Airdate: 14 November, 1989.
Big changes have taken place onboard the mining ship Red Dwarf.
- Dave, after getting pregnant by his female self in a parallel universe, gave birth to twin boys. However, they were 18 years old within 3 days of their birth due to being conceived in an alternate universe. Realising that they would be dead within a fortnight, he gave the kids back to Deb so they could have a (relatively) normal life.
- Holly, meanwhile, had fallen so madly in love with his female counterpart from said parallel universe, he gave himself a sex change operation to look exactly like her.
- Kryten, who was last seen flipping off Rimmer and taking Lister's space bike, crashed the space bike on an asteroid. Lister was able to rebuild Kryten, but was unable to return his rebellious persona, turning him from a butler-turned-rebel with a British accent, to a meek service robot with a strangely Canadian accent.
- The ship was repainted from mostly ocean grey to a more varied colour scheme. Lister has stopped wearing uniform in favour of his own street clothes, and Rimmer has changed to a new uniform of his own design.
Rimmer takes Kryten out in Starbug 1 for his piloting test. While answering recognition questions, they wind up traveling through a time hole (which Rimmer is initially oblivious to). They crash-land on a planet which appears similar to Earth. As they reach a roadside they notice a sign which says "Nodnol, 871 selim". Although Rimmer is confused, Kryten correctly states that the sign (when read backwards) actually reads "London, 178 miles", and that they're on a backwards Earth.
Kryten and Rimmer are initially disgusted with this "backwards" world. Here, people take money from buskers' hats, and cafes are populated by customers who spit tea back into teacups and messily disgorge chocolate éclairs. Newspapers report events that have yet to happen (''"Three brought to life in a bank raid in a South London bank tomorrow"') , and advertise job vacancies that offer good demotion prospects. Rimmer and Kryten quickly discover that they can use their forwardness to their advantage, however, starring in an act called "srehtorB esreveR lanoitasneS ehT" ("The Sensational Reverse Brothers").
Meanwhile, Lister and Cat have been flying around in Starbug 2 for the past three weeks searching for them (with the Cat wanting to give up searching so he can focus on perming his leg hairs). They come across the same "time hole" that Starbug 1 did and, despite Cat's reservations (i.e. it's the wrong colour timehole for his costume), go through it. They close in on Starbug 1 using a homing device and land near the lake where it crash-landed. Upon exiting Starbug 2, Lister complains of feeling some pain — he suddenly has a black eye and his ribs feel like they've been cracked.
Lister and Cat eventually track down Kryten and Rimmer at the club where they attract wide audiences, whereupon Lister finally discovers that everything is backwards, after initially thinking they had landed in Bulgaria.
As it turns out, Kryten and Rimmer are quite content on this planet. Lister tries to convince them to come back, but they intend to stay. The club owner then fires them for starting a fight... despite Kryten noting that they have not started any fight. At the same time, a man takes offence to Lister and Cat "uneating" his pie, and punches Lister twice, healing his black eye and broken rib. Kryten realises that this is actually the end of the bar-room brawl that got them fired, and a huge fight breaks out in reverse. ("It's not a bar-room brawl: it's a bar-room tidy! UNRUMBLE!") Everything is restored to its original state, and the Dwarfers realise that they cannot stay on a backwards Earth. Before they leave, the Cat decides to nip off into the bushes and do his business...... before horrifyingly realising that everything occurs in reverse on this planet.
Tropes present in this episode include:
- Acting Unnatural: Kryten, in an attempt to look inconspicuous, walks into a cafe wearing a black cloak and a Ronald Reagan rubber mask.
- Actor Allusion: Kryten wears a Ronald Reagan mask to disguise himself. Chris Barrie impersonated Reagan in Spitting Image.
- Ass Shove: Just before the Dwarfers leave, the Cat decides to take a crap in the bushes, and the other can't warn him in time... Cat appears from the shrubbery with a horrified expression and his hair standing on end and walks stiff-legged into the shuttlecraft, avoiding the others' eyes.Cat: Don't ask!!
- According to extra material, Danny John-Jules was told beforehand what was going to happen in that scene and he knew exactly which expression to use.
- Back to Front: The episode is partly set in a universe where time runs backward, so although the story is told from front to back it has elements of the trope, particularly with respect to the injuries Lister mysteriously acquires near the beginning of the episode as a result of events near the end.
- Bar Brawl: In reverse. As Lister puts it, "It's not a bar room brawl, it's a bar room tidy! Unrumble!"
