Tongue Tied

RD: Backwards

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Series III
Written By Rob Grant & Doug Naylor
Director Ed Bye
Guest Star(s) Arthur Smith as the Pub Manager

Tony Hawks as the Compère Maria Friedman as Waitress Anna Palmer as Customer

Episode Chronology
Episode 13
Previous Episode: Parallel Universe
Next Episode: Marooned

Backwards is the first episode in Series III of the Red Dwarf television series, and is the thirteenth episode overall.

Not to be confused with the Red Dwarf novel of the same name.

"Backwards" the first episode to feature former guest star Kryten as one of the permanent Boys from the Dwarf.

Plot SynopsisEdit

Whilst Kryten is taking his Starbug driving test, Holly, serving as autopilot, accidentally transports herself, Rimmer and Kryten through a Time Hole, only to discover a version of Earth - htraE - in the early 1990s, where time is running backwards.

Plot SummaryEdit

An opening Star Wars-like crawl explains the events which have occurred since the last episode (and further elaborated on in the "lost episode" Dad).

Following last series' thrilling climax, Lister has given birth to twins, Jim and Bexley (as prophesied in Future Echoes), but returned the children to their mother/father Deb Lister. Holly underwent a sex change operation to look more like the computer he fell in love with, and after a brief time rebelling against nothing, former guest character Kryten crashed Lister's space bike (in the episode of the same name) but was rescued by the crew of Red Dwarf, and has now taken permanent residence as one of the Boys from the Dwarf.

Rimmer takes Kryten for his driving test in Starbug One and despite one or two hitches (flinging Rimmer out of the vehicle) which can be attributed to Kryten learning to drive in Starbug Two, things seem to be going well. Until they chance across a Time Hole which transports them to Earth, but something is amiss. They find a road-sign which reads "Nodnol, 871 selim" and after a brief discussion they deduce that they are 178 miles from London, and everything is backwards. They "un-hitch" a ride to London, (which looks bizarrely like late eighties Manchester) where Holly explains that because every action has an equal and opposite reaction, the big bang should conversely lead to the big crunch and time is running backwards.

In a cafe, after watching a woman regurgitate a cream finger, they discover that it's 3991 (or 1993) and that as Starbug is destroyed they should get jobs and find an advert for a pub who want "Novelty acts", and on a planet where time is running backwards, anything a hologram and a robot do is pretty much a novelty.

Meanwhile, Lister and The Cat are hot on their heels. They follow them through the time hole and land safely. But Lister's ribs appear to be cracked and he has developed a black eye. They however are not as quick to work out their surroundings, all they know is that they are indeed on Earth...Lister is home. After seeing the "Nodnol" sign they deduce that they are in Bulgaria and do the Red Dwarf Shuffle to celebrate their excellent deduction skills. They find a poster for an act called "srehtorB esreveR lanoitasneS ehT" with Rimmer and Kryten's faces on and go to reunite with the pair. They hike a ride to the pub and sit and wait for the show to start.

In the pub Lister and the Cat watch as Rimmer and Kryten's show, which includes such tricks as eating a boiled egg forwards and drinking a glass of water, is a huge hit. They simply assume people in Bulgaria are easily pleased, until they witness a man regurgitate a glass of beer. Finally understanding where they really are, the two celebrate by un-drinking their own glasses before heading backstage.

Rimmer and Kryten don't want to leave this world, despite Lister (who is eager to leave as he isn't keen to have to go through reverse puberty) warning them that on this planet people grow younger and younger until they finally turn into a baby and are forced inside their mother before ending their lives as a sperm. They have an argument on the nature of this planet... here, Hitler will be a hero who will retreat the Nazi's across Europe while Santa Claus is the bastard who sneaks down chimneys once a year to steal toys.

Suddenly the manager comes in and sacks Rimmer and Kryten for starting a fight, promising they'll never work the pub circuit again. Everyone is confused, as there's been no fight as far as they know. Going out to argue with the manager, Lister un-eats a man's pie. The man responds by sucking Lister's black eye away and un-cracking his ribs using his fists. Kryten realises the fight they're about to have is the reason they were fired, and Lister kicks off the bar room brawl (or as Lister calls it a 'bar room tidy'). People's injuries are taken away, the bar is repaired, the Cat fixes a chair by un-swinging it over someone's head and Lister repairs the window at the same time as his back by falling into it (all with Rimmer cowering under a table). Soon, everyone is drinking peacefully and the crew decide to head back to Red Dwarf, but not before the Cat does his bit for charity by emptying a collection box.

