Last time on Red Dwarf: Everybody died and Starbug was completely destroyed.
Good news: They got better (eventually)! That tends to happen when the person killing you is your future self. Can't kill yourself in the past if you never existed.
Bad news: There are still casualties. Despite everything having been undone, the curry supplies are gone. Completely. Not a trace left. Not even a single poppadum floating in the void. Lister takes this a little hard. After all, without the one light of his life, what's he to do on Friday night? Or Saturday? Or Sunday, Monday, Tuesday... you get the idea. The point is, Lister kind of needs those curries. And no, pasta will not do.
Meanwhile, Starbug's in better condition than ever. Thanks to the temporal anomalies of being un-destroyed, it's much bigger. Almost like someone had more money to spend on it all of a sudden. Also, they know about the time-drive, which can now also move them through space all of a sudden. Lister suggests maybe using the time-drive to go back in time, to before mankind wiped out, and buy a few hundred curries. No-one else is taken with this, not least because of the perils of time-travel. Who knows what the wrong decision could do to the future?
Also, Kryten declares he's going to be offline for several hours, removing useless data from his head. Lister takes advantage of this to swap Kryten's head out, with Spare Head Two. Spare Head is actually okay with doing something so immoral and dishonest, but first he needs Lister to disable his behavioural protocols. The next morning, Spare Head Two, in the midst of doing everything Kryten never would, agrees with Lister's insane plan.
With the time-drive, they go back in time, but not to Liverpool, or even anywhere in Britain. Instead they land in a book depository. In Dallas. In 1963. Hoo-boy...The boys' arrival knocks Lee Harvey Oswald out the window, and their looking about the area causes him to become street pizza. As a result, some angry policemen barge into the room prepared to arrest them for shooting at the still-alive JFK. With some quick thinking from Spare Head One, the four get away via the time-drive.
They reappear in Dallas a few years later. And it's completely deserted, except for one dead guy (who bears a suspicious resemblance to Jack Ruby). Spare Head Two does a quick check, and learns what happened: Since Kennedy didn't die, he remained president of the U.S., until he was caught cheating on his wife with a mafia boss's mistress. Impeached and arrested, Kennedy was replaced by J. Edgar Hoover, blackmailed into running by the mob. Hoover agreed to allow the Soviet Union to install missile stations in Cuba, in exchange for the mafia setting up cocaine trafficking. With that looming over their heads, millions of Americans fled the cities in range. Spare Head Two knew something like this would happen, but because he has no sense of guilt anymore he didn't care enough to stop it.
This has also buggered up the space race, and consequently Starbug doesn't exist. The Boys from The Dwarf are temporally adrift, and the time-drive's broken (not, as Rimmer thinks, because of a tachyon surge, but just because Spare Head Two had been jabbing it too hard). They're going nowhere for the moment. And worst of all... Lister still hasn't gotten a smegging curry.
Later, the Boys discuss Kennedy over a slice of Roasted Dead Guy, Spare Head Two seeing no problem with cooking a human thanks to his disabled behaviour protocols. Once the time-drive fixes itself, a despondent crew decide there's only one thing to do. To make things right, they have to let Kennedy die. Easier said than done, though. Their attempts to undo their first mistake mean that Lee Harvey Oswald's shots don't manage to kill Kennedy. Then they hit upon the idea of a second gunman, positioned on that nearby hill... but who are they going to get to take the shot? Lister has an idea, and sets the time-drive to Idlewild Airport, as John F. Kennedy is led into custody.
Lister relays his story to a despondent Kennedy, who is hesitant to go along with the idea. He may have ruined his career, and marriage, but he still has a future. Lister tells him about Idlewild, about how in the future, it'll be renamed after him.
- Lister: You're a liberal icon, and that's the person you should be, but in order to be that person... you're gonna have to sacrifice your life.
Kennedy thinks about it, and decides to help. Ask not what your country can do for you, after all.The four return to Dallas, with Kennedy in tow disguised as a policeman. This time, the attempt is successful. JFK is killed by a sniper on November 22nd 1963. The future Kennedy thanks the Dwarfers for allowing him to be reborn, before fading away into nothingness.
At which point Lister realizes he never asked whether there were any curry-houses in Dallas. Having reached the end of their rope, the others immediately set upon him.
(extended edition ending follows)Some time later, as Rimmer is using a restored Kryten as a volt-meter down in the supply bays, Lister comes in with a realization: The curry supplies, the ones that were entirely destroyed? They weren't. He just used the time-drive to steal them from the past. One jaunt later, and Lister has all the curries he could ever need.
All's well that ends well, right? Well... no. Rimmer tricks Lister into separating Starbug's supply bay from the rear of the ship, and then has the ship speed off into the distance. Lister is momentarily distraught at having been left all on his own, with nothing for company but three and a half a tonnes of curry.
Tropes in this episode include:
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:Rimmer: You...have altered the entire course of civilisation from the 20th century onwards, you've brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, and worst of all-Lister: I know, I know. I still haven't had a curry.
- Book Dumb: Lister, again. He has no knowledge of 20th century events due to not finding it very interesting, and initially has no idea who John F. Kennedy is, to the point where he initially thinks JFK was named after the airport...
- Chekhov's Gun: A rare Red Dwarf example that goes across episodes, Kryten wiping his memories isn't important in this episode beyond Lister taking advantage of it, but it will have some consequences in a few episodes.
