To celebrate the imminent arrival of the first all new Red Dwarf in over a decade, we count down the ten oddest, most brilliant, and most baffling episodes of the pioneering British sci-fi comedy hit…
10. Better Than Life
Series 2, Episode 2
Overdue bad news from home forces Rimmer, Lister and the Cat to take refuge in a top of the line virtual reality video game called ‘Better Than Life’ which picks up on your desires and makes them real. However Rimmer’s mind descends into a cycle of self-loathing that turns his worst fantasies into reality. It just goes to show that underneath that Napoleon complex is a neurotic mess trying to get out.
9. Gunmen Of The Apocalypse
Series 6, Episode 3
Kryten tries to stop the spread of a rogue simulant computer virus on board Starbug. The rest of the crew have to use the virtual reality game console Lister’s been using as well, porn to enter Kryten’s Wild West-themed subconscious and help him fight the virus before they crash into a planet. The episode is a great excuse to have the guys live out their gunslinger fantasies and Danny steals the show as the Riviera Kid complete with a dance and flamenco guitar accompaniment.
Series 3, Episode 3
A shape-shifting alien is exciting enough but one which steals emotions leaving Lister without fear, the perpetually guilt-ridden Kryten without remorse and Rimmer with facial topiary like a hippy Rolf Harris is just gravy. It would be impossible to compile a list of the top episodes of Red Dwarf without including one of the most riotous audience reactions ever seen on the show. Just add Lister, a pair of shrinking underpants and a vacuum groinal attachment and you have instant comedy gold.
7. The Inquisitor
Series 5, Episode 2
Imagine a droid with the power to wipe from history anyone who didn’t lead a worthwhile life. Suddenly that Charmed marathon isn’t looking like it’s done you any favours. The Inquisitor terrorises the Dwarfers by forcing them to face their harshest critic: themselves. Rimmer and Cat’s low standards saves them from deletion but Kryten and Lister show a little bit of rebellion and are replaced by alternate versions of themselves. The Inquisitor is one the most menacing Red Dwarf villains, not just because of Jack Doherty’s booming tones and look but also because the crew has to face their own fairly prominent shortcomings.
Series 2, Episode 5
If you were a supercomputer that had been running three million years past your warranty period, you’d probably have to refer to the Junior Encyclopaedia of Space for information. Holly’s place as ship’s computer is usurped by the hard line Queeg 500 who quickly becomes hated for forcing the crew to work. This Holly-centric episode contains some of Norman Lovett greatest lines and the twist ‘we are talking jape of the decade’ ending will tickle any working funny bone.
5. Dimension Jump
Series 4, Episode 5
“Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast.” It’s impossible to say these words without attempting the voice or some kind of heroic face contortion. Chris Barrie got a little bit tired of playing a git, so he asked Grant and Naylor for a heroic character to portray. Intrigued by the theory of parallel universes, they imagined what event in the course of Rimmer’s life which could have led him down another path. One with gold spacesuits and really great hair. The legend Ace Rimmer was born. He’s heroic, charismatic, smart and everything Arnold wishes he could be. What a guy.
4. Balance Of Power
Series 1, Episode 3
There’s a twisted logic behind Holly resurrecting Rimmer to keep Lister sane and this early gem is a perfect example of the personality clash at the show’s heart. Black card conversations, concealed cigarette stashes and a gross misuse of Kochanski’s hologram disc show exactly how far Rimmer is prepared to go to maintain the upper hand and Lister shows himself capable of turning the tables on him, when he can be arsed.
Series 3, Episode 2
Starbug is struck by a meteor plunging Rimmer and Lister onto an icy planet with remote chance of rescue, dwindling supplies and the awkward situation of spending time with each other. ‘Marooned’ perfectly strips things back to the core relationship between Rimmer and Lister. Director Ed Bye shot the entire episode with handheld cameras which only added to the claustrophobia and the two actors carry the entire episode with pithy exchanges and their command of the audience. It’s played beautifully, looks dynamic and has some of the wittiest lines in the series.
2. Back To Reality
Series 5, Episode 6
The finale of Series Five is a triumph for the show, and a clear fan favourite. While trying to escape a creature which kills using a despair-inducing toxin the crew crash Starbug and awake to find that they’ve been playing a video game for the last four years. It’s a fantastic story because each of the ‘realities’ the four seem to be running from tell you so much about their characters. Lister is repelled at the thought of being a fascist leader or in any way related to his supposed half brother Rimmer and Kryten’s excitement about being half human ebbs when he has to take a life. Brilliant dialogue, fantastic direction which blends pre-recorded sequence with the live studio action and some massive laughs thanks to the Cat’s dorky alter ego Duane Dibbley.
Series 5, Episode 4
Selecting a winner is always hard but Quarantine is just perfect from start to finish. Rimmer’s on top pedantic form when Lister, Kryten and the Cat come into contact with a hologram driven insane by a holo-virus. Arnie J has the perfect excuse for a bit of revenge on his colleagues. Single accommodation, Reggie Dickson’s Tango Treats for music and a DIY video for entertainment – face it, even a visit to the potato king couldn’t save them when Rimmer, clearly under the influence of the holo-virus he was trying to avoid, moves from finicky git to crazed, gingham dress-wearing madman. There are just so many iconic ideas in this episode: the dress, the luck virus, Space Corps Directive abuse, and of course Mr Flibble. Once seen, never forgotten