Returning to Starbug, Rimmer laments he could have made it big. Asking where the Cat is, Lister tells him he's "in the bushes"... and suddenly realise the horrible effect of doing one's business backwards. The Cat, emerging with a shocked expression and a stilted walk, hobbles aboard telling the others...

"Don't ask"

Link to Series IIEdit

Red dwarf backwards star wars spoof

The opening crawl of Series III

A Star Wars style scroll is used at the beginning of Backwards to explain all the occurrences that had happened between Series II and III. However it goes by very fast and may be difficult to read.

The text is as follows:




Three million years in the future, Dave Lister, the last human being alive discovers he is pregnant after a liaison with his female self in a parallel universe. His pregnancy concludes with the successful delivery of twin boys, Jim and Bexley. However, because the twins were conceived in another universe, with different physical laws, they suffer from highly accelerated growth rates, and are both eighteen years old within three days of being born. In order to save their lives, Lister returns them to the universe of their origin, where they are reunited with their father (a woman), and are able to lead comparatively normal lives. Well, as normal as you can be if you've been born in a parallel universe and your father's a woman and your mother's a man and you're eighteen years three days after your birth.

Shortly afterwards, Kryten, the service mechanoid who had left the ship after being rescued from his own crashed vessel, the Nova 5, is found in pieces after his space bike crash lands onto an asteroid. Lister rebuilds the 'noid, but is unable to recapture his former personality.

Meanwhile, Holly, the increasingly erratic Red Dwarf computer, performs a head sex change operation on himself. He bases his new face on Hilly, a female computer with whom he'd once fallen madly in love.

And now the saga continuums





  • These same events are also covered in the reconstructed episode "Dad".

Deleted scenesEdit

  • Hattie Hayridge, now portraying Holly, had recorded a number of introduction jokes as possible episode openers, much in the same way as Norman Lovett had done for the previous two series. However Hattie's jokes were not considered up-to-scratch by Doug Naylor and Rob Grant, having a low opinion of their own material, and especially since the jokes were mostly topical on the issues of the time, with the writers wanting jokes that were more 'timeless'. Eventually a montage of scenes from the series over the theme music was chosen instead; a format which would remain for all series thereafter. Hattie's introduction jokes are included in the Series III DVD deleted scenes.
  • The Series DVD III deleted scenes also include an extended scene of Lister and the Cat discussing Wilma Flintstone being the sexiest woman alive.
  • An additional scene could have explained how a reverse audience can understand The Sensational Reverse Brothers. Rimmer has apparently altered his Light Bee so that he can speak certain phrases backwards like Kryten can. The idea was continued in a cut from a following extra cut scene.


  • The events which have taken place between this episode and the last episode are explained in a Star Wars-like opening scrawl. It goes by very fast however (see above section for the text of this opening crawl). These same prior events are also covered in the reconstructed episode titled "Dad".
  • The opening scroll creates a continuity error as it indicates that Bexley returned to his original universe and his mother, Deb Lister, although "Future Echoes" established that Bexley lived on Red Dwarf with his father until he was killed in the incident witnessed by Rimmer in the past. This is the first of several examples of the chronology on Red Dwarf becoming skewed as the series progressed. (Although it's possible that, in an unchronicled adventure, Bexley was reunited with his father aboard Red Dwarf.)
  • This is the first time that the shuttlecraft Starbug is seen; it is much larger than the previous Blue Midget seen in the show, and indeed whole future series (VI and VII) would be set on Starbug. Backwards also makes it clear that there a number of Starbugs aboard Red Dwarf.
  • At the beginning of the episode, as Rimmer and Kryten are in the Starbug hangar bay, a sign behind them reads: "Do not engage the Hyperdrive in the Gravity Field of Red Dwarf".
  • The wormhole used to go to the backwards Earth was likely a remnant of Holly's failed attempt to get them back to a populated Earth in the previous episode using the Holly Hop Drive, since coming across a random wormhole with such a specific destination would to be unlikely to say the least.
  • In "Thanks for the Memory" Rimmer needs a holographic cage to maintain his form when outside a vessel, yet in this episode he freely walks the streets of London (or Nodnol). He also takes cover during the brawl, even though there should be no way for anyone to harm him (although it's likely that this is simply force of habit after a lifetime of abject cowardice). The later episode "Meltdown" reveals that Rimmer has a light bee that projects his image (as mentioned in 'Marooned' - Rimmer has been given the body of 'an abject coward' and would hide from a bar room brawl even if there was no possibility of him being injured.)
  • This episode has more swearing than any other episode, only it's all backwards.
  • Holly disappears from the narrative after making the joke about what time it is. The episode leaves it unclear as to whether Lister and Cat had access to a version of Holly during the three weeks they were searching for Rimmer and Kryten (who was piloting Red Dwarf?). The episode also never explains how they were able to return through the time hole.
  • Kryten dons a Spitting Image mask of Ronald Reagan. Chris Barrie was a veteran of the comedy series.
  • When the waitress at the cafe empties the contents of her waste paper bin, she does so in the conventional direction and the contents fall out of the bin, obeying gravity whereas it should have been the opposite way round.

