Haven't I Seen You Before?

Sci-fi moments that remind us of classic Red Dwarf.

30 June, 2017

Those of you who watch Doctor Who may have noticed a slightly familiar plot element in last Saturday's episode. "World Enough and Time", the eleventh episode of the show's tenth series, saw the titular Doctor and his companions aboard a massive spaceliner, accelerating away from a black hole and being subjected to time dilation as a result.

Haven't I Seen You Before?

Well, we're sure you don't need us to tell you that time dilation - or, to be more specific, "relative time dilation in an amazingly compressed space" - was at the heart of one of Red Dwarf's most memorable plots, in the Series IV classic White Hole. Red Dwarf wasn't the first sci-fi property to explore it - and it's been a noted scientific phenomenon for a long time - but it's nevertheless quite amusing to see Doctor Who finally land on it over twenty-five years after Dwarf got there.

And that got us thinking about other examples of sci-fi concepts and tropes that have been made familiar to us by our beloved Red Dwarf, but which have since turned up elsewhere as well. So here are some other examples of movies and TV shows that brought Red Dwarf plot devices to a wider audience.

(And before you write in: yes, we know that in some cases, Dwarf wasn't necessarily the first show to explore these plots. But all of our examples are ones that took place after we did it!)

Better Than Life: Trapped in a real-life computer game

Haven't I Seen You Before?

Artificial realities are commonplace in science fiction, and so too is the idea of a game or other form of simulated reality that the user isn't even aware is false. The Matrix is perhaps the most famous example of recent decades, but for our money, the 1999 David Cronenberg movie Existenz shares more in common with how the concept was presented in Red Dwarf episodes such as Better than Life and Back to Reality. And in particular, the way the movie plays with the question of whether its participants have even escaped the game at all - right up to the end - calls to mind the in-depth nightmare scenario our crew find themselves in in the first two Red Dwarf novels.

Buy Better than Life on iTunes!

Ouroboros: Self-progeny

Haven't I Seen You Before?

When Series VII revealed that Lister was, in fact, his own father - thanks to the combination of a time drive, an alternate-universe ex-girlfriend an an in-vitro tube - it was one of the more outlandish, and classically Red Dwarfy, concepts there have ever been. And another famous sci-fi comedy, Matt Groening's Futurama, played similar havoc with the concept in one of its best-regarded episodes. Roswell That Ends Well saw the show's hero travel back to the 1950s and meet his own grandparents - only for a complicated set of circumstances to result in him actually spawning his own father. Unlike Red Dwarf, however, Futurama never really went back to explore the concept in any detail the way Series X's Fathers and Suns did.

Buy Ouroboros and Fathers and Suns on iTunes!

The End: Waking up alone after stasis

Haven't I Seen You Before?

We'll be honest, we couldn't move on Twitter for comments directed to us about the movie Passengers when its first trailer was released. And yes, it really did seem from that first trailer that the Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence-starring blockbuster movie had an awful lot in common with Red Dwarf - with a man and a woman waking up from stasis on an interstellar voyage to find that they were the only two people onboard the ship (apart from an over-friendly and servile droid). As it turned out, the film turned in some quite different directions from the classic Red Dwarf setup, but it was impossible to ignore the echoes of the show's entire concept throughout the movie's running time.

Buy The End on iTunes!

Bodyswap: A hologram borrows someone else's body

Haven't I Seen You Before?

We could write an entire book on the similarities and shared ideas between Red Dwarf and the various incarnations of Star Trek. But while Patrick Stewart might have been moved to consider phoning his lawyer upon first seeing Red Dwarf - before it made him laugh and he became a wholehearted fan - it's safe to say the river hasn't always flowed in just one direction. Take Body and Soul, a 2000 episode of Voyager - in which the hologram (!) character The Doctor temporarily inhabits the body of Seven of Nine. And just like when Rimmer's in Lister's body, the Doctor can't help himself from overindulging while in the borrowed body...

Buy Bodyswap on iTunes!

Tikka to Ride: Preventing the Kennedy Assassination

Haven't I Seen You Before?

Apparently Stephen King first came up with the idea for his novel 11/22/63 in the early 1970s - but it took him until 2011 to write and release it, so we can happily state that Red Dwarf got there first. Of course, his time travel tale of a man going back in time and preventing the assassination of President John F. Kennedy played out rather differently from the Series VII classic - and sure, they may have had James Franco starring in their hit TV adaptation, but we'd bet they didn't have quite so brilliant a time-twisting resolution to the saga.

Buy Tikka to Ride on iTunes!

Backwards: Time running... backwards

Haven't I Seen You Before?

Surprisingly, despite being one of the most popular and distinctive of Red Dwarf's episodes, the backwards-universe concept remains otherwise surprisingly under-explored in fiction. The only other TV example we've managed to find was a Norwegian piece of so-called "slow TV" titled Tokyo Reverse which saw a man walking backwards through the Japanese city for nine hours, with the footage shown in reverse so he appeared to be moving forwards. Unlike when Red Dwarf did so on the streets of Retsehcnam back in 1989, however, the star of Tokyo Reverse seemingly didn't require a piece of wire attached to his head to guide him through the street...

Buy Backwards on iTunes!

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