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In the interim between this series and the last, Lister gave birth to twins and returned them to their own universe. Kryten is found and rebuilt by Lister, and Holly performs a "head sex change operation" to make himself look like Hilly.

Rimmer takes Kryten out on a driving test in Starbug, only for them to crash into a time hole and arrive in Earth of 1993, but not as they know it - this is during the Big Crunch, the opposite of the Big Bang, so time is rolling backwards. They land themselves jobs in a cabaret as the Sensational Reverse Brothers, where Lister and the Cat eventually find them, only to discover they've been fired for a bar fight they don't know about. That brawl (well, a bar room tidy) subsequently takes place, and Rimmer decides this universe isn't for him.


LISTER: You ever see The Flintstones?
CAT: Sure.
LISTER: Do you think Wilma's sexy?
CAT: Wilma Flintstone?
LISTER: Maybe we've been alone in deep space too long, but every time I see that sharmi body, it drives me crazy. Is it me?
CAT: Well, I think in all probability, Wilma Flintstone is the most desirable woman that ever lived.
LISTER: That's good. I thought I was goin' strange

KRYTEN: We want to stay!
LISTER: But we can't stay! Look, I'm 25 now - in 10 years time I'll be 15. I'll have to go through puberty again! Backwards!
CAT: Imagine that! Your gajimbas will suddenly rise back into your body, and the next thing you know, you're singing soprano in the school choir!
LISTER: And worse than that, in 25 years I'll be a little sperm, swimming around in somebody's testicles! I mean, pardon me, but that's just not how I saw my future!


Series 2 ended with a rather bizarre cliff-hanger - Lister had impregnated himself. It had already been foreshadowed in the first series so they couldn't just drop it. How could they solve it, while also re-introducing an old character to the regular cast, and explaining the change of appearance for another, all of which would have some effect on the dynamic of the show? Why, throwing it into a Star Wars style prologue where the text is nigh-unreadable and lingering no more on the subject! If the show were actually taken seriously, this would probably be a prime source of nerd rage for most fans and considered one hell of a copout, but since the show is comedy first by this stage, it's an amusing little hand wave and quickly forgiven.

According to interviews from the writers, they had planned to actually cover Lister's pregnancy in an episode wherein he would give his children to an alternate universe or something like that, but personally, I think the hand wave works just fine - exploring it further would probably have gotten a little tasteless.

Even when the episode properly starts, it returns bang on form with a brilliant bunk scene with Lister and the Cat watching The Flintstones and holding a discussion over the attractiveness of Wilma. The bunk scenes were always the highlight of the early series, and this brief sequence, although entirely throwaway, is a great way to ring in the new series - the budget is bigger, the sets are better, the effects are improved, the plots have expanded, and yet they're still having remarkably pointless conversations about dating cartoon characters. It's really assisted by the strangely wonderful atmosphere of the two in their bunks watching it, illuminated only by the light of the television while speaking so wistfully about her.

Kryten is reintroduced to us, now portrayed in a slightly different light and with a new actor, Robert Llewellyn! Although it's uncertain if this was the intended first episode (Series 4 had Meltdown shifted to the end due to its story content, for instance), it does a reasonably decent job of introducing him to us in an amusing and inoffensive manner.

This isn't an episode dedicated entirely to him becoming a member of the crew, nor does it revolve around him magically solving every problem they encounter just by being brilliant - this scene could've taken place at any time in the series, but the brilliant interaction with Rimmer and the amusing "I've failed, haven't I?" sequence does a great job of making him feel like he's already been there before. Admittedly his first few lines of "official mode" and the stuttering would probably seem like a lame and ham-fisted way to get the point across that he's a mechanoid, but seriously, it's hardly a big deal; the rest of the scene plays nicely and the fact it's an inherently funny situation, even if Kryten was replaced with someone else, it's a good way to get him started off.

And the plot? Why, they fly into a time hole and go back to 20th century England! The series had only ever ventured off the ship twice, and only in very limited extents, first in Better Than Life where they go anywhere they like via virtual reality (and choose to stick around most in a relatively drab English beach and countryside), and again in Stasis Leak, though they only visit a hotel on another planet. Given Paul Jackson's initial desire to have the show only last for two series and wrap it up with that, it would've resulted in a rather claustrophobic setting for the twelve episodes.

Series 3 kicks off by thrusting us into a wild and colourful new setting for the characters, and does it rather legitimately; they're not browsing about what's basically incarnate archive footage or virtual reality, they're on the real deal, except it's backwards! Holly drops some exposition about it relating to the big bang and the relative theory of the big crunch, which is an interesting take; definitely more believable than just something like "whoops, we screwed things up!"