- Comically Missing the Point: On seeing a giant red splat on the ground, Lister assumes it's a giant pizza. Spare Head Two tells him it is not a giant pizza, but Lister just assumes he thinks it's not giant. It's the remains of Lee Harvey Oswald.
- Delayed Reaction: Spare Head Two notes, on seeing they've landed in Dallas, notes JFK's assassination was from the Texas Book Depository. While leaning on boxes labeled "Texas Book Depository". Then he notices what the sign says.
- Everybody Has Standards: After Lister responds to Kennedy erasing himself from existence with annoyance that he never asked the man if he knew where the nearest Indian restaurant is, the other Dwarfers gang up on him and beat him senseless in disgust.
- Failed a Spot Check: Lee Harvey Oswald's attempts to get away from his assassination attempt are not helped by The Boyz making his day so much worse, without ever noticing him at all.
- Forgotten Phlebotinum: The time-drive just vanishes after this episode, with nary a comment. There is at least a contextual reason for it this time, though, with making sure they aren't tempted to abuse it and end up as the degenerate versions of themselves seen in the previous episode.
- Lister seems to use it in Ouroboros to bring his baby self back to Earth though his method of time travel isn't named in episode.
- I Ate WHAT?!: Lister and the Cat are horrified to find out they eat poor Eric White, thanks to Spare Head Two.
- Lack of Empathy: Spare Head Two, thanks to Lister's disabling his behavioural protocals. Lister eventually calls him on it, to no effect.
- Logic Bomb: Lister is shown inadvertently destroying an artificially intelligent video camera (apparently the third one that week) by trying to explain the Temporal Paradox that happened in the battle of the previous episode. Kryten, however, merely finds it garbled, confusing, and dull; he suffers no ill effects.
- Made of Plasticine: A five story fall wouldn't exactly turn you into a "giant pizza."
- Misapplied Phlebotinum: The whole point of the show is for the gang to get back to Earth. The prospect of using the Time Drive to go to Earth and stay there rather than get more curry then go back to space is brought up, but after their encounter with their future-selves, no-one (save Lister) wants to risk it.
- Mondegreen: In-universe, Lister mistakes Rimmer saying "JFK" for "Jeff Kay".
- Mood Whiplash:
- The extended version has an almost Voyager-esque opening sequence of a restored Starbug soaring majestically among the stars... and then dumping crap (literally) into an asteroid ring.
- The astoundingly touching treatment of JFK's heroic sacrifice is followed by Lister being beaten up by the others.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Lister's maniacal, all-consuming desire for a curry every night nearly brings mankind to the brink of extinction, and forces a good if flawed man to kill himself to fix it.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Lister is subject to one in the end. Kryten's nightstick comes in especially handy.
- No Sympathy: Neither the Cat or Rimmer are at all sympathetic to Lister having to go without curry.
- Only Sane Man: Inverted: Lister's the only one who thinks time-travelling to find more curry is in any way a good idea, in sharp contrast to the rest of the Dwarfers.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: You know Lister's curry hunt is a bad idea when even The Cat agrees with Rimmer about how stupid it is.The Cat: You know I'd rather wear sideways-pressed flares and a clip-on polyester tie than agree with Goalpost-Head, but this time he's right.
- Plot-Driven Breakdown: The Time Drive freezes for no reason other than to trap the Dwarfers in 1960s America for one more scene.
- Police are Useless: The two law enforcement officers who show up to arrest the Crew. One of them is FBI. And when Kryten uses the Time Drive to get them out of there, the police merely decide to shoot blindly into the air.
- Restraining Bolt: Kryten's behavioural protocols. Without them, Spare Head Two repeatedly does stupid, irrational or thoughtless things because they're not there to tell him he shouldn't use his groinal attachment to stir breakfast, or smoke, or cook a dead man as dinner.
- Series Continuity Error: How the Time Drive works has completely changed since the previous episode. It was originally fixed to the ship and could only move it through time but not any closer to Earth., now it's a handheld device capable of teleporting the dwarfers to Earth. Doug Naylor handwaves this on the DVD release of the series by implying that the dimension paradoxes caused when the future crew destroyed their past selves changed the device, possibly melding it with the handheld transporter from "Rimmerworld".
- Skewed Priorities: When held at gunpoint by the FBI agent, the Cat's first response is to cover his crotch.
- Take That!:
Kryten: Garbled, confusion and more boring than an in-flight magazine produced by Air Belgium.
- Kryten's irritated response to Lister's garbled attempt to explain the temporal paradoxes.
Rimmer: Do you think its because the sub-space conduits have locked with the transponder calibrations and caused a major tachyon surge that has overloaded the time matrix?Kryten: Ah, no, sir. I've just been jabbing it too hard.
- This line, which can't be anything but a shot at Star Trek's tendency to produce endless technobabble.
- Time-Travel Tense Trouble: Lister's attempts to explain what happened to the evil future Dwarfers causes cameras to explode.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: Lister establishes at the start of the episode that if a person kills their past self, the future version will disappear and the past version will come back to life. At the end, John F. Kennedy kills his past self and they both stay dead.
- Who Shot JFK?: Thanks to the time-drive, JFK shot himself.JFK: You mean... assassinate myself?Lister: Yeah. It'll drive the conspiracy theorists nuts but they'll never figure it out.