Why Lister won't use time travel to get "home."

Discussion in 'RED DWARF UNIVERSE' started by bedfordfalls, Sep 18, 2016.

  1. bedfordfalls

    bedfordfalls Deck Sergeant

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    I've been reading a few posts lately asking why, given the numerous time travel technologies Lister and co have found across their adventures, Lister doesn't just use one of them to return to his own time.
    Many people accuse Doug of failing to address this in the majority of the episodes that feature the crew turning up on some version of Earth's past.

    I'm surprised that many people appear to have missed the fairly concrete explanation that Lister gives when talking to his infant self in S7's 'Ouroboros'.

    "For a long time, you'll think that you were abandoned, but you weren't, man. You were put here to create a paradox, an unbreakable circle. With us going 'round and 'round in time, the human race can never become extinct. We're like... a kind of 'holding pattern'."

    This speech, made only in private, for me pretty much confirms Lister's realisation that he has a duty to his species to ensure humanity's survival in his own time and confirms the incredible sacrifice he is prepared to give in order to remain 'The last human' and give hope for the propagation of his species in a future where mankind would otherwise be extinct.

    It's the kind of wonderfully idealistic and noble Lister premise that I'm surprised hasn't been more widely discussed or understood. He can never make the selfish decision to go back to live in the past because that would deny humanity any future in the present. It also gives added gravitas to his search for Kochanski, which is not just the rekindling of an old love to him but something important to the very survival of humanity.

    As absurd as his 'plan' once sounded in series 1, it has become a blueprint not just for Lister, but for the future of humanity. He could return 'home' tomorrow but to do so would essentially be to cause the extinction of the human race in the future he now inhabits.
     
  2. FeeBee

    FeeBee Deck Sergeant

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    I think that when they lost Starbug that he realised he viewed Red Dwarf more as the home he wanted to go back to then Earth since his focus was getting the ship back and not just salvaging one of the better ships they'd come across to get back to Earth.
     
  3. jmc2000

    jmc2000 Deck Sergeant

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    But I think he's already ticked that off the bucket list. Lister is going round and round in time, fathering himself. Mission accomplished.

    The only reason to avoid time travel now would be if going to Earth could undo what he's already done. And it certainly could, in some models of time travel. E.g., if he stops Red Dwarf existing in the first place..

    But their previous bad experience, in that regard, was when they accidentally stopped one of the major assassinations of the 20th Century. I'm surprised Lister's never said he wants to go to Earth and retire somewhere quiet, where he can keep his head down (dare I say in Fiji?).

    Reviewing Tikka to Ride, I think I'll take this as the best explanation:

    We saw how badly it went when they did it anyway. So I suppose the legacy of Tikka is an unwritten rule that they just don't do it - except for when Lister abandoned himself at the pub (he'd already done this and couldn't reasonably shirk it).

    I've got to say, though, I think they're being over-cautious. Accidentally saving JFK was a massive change to history. In other episodes, they've been able to fiddle quite heavily with their own timelines (Stasis Leak, Timeslides) and Earth's history (Timeslides, Lemons, Twentica) without any real damage to either themselves or the universe.
     
  4. Goit_84

    Goit_84 First Technician

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    It's always been the thing that's bothered me since Series 7. Not only did the time jump device suddenly allow for going anywhere (in Out of Time it only let them move through time not space) it also hung around as a device they just "had".

    Also, Lister was so incredibly stupid in Tikka To Ride, not realising he could just go home, to his own time, and just stay there.

    There needed to be some exploration of that - like Lister should have been terrified of screwing up the past and uninventing Kryten and killing The Cat race, leading him to destroy it. I'd love to have seen a series 7 episode of him meeting the Cat people and realising his time wasn't a complete waste of life and like in Wonderful Life, decides to be happy with losing his easy way out and destroys the time drive.

    The show needed something like that to explain why the device was out of bounds, but series 7 left me very confused. He still uses it to jump to his own time and leave himself in a box under a pool table, so they obviously figure out how to be accurate with it. It opened up a few plot wounds that were just left gushing. Then the show drops the entire thing and goes to prison, revives the crew and motivations of characters get almost lost entirely. In series 8 there seems to be zero imperative from any of the crew to get home there either. It's so weird.

