What does Doc Brown really mean in this back to the future II scene?
December 4, 2006 3:04 PM   Subscribe

What exactly did Doc Brown mean in this Back to the Future II clip?

For those of you who can't connect to the clip below, here's the dialog from the original script (slightly different from how it appeared in the movie).

DOC: First you're gonna have to get out and change clothes.
MARTY: Doc, it's pouring rain.
DOC: Oh, right... (Checks his watch) Wait 3 more seconds.
(Rain stops, sun comes out)
DOC: Right on the tick. Too bad the Post Office isn't as efficient as the weather service.
< !-- #i9ix4n2urd6lu5g5o3nkskee7p91v1scnvn5v3edu{width:320px;height:256px;border:none;margin:0px;} -->Dailymotion blogged video

Does he mean

1. In the future the weather is predicted down to the minute...


2. Is he implying that the national weather service can control the weather?

I always believed it was #2, however, wikipedia and all the other sites take it for granted that it's #1.

If its #1, I don't know how you can reconcile his use of the word "efficient" as a description of a prediction. Wouldn't accurate make more sense?
posted by allthewhile to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (36 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Talk about nit-picking! I always assumed #1 as weather modification seems a bit far reaching, even for a future in which cars fly.
posted by knave at 3:05 PM on December 4, 2006

Response by poster: arg! It worked properly in the preview mode!

Try this link for the video!
posted by allthewhile at 3:06 PM on December 4, 2006

It's definitely #1.

It's not the prediction that's efficient. It's the service that makes the prediction that's efficient.
posted by bingo at 3:08 PM on December 4, 2006

It's #1. In comedy, you can't pick apart the wording too much.
posted by The Deej at 3:14 PM on December 4, 2006

Or, more logically, that he's already been to this time, and knows exactly when it stopped raining the last time he was there.
posted by armoured-ant at 3:14 PM on December 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Oh, wait, scratch that.
posted by armoured-ant at 3:15 PM on December 4, 2006

I took it to mean #2. When you have a time travel machine, what kind of a stretch is it for weather regulation? And the extra little joke is that the weather service isn't predicting the weather like it does now but making it, changing the whole nature of meteorology. And if technology can change the weather, how come the post office can't get letters to people in a timely fashion, even after all this time.

yeah, funny, good times.
posted by b33j at 3:20 PM on December 4, 2006

Interesting angle, allthewhile. I have watched that movie roughly 1,000,000 times and I had always taken it to mean #1, but yes, I suppose another interpretation is what you propose as #2.

But I still believe he means #1.
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:22 PM on December 4, 2006

I always thought it was #1. Still do! "Accurate" would better describe the weather service but that word wouldn't make sense about the post office.
posted by Khalad at 3:31 PM on December 4, 2006

b33j, time travel wasn't widespread or public technology by any stretch, even in 2015. Biff was the only person in the future to discover that it existed.

Also, I thought the instantaneous weather transition implied #2.
posted by SBMike at 3:40 PM on December 4, 2006

I always thought #2, for the reasons that you and b33j outlined. Sort of an extension of the notion that government's are for making sure the mail gets delivered and the trains run on time. But replacing trains with weather, because who uses trains anymore?
posted by carmen at 3:41 PM on December 4, 2006

I used to think it was one, under the logic that weather control was not possible even in 2015 (like SBMike said)

But after reviewing the clip just now, the rain immediately stops and the clouds quickly move away to reveal the sky. I don't know how often that happens in nature, but I can imagine that happening if someone was countroling the weather...

On a side note, anyone else still secretly hoping 2015 will actually have hoverboards?
posted by carpyful at 3:58 PM on December 4, 2006

b33j, time travel wasn't widespread

I meant in terms of the movie's intent to predict future technology - it wasn't intended to be a serious representation of the future, I don't think, so if people had hoverboards, and one old man in the 80s was able to invent time travel, surely someone could have come up with a global weather controlling system. I mean, really, it's not going to tear apart the fabric of the space-time continuum, is it? And here's a thought, perhaps Fly's son, in Back-to-the-future N+1 came back with the weather technology.

And finally, here I think is the key. If he was referring to the ability to predict, he would have said "accurate" and that would have worked as a slur on the post office too, but he said "efficient" so I believe that there's a process, a working, a force being exerted by the weather people, rather than just an observation.
posted by b33j at 4:08 PM on December 4, 2006

I meant McFly
posted by b33j at 4:08 PM on December 4, 2006

This thread got me a bit curious about the feasability of weather control. (btw, that wikipedia link says it's #2 if that's worth anything) I remember having heard a couple of years ago about a concert in Russia where they attempted to stimulate rain at an opportune time so that there would be clear weather for the concert. Apparently it didn't work.
posted by SBMike at 4:19 PM on December 4, 2006

Interestingly, I just watched this movie last night. Crazy. Not that that qualifies me above anyone else to answer the question, I just thought it was neat.

I took it (last night, and still, now) to mean that they controlled the weather (#2). My reason: he knew that it would be a few more seconds before the rain would stop, as though it were a regular thing. (Say, every day, from 3:30 to 4:30, it rains.) Having just arrived from November 12th, 1985 (and they had just arrived, by the way), I doubt he would be totally aware of the predictions of the national weather service.

