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The Back To The Future Joke That For All Mankind Wasn't Allowed To Use

Apple TV+ is onto something with "For All Mankind." Since everyone pretty much feels like we slipped into an alternate timeline sometime in 2020 anyway (individual dates may vary), parallel universes have become increasingly attractive in our entertainment. Think "Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness" and "Everything Everywhere All at Once," among others. 

So, here sits "For All Mankind," which has run for three seasons, with a fourth on the event horizon. Its premise is simple enough: What if the Soviet Union beat the United States to the moon in 1969? How would the space race have evolved from that point on? What would the following decades have looked like in general? And, most importantly: How much vodka would we have had to drink? 

Created by Ronald D. Moore ("Battlestar Galactica"), Ben Nedivi, and Matt Wolpert, "For All Mankind" often speculates about what events in history might have turned out differently in such a scenario. For example, on "For All Mankind," Edward Kennedy was elected president in 1973. John Lennon wasn't murdered in 1980, and continued advocating for peace throughout the Cold War. That conflict lasts much longer on "For All Mankind," too — while the real Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989, the show's fictional Soviet Union is a political powerhouse throughout the '90s.

What else might be different in this alternate reality? Given that "For All Mankind" explores how changes to the past might impact the future, it's only natural that the show would want to feature one of the most well-known time travel movies of all time, 1985's "Back to the Future." Unfortunately, one planned reference to the film — one that would've been sure to delight film geeks the world over — didn't make it to air.

In the For All Mankind timeline, Back to the Future had a different Marty McFly

In the version of the "Back to the Future" released in our timeline, Michael J. Fox plays Marty McFly, who goes back in time and inadvertently stops his parents from ever getting together. Oops! 

However, according to Gizmodo, Ben Nevidi had a significant change in mind for the "For All Mankind" edition of the film. In that world, McFly would have been played by Eric Stoltz, not Fox. This is a particularly clever twist since Stoltz actually was the original Marty. After five weeks of filming, Stoltz was infamously replaced with Fox at the behest of the producers, and the rest is history. 

Sadly, the "For All Mankind" team was denied permission to make this joke due to legal issues. That's a shame, because the gag would have played great in "For All Mankind," but it's also not hugely surprising. Over the years, the powers-that-be have been very protective of the whole Stoltz episode, as if no one wants to hurt his feelings. Still, even though we don't actually get to see it, we can imagine that's what would've happened if the Russians had beat us to the moon. At the very least, it probably would've been awesome for Eric Stoltz. Or maybe not. That's the beauty of a show like "For All Mankind."