Stasis is a form of technology present in the Red Dwarf universe. A major plot point of the franchise, stasis can essentially "freeze in time" people or cargo.
Main character Dave Lister spends three million years in stasis in the pilot episode after the accident which killed the rest of the crew, but Lister emerges from stasis to find that 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 in Series VII, or Irene Edgington is found in stasis in Series X.
In the television series, it is said that there are only two stasis chambers aboard Red Dwarf. ("RD: Stasis Leak") However, in the first Red Dwarf novel, there is a whole floor made up of thousands of stasis booths that went almost entirely unused, except for Lister in punishment and Rimmer occasionally 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 does so 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 Stasis Leak. Such a leak occurred aboard Red Dwarf, allowing the hologram Arnold Rimmer, Lister and the Cat to travel back in time to before the accident that killed the crew. 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 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. 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 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 31 but really had the body of a 30 year old. In fact, if Rimmer hadn't wasted time in one of his sudden "superstition attacks", he would have been recreating in a stasis pod during the accident and would not have died. (Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers)
Starbug's deep sleep units also have a form of stasis capability, as is shown in the episodes "Psirens", "Out of Time", and "Nanarchy". However, this seemed to operate on a different principal entirely to the stasis booths seen on other starships. It 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.