Jeff Lane: “…we don’t need roads!”

This week, podiobooks podcaster & author Jeff Lane (@writerjefflane on twitter) shares his love of Marty, Doc Brown, and his faith in a future that’s close-but doesn’t look the same as it did in 1985.

Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!

Doctor Emmett Brown (Back to the Future)
Inventor of the Flux Capacitor,
Owner of a DeLorean
…and a train.

How many of you can remember the exact date you heard that phrase? I can. It was July 16, 1985. I was sitting on the left-hand side of the largest theater (meaning it was bigger than the other one) of The Strand Twin Cinemas in Rockland, Maine. It was the night before my 10th birthday. I had just sat between my Grandmother and my Great-Grandmother for over an hour and a half watching what I would come to revere as the best movie created in the 20th century… perhaps ever.

OK – that may be over the top. I will say, however, that Back To The Future remains my favorite movie to this day (in fact, one of my Twitter accounts is @EightyEight_MPH). Oh, there were times in my 20’s when I lived in denial of that fact, but now, here in the 2011 where Geek is Sheik (and we have seen a recent fan resurgence with the 25th anniversary release of the film) I feel I can openly come out of the Lyon Estates closet and proudly proclaim my love for the 80’s time travel flick.

So why is this movie so revered by me (and many others out there)? Why is this quote so instantly recognized around the world? And why, as we approach that milestone date of 2015 (the “nice round number” Doc picked to travel forward to at the end of Back to the Future, and where he takes Marty and Jennifer to in BTTF 2), do we still need roads?!?

Let’s talk about the film first. What is not to love? Great music; Huey!, the 1950’s tunes and the pulse raising Alan Silvestri score. Go ahead hum the score to yourself in your head right now – don’t you just want to jump out of your chair and find the nearest crazy-haired scientist to send you on a crazy adventure? The great performances; Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Thomas F. Wilson etc.

All those quotable lines; “What are you looking at, Butthead?”, “1.21 giggawats? Great Scott!”, “Goodnight, Future Boy!”, “You are my density.”, and of course…even American President Ronald Reagan quoted (“Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!”) in his 1986 State of the Union Address.

This quote (actually used in both Back To The Future and the re-shot version of that scene at the opening of the sequel) captured the imagination of a generation of us who have grown up with this movie franchise. I admit, I can’t help but smile every time I hear it. Being a speculative fiction writer, it either defined or summed up my mindset perfectly (my most recent novel, ONE WAY is a time travel tale, as well as many of my short story ideas).

To me it spoke of a future that is so limitless that even gravity couldn’t hold our feet to the ground if we didn’t let it.

OK, so we are 4 years from the future we see in Back to the Future 2 and we have a lot of ground to make up if that future is ever going to come to fruition including inventing flying cars, hoverboards and the release of 15 more Jaws sequels. Is it going to happen? Of course not. The future envisioned in 1985 is not the reality that unfolded in the intervening 26 years.

But does that saying still hold true; do we need roads where we are going? Do we still have a bright adventure-filled future on the horizon? Or are our best days as a planet and a society behind us and all we have to look forward to is an ever sickening global economy, destruction of our environment, and a population reaching levels that will plunge the earth into chaos and famine?

I’d like to think not. As much doom and gloom as the media, politicians and other hand-wringers among us would like to push on us, I prefer to see a brighter future that has no limits and anything is possible.
That’s why you can re-elect me, Mayor Goldie Wilson… oh, wait, got all political there for a second. Let me reign it back in. To sum up and (sort of) quote Timbuk 3; the future IS bright, and we DO have to wear shades.

By the way, if you happen to be looking for me on July 16, 2015, I won’t be at The Strand Twin Cinema as it doesn’t exist anymore…but you can bet I will be plunked down in front of some screen (or perhaps just a floating 3-D projection of one) watching Back To The Future… with my daughters – introducing another generation to a bright future where we don’t need roads.

Jeff Lane lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children. He doesn’t let his day job get in the way of unleashing his creativity on the poor hapless souls of planet earth.

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