THUMB ep 13
"Clara's Folks"

Back to the Future: The Animated Series




13 (13 in series)


John Loy and Mary Jo Ludin


Phil Robinson


December 14, 1991

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"Mac the Black"

"Clara's Folks" is the thirteenth and final episode of the first season of Back to the Future: The Animated Series, and the thirteenth episode overall. It first aired on December 14, 1991.

Brief synopsis[]

After hearing his classmate Roland Culver brag about his own grandfather, Verne decides that he wants to meet his grandparents. Verne, Jules and Marty head back to Wyoming on March 3, 1850, a date that has been carved on a wagon buckboard as the day that Daniel Clayton and Martha O'Brien married while on the Oregon Trail. As it turns out, Martha is a tough frontier woman, while Daniel is a mild-mannered scholar who collects butterflies. When Martha sees Marty, she falls in love with him, and Jules and Verne have to reunite their mother's parents. To complicate matters, Martha is kidnapped by an outlaw, "Wild Bill" Tannen.

In 1991, Clara is slowly fading away, and complaining about how the carving on the buckboard has been erased. She remembers the wording, however, and Doc takes the locomotive to travel back to 1850. Verne rescues Martha from Wild Bill, but the two face a new threat from a bear. With Daniel along for the search, Doc realizes that the area as the future site of the Yellowstone National Park, and recognizes the Old Faithful geyser. Under Doc's instruction, Verne and Martha throw a buffalo hide over the geyser, and mere moments later, a column of water elevates them up and out of danger. Doc and Daniel fly in with a homemade glider. When Daniel comes to Martha's rescue and their eyes meet, they fall in love and the wagonmaster conducts their wedding that evening. History is back on track. Verne finds out that his meek grandfather had discovered a new species of butterfly, and at the next show and tell in 1991, presents a book showing an illustration of Lepidoptera martha. Everyone is impressed, even Roland Culver.

Behind the scenes[]

  • In the live-action segment featuring Christopher Lloyd, Doc Brown shows off what he says was his science project for the "1932 Hill Valley Junior Science Fair", a videotape recorder. "It worked perfectly... too bad there weren't any TV sets around."
  • In contrast to the first film, where Marty's mother became amorously infatuated with him, Marty becomes the object of a crush from Clara's mother. While Marty and Doc are not threatened, Clara's existence is endangered (as she begins to fade away in 1991), and Jules and Verne would be next. As in the film, when Dave McFly became the first person to be erased from existence, while Marty's disappearance did not begin until later in 1955, the ripple effect strikes people in the future first. The paradox situation that must be avoided is that the group would not be in 1850 if Verne hadn't wanted to meet his grandparents; but if Verne is never born, then there would be no reason for Marty and Doc to go back to 1850.
  • In the science experiment portion of the show, Doc Brown and Bill Nye demonstrate the principles behind a geyser, with the topic having been raised by Doc's observation that Verne and Martha were at the site of "Old Faithful".
  • The Oregon Trail route was first travelled by wagons in 1843, and in heavy use by 1850. However, the route, in southern Wyoming, was hundreds of miles from the geyser in northwest Wyoming, which was not generally accessbile until the 1880s. Apparently, Clara's parents were part of a wagon train that was far off course.
  • The notion that a person is often attracted to another person who has similarities to their parent of the opposite gender is once again at play. Like Doc, Clara's father was a man of science. (There's even a faint physical resemblance) This has also been shown often in the McFly family as Maggie McFly, Lorraine and Jennifer are all shown to be a fairly similar type in looks and demeanor.


"Verne, you can get in a lot of trouble going back in time and meeting your relatives. I should know!"



In the original timeline, Daniel Clayton and Martha O'Brien met on March 3, 1850 and married the same day, as it is stated on Clara's buckboard. After the boys altered the timeline, Daniel and Martha only met on the night of March 3, and they married during the daytime of March 4. However, the buckboard was carved to state they met and married on March 3.


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