Red Dwarf II, episode 4: “Stasis Leak”
Written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor; originally transmitted 27th September 1988.
When Lister discovers a strange photograph of him and Kristine Kochanski at their wedding – one they never had – they realise there must be a “stasis leak” on board the ship that allows them to travel back in time to shortly before the crew were wiped out. When they eventually find it, Lister seizes the opportunity to save Kochanski from dying, or at least figure out what’s going on in the picture, while Rimmer eyes a similar opportunity to save the most important person in the universe: himself.
What do I think of it?
Red Dwarf continues to play with traditional science fiction tropes: after virtual reality and messing with memories, now we’re on to time travel. I have to say, I was immediately impressed with the concept of the “stasis leak” and how it plays on the “magic door” trope: it’s not hard sci-fi by any means, but I’m always glad when Red Dwarf pulls something as genuinely neat as that from out of its hat.
Given that the episode brings us back to pre-extinction Red Dwarf, the sentimentality levels are surprisingly low. There’s a brief moment where Lister revels in being able to see all his old friends again but, apart from that, there’s little in the way of moments like “Balance of Power’s” disco flashback. Of course, with everything else that goes on in this episode there’s little time for any sort of contemplation on the weight of the situation.
“Stasis Leak” is ultimately an episode of nice “moments”. That’s not to say it doesn’t hold together well, because it does, but there’s no clear story arc and everything just sort-of follows on from the next. As a result it’s the little things that give it its charm: the lift safety procedure video, the “what is it?” bit between the three leads, Lister getting to see Olaf again, Cat’s first encounter with an actual woman, Rimmer’s bizarre attempt to save his life…
Oh, of course, Rimmer. You have to ask why he ever thought peeking his head out of the table like that would ever convince his past self of anything. As you might expect, Rimmer’s attempt at saving his own skin is undone by his own obnoxiousness and irritability, which only reinforces the recurring theme of Rimmer being his own worst enemy, but for once at least we can also pin the blame on Lister’s mushrooms and Captain Hollister’s chicken costume. By the way, how wonderful are the scenes with past Rimmer? Particularly the opening flashback where he reads out his report? Chris Barrie does an excellent job, too, of portraying the subtle differences between the old, awful Rimmer and the newer, more fleshed out but still pretty awful holo-Rimmer – seriously underrated actor.
I’m going lighter on spoilers with these new reviews, so I won’t explain how the “photograph” plot is resolved, but I will say it’s nice to see that Grant and Naylor were thinking ahead to future stories with those final couple of scenes. It would have been even nicer if they had actually gone through with them, but there we are. It’s quite a satisfying ending on its own, if perhaps a little too tidy, but hindsight can be a git sometimes; and if you’re watching these episodes through without any notion of where the story is going, don’t hold your breath for a resolution on the points presented here. All in all, though, another great episode from the Dwarf in its early years.
Some stray smeg:
- You know, I ruddy love Captain Hollister. Any episode with him in it is always a delight; and personally speaking, his supporting role was easily one of the best things about Red Dwarf VIII. But we’ll get there in due time…
- I also appreciate any flashback scenes from before Lister went into stasis – where it’s just the crew going about their business – and the one we get here is a doozy. Of course, it helps to set up the plot, too, so that’s a plus.
- Cat finally gets to meet an actual woman, then, or at least stare at one in silence. Good for him, I suppose.
- I’m going to guess this episode took up a fair chunk of the budget, what with all the new sets.
- Is it just me or does that suitcase sound like Hugh Dennis?
Happy New Year, you sexy things, you!