- Corpsing: Although they were in character, Chris Barrie and Craig Charles's reactions in the ending scene when Cat has a reverse shit in the bushes were genuine, and if you look closely you can see Barrie and Charles were smirking and trying not to laugh when it was filmed.
- Don't Be Ridiculous: Lister and the Cat spend a minute sharing sexual fantasies about Wilma Flintstone before Lister points out how absurd they're being.Lister: She'd never leave Fred and we both know it.
- El Spanish "-o": Lister and the Cat arrive in England on the backwards Earth and believe they have landed in Bulgaria after finding a poster for Kryten and Rimmer as "ehT lanoitasneS esreveR srehtorB". They attempt to ask for a lift into town by saying "We're looking for our friends-ski... there's an address-ski here-ski? Maybe you could drop us off-ski."
- Fake Shemp: During the first few scenes after Rimmer and Kryten arrive on the backwards Earth, while Chris Barrie is filmed on location, it's obvious that a body double is used for Kryten, with Robert Llewellyn dubbing his voice over later (though the actor is seen in a later shot showing Kryten and Rimmer walking the streets of retsehcnaM).
- Gender Bender: It's explained at the beginning of the episode that Holly gave himself a head sex change operation to match his counterpart from a parallel universe.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: After a fashion. When Lister and Cat steal the tandem bike, its owner, according to the caption, yells "You scoundrels!" at them. This was a joking alteration of the obscene thing the actor actually yelled.Which was...
- Hero Stole My Bike: Lister and Cat steal a tandem from a pair of picnickers and start riding... only to find that it goes backwards! Understandably, they don't get far...Cat: No more! I'm not moving another yard on this thing! I'm gettin' a part in the back of my head!
- Invisibility Cloak: Lister turns Starbug invisible when parked on Earth
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Lister claims geography was his number one subject at school, which is why he knows for certain that there is a place in Bulgaria called "Nodnol" (and that it's "just south of Bosnia", which nowhere in Bulgaria is).
- Kung-Shui: Inverted. Lister and company step out into an utterly-destroyed bar, at which point a fight begins - and since time is running backwards in this universe, the fight fixes everything. (There is a bit of Fridge Logic, though - the fight starts because Lister "undrank" someone's pint... which, if time ran forwards, would only happen after the fight was over.)
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Starbug can be turned invisible to stop the Earth natives noticing it. A feature that's never been mentioned before or since.
- Not Where They Thought: Lister and the Cat think that they're in their universe, in Bulgaria, near a place known as Nodnol. It turns out that they're near London in a universe where time goes backwards.
- Oh, Crap!: The look on the Cat's face when he does his business...backwards.
- Perverse Sexual Lust: In-universe, Lister and the Cat debate the attractiveness of Wilma Flintstone. They also state they find Betty Rubble desirable, but consider her a second choice. They eventually declare that the conversation is insane, because "she'll never leave Fred, and we know it!"
- Plot Hole: How are Rimmer and Kryten able to keep in contact with Holly on Backwards Earth when the ship (and thus Holly's mainframe) is in a completely different part of space and time? And if Holly is in contact with them, why doesn't she just tell Lister and the Cat what happened to them, instead of leaving Lister and the Cat to trawl through space for three weeks before finding the time hole?
- Shout-Out: The name of the bank robber Michael Ellis comes from Monty Python's Flying Circus.
- Skewed Priorities: Cat complains that due to searching for Kryten and Rimmer that he hasn't permed his leg hairs in a week.
- Subliminal Seduction: Nearly a quarter of the dialogue is, of course, backwards. But playing those clips backwards (so the backwards dialogue plays forwards) give us funny easter eggs.Annoyed pub manager: You are a stupid, square-headed, bald git, aren't you, eh? I'm pointing at you, but I'm not actually addressing you. I'm addressing the one prat in the country who's bothered to get this recording, turn it around, and actually work out the rubbish I'm saying. What a poor sad life he's got!
- Take That, Audience!: The manager of the pub in Retsehcnam is actually addressing "the one prat in the country who has bothered to get a hold of this recording, turn it round and actually work out the rubbish that I'm saying. What a poor sad life he's got!"note
- Time and Relative Dimensions in Space: Like a lot of methods of time travel in Red Dwarf, the time hole's exit is conveniently near Earth.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The scenes establishing backwards Earth were shot in Manchester (the Piccadilly Hotel and Piccadilly Tower feature prominently in shots of traffic going in reverse). However, watch the extras in the scene of Kryten and Rimmer walking down the street; none of them take a blind bit of notice of the two strangely costumed actors walking backwards through the crowd.