Future echoeS

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(reviewed September 2009)


Red Dwarf enters lightspeed to speed up their journey to Earth, but due to a cock-up of arrangements, the crew aren't in stasis when this happens, and begin to notice some peculiar events involving the wrong people at the wrong time - echoes of the future.

Lister is revealed to live to a fine old age and has two children, Jim and Bexley, one of whom is shown to die in a navicomp explosion. Meanwhile, the Cat breaks his tooth and Rimmer gets screwed out of knowing what happens to him in the future.


LISTER: What was that?
RIMMER: Brace yourself for a bit of a shock, Lister, but I just saw you die.
LISTER: What?!
RIMMER: I did warn you to brace yourself.
LISTER: You didn't give me much of a chance!
RIMMER: I gave you ample bracing time.
LISTER: No you didn't, you didn't even pause!
RIMMER: Well, I'm sorry. I've just had a rather nasty experience. I have just seen someone I know die in the most hideous, hideous way.
LISTER: Yeah, me!


A fun little story. I quite like how despite immediately following the plot-heavy first episode which dealt with the rather strong topic of the entire ship dying, it remains perky and upbeat, even when dealing with the future death of Lister and his son! I kind of admire how the show just wastes no time at all in getting stuck in to time-related nonsense; not quite time travel per se, but seeing the future and other whatnots. Some sci-fi usually wait a while before tackling it, but oh no, not Red Dwarf! They wouldn't properly time travel until later on, though they found a crafty way to achieve the same goal in series 2.

After the first episode's density of gags, story, introductions and exposition, it's almost a relief to just have an episode that takes its time and allows itself to throw in stupid gags that are worthless but amusing nonetheless - like the scene of Lister singing and getting insulted by Talkie Toaster, or using shaving cream in place of deodorant.

There's plenty of great, great interaction between Lister and Rimmer, such as Rimmer's whining about "you livies hate us deadies!"; and although they appeared in the first episode, I feel like this is when the bunkbed scenes really came into their own. Even little things like Lister driving his bike around for, what, five seconds? - and singing those corny songs, it just adds a little bit of pizzazz to the matter, showing that despite everyone being dead and have little chance of reclaiming his original goals, he's still having fun.

Talkie Toaster appears a lot throughout the episode, along with a vending machine with a lisp early on. The vending machine is cute and makes for silly prop comedy, but Talkie at this point wasn't utilized to his full extent, and felt kind of partonising if I may be honest. It seemed the writers planned to make 'machine comedy'... not quite a big part of the show, but at least have some prominence, as a talking toilet would make a quick (and suitably crap) gag in Balance of Power, but by series 2 they had all vanished, and probably for the best.

Talkie Toaster would return in series 4 (after appearing in a series 2 deleted scene) with an entertaining new persona, and another talking vending machine would appear in series 8, also done fabulously, but for the most part the series stuck with character humour instead - and I'm glad. The comedy works better when props aren't chirping in with one-liners.

Maybe it's just me looking too much into rather shallow plot points, but I always felt the point of Lister and the Cat going into stasis was dropped rather suddenly. Obviously because, well, when you can see the future,lightspeeding back to Earth probably pales in comparison. That and there's only being so much you can squeeze into 30 minutes. But it feels like going into stasis is pivotal before they enter lightspeed; the early story's emphasis on them rounding up their possessions to take into the pods, prompting the usual crack about the Cat's wardrobe and some angst from Rimmer over being left behind until they're ready to leave. And then once Lister has his odd encounter with Rimmer in the command room about déjà vu, all thought of stasis is forgotten about.

I admit I was under the impression they needed to be in stasis before they hit lightspeed, like, for the sake of their wellbeing - the ship has artificial gravity, sure, but how do the passengers hold up when the miles-per-hour is in six digits? Of course, given how it's said in series 2 the ship only has two stasis pods (which seems odd for a ship that's five miles long and had a crew of under 200 people before it got retconned!), that's just me thinking stupidly and delving too much into fanwank.

Some of the foreshadowing was cutely masked by gags with the Cat, like his reaction to the dog in Lister's photograph and trying to hunt his mechanical goldfish. They're cute scenes for a character who hadn't gotten much spotlight in previous episodes, and they happen to be plot-relevant!

