For the last two years of primary school I had a teacher called Mr Turner. Looking back, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot remember anything that he taught me. Not one bit. Clearly he must have done, I did alright at primary school, but I cannot attribute one thing that I know now down to him. However. I can remember pretty much every book that he read to us, and I can remember two things that affected him greatly which we then went on to discuss in class.
The first was the Challanger disaster: On the 28th of January 1986 the space shuttle Challanger disintegrated after launch, killing all seven astronauts on board, the flight lasted just 1 minute and 13 seconds. The next day, we wrote about it in school. I’d seen the build up and the launch the day before, and then seen the shuttle disintegrate on the news over and over again, but Mr Turner made us all sit and watch it again and then sit and write about what had happened. I don’t really know why he did it, and if memory serves I don’t think that any of the other classes in the school sat down and did the same thing, but we did, and it’s something that I’ll never forget. But I’ll return to this at a later date.
The second was the film Back To The Future: I have even less of a clue as to why he thought that this was a suitable topic to cover in class. He went to see it on it’s opening weekend, and on the Monday morning he had us writing about time-travel. It was a little while before I got to see the film myself, but when I did I was completely blown away. I’d never seen anything like it, and it remains a favourite to this day. It was the first thing that I’d seen that dealt with time-travel at a level I could understand, and of course the pitfalls of a plutonium powered time-machine. “One point twenty-one jiggawatts,” what was he thinking? I think every boy in my class wanted to be Marty McFly, but none of them were aware that they’d just learnt what a paradox was, it was such a good film. Four years later Back To The Future part II came out, and when I walked away from the cinema I didn’t know what to think. It too should have blown me away; it was set partly in the future, it had flying cars, a hoverboard, and they traveled through time a lot… but it was all over the place. Marty landed on the 21st of October 2015 and then trampled all over one of the best set-pieces of the first film. He then went to his future home where we saw Michael J Fox play both Marty’s son and daughter. We also found out that – in five years time from now – cooking time for pizzas will be drastically reduced, we’ll be wearing two ties at the same time, and that fax machines will still exist. They then went back to a now alternate present, but by that point I’d already lost interest. Worst of all, the film ended with a trailer for part III in the end credits, which felt a bit cheap. I was wholly disappointed. Despite this I did go to see part III when it came out, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but it was years before I could bring myself to go back and watch part II. Watching it now it is still disappointing, and feels like a bad sequel… right up until the point that they go back to the 12th of November 1955. From then on in it slowly grows into being the high point of the trilogy. Where as earlier in the film mimicked and cheapened one of the set pieces from the first film, the later part dances all around them. It’s a wonder to watch, and a wonder as to the lengths they must have gone to re-shoot the dance from the end of the first film. Having to prevent Biff from unknowingly creating the alternate present; whilst trying to avoid both undoing the present that they created at the dance the first time around, and themselves, is a lot to expect the viewer to get their head around, but it’s so well done. The final half an hour or so of the film is truly fantastic, and the final five minutes are probably the greatest set up for a sequel in the history of cinema – yes, even better than the end of the Empire Strikes Back – the bit when Marty runs round the corner to find the Doc celebrating after sending past Marty back to the future gets me every single time. If you’ve not watched it recently go dig it out, you won’t regret it.
Without Mr Turner I would have still watched Back To The Future, of course I would, but I’m not sure that I would have watched it so intently So, thank you Mr Turner.