This is a story about bubblewrap. No! This is a story about time travel. Yes, that’s it.
Timeslides starts from the somewhat obscure premise that, somewhere in the next few centuries, digital photography falls out of favour and doing it the old fashioned way – with hazardous chemicals in a darkened room – is back in vogue. And as everyone knows, hazardous chemicals that have been left in a cargo hold for three million years should be handled with extreme caution, in case they have mutated and are liable to produce side effects that might inspire JK Rowling.
Which is, of course, what happens; Kryten is innocently developing a few films he found lying around, when they inexplicably turn into YouTube clips. Further experimenting leads the crew to discover that by developing slides in the same way, they can physically enter a literal snapshot of the past.
Cue temporal shenanigans.
In fact, cue an epic temporal power struggle as Lister and Rimmer both try to invent the Tension Sheet and become disgustingly rich and famous.
You can’t just stick one on the leader of the Third Reich!
Having utterly failed to convince Germany that Hitler was a complete and total nutter, Lister goes back and meets himself as a budding young musician, giving him the idea for Tension Sheet and making himself so rich he bought Buckingham Palace and had it ground down to line his drive.
Against all the odds, it works; even more improbably, Rimmer, presumably aided by Holly and the skutters, is able to create a time portal to Lister’s mansion – Xanadu – where he tries to persuade Lister that being the last human in the universe, with only a smeg-head, a cat and a mechanoid for company, would be better than being a multi-multi-multi-millionaire and having to have sex with Lady Sabrina Mulholland-Jjones on a regular basis.
Rimmer fails spectacularly.
He does, however, attempt to show Lister’s life for the shallow, empty existence we all want people like that to live, but when the only contrast he can offer is ‘me with…. with what I’ve got,’ he is forced to concede that, of the two of them, Lister is in every way the richer man.
Instead, Rimmer (by means best not considered to closely) creates a time portal back to his dorm room at school, to persuade his (much) younger self to patent Tension Sheet – apparently oblivious to the fact that Thickie Holden, original inventor of the Tension Sheet, is right beside him and listening intently.
Lesson of the episode: you can’t change what has happened in the past. It all just ends up part of life’s journey, the experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly – that lead us to the place we are, as the people we are today. And that, more often than not, is exactly who and where we are supposed to be. Destiny – God’s purpose – will be worked out, one way or another.
Also, you don’t have to be disgustingly rich and famous to be leading a shallow and unfruitful life. Being a git will often have much the same effect.
As a side note, both Lister and Thickie Holden end up married to Lady Sabrina after inventing the Tension Sheet. The two seem to have little in common except being disgustingly rich and famous – perhaps Rimmer could have comforted himself with the knowledge that Lady Sabrina had only married Lister for his money.
Or he could have learned to be a better person, faced with the possibility of being even more sad and lonely than he already was; but of course, his messed up loneliness leads Rimmer to the conclusion that being rich and famous was the solution to his multitude of problems.
A couple of ageing jokes have been cut, along with Adolf Hitler’s guest star credit; and the sound effect from Series IV’s ‘matter paddle’ has travelled back in time to play the part of the time travel sound effect.
Watch this episode for Craig Charles’ musical talents (he wrote the music featured in the episode, and performed) and his little brother, playing the part of Young Lister, photographed performing ‘The Om Song’.