Stasis is a form of technology present in the Red Dwarf universe. A major plot point of the franchise, stasis fields can essentially "freeze in time" people or cargo. This was useful for keeping people from dying of old age during long voyages in Deep Space, and keeping cargo fresh for even millions of years, and so most Space Corps and JMC spaceships, planetary bases and space stations had their own stasis booths.
Main character Dave Lister is sealed in a stasis field aboard Red Dwarf in the pilot episode as punishment for illegally smuggling an unquarantined pet cat aboard and refusing to give it up, initially intended for 18 months, and therefore forfeiting 18 months wages. However, after the radiation leak which killed the rest of the crew, Lister emerges from stasis three million years later to find that he is the last human in existence, but he is not alone.
Stasis is mentioned, or forms a part of the story, in numerous episodes after; for example Kryten finds a fresh lobster in stasis aboard the SS Centauri in Series VII, or Irene Edgington is found in stasis abroad the ERRA Station in Series X.
In the television series, it is said that there are only two stasis booths for personnel aboard Red Dwarf. ("RD: Stasis Leak") However, in the first Red Dwarf novel, there is a whole floor made up of thousands of stasis pods that went almost entirely unused, except for Lister as punishment, and Rimmer occasionally (when he was human) in an attempt to keep his youth.
Stasis is a facility aboard Red Dwarf and other similar craft that halts time for those who have been sealed inside the room/pod.
How it works was described by Frank Todhunter in the following way:
- "The stasis room creates a static field of time. See, just as X-rays can't pass through lead, time cannot penetrate a stasis field. So, although you exist, you no longer exist in time, and for you time itself does not exist. You see, although you're still a mass, you are no longer an event in space-time, you are a non-event mass with a quantum probability of zero."
If a stasis field escaped the confines of the booth, then the field would preserve whatever it encountered. This was known as a phenomena known as a stasis leak, and could enable a form of time travel, but only into whatever the field had leaked into in the past. Such a leak had occurred aboard Red Dwarf, allowing the hologram Arnold Rimmer, Dave Lister and the Cat to travel back in time three million years to before the accident that killed the crew, although the stasis had unfortunately leaked into a communal shower room.
Since there was only one other working stasis booth, Rimmer and Lister fought over who they try to save by putting in it - Rimmer or Lister's old girlfriend. However, both their plans failed. ("RD: Stasis Leak")
The "Deep Sleep" units of Starbug also have a form of stasis capability, as is shown in the Series VI episodes "Psirens" and "Out of Time", and the Series VII finale "Nanarchy". However, this seemed to operate on a different principal entirely to the stasis booths seen on other starships such as Red Dwarf.
The Deep Sleep Units appeared to be partly cryogenic in nature, actually freezing them for real, or at least slowing down their metabolism to near zero. Lister emerges from this stasis at the beginning of Series VI with long hair and long fingernails, seemingly having aged a few months in the space of two centuries.
Individuals who have been in stasis
- Dave Lister aboard Red Dwarf in the pilot episode
- Kochanski used the same stasis booth in an alternate dimension where she kept Frankenstein (Ouroboros)
- Deb Lister in another parallel, gender-reversed universe (Parallel Universe)
- Camille aboard the SS Penhalagen (Camille)
- The Simulant Convict in an escape pod fleeing Justice World (Justice)
- The hologram Dr. Hildegarde Lanstrom after contracting the Holo Virus on Lanstrom's planet (Quarantine)
- Caroline Carmen on the Leviathan after contracting Epideme (Epideme)
- Dr Irene Edgington on the ERRA station after accidentally turning herself into a chimp (Entangled)
- Professor Rachel Barker and Colonel Jim Green inside an escape pod from the SS Samsara (Samsara)
- Romero G. Gonzalez was locked into a time loop aboard Asclepius' Station after experimenting with stasis booths (Give & Take)
- Snacky uses knowledge learned from the late Romero Gonzalez to hack a stasis booth on B Deck aboard Red Dwarf to send the Dwarfers back in time; a form of deliberate stasis leak (Give & Take)
The origins and uses of stasis are elaborated in the first Red Dwarf novel. It was originally devised for interstellar travel for astros in search of extraterrestrial life, based on work done by Albert Einstein. Einstein gave up on the theory after having an affair with Marilyn Monroe and spent the rest of his life having cold showers. After these expeditions failed to find anything, not even a moderately intelligent plant, they returned home and human interest in space exploration ended. Due to the stasis field many astros were now younger than their decedents, which made billions for the greeting cards industry.
In the novel, Lister went over Space Corps Directives to find a way to get put in stasis, therefore from his point of view getting back to Earth instantaneously. Therefore sending pictures of Frankenstein to get processed in the ship's lab was a deliberate act on Lister's part, and he hid Frankenstein in the endless air ducts so that the cat would be safe.
Ever since then the stasis field has been used as a form of punishment, for Space Corps members who retaliated or committed crimes (the least serious crime punishable by Stasis was breaking quarantine regulations). Rimmer deliberately placed himself into stasis during his free time - which is partly why he didn't have a social life. He wished to stay as young as possible and, after years of doing so, he could proudly say that he was legally thirty one but really had the body of a thirty year old. In fact, if Rimmer hadn't wasted time in one of his sudden "superstition attacks", he would have been in a stasis pod during the accident and would not have died. (Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers)
In Backwards, the stasis booths were mentioned, as the Cat presumably used one during Lister's time in the backwards universe. Holly thought of spending time in the reverse universe in order to extend his life, but decided not to, unsure whether the booths worked if time moved backwards. Presumably the stasis booths would, no matter which way time flowed, as it froze time for the subject.