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The Most Terrible Things Dr. Emmett Brown Has Ever Done

Dr. Emmett Brown, the mad scientist played in "Back to the Future" by Christopher Lloyd, is one of the most recognizable characters in movie history. When the first movie in the series was released, Doc made an indelible impression with his shock of white hair, impassioned gesticulating, and obsessive commitment to his own brand of crackpot science, especially his determination to create a time machine ... out of a DeLorean. It's that time-traveling DeLorean that facilitates the plot of "Back to the Future" and its two sequels, as Doc and his pal Marty McFly (Michael J. Fly) ping-pong from the past to the present to the future and back again.

Yet, while "Back to the Future" and Doc have earned legions of fans ever since the first movie was released in 1985, Doc's hilariously madcap antics and endearingly skewed perspective on the world distracted audiences from the character's more questionable impulses (the entire film is actually full of iffy moments, but Doc is our main concern at the moment). In fact, if we really examine his actions and motivations, it turns out that Doc has a bit of a shaky moral compass and can be remarkably self-serving and hypocritical. As a result, throughout the "Back to the Future" trilogy Dr. Emmett Brown does quite a few terrible things. Here are nine noteworthy examples.

He gets a high schooler involved in his zany schemes

Let's start at the very beginning. While all three "Back to the Future" films center on the friendship between Doc and Marty — the first goes out of its way to quickly establish how close the pair are — there's something seriously eyebrow-raising about their relationship. After all, Marty's a high school student who aspires to become a musician. Doc is decades older, and spends his days concocting dubious experiments in his cramped apartment. Despite their obvious differences, the pair seem to be not just best buds but also one another's only friends because, with the exception of Marty's girlfriend Jennifer (Claudia Wells), neither Marty nor Doc appear to spend time with anyone else.

There's something seriously concerning about this. Not only should Marty spend more time with people his own age, he also shouldn't be exposed to the weird science that Doc spends all his time and money on. Yet, Doc has not only ensured that Marty is so comfortable at his place that Marty drops by before school and answers Doc's phone, but Doc also doesn't hesitate to tell Marty to meet him at the mall at 1:15 am to help him with an experiment. 

As the adult in the relationship, Doc should know better. Sure, he's a little wacky, but it doesn't take a genius to recognize that many of his experiments aren't particularly safe, especially his plutonium-fueled time machine. If he needs an assistant, he should take an ad out in the classified section of the local newspaper and find someone qualified instead of roping in an unsuspecting teen.

He did some extremely questionable things to fuel his time machine

When Doc realizes the chemical he needs to propel the DeLorean through time is plutonium, a dangerous radioactive substance that isn't accessible to the general public, he goes to remarkable extremes to acquire it. He agrees to use a cache of stolen plutonium to make a bomb for a group of Libyan terrorists, only to steal the plutonium for himself and produce a fake bomb for the Libyans made out of old pinball machine parts. Not only is this essentially an act of treason, but it also places Doc and all of his loved ones, including Marty, in incredible peril. Doc seems oblivious the magnitude of his actions, but the fact that he's so single-minded in his pursuit of his goal that he would not only get involved with terrorists but would also double-cross them is incredibly disturbing.

While it's not clear exactly how the terrorists find Doc while he and Marty are running tests on the time machine, it's surprising that Doc isn't more cautious. He was smart enough to stay away from his place in the days leading up to the tests, but not smart enough to find a better hiding place for the plutonium than the space under his bed. He doesn't think to perform his tests away from the small town where the terrorists are waiting for him, either. His actions put himself and Marty in mortal danger. Even worse, because of his less than safe storage and use of the plutonium, he's likely contaminated a whole lot of Hill Valley with the toxic substance. Great Scott, indeed.

He endangers his dog for no reason

In addition to Marty, the only other being Doc seems to spend any time with is his dog, Einstein. He even brings the pup with him when he goes into hiding to elude the terrorists. Yet, despite seemingly caring for Einstein, he makes the trusting dog sit in the driver's seat during the very first test of the time machine. It's not like Einstein is driving the DeLorean, either. Doc is steering the car by remote control, making a driver unnecessary. In fact, all Einstein does is sit in the car with a stopwatch around his neck. So, why did Doc put Einstein in the car at all? He could have accomplished exactly the same thing by simply hanging the stopwatch around the rearview mirror.

