With the recent passing of 21st October 2015, it got me thinking about the links between Back to the Future and steampunk. Obviously in this article I’ll be covering the third chapter of the trilogy that sees Doc Brown thrown back to the Old West where he starts to “invent” modern day items using mid 19th century equipment and on purpose or by accident they turn out looking steampunk.
Believe it or not, I also want to talk about the DeLorean. It would be a close tie between this and HG Wells‘ Time Machine as the most well known time travelling device. Well, that and maybe Bill & Ted’s phone booth. Time travel fascinates me and I enjoy watching the films so I can point out the glaring temporal errors that they make throughout the film. I watched the first film again on the 21st October because it was an unofficial “Back To The Future day” and as I watched I considered how the DeLorean sported many traits of steampunk. The only thing it was really missing was any kind of design from the late 19th century. When you strip that away, you’re left with a modern day product (DeLorean) that has had a futuristic, science fiction make-over. Much like a steampunk universe can be a present day scenario with a futuristic addition. The only thing we’re sadly missing is some filigree and brass. I’m not trying to say that the DeLorean should be considered steampunk because the missing Victorian/late 19th century element is as important as the science fiction. I just like to think that the person designing it at the time had some steampunk running through their veins, whether they knew it or not.
Thankfully, we got more of what we really wanted with the third film as our protagonists are sent back to 1855 America and the Old West. By the time Marty arrives Doc has retro fitted a rifle with a futuristic telescopic sight and invented a steam powered refridgerator (although as it produces ice, here in Britain it would be classed as a freezer or ice machine).
The best part comes at the end after Doc and Marty have meddled their way through history. As Marty and Jennifer II (Elisabeth Shue replaced Claudia Wells in the end scene of Back To The Future I/start scene of Back To The Future II) examine the wreck of the DeLorean on the train tracks, they’re blown over as a steam powered time machine train explodes onto the track and Marty is reunited with Doc one last time. The train is one big lump of steampunk nectar with twirling copper pipes, a Victorian themed interior, steam aplenty and of course the necessary flying circuits to allow it to fly.
Some of you may think, like me, that the DeLorean has some traits of steampunk and for those of you that don’t, the train will fulfill all of your needs anyway. It’s incredible the reception that the 21st October 2015 received around the world. Now I’ve got two years to think about how Running Man is steampunk.