DwarfCast 145 - Book Club #16: Backwards (Part Five) featured image
Subscribe to DwarfCasts:  RSS  •  iTunes

IT. IS. DONE.

3 men, 4 Books and 16 episodes in just under 16 months. Our series of DwarfCast Book Club finally draws to a close as Ian, Cappsy and Danny wrap up Backwards, with our thoughts on High Midnight and The Difference II. Was Ace’s death tossed off too quickly? What noise do popping bones make? Did Rob Grant go too far this time? Find out within!

DwarfCast 145 – Book Club #16: Backwards (Part Five) (101MB)

By now any even semi-regular listener will be aware of what we have coming up next, but to re-iterate the next episode to plop into your feeds will be a commentary on The Young Ones episode Interesting (part of a planned series of Dwarf-adjacent commentaries) and then after that we’ll be launching our series: the DwarfCast Smegazine Club (please let us know if you’ve got a better name), with the familiar back and forth cadence between the two series UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.

As a final note, we’d like to thank you all again for the amazing participation we’ve seen over the course of the book club series. Your insights, conversations and patience are big reasons why we got through this and enjoyed it so thoroughly.

Show notes

38 comments on “DwarfCast 145 – Book Club #16: Backwards (Part Five)

Scroll to bottom

  • Folks, today is a day for both sadness and joy. Sadness, for the passing away of the G&T Book Club; and joy, because the Book Club is back with us, albeit as the final Dwarfcast.

  • I enjoyed the clutching at loose overarching themes. Even if it may be wishful thinking, I’ll take it to make the book better.

  • Wonderful finish to the Book Club, great work chaps.

    The idea of Backwards being themed around maturity and sacrifice is a great observation and one that helps bring a lot of the disparate elements of the book into alignment.

    Also delighted to hear that there will be regular input from the comments into the Smegazine Dwarfcasts* as it’s part of what has made the book club so much fun. I’ve also never read them (aside from a few excerpts here and there) so I’m looking forward to diving into some “new” Dwarf.

    (*name suggestions: The Smegazine Subscription? The Smegazine Rack? Smegazine: Revisited? Smegazine: Cover-to-cover?)

  • Also, regarding the “plot hole” of all four of the crew not escaping in the Wildfire, I think there are a couple of reasons why it’s not really a significant logic gap.

    The first one is also demonstrated pretty well by the abridged audiobook ending, and it’s that things move so fast in this section of the book that there’s simply not much time or opportunity for them to do this. Between Ace’s death and the climactic agonoid fight and the transmission of the virus (and the chaos it causes for Starbug) and Kryten deciding to plug himself in and fight it, there just isn’t a moment for everyone to stop and think and formulate such an escape plan.

    And that’s assuming (a) that they remembered the Wildfire was there (which the novel implies had slipped their mind at this point) and (b) that they had reason to believe at that point that the situation was so dire that they’d risk travelling in the Wildfire AND choose to live in an alternate reality just to escape it.

    I think it’s believable that the Wildfire would be seen as such a last resort that they wouldn’t have even considered it while there was a chance of everyone making it out of the situation alive, and managing to find a way back to Red Dwarf.

  • Anyone noticed anything about the outtake beeps since January’s Dwarfcasts? No? OK…

  • Anyone noticed anything about the outtake beeps since January’s Dwarfcasts? No? OK…

    Do you mean noticed them in general? ‘Cos I’ve mentioned before that I think they’re great, nicely done. In fact, I laughed my head off at these this evening.
    At the risk of sounding like a suck up (oo-er), I think you’ve been doing a cracking job overall with the ‘Casts this past year – the effects and sound quality in general have been excellent. No, really. Good job.

    The Smegazine Rack?

    Oh, I like that.

  • Anyone noticed anything about the outtake beeps since January’s Dwarfcasts? No? OK…

    Do you mean noticed them in general? ‘Cos I’ve mentioned before that I think they’re great, nicely done. In fact, I laughed my head off at these this evening.
    At the risk of sounding like a suck up (oo-er), I think you’ve been doing a cracking job overall with the ‘Casts this past year – the effects and sound quality in general have been excellent. No, really. Good job.
    The Smegazine Rack?
    Oh, I like that.

    Thanks for the compliments, but I really do mean specifically the beeps in the outtakes since the beginning of the year.

