In the Red Dwarf episode, Timeslides (s3e5), Dave Lister changes his personal timeline so that he was never gets stranded on Red Dwarf. It's explained that this means they never rescued Kryten and the Cat race never happened.

It doesn't explain why Rimmer doesn't fade out.

It was established a little earlier that Holly brought Rimmer back as a hologram to keep Lister sane.

It still makes sense that the crew would have been wiped out, still. It also makes sense that Holly would have survived.

But why, in this alternate timeline, does Rimmer exist?

Also, why does Holly have the female face?

  • For that matter, why does Rimmer remember the old timeline well enough to want to restore it?
    – Politank-Z
    Sep 17, 2015 at 22:08
  • Dashed good question! Perhaps you should ask it!
    – AJFaraday
    Sep 17, 2015 at 22:08
  • 3
    I think it amounts to the same question, or at least, would have the same answer. I suspect that the answer reduces to timey-wimeyness with a dash of smeg.
    – Politank-Z
    Sep 17, 2015 at 22:10
  • 2
    It's usually "because he's a smeghead", but for once I'm sure that can't be the answer.
    – AJFaraday
    Sep 17, 2015 at 22:11
  • 1
    Because there's nothing stopping him from being just as much of a useless smegger in fixing that drive plate. Conclusive proof the Lister wasn't holding him back at all.
    – IG_42
    Oct 21, 2015 at 16:03

6 Answers 6


Don't think too hard about it

It's not explained on the programme and it's unlikely the writers even thought about it, but technically it's not impossible for Holly to bring Rimmer back, so it's all down to viewer speculation.

What's even harder to come up with is an explanation for how Rimmer is not a hologramme after he sets the inventor of the tension sheet back to being "Thicky" Holden, but even then they don't bother to come up with a reason.


Here's a bigger question - why didn't everything disappear?

Because, if Lister never boarded Red Dwarf, then Rimmer would have had a different third-technician working with him. The accident aboard Red Dwarf occurred, not just because of Rimmer's sloppy work on the drive plate, but because Lister's actions with the cat got him put in stasis leaving Rimmer to attempt the drive plate on his own. If there had been a different third-technician onboard, Rimmer would have had assistance and the leak may not have occurred. A different technician may have even been ranked as the second technician, placing Rimmer as the third, so the task may not even have fallen to Rimmer.

So, in asking why Rimmer remained after the others disappeared, you have to also ask why Red Dwarf was still marooned 3 million years into deep space with a computer senile Holly (who was also still the female incarnation, something that happened only after Holly met Hilly in the parallel universe they travelled to whilst trying to return home from being marooned in deep space!).

One possible, if slightly implausible explanation for Rimmer and Holly to still be in deep space is that events in this altered timeline still played out the same way - that the radiation leak occurred due to Rimmer's incompetency, perhaps there was even a single survivor other than Lister, and Rimmer's hologram was resurrected for a similar reason - to keep the survivor sane by annoying them. Or, maybe there was no survivor, but as Holly would still have gone "computer senile" after being alone for 3 million years, he/she may still have reasoned that Rimmer was the most appropriate crewmember to resurrect as a hologram. After all, there would be no gain in resurrecting a senior member of the crew given the circumstances.

  • "you have to also ask why Red Dwarf was still marooned 3 million years into deep space" - that was to avoid polluting the Solar System with radiation - had nothing to do with Lister.
    – komodosp
    Oct 21, 2019 at 14:57
  • @colmde Yes but the radiation leak only occurred because of a series of events involving Lister, which I explain in my post.
    – Astralbee
    Oct 21, 2019 at 18:59
  • "Lister's actions with the cat got him put in stasis leaving Rimmer to attempt the drive plate on his own" - Rimmer does blame Lister for it using that reason but I think that has more to do with Rimmer's personality (wanting to blame Lister) than it actually being the real reason. In fact you could really blame Captain Hollister for this - getting the chicken-soup vending machine repairman to work on a dangerous and critical component like the drive plate?
    – komodosp
    May 19, 2021 at 16:00

One way to go about it is that you can't calculate all the outcomes of changing past.

When Rimmer goes back in time and sets everything "right" (as it was before), there was still some change that made him not-hologram anymore.

Which is of course nullified in a instant as he explodes after some crate falls on him.


Don't know about the rest, but I can answer this:

Also, why does Holly have the female face?

Short answer: he performed a sex head change on himself.