"If they could control the weather," you say, "why wouldn't they have it rain at night, as opposed to the daytime?" Ah, my friend. Think back to when Marty jumps into the pond to escape Griff's baseball bat (just before Griff and his gang go through the window of the courthouse). Seconds later, Marty's automated jacket goes into "dryer" mode, drying him, his clothes, and his hair. So technology solves technology's problems.

Now on to number 3!
posted by Alt F4 at 4:21 PM on December 4, 2006

I say it's #2. In order for the analogy to work, it has to mean, "the weather service of the future is more efficient at delivering weather than the post office is at delivering mail." So logically, the weather service has to be able to create weather, or the comparison makes no sense.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:21 PM on December 4, 2006

It's number 2. Otherwise the whole statement just comes off as a cheap shot about the post office, which would be out of place with the humor of the rest of the film.
posted by tkolar at 4:40 PM on December 4, 2006

I always took it the same way as FelliniBlank
posted by ?! at 5:09 PM on December 4, 2006

#2, same reasons as beej amd FelliniBlank.
posted by equalpants at 5:22 PM on December 4, 2006

I've been watching this movie since I was quite small -- I've seen it about 4 bajillion times -- and I always took it to be #2, for the reasons already outlined.

This thread got me a bit curious about the feasability of weather control.

Don't forget, there is at least one guy who thinks Katrina was created by the Yakuza mafia.
posted by Famous at 5:37 PM on December 4, 2006

There have been some very impressive and persuasive arguments that the answer is #2. I said it was #1 above. Now, I think it's #2. But I am going to stick to my original answer TO THE GRAVE no matter how much it is shown to be wrong. Why? Cuz this is METAFILTER, BABY!!!!!
posted by The Deej at 6:53 PM on December 4, 2006

I say it's #2. If it had been a matter of predicting the weather to the second, then that means that the Doc had to have checked the weather that morning and remembered to the minute when the rain would stop.

It makes much more sense that in the perfect future, the weather service would determine an exact length of time that we need rain each day. They would choose a time that is most convenient, and it would be common knowledge that it rains everyday from 4:15 to 4:30, so that no one is caught unawares.
posted by saffry at 7:21 PM on December 4, 2006

There's a point being missed here, and that's the irony of the joke.

Name two things that are notoriously unreliable. The Post Office and weather reports.

Now reflect on the irony that, in the future, one thing could be contrasted with the other as an example of efficient, predictable service.

It's like saying, "Boy those Democrats are bad people. Not like those Republicans, no sir. Democrats will rob you blind. Republicans are paragons of honesty."

These are the jokes, people...
posted by frogan at 7:35 PM on December 4, 2006

It's totally number 2. Had Doc Brown meant accurate, he would have said "accurate". You do not speak sloppily when thinking in the Fourth Dimension.

carpyful - Totally. Though given gas prices, I would trade it for a Mister Fusion.
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:56 PM on December 4, 2006

I've always believed it was #2. Natural weather doesn't change that quickly. In fact it never occurred to me that it could be #1.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 9:34 PM on December 4, 2006

Accurate weather prediction requires massive amounts of computation. If the weather service's computations were more efficient, they would be more accurate.

Here's the joke guys:
The postal service is nortoriously efficient ("neither rain nor sleet nor snow..."). The weather service is notoriously sketchy ("70% chance of rain or sleet or snow..."). In the future, we have gotten so good at predicting the weather that the weather service has not only surpassed the post office in efficiency, it has obliterated the entire idea of the post office as efficient.
posted by nomad at 10:04 PM on December 4, 2006

SBMike writes "I thought the instantaneous weather transition implied #2."

Yep, #2.
posted by Mitheral at 10:18 PM on December 4, 2006


I always took this joke as a small dig at the Postal Service. A very small joke about how efficient the weather *prediction* service is in the future. It never crossed my mind that it was anything else, in fact.
posted by triv at 6:24 AM on December 5, 2006

In the future, fashion has progressed so much that people wear TWO ties at once!
posted by clunkyrobot at 10:39 AM on December 5, 2006

#2 is what I always thought was meant.
posted by nomisxid at 1:25 PM on December 5, 2006

I agree with The Deej above. I'd always thought it was #1, and have now been convinced it's #2, but refuse to change my mind.
posted by insipidia at 2:26 PM on December 5, 2006

Has anyone thought of emailing the writer(s)?
It seems this guy is at least partially responsible and if you have IMDB membership, you might be able to get his contact details. This is the other guy who is listed.
posted by b33j at 3:09 PM on December 5, 2006

I always thought it was #2 since he calls it the weather service and not some sort of weather man.
posted by skrike at 8:32 PM on December 7, 2006

Heh, I just re-watched the trilogy a few days ago. I've always understood it to be #2.
posted by deborah at 3:43 PM on December 8, 2006

insipidia- STAY STRONG!!!!!! SOLIDARITY!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by The Deej at 1:31 PM on December 9, 2006

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