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

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

"Backwards" is the first episode to feature former guest star Kryten as a permanent crew member. 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.



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").

Dave 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 "Kryten") but was rescued by the crew of Red Dwarf, and has now taken permanent residence as one of the Boys from the Dwarf. The gang have also since moved to more upmarket sleeping quarters, the Officer's Quarters.


In the newly-decontaminated ("Confidence and Paranoia") Officer's Quarters aboard Red Dwarf, Lister and Cat have a discussion about Wilma Flintstone being the sexiest woman alive. Lister concludes that both of them have gone mad and that Wilma would never leave Fred.

Time Hole (1)

Rimmer and Kryten in the cockpit of Starbug as the Time Hole approaches

Meanwhile, Rimmer takes the newly-recovered and rebuilt mechanoid Kryten for his pilot's test in the shuttle Starbug 1. A visibly nervous Kryten has one or two hitches, such as accidentally pressing Rimmer's seat eject button and throwing Rimmer out of the shuttle. Kryten attributes this to learning how to drive in Starbug 2, despite them having identical controls. As they run through space phenomena such as Space Mirages and Black Holes, Kryten points out that they are heading towards a Time Hole. Rimmer, not understanding, scoffs at the suggestion, as Time Holes are stuff of legends, until Kryten points to the Time Hole in question. Rimmer looks surprised as they enter the Hole.

Nodnol Sign

A reverse sign for "Nodnol" on the backwards Earth, which Lister thinks is in Bulgaria

Crash landing in a lake on what is apparently Earth, something is amiss, with the birds flying backwards. Holly (now with the female head of Hilly from "Parallel Universe") appears in Kryten's chest monitor to help them ascertain where they are. She confirms that it is indeed Earth but all she can deduce about the time period is that it is around tea-time, half one. They find a road-sign which reads "Nodnol, 871 selim" and after a brief discussion Kryten deduces that it is in reverse, and they are 178 miles from London. They watch as a box hurls itself into an approaching lorry and the driver speaks a bizarre langue (which is reverse English). The pair "un-hitch" a ride to Retsehcnam, (Manchester, which is 178 miles from London). Rimmer is utterly bemused as the traffic is moving backwards, and he and Kryten see such things as people taking money from a busker, and somebody "un-smoking" a cigarette. Holly explains that because every action has an equal and opposite reaction, the "Big Bang" should conversely lead to the "Big Crunch," and the timeline is now running backwards.

In a cafe, Rimmer watches a woman regurgitate a cream finger, and Kryten appears in disguise with a Ronald Reagan face-mask, much to Rimmer's incredulity. Kryten uses his Universal Translator to read a reverse-printed newspaper, reading a story about a bank robber called Michael Ellis who brought three people back to life instead of shooting them dead, they also discover that it's the year "3991", or 1993. Kryten finds the place crazy, but Rimmer finds it strangely inviting. Since Starbug 1 is destroyed, they decide they should get jobs, they 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 Cat have tracked them down and follow them through the Time Hole, and land Starbug 2 safely in a field on the backwards Earth, with Starbug 2 surrounded by a cloaking device. As they exit from Starbug 2, Lister checks the NaviCom and is amazed to find that he is back on Earth. However Lister discovers that he has a black eye and a cracked rib. After seeing some debris in the lake, Lister swims down to find the wreckage of Starbug 1, but cannot find the others. After emerging from the lake, Lister's clothes are completely dry, and neither Lister or the Cat understand why.


Lister and Cat find the flyers for The Sensational Reverse Brothers

They however are not as quick to work out their surroundings as Kryten. After seeing the "Nodnol" sign, Lister deduces that they are in Bulgaria, as geography is supposedly his strong area, and do the Red Dwarf Shuffle to celebrate their excellent deduction skills. They find hundreds of flyer posters for an act called "srehtorB esreveR lanoitasneS ehT" with Rimmer and Kryten's faces on, and go to reunite with the pair. After an extremely strange incident where they steal a bike which rides backwards, they speak to a man who has come from the bushes. They manage to make themselves understand each other and the man gives them a ride to the pub. Lister and Cat enter the pub and wait for the show to start.

In the pub (the Nogard dna Egroeg eht), Lister and Cat watch Rimmer and Kryten's act, which includes such "tricks" as eating a boiled egg forwards and drinking a glass of water. The backward locals love the act, as it appears magically backwards form their perspective. Lister and Cat are totally unimpressed and are confused to why it is so popular. They simply assume either people in Bulgaria are easily pleased or that it is a moron convention. They go for a drink, where they try to catch the attention of the bar lady, with no luck. They see a man at the bar and ask him what he is drinking, he replies "erskiB" (backwards for bitter). They order two "erskiB" and are baffled at been given empty glasses. They see the manager regurgitate his drink. Finally understanding where they really are, the two celebrate by un-drinking their own glasses before heading backstage for a lengthy discussion with the others..

