I just watched the first movie of the trilogy (Back to the Future), and now I wondered, why does the Clock Tower still not work in 2015? From what I understand, in 1955 Doc and Marty pretty much built a lightning rod, so the clock should not be halted at the 10.04pm

Is this explained at any point?

4 Answers 4


Quite simply, it was never fixed.

Lightning from an electrical storm struck the lightning rod above the clock tower and travelled down a cable which was wrapped around the metal hands on the clock face at precisely 10:04pm on November 12, 1955. The sudden jolt of electricity damaged the clock mechanism and it has never worked since. The Hill Valley Preservation Society kept it in this condition as part of the town's history and heritage.


No the lightning rod did not stop the freeze of the clock at 22:04:00. The rod just made the lightning go in the flux capacitor. It froze and nobody had a plan to fix the clock. Everybody planned to keep the clock the way it is as if its just a fake clock just for Hill Valleys history and heritage. The lightning went through the flux capacitor after it hit the clock.


If the clock had been fixed, it would greatly diminish the significance of the story, as though Marty and Doc's activities had no lasting effect.

Of course, a real community with such clock tower would naturally go to some trouble to fix it, probably even replacing the (presumably) melted mechanism. Otherwise such neglect would tend to attract vandalism and decrease morale generally.


Furthermore, the civic minded lady in 1985 is soliciting support to fix the clock, but no one seemed interested—when she shakes her coin box, it sounds like only 50 cents is in there.

  • No, I understand that, and I get that it shows the stubborness of the city to not fix the clock. The issue I am having (still to some extent) is that with the lightning rod that Doc and Marty built to power the Delorian, the lightning should not have destroyed the mechanism of the clock. Apparently they declare it with leaking current still blasting the clock, but that wouldnt happen in real life ;) (Hollywood Physics!)
    – SinisterMJ
    May 8, 2013 at 0:14
  • 2
    Mmm. I think the 'civic minded lady' is soliciting support to not fix the clock tower - to stop the Mayor Goldie Wilson's attempt to repair it. See backtothefuture.wikia.com/wiki/Hill_Valley_Preservation_Society
    – iandotkelly
    Jun 8, 2013 at 17:38
  • @iandotkelly: Interesting: She shouts "Save the clock tower" and I always assumed it meant "Repair the clock tower." The link has a photo of the newspaper article about the clock, but the text is filler and doesn't clarify what the society's mission might be.
    – wallyk
    Jun 8, 2013 at 18:33

This is a good question, and to my knowledge it's never answered on-screen.

But what's interesting is that in order to prevent a paradox there must be an answer. The clock needs to be broken (or, at least, everyone needs to think it is broken).

If the clock works, then there's no need to fix it, which means no fliers being passed out by the Hill Valley Historical Preservation Society. No fliers means Marty doesn't have one to show Doc in 1955. But even more fundamentally, if the people of the city don't believe the clock was struck by lightning at 10:04 PM on November 5th 1955, then Doc and Marty have no way of anticipating that lightning will strike then. That means Marty can't get home. Marty not going home means lighting will strike the clock and break it, which allows for the flier and all that, which means they will know when the lightning strikes, which means they use it, which means the clock doesn't break....paradox.

  • You second and third paragraphs explain why it was broken in 1985, but the question asks why it was still broken in 2015.
    – Shiz Z.
    Oct 26, 2016 at 16:29

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