Red Dwarf: S03E01: Backwards
A rather long introduction is given – textually, you would have to be a speed-reader to understand it.
“Three million years in the future, Dave Lister,
the last human being alive, discovers he is pregnant
after a liaison with his female self in a parallel universe.
His pregnancy concludes with the successful delivery
of twin boys, Jim and Baxley. However, because the
boys were conceived in another universe, with different
physical laws, they suffer from highly accelerated
growth rates and are both eighteen years old within
three days of being born. In order to save their lives,
Lister returns them to the universe of their origin,
where they are reunited with their father (a woman),
and are able to lead comparatively normal lives.
Well, as normal as you can be if you’ve been born
in a parallel universe and your father’s a woman
and your mother’s a man and you’re eighteen years old
three days after your birth. Shortly afterwards,
Kryten, the service mechanoid, who had left the
ship after being rescued from his own crashed vessel,
the Nova 5, is found in pieces after his space bike
crashed into an astroid. Lister rebuilds the ‘roid, but
is unable to recapture his former personality.
Meanwhile, Holly, the increasingly erratic Red Dwarf
computer, performs a head sex change operation
on himself. He bases his new face on Hilly, a female
computer with whom he’d once fallen madly in love.
…. and now the saga continuums Red Dwarf III:
The Same Generation…nearly“
The opening credits however give you a taster of the forthcoming shows and you might be forgiven for thinking that they look ever wackier that the previous ones. If you did, you wouldn’t be disappointed.
The show opens with a discussion between Cat and Lister about the sexiness of Wilma from the Flintstones. Cat thinks she’s the most incredible looking woman that ever lived. In one of the best lines Red Dwarf Lines EVER, Lister asks Cat what he thinks of Wilma (from the Flintstones). Cat replies, “Well, I would go with Betty, but I’d be thinking of Wilma!”
It took me about five minutes to recover from that line. And just as I’m regaining my composure after a laughter fit. Lister adds, “Why are we talking about going to bed with Wilma Flintstone!…… She’ll never leave Fred and we know it!”
Down in the ships hold, Rimmer and Kryten are about to begin Kryten’s driving test. He worries Kryten with his official attitude. Rimmer instructs Kryten to begin in the same way a rather snooty driving test examiner would test us. Kryten becomes flustered in the cockpit and turns on the windscreen wipers when he is supposed to start the engine. Things get from bad to worse when, on his second attempt, he presses the ejector seat button and Rimmer goes flying out of the cockpit. He returns moments later and says, “We’ll pretend that didn’t happen shall we?”
Eventually Kryten manages to start the vehicle and it zooms off through the docking bay doors, clipping the edges as it does. Holly (the gorgeous Hilly from the previous show – Holly had a sex change and took the form of Hilly after falling in love with her….. didn’t we all… I mean… We didn’t all have a sex change… and most of you women probably didn’t fall in love with Hilly… erm… did you?… I mean it would be ok if you did… erm…) engages the ships autopilot while Rimmer tests Kryten’s understanding of the Space-Highway Code. In an example, Kryten correctly points out that the ‘silhouette of a naked woman’ sign means, ‘Danger, Space Mirages’. They suddenly find that they are heading for a Time Hole. Rimmer realises this too late and Starbug gets swallowed up.
They land on a planet in what seems like another area of space and time. The planet looks very much like Earth and they park Starbug (the ship is actually Starbug 1) in a lake and travel by dingy to the shore. “Your going to fail me for this aren’t you?” says Kryten with a worried expression. Rimmer asks the lovely Holly where they are. She answers that it appears to be like Earth, similar surroundings and gravity at exactly 1G.
“What’s the time period?” Continues Rimmer.
“Well, it’s difficult to pin it down exactly, but according to all the available data, I would estimate that it’s around lunchtime, maybe Half one (1.30pm).”
“What period in history? Dingleberry breath,” demands an irritated Rimmer.…. “What is the year?!”
“Well, I’d need some more data before I could give you a precise answer.” She says in smooth, dulcet tones.
“Like?” says Rimmer
“Well, this years calendar would be handy,” she replies (you tell ‘im luv!)
Kryten comments that that he’s never seen Earth before, it appears to be like all the photographs ‘only much shorter’. They explore a little and come across a milestone. It says, ‘NODNOL 871 SELIM’ Kryten points out that it’s a sign for London that is written backwards. They get to Londo and find that they are on a Backwards Planet Earth. They go into a café and see a wonderful scene of a nice looking woman making a complete pig of herself eating a cream cake backwards.
Kryten manages to pick up a newspaper so that they might work out what to do next. He goes into reverse mode and reads the paper to Rimmer. “Three brought to life in Bank Raid!,” he reads, “A masked man with a swan-off shotgun sucked bullets out of two cashiers and a security guard in a South London Bank tomorrow. The armed raider then forced terrified staff to accept £10,000, which he demanded they placed in the bank vaults. The man, a Michael Ellis, completed a 15-year prison sentence for the crime, two years ago. – What are we going to do,” he exclaims, “this place is totally crazy!”
