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The Good Dwarf Guide: Series III

The change in series III compared to the previous series is nothing short of startling. Grant Naylor got involved with production here, and the difference is very plain: characters, plot, costumes and sets are all different.

The most immediately noticeable difference is in the plot: the first episode starts with a Star Wars-type written explanation scrolling past at light speed which essentially says forget everything that’s gone before, it’s a whole new ball game. Jim, Bexley et al are as if they had never been, and the scrolling finishes with a reference to "the same generation - nearly", which implies that the events of series III onwards take place in a slightly different universe from that of the previous series. This has been referred to, sometimes by Grant Naylor themselves, as the Universal Explanation, and who am I to quibble with it?

As well as the major plot shift, there are also some important character changes in this series. The most profound character change occurs with Rimmer: it’s as if the character has been completely reinvented. Gone is the broad comedy approach: Chris Barrie throttles back on many of the physical markers (the bouncing on the heels, the stiff posture, the crossed arms, the perpetual smirk) he had used for the previous two series. Rimmer’s still a smeghead, but his obnoxiousness is toned way down and the character emerges as much more subtle than before. Rimmer’s character grows darker as a result of this reinvention. At times, he now seems almost an okay sort of guy, but Grant Naylor never allow us to labour under this misapprehension for long: just when you almost like Rimmer, they hit you between the eyes with the realisation that he really is a bastard. That realisation is more disturbing now than before, because of the way you’re seduced at times into thinking he’s not too bad. Many of the jokes involving Rimmer in this series are initially hilarious but leave a very bitter aftertaste.

This series doesn’t have an enormous amount in the way of character development for Lister. The series sees the last of his agonising about his predicament, and he’s much more technologically competent than the clueless dolt he was in previous series - as is Rimmer.

The Cat’s role changes quite markedly in this series: the feline set-piece behaviours are dropped, never to return. The only remnants, and the defining features of the Cat’s character, are his selfishness, vanity and stupidity. The Cat’s role suffers in this series with the introduction of Kryten, and he seems pretty much peripheral to the action a lot of the time.

Kryten returns in this series, becoming a permanent member of the core cast. He’s played by Robert Llewellyn with a curious but very effective Canadian accent and a new makeup and costume from that used for the earlier (shudder) Kryten. He’s in full-on servile mode in this series, so is relatively less interesting than he later becomes, but he nevertheless develops by "The Last Day" into a very important member of the cast.

Relationships between the cast are somewhat different in this series than in other series. Rimmer and Lister almost get on all right at times, and the antagonism between Rimmer and Kryten that develops in the next series isn’t present here.

Sets and costumes undergo a major overhaul in this series. The appointment of Howard Burden as costume designer started a run of brilliant costumes. And the opening credits are remixed, with an upbeat version of the closing tune backing a montage of shots from the series. Light years better.

Overall, the series’s pretty damned good: it contains four brilliant episodes ("Marooned", "Polymorph", "Timeslides", "The Last Day"), one okay one ("Backwards") and a clunker ("Bodyswap"). This ain’t bad going by anyone’s standards.

UK: buy video at Amazon   UK: buy video at Sendit   US: buy video at Amazon

UK: buy video at Amazon   UK: buy video at Sendit   US: buy video at Amazon

UK: buy video at Amazon   UK: buy video at Sendit   US: buy video at Amazon

UK: buy video at Amazon   UK: buy video at Sendit   US: buy video at Amazon

UK: buy video at Amazon   UK: buy video at Sendit   US: buy video at Amazon

UK: buy video at Amazon   UK: buy video at Sendit   US: buy video at Amazon

  Series III DVD

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  Series III & IV DVD Pack

UK: no DVD available   US: buy DVD at Amazon

  Just The Shows (Series I-IV DVD)

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  Complete Remastered Series I-III (Video)

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SYNOPSIS: Rimmer takes Kryten for his driving test in Starbug, and they go through a time hole, ending up on Earth, but in the future where the universe is contracting and time is therefore running backwards. Rimmer and Kryten get a job as the Sensational Reverse Brothers, a novelty act. Lister and the Cat follow them through the time hole: they think they are in Bulgaria, but eventually work out what’s going on. Rimmer and Kryten want to stay, but have to leave due to their causing a barroom brawl, or tidy as it is in this universe.

COMMENT: This is a popular episode. Except with me. It has some great moments, but I find that the one-joke premise gets old very quickly. The plot’s full of logistical inconsistencies, such as.....well, it makes my brain hurt to think about it, but take it from me, they’re there.

Mixed in with the comedy, there’s another yank on the heartstrings as Rimmer and Kryten declare that they want to stay in this universe. The sadness of their usual lives is underlined, and this is magnified by the fact that this Rimmer is easier to like than the old one. This is the "new Rimmer" with a vengeance. The first scenes show him conducting the driving test completely deadpan, and in fact the characteristic smirk is almost completely absent in this episode. Apart from the cowardice he shows in the brawl, he’s much closer to a normal human life form here than ever before.

The antagonism that marks the later relationship between Rimmer and Kryten is uncharacteristically absent at this stage: they even want to stay on the backward planet together as the Sensational Reverse Brothers.

