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THUMB ep 9
"Solar Sailors"

Back to the Future: The Animated Series




9 (9 in series)


Earl Kress, John Ludin and John Loy


Phil Robinson


November 16, 1991

Episode chronology
Previous episode

"Batter Up"

Next episode

"Dickens of a Christmas"

"Solar Sailors" is the ninth episode of the first season of Back to the Future: The Animated Series, and the ninth episode overall. It first aired on November 16, 1991.

Brief synopsis[]


On December 15, 1991, Jules and Verne wish their parents a happy anniversary and surprise them with gifts. Jules has discovered, through his own invention (the "JEB Cross-Time Headliner") that December 15, 2091 will be the date of McFly Space Cruises' first voyage to the planet Mars. Using a flux capacitor, a fax machine and "Father's credit card", Jules has also purchased two tickets for Doc and Clara. Moments after their parents have departed, the boys get another headline from the future that says "McFly Solar Sailship Lost In Space!", and set off in the time train to prevent the disaster.

The ship MSC Marty is preparing to launch, captained by Marta McFly, Marty and Jennifer's great-granddaughter. However, MSC's employee, Ziff Tannen, has deliberately sabotaged the ship, removing a sail support bolt a moment before the launch. Jules and Verne are brought to the space center by a taxicab, but a problem in paying the fare keeps them from reaching the ship in time. Minutes later, the solar sail collapses, and the MSC Marty is adrift in space.

On Earth, Jules and Verne gain admission to the McFly Museum of Aeronautics by sneaking in with a group of fifth graders from Dan Quayle Elementary School. Inside the museum, they see the MSC Jennifer, the first solar-sail spaceship. Jules proves that the MSC Marty has been sabotaged and that Ziff Tannen had committed the crime, and he and Verne are able to borrow the Jennifer in order to rescue the stranded space cruise.

Behind the scenes[]

  • The episode makes reference to the 200th anniversary of the ratification in the United States of the Bill of Rights. Jules obtains a news headline from December 15, 1791, which refers to the event, although by the 300th anniversary in 2091, the Bill of Rights was no longer being celebrated.
  • Verne doesn't believe that Jules's invention works, and points out that fake newspapers can be created at the "Hill Valley Humor Hut". When Jules and Verne use the December 16, 2091 paper to show that the spaceship will be sabotaged, a skeptical official comments that it was probably faked at the Hill Valley Humor Hut.
  • When the boys can't pay their $275 cab fare, they are detained by the driver, but Verne gains their release when he brings out a coin. The cabbie exclaims "A 1983 Washington head quarter! I'm rich!"
  • Griff Tannen is still alive in 2091, and in the Hill Valley prison. Griff had last been seen in 2015 in Back to the Future Part II. At that time, he was arrested for destroying the front of the Courthouse Mall. It's unclear what he's in jail for 76 years later, but while behind bars, he had directed his grandson, Ziff, to sabotage the ship. When Ziff fails and ends up sharing a cell with him, Griff notes that his grandson is a butthead.
  • When Griff is shown, he is painting. It's possibly a reference to Thomas F Wilson's other occupation as a painter.
  • The Hill Valley Telegraph and USA Today have been replaced in 2091 by the Megabyte Daily.
  • Ziff confesses after he is found to have a copy of the magazine Saboteur's Weekly.
  • Verne mentions having a Principal Strickland at his elementary school. This is likely a relative of Gerald. Assuming that Gerald is still principal of Hill Valley High School and not the Dean of Hill Valley Jr College, this would imply that there are up to three members of the Strickland family in the education field. And the disdain for the McFlys is not just limited to Gerald, as Verne quotes his principal as also being of the opinion that "The McFlys always took up space".
  • In the future, a tour group of schoolchildren is said to be from "Dan Quayle Elementary."
  • Marty McFly himself doesn't show up in this episode, even though an impersonator of his does.
  • Back to the Future: The Card Game later suggested that Doc and Clara got married on September 15, rather than in December.
  • Marty McFly did become a very successful musician. When Doc and Clara sees one of Marty's impersonators.



Cover of Solar Sailors/Bravelord and the Demon Monstrux.


"Tannen? I will wager standard American currency to circular baked goods that he is the very one who sabotaged the Martin!""
—Jules, betting dollars to doughnuts that Ziff is up to no good
"Okay! I did it! The McFlys have been kicking Tannens around for centuries and now, we have the ultimate revenge. It's just too bad Grandpa Griff's not here to see it."
—Ziff Tannen


By type
Characters Creatures Events Locations
Organizations and titles Vehicles Weapons and technology Miscellanea



  • Hill Valley
    • Dan Quayle Elementary School (First appearance)
    • Hill Valley Humor Hut (First appearance)
    • Hill Valley jail (First appearance)
  • Mars (First appearance)
  • McFly Museum of Aeronautics (First appearance)
  • McFly Space Center (First appearance)
  • Peter Park-It (First appearance)
  • Outer space
  • Tri-planet area (First appearance)

Organizations and titles


Weapons and technology