Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Red Dwarf--"Future Echoes"

Red Dwarf generally does some variation on time travel every series. “future Echoes” is it first effort with the concept. The episode establishes exactly how the mix odf science fiction and sitcom elements will work throughout the series as well as settles in on the relationship between Lister and Rimmer. They do not like each other for their own reasons, but the need for companionship forces them to tolerate one another. Tolerate while lobbing jabs at one another, but tolerate nevertheless.

Lister decides he wants to go back into stasis for the return trip to Earth and take Cat with him so they can both settle on Fiji. Rimmer argues first that he ought to give up on the idea of returning to earth. He will not fit in any longer, nor will he have the job skills to take care of himself. He then moves on to talking him out of placing Cat in stasis with him. It is all because rimmer does not want to be alone for three million years even though he is irritated by the quirks of both Lister and Cat. Lister is insistent on following his plan for the two to go back into stasis.

Meanwhile, Red Dwarf has been accelerating all these years, so it suddenly breaks the light barrier. When that happens, the crew begin seeing images from the future, which are the future echoes of the title. Lister sees himself shaving in the mirror when he is not. Cat runs by him and Rimmer complaining about a broken tooth, and Lister witnesses Rimmer carrying on a conversation with thin air. It goes badly when Rimmer sees Lister die in an explosion in a future echo.

The two argue over the inevitability of fate while Rimmer takes sadistic pleasure in knowing Lister is going to die soon. Lister resigns himself to his death when his attempt to prevent Cat from breaking his tooth causes the break instead. Moments later, the scenario which sets up the fatal explosion occurs. Lister goes through with it, fully expecting to die, but everything turns out all right.

Upon returning to their quarters, Lister and Rimmer encounter another future echo. This time it is a aged , one-armed Lister that Rimmer did not witness his death, but that of Bexley, one of Lister’s eventual sons. He and Rimmer race to the infirmary to witness a similarly aged Lister emerge with twin babies. Neither of them knows how that will happen with no women on board, but lister decides to remain out of stasis so whatever happens can.

“Future Echoes” has a lot more laughs than does the premiere. I enjoyed some of the future tense/present tense wordplay when lister and rimmer discuss what will verses what is happening. There are also some clever bits like rimmer talking to himself in a scene that does not make any sense until Lister walks in and the conversation repeats. Then we learn Rimmer was talking to a future version of Lister. i even went for the goofy bit wherein holly gave Rimmer a beehive hairdo like Marge Simpson. the computer is as much a cheeky character as the rest.

It is true that Red Dwarf is not big on continuity, but it is worth noting that Lister does eventually lose an arm to be replaced by a mechanical one. We will see that happen far down the road. I do not think it was planned that far in advance. It feels more like thrown in there to match up with ‘Future Echoes,” but it is there regardless.

I like “Future echoes.” It does the job of keeping lister out of stasis, which would be a logical problem otherwise, by tying in a science fiction concept. As I said above, there are more laughs than in the premiere as the antagonistic relationship is in full bloom now that we have gotten all the introductions out of the way.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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