‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ Avoided Ripping off ‘Back to the Future’ Only to Rip off ‘Doctor Who’

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a part of pop culture that continues to inspire other forms of entertainment. The comedy also gave actor Keanu Reeves a career boost. However, the initial Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure script initially borrowed a bit too much from Back to the Future. As a result of some story changes, it inadvertently ripped off Doctor Who.

‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ came from improvisations and letters

'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure' Alex Winter as Bill Preston and Keanu Reeves as Ted Logan holding an arm up in black-and-white photo
L-R: Alex Winter as Bill Preston and Keanu Reeves as Ted Logan | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Brian J. Robb explored Reeves’ past in the book Keanu Reeves: An Excellent Adventure. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon talked about how the project ultimately came off the ground. The lead characters actually originated in improvisations and letters between the writers. This method ultimately created the now-iconic characters of Bill and Ted.

The initial idea behind Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was to have two teenagers talking about world affairs issues and how ridiculous they were. However, it ultimately blossomed into something more, taking their improv another step further.

“Ed and I went out after the [improv] show that night and played those guys for about three hours,” Matheson said. “We fleshed them out, and many things fell into place that are still there.”

Director Steve Herek narrowly avoided ripping off ‘Back to the Future,’ but ended up ripping off ‘Doctor Who’

Robb’s Keanu Reeves: An Excellent Adventure further explained how Matheson and Solomon worked on Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure‘s script for two years and how it changed over time.

“Our initial take was wild, loose and unstructured – which gave it a crazy irreverence – but it became much more organized,” Matheson said. “The device of time travel also changed. Originally we had Rufus [Bill and Ted’s mentor from the future, played by George Carlin] driving them around through history in a ’69 chevy van, but there was a feeling that it was too much like Back to the Future.”

Matheson continued: “When [director] Steve Herek came on board, he suggested the phone booth and it works pretty well.”

However, Robb mentioned that the iconic imagery of the phone booth is actually borrowed from another legendary property.

Robb wrote, “Herek and the writers seemed unaware that British TV had featured a time-travelling character who’d used a phone booth as his mode of transport since 1963 in the long-running TV series Doctor Who.”

Where to watch ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure originally hit theaters on February 17, 1989. It spawned two sequels titled Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and Bill & Ted Face the Music. As a result, the franchise sparked two spinoff television series, comic tie-ins, video games, and theme park attractions.

Many fans wonder if Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is available on Netflix. Unfortunately, it currently isn’t on the mass streaming platform. However, it’s currently available to stream instantly through the streaming platform HBO Max.

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