Likewise, the reactions to the future echoes are just great - Lister is concerned because he's going to friggin' die, while Rimmer... he's already dead so, pssh, what's he got to lose? His humming of a funeral march during Lister's brainstorming is just fantastic, but karma bites him in the ass when future-Lister disappears before he could tell him his future. I never knew what was up with Rimmer suddenly wearing his hair in a bowlcut at the end, though.

The first episode has got a lot on its plate to deliver, so you'd figure the rest of the series could have taken it easy. Instead the second episode essentially shows the fate of the main character, achieving one of his dreams of having kids, and arguably reveals his final fate as well. It's a fun story that takes it time rather than cramming everything into the time slot, and has plenty of cute character moments.

Commentary highlightS

[referring to himself during the opening recap]
NORMAN: Look at that hair!
DANNY: That's exactly how we used to see him, innit? In the mornings. That is exactly what Norman looked like in the studio!
CHRIS: That little tuft of hair looks like it's been combed forwards, but looks like a bit you forgot to cut.
DANNY: You know what, you used to spend all this time combin' it! You didn't realise it, every time you combed it you lost a bit more!

CHRIS: In my audition, I auditioned for Lister.
CRAIG: How did that go?
CHRIS: I felt more comfortable doing Lister than I did doing Rimmer. I'm a natural slob anyway, but for some reason I don't come across as slobby.
DANNY: You got Rimmer because they said you look better in a wig.
CRAIG: You don't come across as slobby, what are you trying to say there?
CHRIS: Well, I think... you do. That's what I'm trying to say.
CRAIG: [laughter] Thanks very much!
NORMAN: Yeah, you're a natural slob.
CRAIG: Aw, guys!
CHRIS: You've got the sort of... body language--
NORMAN: Smoking, drinking--
CHRIS: --that helps to being a slob - I'm not saying you're a slob. I'm a bit too stiff, I suppose. I look more ordered.
DANNY: That was the best audition I ever did.
CRAIG: You were an hour late!
DANNY: I know, but I didn't know! That's why I was so good. If I'd known I was an hour late, I would've been sssssurely bad.
CHRIS: So when everyone went, "that's good," you thought they were saying "that's good, because you're late." So you were late from then on?
DANNY: I was relaxed because I thought I was early.
CRAIG: Paul Jackson, the producer at the time, had really fought my corn out for me to get this part, and I kept arriving late all the time - I always knew me lines, but, oh god, Paul was so angry with me. One time he pulled me - I was so late - he pulled me by the t-shirt, pulled me by the neck, and my t-shirt came off in his hands!
CHRIS: I never got the...
DANNY: You never got the Jacko treatment?
CHRIS: I got him right up close to me.
NORMAN: Yeah, I had that once. He had a short fuse.
CRAIG: I had a few run-ins with him. Remember when you [Danny] and me missed the plane, I think it was for this episode, we'd missed the plane and we were like two hours late! And when we arrived on set the whole of the crew hissed us! Paul Jackson gave me such a bawling! And then we had to go on coaches after that!

CRAIG: Norman, you read for Rimmer as well, didn't you?
NORMAN: Yeah. I was useless.
CRAIG: Who was Lister to your Rimmer?
NORMAN: Peter-Hugo Daly played Lister, and I read for Rimmer.
DANNY: He always played a nutter, di'n't he? Black hair?
NORMAN: Yeah, he normally does a seedy sort of report.
CRAIG: But he's quite good, actually, he's done a lot of Mike Lee (?) stuff and all that.
DANNY: Are you angry that Chris got it and you didn't?
NORMAN: Yeah I am, really.
CRAIG: [laughter] Secretly bitter.
DANNY: All your things normally comes out five years later, doesn't it? You're not going to come up next year and start hitting Chris? You hold it in for years and years and then you just explode.

Fanbase opinionS

The Japanese don't seem particularly enamoured with the episode (if under three hundred votes are enough to form a legit opinion on a foreign fanbase), as on the poll this episode was ranked the lowest, scoring only 6.5% of the vote. English fans seem to feel the opposite way about it, scoring it as the best episode of the series.Ganymede & Titan cite it as a fantastic second episode, claiming it's a fantastic story to keep watchers hooked and shows true confidence in its sci-fi setting for a comedy series, as well as being a stand-out top-notch episode in comparison to the rest of the series, which generally seemed rather shaky in getting used to the characters and whatnot.