Given that Doc has no idea if his time machine will work, it's an unnecessary risk that makes him seem callous at worst, or thoughtless at best. After all, if the DeLorean had blown up, injured Einstein in some way, or sent him to the wrong point in the future, Doc's pooch would have suffered and possibly died for absolutely no reason. It might be best for Doc to stay away from both dogs and high school students going forward.

He almost gets Marty run over

If using his dog to test out his time machine wasn't bad enough, Doc ups the ante by also unnecessarily risking Marty's life. As Doc uses the remote control to drive the DeLorean, he aims the car right at Marty and himself while speeding it up to the 88 miles per hour required to make it travel in time. Upon seeing the car rushing towards him, Marty wisely attempts to get out of its way, but Doc stops him, claiming there's no need to worry. And it's true. The car disappears mere inches from the pair when it hits the right speed.

However, Doc is foolishly confident in his experiment's success. This is his first test of the time machine, so he has no idea if it will work. Given the circumstances, caution is a smart policy, which means that neither Marty nor Doc should stand in the car's path. The time machine should still work if they aren't right in front of it, and if it doesn't, getting out of the way will ensure that neither of them are flattened by the car. Sure, the DeLorean disappearing in a blaze of fire right before it hits Doc and Marty is a cool visual, but by using it, director Robert Zemeckis creates yet another scenario in which Doc doesn't do right by Marty.

He preaches respect for the space-time continuum but doesn't practice it

Perhaps the most terrible thing Doc does throughout all three "Back to the Future" films is regularly preaching respect for the space-time continuum, but only practicing it when it suits him. Doc's hypocrisy is established as soon as Marty seeks him out in 1955. He insists that Marty stay with him and see and talk to no one else for the remainder of his time in the past. Then, moments later, Marty realizes that he's already gotten in the way of his parents' meeting. Recognizing that Marty and his siblings might never be born due to his actions, Doc sends Marty to repair the damage he's caused. But Doc has to know that Marty will bend the timeline further by continuing to manipulate his parents' lives. Instead of leaving well enough alone, Doc prioritizes fixing things for the McFly family over protecting the space-time continuum.

In fact, most of "Back to the Future Part II" is predicated on Doc's misguided impulse. After heading into the future at the end of the first film, Doc returns to 1985 to pick up Marty so they can save Marty's future children. However, while Doc is content to shake up the timeline in service of his pal's kids, he scolds Marty for purchasing a Sports Almanac that will allow him to cash in on the outcome of future games. Nonetheless, he's willing to mess with the timeline again to reverse the outcome after Biff (Thomas F. Wilson) gets ahold of the almanac, borrows the unguarded time machine to deliver it to his past self, and uses it to create a hellish future in which Hill Valley is overrun with crime and he's married to Marty's mother, Lorraine (Lea Thompson).

He prioritizes his own well-being over the timeline

Doc becomes even more hypocritical about the integrity of the space-time continuum when it comes to saving himself. When Marty meets Doc in 1955, he attempts to slip the scientist a letter to warn him that the Libyan terrorists. When Doc finds the letter, he's furious at Marty. Doc insists that no one should know too much about their own destiny and rips Marty's letter up on the spot.

However, when Marty returns to his own time, Doc somehow survives the terrorists' attack. When Marty expresses his surprise, Doc reveals that he's wearing a bulletproof vest. Why? Because he taped Marty's letter back together and discovered what happened in the future, leading him to do something to save himself. "I figured, what the hell?" he says. Clearly, he doesn't have the courage of his convictions when it comes to his own life.

This is proven further in "Part II" when Doc becomes particularly invested in stopping the future in which a rich Biff turns Hill Valley into a hellscape, a reality that not only destroys Marty's family but also results in Doc being declared insane and committed. Clearly, Doc doesn't feel the least bit guilty about messing around with the space-time continuum as long as it improves his or Marty's lives.