    I dun a ‘Goodall Manoeuvre’…

  • I can’t believe Danny’s never heard Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.
    “In the wilds of Borneo
    And the vineyards of Bordeaux
    Eskimo, Arapaho
    Move their body to and fro”

    Enjoyed this one, as usual! Regret dropping out with comments near the start, but I did listen to the podcasts and I didn’t think of anything that wasn’t mentioned by others. I really appreciate the idea that there’s a theme of maturity and sacrifice in the book, as before the end just left me feeling a bit bleak with the main universe in the book being completely abandoned. Kryten and Rimmer’s deaths makes me feel worse than the end of Sirens of Titan. Cheers to all involved.

  • At the risk of sounding like a suck up (oo-er), I think you’ve been doing a cracking job overall with the ‘Casts this past year – the effects and sound quality in general have been excellent. No, really. Good job.

    Aside from echoing the same sentiments about the book club and the dwarf casts as a whole (fantastic job lads) my only real comment this time around was going to be regarding the sound and the production. I particularly noticed on this episode the panning left middle and centre during one of the passage sections where it was two characters and a narrator. That’s a level of detail that you don’t really notice until you do and I really appreciated it simply for its unnecessary but really well executed inclusion.

    So hats off to whoever edits these things.

  • Don’t think I’ve listened to the audiobook since it came out, so interesting point about how it fixes the problems with the back end of the novel.

    It doesn’t, if only because the claims of a “theme” (“maturity and self-sacrifice” – is that what weren’t going with?!) becomes even more dubious in that abridged version.

    I don’t think there’s a way to fix the ending of the novel, as it’s more a problem with the overall structure of it. Those problems only really reveal themselves at the end, because the prose is so well-written and it’s a damn good time up until High Midnight. Conversely, the ending of Last Human doesn’t really bother me, as I’m normally quite happy to reach the end of that.

    Anyway, another fine Dwarfcast.

    Looking forward to the Smegazine club. Although, not sure I can say anything remotely positive about them aside from “some of the art is quite nice” and “isn’t this news story odd in retrospect”, so probably for the best that the format is being tweaked.

  • Yeah, Danny is a genius editor. Between editing all our episodes and bring the one to collate comments, he’s easily the hardest working on these Casts.

  • (“maturity and self-sacrifice” – is that what weren’t going with?!)

    I’m sticking by it.

  • I noticed the last beep in this one was significantly lower than the others. I’m guessing when you play them all in a row they play the theme? In which case… actually, I have no words.

    Understandable. But yes, what started off as a joke to myself quickly turned into a whole thing. I’ve never checked to see if i did the whole thing properly!
    If it wasn’t for Ian editing the DJ Dwarfcast that I had to check if there was any outtakes and fess up to the whole project because even the guys weren’t even aware of it until then!

    It was me plan. I planned it.

    I particularly noticed on this episode the panning left middle and centre during one of the passage sections where it was two characters and a narrator. That’s a level of detail that you don’t really notice until you do and I really appreciated it simply for its unnecessary but really well executed inclusion.

    Thanks Quinn,

    Yeah, these have been a bit of a monster at times, but I have been given essentially carte blanche with regards to messing with sound FX and the like, so I want to thank Ian and Cappsy publically for basically letting me do whatever I fancied doing. I may have gone a bit overboard at times. (Sorry, Stillianides :) ), They’ve been hard work but really really satisfying once completed, and really pleased that so many people have enjoyed them, and thank so much for joining us on this ridiculous journey for the past 16 months!

    Looking forward to the Smegazines, genuinely unchartered territory for me.

  • I particularly noticed on this episode the panning left middle and centre during one of the passage sections where it was two characters and a narrator.

    Yeah, that was kind of what I was alluding to as well when I said “effects” before. Meant to go back and expand on that.

  • It’s funny you should mention Stay Tuned. During the Timeslides waffle in the last DwarfCast, when Danny was wondering whether you could cartoonify yourself using an animation cel, it made me think of this bit: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CSqVzcoz48c

    Looking forward to both of the new DwarfCast series. I like ‘The Smegazine Rack’ for a name too.

  • I didn’t see Red Dwarf until after the Smegazine finished (’94 repeat run team), but they still made it into my nostalgia when I found them in a box in the local comic shop in 1999, five years later. They felt like a time capsule from a departed golden age even at that distance, that was always my favourite thing about them more than the actual content, but they could be pretty weird and interesting in their own right.

    It’d be interesting to get an idea of how they compared to other British comics/mags of the period, if anyone knows their 2000 AD and stuff. Other TV tie-ins like the Star Trek: TNG mag just imported American DC comic & magazine content and theTMHT comic was a mix of cool imports and crap homegrown padding.