Rimmer resigns himself to waiting, “there’s nothing much we can do until the others find us. We’d better get a job. But what jobs are there in a backward reality for a dead Hologram and an android with a head shaped like a novelty condom!”
Kryten notices an advertisement for a novelty performance act.
Meanwhile, back on Starbug II, Lister and Cat are looking for Rimmer and Kryten. Cat concludes sadly, “We ain’t gonna find ‘em they’re gone buddy….. but, lets look on the bright side…… THEY’RE GONE BUDDY!”
Lister looks over in disgust, “Don’t you care about anyone but yourself?”
“Hell no,” Cat admits enthusiastically, “I don’t even care about you. The way I see it, if freak face and goal post head want to get lost, that’s their bag! I don’t see why it should cut into my preening time!”
They spot the time hole and Lister guides the ship into the hole. Sure enough they find that it’s earth. The cloaking device is engaged and Lister and Cat leave. Lister feels pain, he thinks he’s broken his ribs.
They hunt for Starbug I in the lake and Lister notices that Kryten and Rimmer aren’t there. As Lister walks ashore, Cat points out that he’s not wet. They continue walking and find a poster of Rimmer and Kryten as entertainment acts called ‘srehtorb esrever’ (or ‘Reverse Brothers’). Cat an Lister still don’t understand that they are on a Backwards Earth and conclude that the writing must be Bulgarian. They come across the Milestone to London and Lister concludes that ‘Nodnol’ most definitely is a Bulgarian town. Cat says, “You’re so smart! I’m glad I came with you buddy!”
“Well, we are the smart party!” says Lister, rather smugly. They then rap their way don the road singing, “I didn’t come here looking for trouble… boomf, biboomf… I just came here to do the Red Dwarf Shuffle! ….. boomf, biboomf….”
They steel a tandem bike and find that it will only ride backwards. They manage to escape and come across a small van. They speak to the ‘Bulgarian’ driver and ask to be taken to the picture on the poster. The driver can’t understand them either and we see a subtitle at the bottom of the screen, “Sorry I’m English, are you Bulgarian?” He does however recognise the poster and gestures that he will give them a lift.
“Thanksky, verysky, muchsky, budsky,” says Cat gratefully.
They arrive at the pub and find that the main act is non other than Rimmer and Kryten. Lister and Cat watch Rimmer talking normally and receiving laughs. Rimmer tells the crowd that his partner, Kryten, “will now attempt to eat an egg forwards!” The crown scream with appreciation to the obvious concern of Cat and Lister. “They’re Bulgarian, they have very strange tastes.” However, when he tries to purchase a pint of beer from the bar, he realises that the world they are on is Backwards Earth!
Rimmer and Kryten dance off stage after their act and are followed by Lister and Cat. Lister is surprised to find that Rimmer and Kryten are quite happy to stay on Backwards Earth. They are famous here and once they got over the initial problem of things being in reverse, they found that things actually make a lot more sense that way!
“There’s no death here. You start off dead, you have a funeral and then you come to life! As each year passes, you become younger and younger until you become a newborn baby…. I’m telling you, it’s better this way. It’s our universe that’s the wrong way round.” Says Rimmer contentedly.
“Take war,” ads Kryten, “War is a wonderful thing here, in fifty years time the second world war will start, backwards! ….. Millions of people will come to life, Hitler will retreat across Europe, Liberate France and Poland, disband the Third Reich and bog off back to Austria!”
Lister and Cat fail to persuade Kryten and Rimmer with some pretty strong arguments, for example St Francis of Assisi, “he’s some petty minded little sadist who goes round maiming small animals…… and look at Santa Claus, what a BASTARD!! He’s the big fat git who sneaks down chimneys and steals all the children’s toys!”
The argument isn’t resolved when an irate manager comes in and accuses Rimmer and Lister of starting a fight. He tells them that they will never work the pub circuit again.
Out in the pub, Cat comments they MUST leave this place after he and Lister un-ate a pie. The owner of the pie walks over and is very annoyed. He un-punches Lister and Listers black eye, disappears. Then the irate hungry bloke un-thumps Lister in the ribs and his broken ribs are fixed. A very violent fight then un-happens.
They all head back into Starbug II , all except Cat that is, who is in the bushes, erm… attempting to erm…. sit down and … erm… let some ‘food escape’ as he puts it. Rimmer and Lister contemplate the problem Cat has in trying to do this on a Backwards Earth. Suddenly a very ruffled Cat walks stiltedly back to the ship saying, “Don’t ask!”
And there the show ended. This was the first introduction of Robert Llewellwyn as Kryten and the gorgeous Hattie Hayridge as a female Holly. Both characters had been seen in previous episodes, but clearly, not as well developed. Holly (the male one) for instance, didn’t cross his eyes slightly when he was faced with a question he couldn’t answer, and Kryten certainly didn’t have a Canadian accent in “Kryten” from series 2. The stage was set. The characters wouldn’t change significantly until the end of series six. And boy are we grateful!
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This episode review is © 1999 – 2019 Tony Fawl.
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