Back from the Future – the lost screenplay.
The movie opens with Emmet “Doc” Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) on their hands and knees, searching with flashlights in the darkness surrounding the time-traveling DeLorean. “I knew it!” shouts the white-haired professor, waving a pair of eyeglasses. “I knew I dropped them on our way home.”
“Y’know, Doc,” says the diminutive McFly, “you’re always losing your glasses or leaving them behind. It’s getting to be a problem.”
“You’re right and I’ve got a solution. I’m to give a speech next month in Prague. I’ll need these glasses to read it. Let’s go there now while I’ve got ‘em, and then we can come back home.”
“But, Doc, you said we should never go to the future…”
“I know, but if I lose these glasses again I’ll be sunk.”
Cut to Prague, the campus of Charles University, Marty and Doc approach the lecture hall, which is surprisingly dark. As Doc – who is still clutching and waving his spectacles – recoils in surprise to find his destination shut, the two Americans are intercepted by a policeman wearing a mask.
“Where are your masks? You go out in public, the two of you walking close together as we used to do before the pandemic, and without wearing masks?
“I’m afraid I must place you both under arrest and order you into quarantine,” says the Czech policeman. “Lockdown will end next week, but you two just couldn’t wait. Now you will spend two weeks in real lockdown.”
Cut to Marty and Doc eating an unappetizing meal from a Styrofoam container at the plain table in their plain quarantine room at The Czech Inn Coach Motel. Doc chokes, drops his sandwich and rushes to the window. Rolling by on the hook of a tow-truck is the Delorean.
Two weeks later: Marty and Doc exit the hotel wearing masks, and head to the car pound to rescue the Delorean. They walk through a city of masked people, all whom, while cordial, keep their distance.
It turns out, the time-traveling car has been damaged during its capture and incarceration. It will take time to find parts and make repairs – which proves to be a time-consuming comedy beginning with an oddly cheerful return to the Czech Inn Coach Motel, and a night of careful celebration as Marty and Doc enjoy a meal out at a restaurant whose staff explains how happy they are to be back in business after a couple of months of a national shutdown.
The next day, the pair head home, and discover what happened while they were away. Their home town and country, have been hit by the pandemic, with much worse effects than they saw in Prague. But what chills our innocent time travelers is how many people, including leaders of government, seem willing to do nothing about it. We fade to black as shock crosses Doc’s face as a man without a mask walks close by him.
I’ve lifted many elements of my plot from the real-life adventures of our guest today, David Weiss, the chair of the Journalism Department at the University of New Mexico, who, you may remember, talked with us from Prague, while Czechia – the Czech Republic was just transitioning from modified lockdown to cautious and staged re-opening.
David Weiss is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of New Mexico. He teaches courses in strategic communication, political communication, and media studies. His research interests include media discourse, political and religious communication, and the media and popular culture industries. Before his return to academia in 2000, Dr. Weiss worked in the advertising agency business in New York City for almost two decades. He has taught in Oregon, Ohio, and Montana, and is thrilled to be back at UNM, where he earned his Ph.D. degree in 2005.