Airdate: 11 November, 1993
Synopsis: The situation on Starbug appears to have crossed an event horizon of horridness. There is no trace of Red Dwarf. Rimmer’s “morale meetings” simply serve the purpose of insulting the rest of the crew. There is no variety. Supplies are low. When the ship is attacked, Lister is knocked out. As Kryten is operating on Lister, he realizes that he is a droid… although it turns out that Lister was hallucinating, thanks to unreality pockets, planted by the Space Corps for defense purposes. The crew decide to enter deep sleep to avoid the effects of other pockets…
…and come across a time drive in a derelict.
While it serves no immediate purpose, the crew realize that once a faster-than-light drive is obtained, they can wind up back at Earth. At the same time, they are intercepted by a JMC vessel…. which consists of their future selves. The future crew were looking for themselves to gain components from the present’s time drive in order to gain access to the past. The makeup of the future crew is not only strange (Lister’s condition drives Kryten to mourn, for example), but the connections that said crew made turn the present crew ill, causing them to slowly contemplate essential suicide.
Review (SPOILERS! RUN IF YOU HATE THEM!): This episode is sort of the anti-“Rimmerworld”. That episode was funny at first, yes. By the end, however, I was sickened by how thin the plot and character was. THIS episode was weak on the humor… but when it came to character development, it is a behemoth.
For starters, we finally see Kryten’s relationship with Lister (and, to a less of an extent, the rest of the crew) solidify. While Kryten may just come off as a maid at first, we see that he takes over as a true parental figure for the crew of Starbug. Think about it (this info is according to earlier episodes, as well as the novels and future episodes: I apologize for spoilers)
- Lister never knew his real parents, and his adoptive father died when Lister was six. His grandmother took him in, died off 7 years later, and Lister went around as an orphan until the JMC took him up.
- Rimmer’s father took out his own failures on his sons, to the point of abuse. His mother dealt with the loveless marriage by sleeping around.
- The Cat doesn’t even care about what happened to his folks.
- “Herman Goerig is a bit dodgy?“
- “We have to keep our heads straight!” Cue them in obvious masks. Ah, BBC budgeting department; never change!
- The entire morale meeting.
- Cat’s reaction to learning what he turns out to be in the future.
Yet, now we reach the best part of the episode. That is Rimmer. If “Rimmerworld” showed him at his worst, this episode shows him at his best. The future crew’s transgressions and insanity finally gel with Rimmer. Meeting himself from the future shows just how bad his behavior has turned himself into a fat slob who has not escaped from his hell. It’s here where he finally realizes that, if it came between him dying and becoming corrupt, he’ll die.
It’s a bit ambiguous. One one hand, It’s probably selfish; future Rimmer is not physically attractive, being fat and grey. Rimmer thinks of himself as a handsome leader. On the other hand, he’s so disgusted by his behavior, by the fact that gaining power has trampled over people like he was way back when, that he might have seen the dark side of what he wanted to be. Seeing a reflection of himself years on in the future might have scared him, whether due to future Rimmer’s behavior, or due to future Rimmer’s looks. Nonetheless, once Rimmer says…
“Better dead than smeg!”
…you know that he’s willing to lay his life on the line, and become Ace… maybe… sort of. The end result is a cliffhanger that would torture fans for three years.
All in all, this wild season ends with an episode that, though dry on laughs, is one of the most powerful episodes in the show.
- OK, I will admit that they went a bit too far with the aging of the future crew.
- Rimmer remarks that learning about the future crew might kill any of them. Coming from the dead man’s mouth, lads!
- The obvious should be mentioned; this episode was made up on the set. Entire lines of dialogue were replaced whilst the camera was rolling or typed up on the autocue. Grant/Naylor actually never finished the script.
- The ending was not supposed to end on a cliffhanger. The BBC apparently wanted a cliffhanger… but circumstances caused the next series to be pushed back three years.
- Last, but not least, this is the very last episode produced by Rob Grant. Creative differences and a desire to diversify his output caused him to leave the Small Rouge One. From here on out, Doug is at the helm. Thank you for 6 series of fantastic comedy, Rob. You did a great job.