Rimmer and Kryten don't want to leave this world despite Lister 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. Kryten claims that on his first night on this planet, a mugger forced £50 into his wallet, and Rimmer remarks that the backwards universe makes more sense than their own. They have an argument on the morals of this planet... here, Hitler will be a hero who will retreat the Nazi's across Europe, bringing millions back to life and bogging off back to Austria, while Lister argues that St Francis of Assisi would be a sadist who went around maiming small animals and that Santa Claus is the fat bastard who sneaks down chimneys once a year to steal toys.

Suddenly the Pub Manager comes in and in an enraged backwards rant, sacks Rimmer and Kryten for starting a bar room brawl, promising they'll never work the pub circuit again. Everyone is confused, as there's been no fight as far as they know. While Rimmer and Kryten attempt to reason 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 he calls it a 'bar room tidy'). People's injuries are taken away, the bar furniture is repaired, the Cat fixes a chair by un-swinging it over someone's head, all with Rimmer hiding under a table. Lister is un-beaten by several people and notices the broken window and works out what happens to his bad back - he runs outside, only to fly back into the pub through the window, which repairs the window at the same time. He ends the brawl by punching a man in the face, repairing his missing tooth. Soon, everyone is drinking peacefully and the crew decide to head back to Starbug 2, the Time Hole and Red Dwarf, but not before Cat does his bit for charity by emptying a collection box.


"Don't ask"

Returning to Starbug 2, Rimmer laments he could have made it big. Asking where Cat is, Lister tells him he's "in the bushes"... and suddenly realise the horrible effect of doing one's business backwards. Cat emerges with a horrified expression, hair standing up on end and a stilted walk, hobbles towards Starbug. Lister and Rimmer suppress a smirk as Cat merely says "Don't ask."

Link to Series II

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", which takes place after the events of "Parallel Universe", but before the events of "Backwards".

Deleted Scenes

  • 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 III DVD 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. Rimmer also mentions that they're due to go on the backwards Opportunity Knocks, hosted by boB esuohknoM.

Guest Stars


  • 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 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 implies that, in an unchronicled adventure, Bexley was at some point 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. Alternatively, it could have been due to the interference of the Infinity Patrol in "Dad", which was supposed to have taken place between these episodes.
  • 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 Information

  • In some promotional materials, for example some of the early VHS releases of Series III, the episode was stylised backwards as "Sdrawkcab".
  • This episode introduces a new opening sequence replacing the original somber 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. 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 Retsehcnam.
  • The establishing shots of Retsehcnam city were filmed near the BBC studios in Oxford Road, Manchester. When the two Starbug ships first arrive on the Backwards Earth and land in the lake, these scenes were shot in Tatton Park, near Knutsford, Cheshire.[1]
  • 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. At the beginning of the brawl, a man is wearing a white T-Shirt with "Flash" printing forwards.
  • The man who appears to "un-smoke" a cigarette is an uncredited Red Dwarf co-writer Rob Grant.
  • The Series III 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!"

Noteworthy Dialogue

  • Woman speaking backwards: The service here is terrible!
  • 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's that one?
    Holly: (Looking out the window) A Time Hole!
    Rimmer: Don't help him!
    Kryten: (Also looking out the window) It's a Time Hole!
    Rimmer: No, it isn't!  It's nothing like a Time Hole!
    Holly: IT'S A TIME HOLE!
    Kryten: IT IS!  IT'S A TIME HOLE!
    Rimmer: A Time Hole is a phenomenon rarely seen in space, which legend would have us believe transports us into another part of space and time.  Whereas _that_ (Pointing in the book) is quite obviously a blue giant about to go supernova!  _That_ (Pointing out the window) is a Time Hole!  Right, what's this? (realises that they are about to enter a Time Hole)
  • Lister: And Santa Claus, what a bastard! He's just a fat git who goes down chimneys and steals all the kids favourite toys!
  • Pub manager's backwards rant: You are a stupid square-headed bald git, aren't you, eh?! I'm not pointing at you, I'm pointing at you. But I'm not actually addressing you, I'm addressing the one prat in the country who's bothered to get hold of this recording, turn it round and work out the rubbish that I'm saying! What a poor, sad life he's got! Frankly, your act's crap anyway, anybody could have done it! I hate the lot of you, bollocks to you!



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