    I hope series 11 addresses some motivational issues and gets the through line back on track.
     
  5. Pembers

    Pembers Deck Sergeant

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    Well Lister did suggest using the TimeDrive to get 'back to Earth our time' but the explanation was indeed very unsatisfying.

    It's an annoyance I have with 'Stasis Leak' when they were back on the ship, and indeed off it, before the accident happened. I mean blimey if nothing else they could have at least repaired the time drive properly.
     
  6. bedfordfalls

    bedfordfalls Deck Sergeant

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    I think maybe I didn't explain my point (and the point I believe that Lister is making in the Ouroboros speech) clearly then.

    It's only 'Mission acomplished' for as long as there are humans left alive in the year 300'000-and-whatever-it-is that Red Dwarf is currently set in.

    Right now (and certainly as of his speech in Ouroboros) as far as Lister is concerned he is the LAST MAN ALIVE. If he EVER leaves that time to travel back to the past (at least before he has propagated the species in that era) then the population of humanity drops back to the zero it was at before his emergence from stasis and he essentially kills-off the human race.

    That's why he puts the baby under the table, to ensure that his own destiny as the Last human comes to bear and saves mankind from extinction. As he tells his 'son', this way "the human race can never be extinct".

    He literally refers to himself as "a holding pattern".

    Lister has made the decision to not only ensure his arrival in that future but to live permanently in that future regardless of what opportunities to take the easy and selfish route back to live comfortably in the past arise. He's taken it with the full knowledge that it may cost him his own dreams but he does it to ensure the existence of his species long after what would otherwise have been their extinction. It's the character's moment of zen, his understanding of the true purpose behind his whole unfortunate life.

    See above. It's perfectly explained by Lister if you listen for it and it's why no episode following Ouroboros needs to be concerned with the question of "why not just stay there." Lister is still trying to get back to Earth, but it can only ever now be the Earth of the year 3 million and whatever. The 'plan' didn't change, it just got a huge upgrade in terms of importance.
     
  7. jmc2000

    jmc2000 Deck Sergeant

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    Ah, hang on. The "holding pattern" refers to him going round and round in time - becoming his own father again and again. A "holding pattern" is where an aircraft circles instead of landing.

    He doesn't mean humanity will survive in purely calendar terms (i.e., as far as the year three million and whatever). The beauty of the "holding pattern" is, the linear lifespan of the human race doesn't matter any more.

    What he's done is create a never-ending loop in time, that will repeat forever. That's why he says the human race can never go extinct. Part of the human story will keep repeating, so the human story can never end. Hence the episode title, and hence his little speech.
    Conversely, trying to extend the "shelf life" of the human race - by surviving as far as possible into the future - would be a mug's game. He can't live "permanently" in the year three million and whatever because he isn't immortal. If he uses the time drive to go home now, it makes a difference of a few decades to humanity's overall lifespan. And it could be much less, if he got shot tomorrow by a simulant. It would be a strange character quirk (worth exploring!) if he was prepared to forgo his own happiness, just to buy humanity a few extra decades when everyone else was long dead.

    So, after leaving himself in the Aigburth Arms, it doesn't really matter whether he stays in his own time or returns to grow old and die in the far future. In either case, a) the last human in the universe was him, b) the linear lifespan of humanity was ~3.25 million years, and c) the last human will circle forever in time - making humanity eternal. That's why I feel like it's "mission accomplished".

    That's my interpretation, anyway - as always, your mileage might vary :-)
     
  8. bedfordfalls

    bedfordfalls Deck Sergeant

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    Except that at the end of Ouroboros he isn't returning to his own time with the intention of simply living out his own life. He's returning to a woman (albeit his biological mother but we'll skip that icky issue for another day!) who he goes on to form a relationship with (before the events of BTE) and presumably sees the chance to propogate the human race with.

    Lister and Kochanski are the last hope for humanity's survival (or even rebirth) in a far flung future where the race died out. If he doesn't abandon himself under the pool table then he won't create the holding pattern that enables humanity to be reborn into the universe via the stasis/radition leak incident onboard red-dwarf and the future will be sans Lister and sans alt Kochanski who only crossed over to that universe because of Lister.

