Back to the Future

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
October 01, 2010, 1:24 AM GMT+0

As sci-fi comedy phenomenon Back to the Future returns to the big screen tomorrow 25 years after its original premiere, we asked over 500 of our UK panellists discuss to which, if any, era they would travel back. Responses proved surprisingly creative, ranging from very recently to as unimaginably far back as 500 million years, with some driven merely by curiosity, and others more poignantly by nostalgia, memory or regret.

Indeed, various decades throughout the 20th century are very popular with many panellists.

  • The 1980s are regularly cited because they represent ‘good times’ with ‘good music’.
  • The 1960s is a favoured decade for many because it was ‘fun and carefree with no over the top ‘political correctness’’ and, of course, because of iconic megaband The Beatles.
  • A couple of people also picked the 1950’s as ‘things were starting to get back together after the war’ and ‘there was happiness around’.

The nostalgia of earlier centuries also comes through, perhaps because of the enduring popularity of contemporary literature and period costume dramas.

  • The Victorian era is an attractive prospect for some respondents, who see it as a time of ‘progress’ and ‘inventions’. One panellist would love to return to 1880, because of a fascination ‘with the hierarchy of servants in large houses’.
  • Many panellists were influenced by fashion when choosing particular decades: one succinctly admitted, ‘Jane Austen’s era: I like the frocks.’
  • One curious respondent wanted to travel back ‘to the time of the American Civil war as an independent journalist reporting on the conflict’.
  • A sizeable amount wanted to go back even further in time.Nostalgia
    • One longed to see the Roman Empire because it was ‘a time of inventions, grand architecture, conquests and for some, high living’
    • While others wanted to go back even further to the era of the dinosaurs and before, with one extremely interested user writing ‘I want to go back to the Cambrian geological period to see life emerging’. (The Cambrian period was the first geological period of the Palaeozoic Era, around 600 - 500 million years ago.)
    But some panellists didn’t want to go anywhere near that far.MemoriesMany chose to return back to points in time that were poignant for them.
    • Some wished to relive their schooldays
    • Several wanted to go back ‘to correct mistakes’ they’d made
    • While a few wished to see family members they had lost again, such as one person who said ‘to when my Nan was alive, to see her again.’
    Back to the Future, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Michael J. Fox in the lead role, was a massive hit back when it was released in 1985. Grossing more than $380 million worldwide, the film was such a success that it saw the subsequent release of two sequels, and tomorrow Universal Studios will herald its 25th anniversary with a worldwide re-release of the original Back to the Future in cinemas.