  • My brother had quite a few issues of Smegazine issues back in the day – I think most of the 1993 editions – and I fondly recall reading through them and being amazed at just how much extra content was being squeezed out of this show I loved. The main thing that sticks in my mined are the comics which were really impressive at spinning out concepts that the show only touched upon into much larger things, even if more often than not the tone and consistency with the show was all over the place!

  • Obviously I meant ” sticks in my *mind*” there but hey “mined” fits well within the context of Dwarf! :D

  • So I get the impression this final part is… a touch controversial. I can see why, and I certainly have complaints of my own, but I think it fits in just fine with the previous parts. And who doesn’t love a bit of GOTA, eh?

    – Does anyone else imagine Djun’Keep as James Spader’s Ultron? I find it fit quite well with his quipping and his casual fiddling with the oxygen unit.

    – I can’t disagree with the consensus about the violence. It’s way too grim. Rob did a pretty impressive rug-pull on me by building up the Agonoids’ whole torture thing, then killing off all of them before they’re able to inflict any of it. Phew, I thought. Haha, WRONG. I don’t think it ruins the Gunmen part – given it is a mix of the genuinely difficult to read somewhat realistic violence of Lister having all of his bones broken and Cat shooting his foot, and absurd over the top craziness like Cat getting shot through the head and Lister being decapitated without either of them dying – but it definitely takes it too far. Rimmer’s gruesome and real death of course being the standout “what the actual fuck, Rob” moment.

    – Rimmer’s death is a rare point where Last Human did it better. There he got to willingly sacrifice himself to save the day (which ironically would have fit better with the themes of this book than that one), while here he’s horribly murdered. Granted, in Last Human the execution was bad with the whole SMAKIBBFB thing and McGruder being a factor, but you got the spirit. Also now I think about it Last Human and Backwards ended up with complementary plot points: Rimmer dying as a result of using a computer virus, and Rimmer dying as a result of trying to defeat a computer virus.

    – How does the Apocalypse Virus cause Rimmer’s light bee to literally melt? Surely his death can only be a software thing. Feels like Rob knew there was no room in the book to squeeze in “they took Rimmer’s light bee and analysed it, but found Rimmer’s data had been totally corrupted/deleted by the virus – he was double-dead now” so just made the light bee melt as a short hand.

    – The combination of the “I’m not dead!” bit and Lister’s head saying “Is that all you’ve got?” a la the black knight is some serious Holy Grail energy. Apart it could be accidental but together in the same part, it feels like it might be intentional allusion.

    – People made good points about the whole “why not just go into Wildfire straight away? Rimmer and Kryten died for nothing” detail. The closest I can get to filling that plot hole is just to guess that Starbug’s acceleration would have made it impossible to climb to Wildfire, and once it was slowing down it became a feasible plan.

    – Regarding the ending: I agree with the assessment that it’s sudden and weird for them to immediately ‘replace’ their fallen crewmates with parallel universe versions, but I don’t interpret this as a happy ending, more a bittersweet one. Cat and Lister are still in shock and grief. They may be relieved to see familiar, friendly faces and to find a Red Dwarf to board, but I don’t imagine them just immediately getting over the deaths of Kryten and Rimmer Prime or anything like that.

    – Another Last Human parallel: both books end with the surviving main characters travelling to a new universe and (presumably) settling down there.

    – Bit of a shame that for a second “Red Dwarf” novel in a row, the main characters don’t spend time on Red Dwarf at any point in the story. Though at least in Backwards they’re about to board a version of it at the end, and we get the parts with the Agonoids there.

    – Although it’s pretty downbeat, I do prefer the ending to this book to the ending of IWCD or BTL by quite a significant margin, because those endings just straight up left the plot unresolved, with them being trapped in Better Than Life and Backworld. I know this ending has the “ooh, you’ve arrived at a bad time” thing, but that’s just a tease for the potential beginning of a new story, not a cliffhanger for a story that’s unfinished. This is an actual ending (as with Last Human, but I prefer this because it doesn’t go in a weird biblical direction), the establishment of a new status quo. Plus there’s implicit hope in it too. They could still do as Ace suggested and develop/repurpose the tech in Wildfire to get back to (an) Earth in their home time period. In fact, if there’s never another Grant Dwarf novel, I’m just going to assume that happened – just like I assume that they found Kochanski and managed to get her back to her home universe between Series X and XI.