    This all goes to smeg if he uses the time drive to return home afterwards, there's no point in him doing any of it unless it's to preserve humanity's existence in the future. That's what I take him to mean by "going round and round in time so humanity can never go extinct"...not "can temporarily survive in a pocket of time" The future self puts the past self into the past to ensure that the past self makes it to the future to return it's past self to the past :-)lol:-). That's the Ouroboros loop of the title but there's still an overall goal behind doing it other than closing the loops of a paradox: ensuring the future survival of the human race.

    My point is (and what I take Lister to have figured out by his very decision making) is that it's all for nothing if Lister then gives up on that future (and humanity's) by selfishly choosing to go back and live out his life in the comforts of a past Earth. That's why he beams back instead of staying and never uses the time drive again, rejecting every other similar opportunity.

    Lister isn't just the Last Human he's the guardian of the human race's very future and he knows it. Well that's my interpretation anyway and it's why, for me, Ouroboros does away with any such concerns with the show abusing time travel while staying true to Lister's goals. :P

    The farm, Fiji, Earth, Kochanski, the hotdog stand and a cat can all still happen in the future...with the benefit that Lister would also be saving his species from extinction.

    For a hopeless romantic like Lister I don't think it's that odd of a character "quirk" at all for him to choose to do this. It seems entirely in character for the noble, righteous decent man we know him to be.
     
  9. jmc2000

    jmc2000 Deck Sergeant

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    Well, the beauty is we can each have our own interpretation :-)

    I would be tempted to agree with you if Lister had said "doesn't go extinct" rather "can never go extinct". The finality of the statement makes me think he's describing what he's already achieved: the eternity of a circle. It's a "pocket of time", but there's nothing temporary about it. It goes around and around forever.

    Heck - if he was most concerned about the survival of humanity in the far future, his best bet would be to use the time drive to travel back and recruit some colonists, who would start a new society in the year three million. Even if he starts a family with Kochanski, who do the kids mate with? It's in danger of getting a bit "old testament" if they don't use the time drive to supplement the gene pool.

    So even with this other interpretation of his motives, we still circle back (and back, and back - like a snake swallowing its own tail) to the question of why they didn't use the time drive more. Depending on Lister's ultimate goal, he could have either settled down in the past, or ferried some willing pioneers to the far future.

    Still, there's no right or wrong answer, and I actually like how Red Dwarf leaves some key plot points open to interpretation.
     
  10. bedfordfalls

    bedfordfalls Deck Sergeant

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    Well, we are talking about a guy who has just sacrificed his son for the sake of the human race! Sound familiar? :shock:

    Barry from Auf Weidersein Pet tried to warn us but did we listen? No, we just dismissed it as an artificial reality induced by despair ink! 8)
     
  11. Goit_84

    Goit_84 First Technician

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    Hopefully we'll see Lister achieve the second Big Bang with jump leads on Starbug at some point!

    Does Lister know for a fact the human race is extinct? We have never been to 3 million years into the future Earth to find out. Since the time drive could answer that question I'm amazed he didn't try it.

    This is the real problem with having a device lying around that grants your characters omnipotence. When they get all depressed about how powerless they are you feel like banging your head because they STILL have a device that can solve every problem right there and then.

    Is the human race extinct? Use the time drive to find out.
    If the human race is extinct, use the time drive to try to fix that or come to terms with the fact that species die and go live in your own time. Prevent Red Dwarf from ever taking off, get Rimmer a different job so he doesn't kill everyone.
    If the human race isn't extinct, use the time drive and go live in your own time, do the same thing.

    When Rimmer destroyed the time drive in Out of Time they really should have left that device well alone.
     
  12. jmc2000

    jmc2000 Deck Sergeant

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    Bump!

    Out of interest, do we have any reason to think the Dwarfers can time travel after Back In The Red?

    The Time Drive was on the original Starbug, which they crashed in BITR part one. We know that Starbug was left in very bad shape, and a lot was destroyed:

    Are there any mentions of the Time Drive after the start of series 8? I can't remember any, but that doesn't mean there weren't any. It may simply be they were wary of using the Time Drive because of what happened in Out of Time and Tikka to Ride, and didn't have it long anyway.
     