The reason for this is explained by an extremely fast scrawl in the first episode of season III.

The scrawl, in full, reads (my emphasis):




Three million years in the future, Dave Lister, the last human being alive discovers he is pregnant after a liaison with his female self in a parallel universe. His pregnancy concludes with the successful delivery of twin boys, Jim and Bexley. However, because the twins were conceived in another universe, with different physical laws, they suffer from highly accelerated growth rates, and are both eighteen years old within three days of being born. In order to save their lives, Lister returns them to the universe of their origin, where they are reunited with their father (a woman), and are able to lead comparatively normal lives. Well, as normal as you can be if you've been born in a parallel universe and your father's a woman and your mother's a man and you're eighteen years three days after your birth.

Shortly afterwards, Kryten, the service mechanoid who had left the ship after being rescued from his own crashed vessel, the Nova 5, is found in pieces after his space bike crash lands onto an asteroid. Lister rebuilds the 'noid, but is unable to recapture his former personality.

Meanwhile, Holly, the increasingly erratic Red Dwarf computer, performs a head sex change operation on himself. He bases his new face on Hilly, a female computer with whom he'd once fallen madly in love.

And now the saga continuums





To find out more about the events explained in the scrawl, you need to see the final episode of season II.


  • Perhaps the question was indistinct here. "In a timeline where Lister never boarded Red Dwarf, why did Holly have the female face?"
    – AJFaraday
    Oct 25, 2016 at 9:56
  • @AJFaraday - the better question is "... why did Holly retain her female face." Any answer must necessarily be speculative, as there is no canon explanation. You could go through the myriad of various outcomes, but there is no true answer.
    – Tim
    Oct 26, 2016 at 19:46
  • 2
    Holly invented the Hop Drive independently of Dave, so it's possible he still did that and met the female Holly in a timeline where Dave didn't board Red Dwarf.
    – delinear
    Feb 27, 2017 at 14:33

One possible solution - we know that, in the words of Kryten, "the laws of time and space - who gives a smeg?".

Red Dwarf breaks causality quite often, but maybe it has an out card.

In the series 12 episode "Skipper", it is explained that whenever a decision is made, a new "timeline" is made where the decision not made is played out (of course in Skipper, the crew shift to those timelines). This makes me think that there are thousands of slightly different timelines out there that the crew, in various different states, have inhabited.

Now, we know that Lister COULD NOT go back in time to stop himself joining the Red Dwarf crew, because if he did, he would not exist on Red Dwarf to go back and stop himself joining the Red Dwarf crew. So causality did the next-best thing - made a timeline where he could go back, stop a younger alternate Lister from joining the Red Dwarf crew, disappear for a bit, and that would allow Rimmer to trump him and bring him back. This just happens to be that timeline, among possibly billions.

Or the writers just didn't care.


Because Rimmer's existence depends on Holly, and Holly's existence does not depend on Lister's.

If Lister had been a multi-millionaire and never joined Red Dwarf, Cat would not exist and Kryten would not be on Red Dwarf, but the radiation leak would still have happened and so Red Dwarf would still be 3 million years from earth, and Holly would still exist.

And apparently [and this is where logic falls down a bit, but it's a sci-fi comedy so let's run with it] the nature of this time travel is that if Holly still exists, then Holly still exists unchanged. so Holly continues as before, sustaining the Rimmer hologram.

  • Okay, so Rimmer blames the fact he was fixing the drive plates without Lister’s help for the destruction of the crew. If Lister wasn’t there, wouldn’t someone else have filled that bunk?
    – AJFaraday
    Apr 28, 2018 at 7:07
  • More importantly, Holly chose to simulate Rimmer in order to keep Lister sane. (There’s a lengthy discussion about the wisdom of doing this). If the crew were wiped out and there was no Lister in stasis... why would Rimmer be the hologram?
    – AJFaraday
    Apr 28, 2018 at 7:09
  • Because the timeline changes didn't change Holly, or Holly's memory of the past. From Holly's point of view, Lister (and Cat and Kryten) existed in the past, and disappeared. Yes I know that doesn't make perfect sense, but neither does time travel :)
    – Peter B
    Apr 28, 2018 at 9:04
  • Or to put it another way, the timeline only changes things directly affected by Lister. Holly's existence doesn't depend on Lister, so she doesn't change (for some strange reason).
    – Peter B
    Apr 28, 2018 at 9:06

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