    – I wonder how long “some years ago” is. In the Prime universe, it has been *80* years since they got out of Better Than Life. Weird to think about alt-Kryten and Rimmer being on their own for that long (barring help from black hole proximity), but maybe it could be 80 years ago for them? Possibly the dimension jumping tech got too confused by the 2 passengers and their weird reversed ages and so didn’t time travel at all, just moved dimensions.

    – Funny that “Last Human” would have been a better title for this book than Doug’s one… kind of. The narration doesn’t speak so much about it, and there are still other humans in the story, but Lister actually ends up as the last human here. And the Agonoids’ whole thing is to fight for the chance to torture the last human being.

    Overall book thoughts: count me among those who now consider this the legitimate third book in the Red Dwarf novel trilogy. While it doesn’t have the same highs as the first 2 books Rob Grant had a hand in – the pre-accident stuff in IWCD, the Garbage World/Black Hole stuff in BTL – the general quality feels like it’s on the same level, or at least it’s not a significant drop, and of course the continuity between them is strong. I have plenty of complaints for sure, but that’s true of IWCD and BTL too. (Plus Backwards doesn’t have anything as bad as Kryten causing the Nova 5 crash by being incompetent at his One Job.) If you could have somehow gaslit me into thinking this was a third Grant/Naylor novel, I would have believed you. It is criminal we don’t have a Chris Barrie unabridged audiobook of this, especially when you consider the prominence of Ace and all the great Rimmer parts.

    Overall book *series* thoughts: my huge preference for the TV series and revulsion at any and all changes made in the novels are known, but I still really enjoyed these as an alternate, relentlessly danger-riddled and dramatic version of Red Dwarf. I can see myself re-reading (or re-re-reading) them one day… except for Last Human. Sorry, Last Human, but you know what you did.

    Also, did anyone else with the omnibus version of IWCD/BTL see the pilot script for The End included at… the end, say “what the hell”, and read that in between Better Than Life and Last Human? Because it was great. Despite the obvious over-familiarity, the sheer frequency of gags was a breath of fresh air compared to the darker, more dramatic novels. I probably enjoyed reading that… well, not *more* than reading the novels as such, but I got more enjoyment than median novel-reading enjoyment, let’s say.

    Overall DwarfCast thoughts: thanks so much to you guys for doing all of these book club podcasts. Even having missed the boat on the actual book club and just enjoying them in retrospect, this was an excellent way to read through these books, and the dicussions both in the podcasts and the comments were always entertaining and interesting.

    I’m looking forward to hopefully being on time for “‘Zine-Shift” or “Ian, Cappsy and Danny’s Smegcellent Adzineture” or whatever it ends up being called. In the meantime, I think I have about 66 episode commentaries still to listen to. *cracks knuckles*

  • They could still do as Ace suggested and develop/repurpose the tech in Wildfire to get back to (an) Earth in their home time period. In fact, if there’s never another Grant Dwarf novel, I’m just going to assume that happened

    No customisable gifs on Partridge Cloud.

  • Haha, fair point, but this novel has already given up on making it possible for the future echoes to come true by moving them to a different universe anyway.

    Also, future echo old man Lister is established in episode 2 in the TV ‘verse, but the characters never act as if that means Lister can’t die until it comes true, or that they’re destined to never get back to Earth. It’s still their active plan. (Although arguably old man Lister could still come true if they got back to Earth – he just needs to keep spending time on board Red Dwarf afterwards).

    Personally I just shrug and say “guess those future echoes only happen in a possible future after all”. In the TV version you can even add that all the time travel shenanigans is what prevented them from happening.

  • There is a very very big gap between the potential drive room explosion and old man Lister, and then old man Lister and Jim and Bexley’s birth … more so than any other future echo.

    Perhaps Lister realised this and realised it could only have been say, a year or two in the future, or at least some time shortly after the twins birth, and in the period between series 2 and 3, he dresses up as a really old man to fulfil the vision he saw and deliver the message.

  • Also, for what its worth Jack, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your book thoughts the last few weeks.

    Re Rimmer’s light-bee … I assume it gets infected with the virus, maybe it overheats, melts, and its destruction then destroys the chip/drive RImmer’s personality is on and that’s it for him.

  • Thanks Quinn. :)

    I like the “he dresses up as an old man” idea (though it’s unclear what would make him figure that out, and it wouldn’t make sense for the novel-verse). Either explanation works I think, as “seemingly definite future events ultimately don’t happen (Stasis Leak, Out of Time)” and “lots of bizarre shit went down between series 2 and 3 that mysteriously nobody ever references ever again” are both canon.

    As for the light bee, I can buy it overheating and being permanently damaged but the literal melting just seems too cartoonish.

  • Yeah I think more realistically is the timelines get changes too much. Hell, Out of Time/Tikka have two realities merge so that’s enough to just write over any potential futures we’d seen before. Sort of like how series 5 of Doctor Who blows the universe up, erases Earth history of attack by aliens so everyone seemingly forgets it happening … despite the fact the Doctor and everyone that needs to remember for later stories knowing they happened and acting as if they did.

  • Another weird thing about future echoes: I keep thinking the Backwards title crawl at least wrapped up the Jim and Bexley aspects of them, but it actually doesn’t. Lister sends both of them to the Distaff universe alive; Bexley doesn’t die in a NaviComp explosion.

    So if the future echoes are all guaranteed to happen, then either Bexley returned to the prime universe for some reason between Series VIII and Back to Earth just so he could die horrifically, or Lister is still due to have a third son (or 4th, if you include himself) who he will insensitively also name Bexley, and will yet again look nearly identical to Lister.

    Or if you want to get complicated with it you could say that old man Lister was lying about the Bexley thing (either actually as an old man, or just pretending) and that the death Rimmer saw was of the second polymorph or something.

    So I do think the easiest, least tragic option is just to say #ListerWasRight, the future is not completely set in stone, and that the future echoes were just possible/likely futures. With the addendum that perhaps the echoes are closer to unavoidable the closer they are to the present, like with The Cat breaking his tooth.

    Episodes which show us contradictory personal futures like Timeslides and Out of Time prove the future echoes can be avoided in any case, so it’s more of a logistical question of whether you need to use time travel to achieve it. (Though you could argue the future echo itself counts as time travel.)

  • Yeah it’s not easy to reconcile. I’d say you’re right though that, futures can be re-written and the future echos are just possible futures. Though that sort of undermines the whole point of “we’re travelling faster than light so catching up to things that haven’t happened yet”. But it’s the only real way of squaring it. At least lots of other time bending time altering events happen to help explain it away

  • Another weird thing about future echoes: I keep thinking the Backwards title crawl at least wrapped up the Jim and Bexley aspects of them, but it actually doesn’t. Lister sends both of them to the Distaff universe alive; Bexley doesn’t die in a NaviComp explosion.

    So if the future echoes are all guaranteed to happen, then either Bexley returned to the prime universe for some reason between Series VIII and Back to Earth just so he could die horrifically, or Lister is still due to have a third son (or 4th, if you include himself) who he will insensitively also name Bexley, and will yet again look nearly identical to Lister.

    Looks like someone’s not read Homecoming. All is explained:
    https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12067118/1/Homecoming

  • Looks like someone’s not read Homecoming. All is explained:

    Agh, I’ve been accurately called out yet again for not having consumed a key bit of Red Dwarf fan content! Hasn’t even been that long since the last time.

    But yes, very good stuff. I didn’t realise that Homecoming was a Future Echoes resolution fic as well as an Only the Good… one, but the 2 things being combined with an OG Rimmer return works surprisingly well. It was an inspired idea to take advantage of the fact that young Lister was the one in Future Echoes who joined so many dots about Bexley. All this time I never properly twigged that.

    Plus it’s pretty funny that Holly calls the Series VIII Rimmer “nano-Rimmer” in dialogue.

    I still prefer the idea of 171 year old Lister on his bunk not being a guaranteed thing, so at least Homecoming doesn’t actively depend on that element.

    Thanks, ID.

  • Not to worry. As we speak I’m loading up The Last Temptation of Kryten, placing an order for a bespoke print-on-demand copy of Pink Dwarf, and putting the finishing touches on a custom 4K UHD cover for the Mobisodes.

  • Listening to some old Dwarfcasts and Ian says he had started to find Last Human the more satisfying novel over Backwards. That was on the first BTE reaction DwarfCast so some nearly 13 years ago.

    Can I assume Ian the more recent readings of the novels has left you preferring Backwards to Last Human again?

    My general impression was everyone largely found Last Human to be trash and Backwards, whilst it had its flaws (largely towards the end), was funny, better put together, and had merits.

  • Listening to some old Dwarfcasts and Ian says he had started to find Last Human the more satisfying novel over Backwards. That was on the first BTE reaction DwarfCast so some nearly 13 years ago.

    How I imagine that discussion played out:

Scroll to top  •  Scroll to 'Recent Comments'

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.