  13. Deep_Space_in_the_15th_Century

    Deep_Space_in_the_15th_Century Supply Officer

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    So if Lister doesn't actually want to go back to Earth anymore, is Red Dwarf still pointed toward Earth?

    Also, both the Time Drive and the Casket of Chronos have the convenient ability to space-travel as well as time-travel. Hence why whenever they go back in time they're somehow also on Earth instead of being in past-deep-space. So even if Lister has an aversion to time-travel, I wonder if he could use the machines to space-travel-but-not-time-travel. Or, if you have to time-travel to space-travel, could he programme it to go back one second?

    We don't really know if Lister wants to get back to 3002343 Earth or 2077 Earth, but he has the ability to go to both.
     
  14. jmc2000

    jmc2000 Deck Sergeant

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    This is a superb point.

    Playing devil's advocate - see my most recent posts here and in the Twentica thread.

    If they only had the Time Drive during series seven, it may be that their short-term focus was on recovering Red Dwarf. That's a whole ship of material goods they didn't want to lose. So they wouldn't abandon the chase by jumping far in time or space.

    EDIT: Arguably they could have space-travelled-but-not-time-travelled to get back to Red Dwarf - in which case, they would have arrived at the planetoid, and Nanarchy would have happened much sooner.

    However, to my knowledge, it's taken nearly twenty years for the combined fandom of Red Dwarf to hit on the idea of space-travel-but-not-time-travel - so I can readily believe they simply didn't think to try it :-)

    As for the Casket of Chronos, I'm sticking with Rimmer's original claim that it was merely an amp, and needed to be used in conjunction with a "temporal transporter".

    See the Twentica thread for my suggested explanation of how they returned to the far future with it - taking advantage of the fact that, because of the curvature of space-time, the Earth end of the exponoids' time tunnel stayed open for several years.
     
  15. Deep_Space_in_the_15th_Century

    Deep_Space_in_the_15th_Century Supply Officer

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    My understanding is that the Time Drive was "upgraded" by the merging of the two timelines between VI and VII. Ie, the future Time Drive used by the evil-future-Dwarfers could travel in space (it's from the future, so it's better), and when "the timelines merged to cope with the paradox" the present-day Time Drive was upgraded.

    This is major plot hole for me. The whole point of the programme is that Lister is trying to get back to Earth. So if he can go back to Earth to get curry, he can go back to Earth to . . . go back to Earth. The only reason they went to Dallas 1963 instead of Liverpool 2077 is that Kryten's spare head didn't know how to operate it properly.
     
  16. jmc2000

    jmc2000 Deck Sergeant

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    To be fair, I think they do do a reasonable job of covering this:

    In other words, the basic thrust of Tikka to Ride is:

    - Rimmer and Kryten warn that they mustn't use time travel after the events of Out of Time
    - Lister does it anyway
    - They narrowly avoid disaster, proving Rimmer and Kryten right

    So I guess the unspoken "moral of the story" is that they can't use the Time Drive to return home - with an exception being made for Lister to ensure he exists in the first place.
     
  17. Deep_Space_in_the_15th_Century

    Deep_Space_in_the_15th_Century Supply Officer

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    Space-travel-but-not-time-travel. The Time Drive can transport them through space as well as time. So plug in "Earth" and "now", no time-travel.
     
  18. jmc2000

    jmc2000 Deck Sergeant

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    See previous - if they only had it for series seven, they didn't want to abandon the hunt for Red Dwarf - OR they didn't think of it, the same as the rest of us didn't.

    I'm just trying stuff out with this point - seeing if anything works. You've hit on a really good objection, lol :-)
     
  19. Deep_Space_in_the_15th_Century

    Deep_Space_in_the_15th_Century Supply Officer

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    This thing about Lister wanting to make sure humans still exist. It made me realise that we've never seen Red Dwarf go into the future, have we. We're in the year 30002xxx, but we've never seen the Dwarfers go to the Year Billion or anything like that. Lister could use time-travel to make sure humans still exist even further in the future, far beyond his natural lifespan (which appears to be at least 171).
     
  20. jmc2000

    jmc2000 Deck Sergeant

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    Yup - another very interesting point. I suppose Rimmer might have crossed that off the list in Tikka to Ride.

    Since Tikka to Ride... have they done any deliberate time travel, except for Ouroboros?
     

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