It’s all change aboard the good ship Red Dwarf for series 3: there’s a new ship in the now familiar Spacebug, a new crew member in the just as familiar Kryten, a more active crew position for the Cat, a new uniform for Rimmer, and a new face for Holly. And there are good reasons for most of these, explained in a Lucas-esque opening crawl. All of which, along with the improved production values that go along with being an established show, really saw Red Dwarf become the thing we all know and love.
It’s an orange whirly thing in space!
In Backwards, Kryten and Rimmer disappear while on Kryten’s flying test, and end up forming a novelty act on a planet which is, in fact, a version of Earth where time runs backwards. The way this works in practice is a little inconsistent and results in a few little plotholes, but it also lends itself to some fun philosophical musings about whether life makes more sense in reverse.
Rimmer, at least, seems in favour of a world without crime, where Hitler is a hero, having liberated Europe (presumably an event 50 years in the future at this time); it falls to Lister to point out that here St Francis of Assisi was (will be?) a petty minded sadist, and Santa Claus is an organised crime boss.
Which leads us to the theological thought of the week: the temporal mechanics of the backwards Earth shown in this episode would appear to show God as some kind of dictator who boots His friends out of paradise at the beginning of time, puts them through a lifetime on Earth, during which at some point they disown Him, and repeats this throughout history until ultimately speaking the entirety of existence into oblivion.
Or if you take the view that God exists outside of time, would He not see both versions of Earth at once? In which case, does cause and effect have any relevance to salvation?
The only conclusion I can come to before my brain melts and trickles out of my ears is that ‘time’ is a somewhat nebulous but hugely complex idea; God is much bigger, much more complex – but as clocks and calendars bring the vastness of time down to a level where any human can have a basic understanding of it, so Jesus brought the vastness of God down to a human scale so that we all could understand Him better.
Anyway… there’s a lot of visual humour throughout, not just from the reversing of eating and fighting and the crew’s reactions to them; Star Trek fans will probably notice a couple of gags taken straight out of The Voyage Home.
It’s not one of my favourite episodes, but it has plenty of laughs – the bloke-ish banter between Lister and the Cat in the opening scene is one of the things that makes Red Dwarf for me – and the philosophical meanderings of good and evil and how they relate to the flow of time.
The quality of the original was better for series 3 than in previous episodes, so improvements are becoming fewer; some obvious improvements were needed though, like the visual effects of Rimmer getting ejected from Starbug and the time hole that takes them to backwards Earth.
So, watch this for cakes being un-eaten and other thinkings on the nature of time.