge that his brakes failed, which isn’t the greatest plan in the world but does suggest that Biff is seriously contemplating murdering Marty here, which is a thing.
Looking back through the windshield at the malevolent Biff, Marty could only gulp.
Yep, Marty’s trapped! He looks for cops to help him, but there are none. Then he has a vision of his own tombstone for some Future Laffs AND some old man itis:
A quick vision of his tombstone flashed before his eyes as Biff drove him inexorably backward. It read: MARTIN MCFLY - BORN 1968 - DIED 1955.
Now, as they were about to pass a large manure truck in the same traffic lane, new devilment was added. Match had picked up a beer bottle and was about to throw it at Marty’s head.
“Got to get outa here!” he cried.
And remember how in the movie Marty was a cool headed dude who improvised an awesome escape? This is how he gets replaced by Book Marty, who cries out loud to himself. Both Martys (Marties?) do the “send the board under the car, run up on the hood, over the seats, and jump down onto the skateboard as it passes out from underneath the car” move and then Biff hits the manure truck.
Cue tons of applause for Marty! Not just from the kids at the soda shop but also from the customers at “Gaynor’s Hideaway” (a bar?) (and it’s like - do these adults also know Biff or are they just big into watching accidents happen?) and there’s so much shouting and “hand clapping” (haha YES why say “clapping” when you could needlessly specify that hands are involved?) that it seems like the Fourth of July! George is watching too, but with mixed emotions, because he’d trade ten years of his life to have pulled that trick off!
Marty gives back the scooter, the kid is happy, the kid’s friend breaks his scooter so it’s the same way, and we are DONE with Chapter Ten! And if you’re wondering why there’s kinda a shoe-centric focus in some of those images at the top, it’s because I liberated them from this site that reviews movies based on how good the Converse-branded shoes are in it.
Page 158 - 161
George wants to go to college to study writing or journalism, but knows his dad (Arthur is his name, it turns out) will laugh at him. Marty says he should tell him anyway, George says “I will. This is important to my future so I’ll do it.” Then Marty says George should go do it NOW because Arthur is right there waxing the car, George says no, and Marty refuses to move from where he’s standing until he does so George goes.
As George is talking to his Dad, Marty wanders around the house, out of sight but still listening in. Arthur tells George he shouldn’t try because what if he failed at it, and then he’d get sad, and then his marks at school would suffer. Some things just aren’t meant to be! Meanwhile during all this Marty is rating what George says, and he gives him a C+ for his introduction (I am not making this up), sums him up as a “miserable counterpuncher”, and ends up fuming that his Dad is so wimpy.
The conversation ends and at that very moment a thunderstorm comes out of nowhere and starts soaking everyone because THAT IS WHAT GOOD WRITING LOOKS LIKE, so Marty trots back to Doc’s house through the rain (it is specified as a “fast trot” if we are being precise, so yes, let us be precise) while also saying out loud “Good. I hope the rain spoils your wax job.” so ZING on Arthur.
Marty gets back to Doc’s garage soaked on the outside but seething on the inside (literally how the book describes him) and sees Doc watching the tape of his death, like in the movie. Doc asks Marty how it went and Marty says
“Terrible,” Marty sighed. “He’s just the same as when I knew him. A Milquetoast.”
And yeah damn right I’m going to call out old-man-itis here for “milquetoast”! While it may have been the sickest of burns in the 30s, it’s not exactly a thing the kids were calling each other after in the 80s. The word comes from the character of Casper Milquetoast, who appeared in a comic called “The Timid Soul”. He is named after that staggering achievement in American Cuisine, milk toast. (Recipe: drop a piece of toast in a bowl of milk and GO NUTS.)
Anyway, that comic ended in 1953 and hasn’t really been reprinted since the 1950s, but here are some examples! I’ve encountered this word only a few times before in my life, never out loud, only written down in old books: Peter Parker, for example, is described as a milquetoast in his early comics from the 60s. Having Marty McFly, Ultimate 80s Teen use the word is just - crazy. It’s crazy, you guys. He’s speaking like an old man, and no teen ever in time has ever said “This is heavy.” and “He’s a Milquetoast” in the same lifetime. Go ahead, if you’re a teen, do it right now. Congratulations, you are the first teen to ever do that. You are the #1 Teen.
Doc philosophizes (Gipe’s word) that this is a familiar tale, this tale of a child not getting good advice from a parent, and - I guess so? I mean, I’ve probably heard it before, but “Dad tells awkward teen not to chase his dreams” isn’t really one of the great cultural myths of our time. But then it’s awesome because we get a Heartwarming Early 80s Sitcom Moment:
“In my own vast years of experience,” [Doc] remarked, “I’ve made it a principle never to take advice from anyone - particularly if that someone is older than I am.”
“Hey, Doc, that’s good advice,” Marty smiled.
“Thank you. Now take my advice and don’t take it,” he laughed.
Freeze frame on the two characters laughing with each other as the studio audience joins in, display the producer credit, bring up the commercials, and we’re out!
Man, I’ll never be the #1 Teen.