However, sure, it's Earth, but it's also three or four hundred years before their original time on Earth; obviously being back to their home is enough to make it a bizarre experience for them, but one can't help but wonder why certain comparatively ancient technology on this earth doesn't baffle them. Not that we ever see 24th century Earth in person, but one would assume it's different enough to disorientate our heroes. Then again, if everything's going backwards then I guess that's higher on their priorities list than, say, not recognising old-timey traffic lights.

We're already familiar with Hattie Hayridge as Holly thanks to Parallel Universe, but this is the first time we really get to see her shine. She only had a scant few lines of dialogue in her appearance as Hilly, most of which was simply repeating what Norman had said, but now she's given proper dialogue and filling in for exposition and explanations, she gets to show off her chops. Her accent adds its own unique charm to the character in part to the decent lines ("Autopilot engaged. Well, I say 'autopilot,' it's not really autopilot, is it? It's me, it's Muggins here who has to do it!") and she fits right into Norman's shoes.

It is a bit of a pity she was introduced along with Kryten as he proceeded to overshadow most of her role, and I'm guessing since she's blonde, the writers began increasing the character's ditziness; just guessing, y'know, but her role did shrink quite noticeably over the following two series, which is a pity.

Also, the Starbug cloak is hilariously cheap. This is the BBC we're talking about, after all.

Seeing Kryten and Rimmer manage to live rather successfully in the backwards universe - complete with their immediate realisation things are backwards - is made hilarious when Lister and the Cat arrive, believing the bizarre language, cumbersome transport and easily amused population are simply an indicator that they're in Belgium. Their brief antics on the bicycle are great ("put this thing in forward gear!"), and the fact they act so cocky and confident about all their observations adds an extra punch to it all, in contrast to the very cautious and quiet manner of investigating done by Rimmer and Kryters.

Naturally, whenever a TV show tackles backwards events when there's people going forwards, things get complicated (though, uh, it's not like many TV shows do tackle the subject of the world going backwards, mind you). The logic behind Rimmer signalling for the lorry to stop is just bizarre, and things get rather strange when it comes tot the Sensational Reverse Brothers; they're first seen doing an act, then they're fired, then it's negotiated, then it's what caused the problem in the first place. The man punches Lister some more after a long bar fight, and only afterwards explains what his problem was.

It's pretty awkward when you try and work everything out coherently, but at the end of the day, the main plot is simply finding Rimmer, getting kicked out, and having lots of wacky observations in between - it's to have an amusing adventure, not being totally consistent and coherent to how things would really work out if time was going backwards. Series 4's White Hole would have an excessively baffling timeline in one scene, but for one scene only, and thanks to some amusing repetition, it works out quite well.

It's an interesting episode and certainly a great way to show that Series 3 will be breaking out of the mould set by the last two series. There are some great little scenes, mostly revolving around Lister and the Cat, and it's certainly a decent episode, but it's not among the greatest. It's certainly not a bad one, especially since Series 3 is so accessible to newcomers, but it's not quite as memorable as others in the same series.

Commentary highlightS

CRAIG: So this is basically your first episode on the show, Robert?
ROBERT: It was, wasn't it.
HATTIE: We didn't film it first.
ROBERT: No, it wasn't the first recorded, it was the first--
CRAIG: How did it feel joining this troupe of highly trained professionals, comic actors?
ROBERT: It was a challenge! I was very challenged, as you can tell.

CHRIS: So, Hattie, how did you feel about joining a team of highly trained professionals?
HATTIE: Oh, um, yes, well... marvellous, yes.
CHRIS: ... good.

LISTER: It's a homing device, it'll find their flight recorder.
CHRIS: It's a cheap prop, actually!
CRAIG: When you tap it you can almost smell the plastic!

ROBERT: It's a classic episode, isn't it? Backwards. Very often referred to, a lot of people love that one.
CHRIS: ... M'yeah. Not one of my favourites, personally.
CRAIG: Not one of mine.
ROBERT: Not one of mine either, no.

Other commentS

The opening scenes of backwards London feature some cameos from the crew, which is pointed out in the commentary. The smoker is writer Rob Grant (when he had hair, Robert comments), the busker is production manager Mike Agnew, and the waitress in the restaurant is stage actress Maria Friedman.

Fanbase opinionS

This is a favourite among the fanbase, it seems, and from my experience seems to have often been recommended as the jumping-on point for new Red Dwarf viewers. People do get kinda pedantic about all the logic errors, but they deserve a slap. The Japanese poll ranks it as the second best of this series.