Background InformationEdit

  • This episode introduces a new opening sequence replacing the original sombre opening of the first two series with a more upbeat instrumental rendition of the theme tune, and scenes from assorted Series III episodes (except, for some reason, a shot from the Season II episode "Thanks for the Memory" - showing Cat and Lister carrying a tombstone - is also included). This version of the opening theme music would be retained for the Series III to VIII, the "Back to Earth" miniseries, and Series X. Henceforth episodes no longer featured Holly explaining the concept of the series, either. Hattie Hayridge did shoot some opening gags for Series III episodes much in the same manner as Norman Lovett in the previous series, but Doug Naylor and Rob Grant didn't think the gags were as good as previous seasons. Holly's cut opening gags can still be seen in the deleted scenes of the Series III DVD.
  • A number of visual and subtle changes are introduced with this episode. The color scheme of the costumes and sets is increase, with a new set introduced for the bunkroom. Lister begins wearing his customised leather jacket. Rimmer now wears a uniform based upon the SPECTRUM uniforms of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. The Cat is depicted as having somewhat greater intelligence than in previous seasons, as evidenced by the fact Lister is actually able to carry on a conversation with Cat in several scenes, such as the opening Wilma Flintstone discussion.
  • 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 nodnoL.
  • The scenes on backwards Earth rely on optical illusions for many of the reverse sequences involving signs and printed words. Instead of actually printing them backwards, things like the newspaper headline Kryten reads and the nodnoL place sign are simply spelled backwards, but the letters look normal. However, if you look at the masthead (title graphic) of the newspaper, it is actually printed backwards, both words and lettering.
  • The man who appears to "un-smoke" a cigarette is an uncredited Red Dwarf co-writer Rob Grant.
  • The Series 3 DVD set comes with a section called "Backwards--Forwards" in the bonus DVD, which shows this episode from end to beginning, thus we get to see what the people speaking backwards are actually saying. Most notably, the actor playing the angry bar manager (Arthur Smith) is revealed to be breaking the fourth wall and poking fun at any viewers who actually managed to get a recording of the scene and play it backwards to hear what he's actually saying (a rare occurrence of an "Easter egg" actually being broadcast in the pre-DVD era).
  • If one plays the "Bar Room Tidy" starting from the point that the room is tidy again, although backwards, they'll hear one of the directors yelling "Action!"

Guest StarsEdit

Actor and character they played.

Noteworthy DialogueEdit

  • Rimmer: Flobby-Dob-Blib-Blob-Bleep!
  • Lister: I didn't come here lookin' for trouble, I just came to do the Red Dwarf shuffle.
  • Lister: It's not a bar room brawl, it's a bar room tidy! Un-rumble!
  • Rimmer: What is that? (holds book to Kryten)
    Holly: It's a time hole!
    Rimmer: Don't help him!
    Kryten: It's a time hole!
    Holly: It's a time hole!
    Rimmer: It is clearly not a time hole. It is clearly a blue giant about to go supernova. (Looks out of window) THAT is a time hole. (Turns head back to Kryten) Oh. (Turns head slowly to rapidly-approaching time hole)
    Rimmer, Kryten and Holly:
  • Lister: And Santa Claus, what a bastard! He's just a fat git who goes down chimneys and steals all the kids favourite toys!


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