Follow TV Tropes


Recap / Red Dwarf Season III "Backwards"

Go To

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 ("Right candidate could go straight to the bottom"''). 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.

:ɘbυlɔni ɘboƨiqɘ ƨiʜt ni tnɘƨɘɿq ƨɘqoɿT

  • 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!"
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Parodied. Kryten is worried about people being suspicious about his unusual look to which Rimmer suggests that he should tell people that he took car to crushers and forgot to get out.
  • 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.
    Cat: You're right. This is an insane conversation.
    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). Llewellyn notes on the Series 3 documentary that he was disappointed he didn't get to drive the boat Rimmer and Kryten use to go ashore.
  • 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.
  • Good Is Bad And Bad Is Good: As a result of time going backwards. On Backwards Earth Hitler will appear out of nowhere to rebuild Europe and robbers will forcefully give people money while Santa goes around stealing toys from kids.
  • 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... 
  • Greasy Spoon: Rimmer and Kryten hole up in one of these whilst figuring out how they're going to survive till the others find them, whilst there we get to see some rather unpleasant backwards eating.
  • 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.
    • The writers seem to have forgotten that Rimmer is intangible and can't lift anything or leave the ship without a projection cage.
  • 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?
  • Rule of Funny: The only justification why a lot of the plot holds up. Like not only is time reversed for the universe they visit, but all of the writing is reversed there too.
  • Sdrawkcab Speech: 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, 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 a hold of this recording, turn it around, and actually work out the rubbish I'm saying. What a poor sad life he's got! (...) Frankly, your act's crap, any-anyone could've done it, and I hate the lot of you! BOLLOCKS TO YOU! (storms out)
  • Shout-Out: The name of the bank robber Michael Ellis comes from Monty Python's Flying Circus.
    • Rimmer responds to a patron's backwards speech with "Flobadob blib blob bleeb", imitating the "Oddle Poddle" language of Bill & Ben, The Flowerpot Men.
  • Skewed Priorities: Cat complains that due to searching for Kryten and Rimmer that he hasn't permed his leg hairs in a week.
    Lister: You perm your leg hairs?
    Cat: Only as an aid to the natural curl!
  • 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 
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: The Cat has one after taking a crap on a world where time runs backwards.
  • 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.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After Holly explains the concept of time running backwards as the result of the Big Crunch, she's not seen or heard from again. As noted above, it's not really explained why Holly doesn't just tell Lister and Cat what happened to the others.


Video Example(s):


Backwards In Time

Rimmer, Kryten, with an audio link to Holly find themselves on a version of Earth where time runs backwards.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / BackToFront

Media sources: