AskDefine | Define backwards

Dictionary Definition

backwards adv
1 at or to or toward the back or rear; "he moved back"; "tripped when he stepped backward"; "she looked rearward out the window of the car" [syn: back, backward, rearward, rearwards] [ant: forward]
2 in a manner or order or direction the reverse of normal; "it's easy to get the `i' and the `e' backward in words like `seize' and `siege'"; "the child put her jersey on backward" [syn: backward]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Oriented toward the back.
    The battleship had three backwards guns at the stern, in addition to the primary complement.
  2. Reversed.
    The backwards lettering on emergency vehicles makes it possible to read in the rear-view mirror.
  3. Behind current trends or technology.
    Modern medicine regards the use of leeches as a backwards practice.
  4. Clumsy, inept, or inefficient.
    He was a very backwards scholar, but he was a marvel on the football field.



oriented toward the back
behind current trends
clumsy or inefficient


  1. Toward the back.
    The cabinet toppled over backwards.
    Life is lived forwards, but understood backwards.—Søren Kierkegaard
  2. In the opposite direction of usual.
    The clock did not work because the battery was inserted backwards.
  3. In a manner such that the back precedes the front.
    The tour guide walked backwards while droning on to the bored seniors.



toward the back
in the opposite direction of usual
with back preceding the front

Extensive Definition

Backwards is the fourth Red Dwarf novel. It is set on the fictional backwards universe version of Earth.
The novel was written by Rob Grant on his own. It follows on directly from the second Grant Naylor novel, Better Than Life, ignoring Last Human which was by Doug Naylor. As well as Backwards it contains elements of the episodes Dimension Jump and Gunmen of the Apocalypse.

Plot summary

The Red Dwarf crew arrive on the backwards Earth (a version of Earth in a universe where time is running backwards) in order to rescue Lister, who has returned to life and the age of 25 (following his death at age 63 the end of the previous novel, 'Better Than Life') as a result of the crew depositing his body on the time-reversed Earth 38 years earlier. After failing to meet Lister at the arranged rendezvous, the Niagra falls souvenir shop, Kryten learns from the television that Lister and The Cat are associated with a murder that, due to the backwards flow of time, will presumably soon be committed. Lister soon arrives injured and in the custody of the police, who, after a backwards fight which restores Lister to health, promptly unarrest him. Lister then takes off in backwards pursuit of one of the officers, explaining to the others that due to the nature of reverse time he is forced to follow the policeman (who if time were running forwards would be chasing him) until he is 'unspotted'. After a harrowing backwards car-chase (especially for Rimmer, who is unable to trust that no harm can befall him while time is running backwards) the policeman unsees them, and the crew retreat to the mountain area where they landed Starbug, the ship they arrived in.
After being unshot at by a hillbilly who it transpires Lister had stolen a car from, the crew examine Starbug to find most of the landing jets missing and the underside a mess of rust and badly-repaired damage. Unable to understand how it happened, but realising that on the backwards Earth they will need the landing jets to perform a take-off, they begin searching for the missing jets. While doing this Kryten discovers the body of a second hillbilly, who has been killed with a pickaxe. Panicking when the corpse begins returning to life, Kryten removes the pickaxe from the man's chest. Once the man leaves, Kryten replays the incident 'forwards' and realises he was responsible for killing the man, a serious breech of his programming not to harm humans. Overwhelmed by guilt, Kryten shuts himself down.
Having only found one landing jet in terrible condition, and with Lister busy repairing Kryten, the crew attempts a reverse landing which fails and leaves them trapped on BackWorld, having missed their flight window. When Kryten returns online, he informs them they will have to wait 10 years for another opportunity to leave, and Lister realises at last that he did not commit the crime he has been imprisoned for, but Kryten did.
Ten years pass and while Kryten and Rimmer are physically unaffected, the reverse time of backwards Earth means Lister and The Cat are now 15. During the wait, The Cat becomes a virgin during a bizarre sexual encounter with a female cousin of the mountain men, and the crew busy themselves reburying the landing jet they found and 'unrepairing' the damage to Starbug, which begins to become less rusted but more damaged as the reverse landing window approaches. When the time arrives, the crew begin the reverse landing, sending the underpowered ship scraping backwards over a nearby mountain, a process which repairs much of the damage as several landing jets leap from the forest and reattach themselves. With the craft still out of control, they are unstruck by a missile from the incomplete American 'Star Wars' defence system, which had misidentified Starbug as a threat. With the remainder of the damage repaired, the crew leave for their own universe to rendezvous with Red Dwarf, but find it to be missing without trace.
Unknown to them, Holly, the Red Dwarf computer, has been reversing the process of his intelligence compression (performed in 'Better Than Life') while left to his own devices, reducing his IQ to increase his operational lifespan. Unfortunately he takes the process too far, becoming so unintelligent he is unable to calculate either, and leaving him unable to prevent Red Dwarf falling into the hands of the artificially created psychotic killing machines, the Agonoids, who force him to divulge information about the crew. Delighted to discover the one remaining human (Lister) is among them, the Agonoids begin to plan his demise, ripping Holly's components from the ship and jettisoning them before beginning to convert the ship into a giant torture chamber.
Discovering the remains of Holly, the Dwarf crew learn of the Agonoid threat, but with food and fuel supplies on Starbug severely low they have no options available but to head for Red Dwarf regardless.
At the same time, in a parellel universe, an alternate version of Arnold Rimmer known as Ace Rimmer is preparing to test pilot a ship capable of breaking the speed of reality and crossing dimensions. The brave, heroic and charismatic Ace (a complete contrast to the neurotic Rimmer) arrives in the Red Dwarf timeline, his ship, Wildfire, materialising so close to Starbug as to severely damage both ships. Coming over to Starbug to help with repairs, Ace deduces (despite tension with the Red Dwarf Rimmer) that since his ship's drive appears to home in on alternate versions of himself it may be possible to rig up a version to take the Dwarfers home, or at least somewhere similar.
The Agonoids meanwhile are fighting for the right to torture and kill the last remaining human. Djuhn'Keep, the most ruthless Agonoid, succeeds in jettisoning the others into space, but notices to his chagrin that one, Pizzak'Rapp, is headed directly for Starbug. Pizzak'Rapp attempts to break into the ship, but Ace manages to send the Agonoid (and himself) hurtling into space, earning himself a messy but herioc death (Pizzak'Rapp caves in his spacesuit faceplate, causing his head to explode), and condemning the Agonoid to a freezing demise in the infinity of deep space.
Meanwhile, Djuhn'Keep arrives on Starbug, just as the oxygen supply fails. Horrified at losing the opportunity to torture Lister, Djuhn swiftly repairs the Oxygeneration unit. Discounting Kryten as a threat (since Agonoids are virtually indestructible) turns out to be his undoing, as Kryten bazookoids the freshly repaired hull, causing a breech which sucks the Agonoid into space. The crew then learn that Djuhn has infected the ship's NaviComp with a computer virus (the Armegeddon virus), causing them to be locked on course towards a nearby planet. Kryten decides to deliberately contract the virus to create an antidote, cryptically telling the crew to 'watch his dreams' before becoming unresponsive. This is all wrong Entering Krytens dream-state through a virtual reality machine, the crew find themselves in a replica of an old Western, with the various characters and institutions in the small town of 'Existence, Arizona' representing Kryten's faculties and characteristics ('Wyatt Memory', 'Billy Belief', etc.), being threatened by 'the Apocalypse boys', a gang of desperadoes representing the virus. Krytens consciousness itself is represented by the town lawman, Sherriff Carton, and his direct problems with the virus as permanent drunkenness and a general lack of courage, skill, intelligence and morality.
In order to buy Kryten/Carton time, the crew (Rimmer, Lister and The Cat), adopt personas from a VR Western game, Streets of Larado. With impeccable skills in fighting, knife-throwing and shooting provided by the VR machine, along with the knowledge that they can't be injured, they attempts to take on the apocalypse boys to distract them from destroying the town or killing Sherriff Carton, both of which would kill Kryten and destroy their chance of avoiding the ship being destroyed. However, the virus spreads to the VR machine the crew is connected to, sealing them into the artificial reality while removing their 'special skills' and allowing them to feel pain. The crew clash with the Apocalypse boys regardless, who inflict terrible injuries on them (The Cat is shot in the head, Lister is decapitated and Rimmer is melted into a pool of flesh) but are unable to kill them. This buys Kryten/Carton enough time to complete the antidote program just as the Apocalypse boys gun him down. Instead of removing the virus from his own systems, Kryten chooses to save Starbug's navigation computer, allowing the crew control of the ship.
With the Apocalypse boys vapourised, Lister and The Cat return to reality to find the virus has killed both Kryten and Rimmer, destroying their mechanical components. Since the VR machine only simulated their injuries, they find themselves unharmed. With the virus gone, they are able to control the ship, but since it has been accelerating for several hours there is not sufficient fuel left to avoid hitting the planet. Cramming into Ace's one-man ship Wildfire, which he had programmed for another jump, they cross dimensions, finding themselves in a timeline where Kryten and Rimmer are still alive, but their own counterparts died playing Better Than Life. As they dock with the alternate Red Dward, Lister reflects that while this isn't home, it might be close enough.

See also

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