Time For A Change

Wormholes, stasis booths and unreliable gadgets. We take a brief history of Time - Dwarfer style.

Three million years in stasis. A lot can change in that time. For a start, Lister's games console will be hideously outdated.

Many writers have mused on the curious brutality of regular travel. Catching a train for somewhere. You sit down in one part of the world, and when you stand up you're somewhere else entirely. It's a curious sensation which we've grown accustomed to in a modern world. The journey is made, but - because there has been no walking - you don't feel that you have made it. Unless you're travelling with Virgin Rail.

Time For A Change

Now reverse the feeling. You have travelled nowhere in space, but a huge way in time. Again, you've not been conscious of moving yourself through that time, but still, everything's different. The crew are dead - in fact the human race is long gone. Even that one barber who actually knew how to cut your hair without making you look like a gimp.

Step out of stasis and into the world of Red Dwarf Time.

The start of Series VI was, in many ways, a re-assertion of how Red Dwarf worked. It began with Lister stepping from suspended animation - Deep Sleep, this time, where time is slowed but not stopped - and re-learning his own identity. A great introduction, with Lister only slightly hampered by the 8-inch-long finger- and toenails and a beard bushier than Kate.

Time For A Change

In Deep Sleep, it seems, the body is still working away, trying to make you look just a little more stupid. And exactly what did happen to that barber?

But enough of this suspended animation lark - sometimes the crew have no control over what Time does to them. In an alternate universe (or dimension - but that's another debate), Time is running backwards. Sure, this is great for the victims of petty theft, or anyone who paid for t.A.T.u. tickets - but for small children everywhere, Santa is a figure of unspeakable torment.

In this universe, humanity is de-evolving, rain rises from the gutters to fill the clouds, and Michael Jackson is getting less and less strange-looking every year.

Sometimes, when you're a Dwarfer, you just find that time has gotten a little out of control. Check out White Hole, where pockets of time are making Rimmer rant even more quickly than normal. Kryten may call it, "Relative time dilation in an amazingly compressed space," but we all know the cause, right? A wibbly thing.

Just imagine, for a second, seeing this in action. Everything seems normal where you are, but just across the room Radio 4 is playing at a quarter of its usual speed. Not that anyone would notice.

Another time phenomenon thrust upon our boys happened in Future Echoes. Having accelerated for three million years, Red Dwarf was passing through objects before anyone saw them. To go with this whacked-out piece of astro-navigation, the crew began to see future echoes - slices of a future they would eventually catch up to.

Time For A Change

Pre-determinism is a big deal. Indeed, it pretty much seduced Kochanski into sleeping with Rimmer in Cassandra. Once seen, how can you prevent a future that is sure to happen? How do you find that cosmic loophole?

Thankfully for them, Rimmer and Lister are about as devious and cunning a pair of human beings as you could hope to meet. They both came out relatively unscathed - brown trousers aside.

Light speed, in general, is a problem - sometimes even the lack of it causes the gang headaches. The lack of a faster-than-light drive in Out of Time rendered their time-drive time-travel attempts useless. Well, not useless, but deep space is very much the same no matter what the century.

Still, things change. And when killed by their future selves - which is, obviously, something that can't actually happen - the crew found themselves in a reality created by merged dimensional anomalies. It fixed the paradox, but seems to have left them with access to a time drive that still had its star drive fitted - suddenly they could go anywhere and any-when.

Time For A Change

So how did this happen? Never explained on the show, could it be that the star drive was originally housed on the Gemini 12? That perhaps the future crew simply moved back in time a little and stole it - which is why our guys didn't find it.

Or is that just a huge bowl of time and space custard?

Anyway, seeing as we're on the subject, let's talk about time travel devices. The time drive was just one of many such devices liberally scattered about the cosmos waiting for some idiot with fat fingers to pick it up and punch in random numbers by mistake.

Top of the list has to be the time wand. Proving once and for all that messing with time is neither big nor clever - and that our boys shouldn't be allowed to operate anything more technical than an abacus - this device froze its original finders stiff. There this band of Canaries remained until Kryten, Kochanski and Cat showed up... and nicked it.

Time For A Change

Oh, it was all good fun at the start - de-aging the Cat's outfit to something circa 1974, youthing Kochanski to the point where she's never even heard of anti-aging cream - but it was only a matter of time until things turned smeggy.

Note to users - reversing the time-stream too far will cause de-evolution. Fine if your ancestors were cute little kittens. Not so great if your ancestors were dirty great dinosaurs.

Between the giant T-rex, 'help' from Bob the skutter and the threat of violence from two dangerous prisoners, it's no wonder Rimmer decided the best course of action was to destroy the device. And, interestingly, it's a similar decision to the one made after Out of Time. "We shouldn't be messing with this stuff."

A shame really - the time wand could have carried them through their two-year prison sentence in seconds.

Changing your life is what it's all about. The time wand was rare in that it could have travelled them past their problem, into the future, rather than changing their past. (Another example can be seen at the swirly hands of a wormhole in Rimmerworld, although Rimmer is subjected to centuries of incarceration and torment this time.)

Perhaps more conventionally, the portals created in both Timeslides and Stasis Leak enabled Lister to go back and attempt to correct his previous mistakes. In both cases, we can count minor successes. Lister succeeded in changing his life from marooned space-bum to rich git with the timeslides, and the stasis leak allowed him to go back and be married to Kochanski. Only, in the first instance Rimmer brought him back again, and in the second it was his future self who'd married Kochanski.

Time For A Change

Though quite why he bothered going back again knowing that his younger self would be dropping by to do the marital honours five years 'sooner' is anyone's guess.

Still, the Dwarfers aren't the only ones with time troubles. The Inquisitor was a self-repairing simulant who moved through time via an electronic gauntlet, expunging the worthless. While it's hardly surprising that Lister and Kryten were targeted, it is surprising that these two managed to trick a droid smart enough to build a time machine. ("The old back-firing time-gauntlet trick.")

What we learnt from this escapade was how little choice Lister and Kryten really had over their destinies. After all, the two sperm-egg combinations chosen to replace them made so many of the same mistakes that they ended up in the same place as our originals - stuck in deep space with the male, feline equivalent of Joan Collins and a man whose CD collection is alphabetised and recorded on index cards.

It's all about fate, in the end. So many times Time (oh yes, capital 'T', please) refuses to be altered. Pre-determinism - and, for that matter, post-determinism (I can make up words if I like) - is of huge importance.

It's the reason Lister killed Cassandra against his will. It's how Lister ended up as his own father. It showed us Lister with twin boys, and the death of one of those in the drive room. It means a future Lister is destined to go back and marry his lost love...

Except he hasn't. It's been five years and he didn't do it.

You see, when one travels in time and changes something, there's a paradox - if you went back and fixed it, why, in the future, would you go back and fix it?

Time For A Change

So could it be that when you change time, you create a new dimension? A future where that event took place? And that's the dimension you 'return' to when you go forward again?

Maybe. But that's another discussion...

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