REVIEW: Red Dwarf: Series 1, Episode 2 “Future Echoes” (1988)

A TV series by BBC

Red Dwarf is a show known for playing around with the science fiction tropes of overly-complicated time loops, paradoxes, parallel worlds and other shenanigans you often see in big budget science fiction shows, but deliberately worse and usually with silly outcomes. Think Douglas Adams if he was making fun of something like Star Trek at all times. This is probably the first episode where the entire plot revolves around that trope, when a freak spatial anomaly created when the ship breaks the speed of light. Everyone starts seeing things (or future echoes as Holly states), and accusations of everyone being “space crazy” flow like water. Sounds like classic Red Dwarf and I’m down for it.

“When Red Dwarf breaks the speed of light, time dilates, and the crew begin to experience visions from their own future. Sadly for Lister his future appears to include being reduced to his component atoms by a rather large explosion. Happily for Rimmer, Lister’s future appears to include being reduced to his component atoms by a rather large explosion.”

Having the knowledge of upcoming future events creates chaos of the bridge of the ship, with Lister frantically trying to alter things. He finds out that many things are apparently going to happen including Cat losing a tooth, himself having children, and even his own potential death, Lister goes crazy trying to stop these events from happening in order to prove they aren’t destined. Lister thinks about what he would be missing if he died at 25, lamenting that he’s never read a book, as an example. This tampering with time humorously usually ends up causing things to happen rather than not, for example accosting Cat as he tries to eat a metal fish, and being the one that breaks his tooth instead.

With the show being on the cheaper end at this time, not that it ever has a HUGE budget, the dialogue and characterizations of the cast are at the forefront, and everything is very well done here. You get a real sense of the insufferable arrogance of Rimmer as he correlates himself to Albert Einstein at one point, and you really get a since Lister’s life as a slacker with some of his weird trivial priorities like eating prawn vindaloo being a dream of his. The Cat, in these early episodes, is not allowed to really get out of his shell much and exists as a pretty one dimensional character as does Holly, but that eventually changes.

We see a point where Lister accuses Rimmer of being ecstatic that he’s about to die, but we find out Rimmer, despite all of the antagonism, is terrified of that. Being a dead person brought back as a hologram, he feels he has no power and would likely go “peculiar” in the isolation such an event would cause. Granted, he says this not long after doing a number of things most would say are “peculiar”, but we see shreds of his real vulnerable personality shining through nonetheless.

While the first episode of Red Dwarf set up the plotting and the characters, this episode really sets the tone for the show moving forward, and what a tone it will be sure to be! It’s funny that the show takes real scientific theories, such as future echoes, pretty seriously and then makes a big silly joke out of it. That’s largely the theme of the show at most times, it shies away from the “magic” that some science fantasy shows revel in, but the hard science is not taken too seriously by the characters resulting in it having the illusion of being silly.

All-in-all, if you felt episode one of this show was a bit slow, episode 2 really sets the blueprint for everything else moving forward. It’s by no means my favorite episode in any way, but it’s decidedly Red Dwarf. Now it will be time to see if any of the “future echoes” really pay off, personally I’m hoping that we see old-aged lister in the series finale with a metallic arm just to have final closure. I feel like that would make me REALLY happy. Side note: that old age makeup was actually pretty good!

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