He knocks out Jennifer and then leaves her in an alley (and, later, a porch swing)

When Doc arrives in 1985 in "Part II" to pick up Marty after his travels in the future, Jennifer is there, too. And because Doc wants Marty to help him save his and Jennifer's kids, Doc invites Jennifer along. When Jennifer realizes they're traveling through time, she's excited to learn what's going to happen to her in the future. However, instead of giving a speech about the danger of knowing too much about one's destiny, as he does several times with Marty, Doc simply knocks Jennifer out with a contraption called EZ Sleep.

While this raises lots of questions about who would invent such a device and what the citizens of 2015 are using it for, using the EZ Sleep to knock Jennifer out causes all kinds of problems that wouldn't have been an issue had Doc simply talked to her. However, not only does Doc choose to knock Jennifer unconscious instead of having a conversation, but when they get to the future, he leaves her in an alley, arguing that she'll be fine. Inevitably, this only leads to more problems when the police find Jennifer and drop her off at her future home.

Even then, Doc doesn't learn his lesson. When they travel back to 1985 after Jennifer has once again been rendered unconscious, Doc leaves her on her front porch swing before he and Marty even know whether the 1985 they're in is the same 1985 that they left. At this point, Doc doesn't even know if it's still Jennifer's house — there's a chance that he's leaving an unconscious teen girl on a stranger's porch. Doc may not be the villain of "Back to the Future" but when it comes to Jennifer, his actions are pretty heartless.

He hijacks and destroys a locomotive in 1885

"Back to the Future Part III" finds Marty using the DeLorean to travel back in time to the Old West, where Doc was stranded following the events of "Part II." Although Doc wrote a letter to Marty asking Marty to leave him in 1885, when Marty learns that Doc is shot and killed just days after writing it, Marty decides he has to rescue his friend. Unfortunately, when he arrives in 1885, he finds himself in the midst of a chase between the cavalry and a group of Native Americans. In the chaos, an arrow pierces the time machine's fuel line, rendering it inoperable and stranding both Doc and Marty in the past.

But, once again, Doc is willing to change the timeline to avoid death, so even though the DeLorean can't move, he proposes stealing a train, decoupling the engine from the passenger cars, and then using the locomotive to push the car to the required speed of 88 miles per hour. Not only does his plan mean terrorizing and disrupting the lives of all the passengers on the train, it also means letting the locomotive crash off the unfinished railroad track into a ravine below, destroying one of the only modes of mass transportation available in 1885 and likely stranding all the people in and around the area indefinitely. However, Doc never considers the consequences of his plan, even though it will impact countless lives and likely change the futures of many of them. Even worse? There's a possibility that he stole another train to build his next time machine. Check out the engine that appears in the final scene of "Part III" — it's not the same one that exploded earlier in the film.

He makes another time machine despite saying the original should be destroyed

Ever since Doc realized that his time machine had the power to manipulate time in awful and unpredictable ways, he's said he's wanted to destroy it. In fact, in the third movie, he's especially adamant about dismantling the thing as soon as he and Marty have safely returned to 1985. However, when Doc's true love Clara (Mary Steenburgen) intervenes while he and Marty are in the midst of their getaway, only Marty manages to make it back. As soon as Marty returns to his time, the DeLorean is destroyed by a train, seemingly stranding Doc in 1885 once and for all.

Still, now that his life is no longer in danger and he's found Clara, Doc could have a bright future in the Old West. After all, given everything he and Marty have been through, there's no way Doc would pursue anything involving traveling through time ever again, right? Right?!

As it turns out, Doc's platitudes about destroying the time machine were all talk. In the final moments of "Back to the Future Part III," Doc shows up in 1985 in a time machine built out of a train, with Clara and their two young sons in tow. It's not only the exact opposite of what Doc said he would do, but it seems like he's now planning to be even more cavalier with the space-time continuum by taking his family on jaunts to whenever and wherever they want to go. In fact, this is the entire premise of the "Back to the Future" animated series, which debuted in 1991, featured quite a bit of creative involvement from series writer Bob Gale, and features even more instances of Doc causing trouble for Marty, Clara, and the rest. This is not what Huey Lewis meant when he crooned about "The Power of Love."