Robert Llewellyn seems a little tentative as Kryten at this stage: the voice and mannerisms are fabulous from the word go, but the humour of the character takes a little time to settle in. The mask is more elongated here than later: Llewellyn has said Kryten is better looking than he is, and he’s right, but it’s not as evident here.

This episode marks the changeover in Holly from Norman Lovett to Hattie Hayridge. Hayridge plays Holly even more deadpan than Lovett, which you wouldn’t think was possible.

The location stuff in this episode is a welcome change of scene, and even the interior of the Dwarf looks much spiffier. They’ve got rid of those hideously uncomfortable looking bunks in favour of a much brighter looking set.

THE BEST BIT: No, not the barroom tidy. Yawn. The driving test is a comic gem, and I can’t leave out the Cat coming out of the bushes.

THE WORST BIT: The backwards stuff that goes on and on and on. Yeah, we get the idea! Can we move on?

IMMORTAL DIALOGUE: "Fasten your belt." "Hey, I do not need fashion tips from you!"


Merchandise on the starboard bow: We see the now famous Red Dwarf logo at the start of this episode. The logo was quickly plastered over everything in sight and hawked mercilessly to hapless fans. Hey, it’s SF, what else is new?

All change: Rimmer’s costume in this series is much more flattering than in the past two series, although he does look vaguely like an iridescent dentist. There are elements of Captain Scarlet around the boots, and the hat is a direct steal. Rimmer loses the hat later on, and a good thing too, as he looks more of an idiot in it than necessary. Rimmer also gets a snazzy new H.

Lister also gets a costume change, ending up in funky if slightly smeggy leathers. Way cool, dude.

Next stop panto: Chris Barrie gets to do a cool stunt on a wire, but the effectiveness is undercut by the following scene which looks as if it utilises a toy out of a cornflake packet.

Starbug is go: We see Starbug for the first time here, and it obviously owes a huge debt to its Supermarionation ancestors - that white lettering and that particular shade of green are hauntingly familiar......

Encore: Tony Hawks, who played the Guide in "Better Than Life", appears again here as the compère in the pub.

To boldly go where everyone’s gone before: Some well-known Star Trek concepts appear in this one - Lister refers to engaging Starbug’s cloak, and the scene where the crew are getting in and out of Starbug seemingly in thin air borrows heavily from a similar scene in the movie "Star Trek IV: The Return Home".

That’s the last time we shop at Honest Bob’s Pre-Loved Spacecraft: Kryten says there’s something wrong with Starbug’s gearbox, which is the same problem Lister was having with the Blue Midget in "Thanks For The Memory".

Doug digs: This episode marks the first of a series of references to poor old Doug McClure, whom Grant Naylor seem to have it in for with a vengeance. The jibes return as a running gag in series VI.



SYNOPSIS: The crew are forced to evacuate when Holly identifies a field of five black holes. Lister and Rimmer crash-land Starbug and are forced to wait it out with dwindling fuel and supplies until the others can find them. They burn everything combustible until the only things that are left are Lister’s guitar and Rimmer’s precious camphorwood chest, a gift from his father, and his toy soldiers. Rimmer believes that Lister has thrown his guitar on the fire, and not to be outdone in nobility, tosses on his soldiers. However, the cordial relationship between them is back to square one when Rimmer discovers that what Lister has actually burned is a guitar shape cut from his camphorwood chest.

COMMENT: Although the Cat and Kryten appear in this episode, it’s really a two-hander. A situation with two people talking in one small set for most of an episode could be boring. It ain’t. It’s superb throughout.

Rimmer and Lister manage some meaningful dialogue without being constantly at daggers drawn, and Rimmer is actually concerned about Lister’s plight. We also get a glimpse of what Rimmer would have been like in different circumstances: when he thinks Lister’s sacrificed his guitar for him, he becomes almost human. Rimmer’s desire to sacrifice his soldiers in return shows that he does have the capacity to rise about his smeghood, given the encouragement of thinking someone cares about him. This is a foreshadowing of the playing out of this idea in "Terrorform", when Rimmer blossoms into a nice guy before our very eyes at the idea that the crew really does like him. Rimmer would genuinely like to be a better person - it’s just his own personality that keeps tripping him up. This is probably why Rimmer keeps our interest, as if he was just a cardboard petty tyrant he’d rapidly become dead boring.

But before we get too carried away with feeling all warm and fuzzy, we also get to see here unveiled yet another unlovely aspect of Rimmer’s character - his tightfistedness - and his unpleasant military obsession is also expanded on.

Lister’s character here also shows depths beyond that of the standard-issue Good Guy he might have been in the hands of lesser writers: he’s human enough to pull off the guitar trick, but moral enough to feel remorse when he finds out what the trunk meant to Rimmer.

There’s some excellent model work in this episode, with the particularly impressive scene being Starbug’s crash landing. The economy sized box of Daz and the fan are going full bore, to great effect.

THE BEST BIT: The pot noodle, and the Chief Eunuch. It’s a miracle that the actors got through the speech with straight faces.

THE WORST BIT: No real weak spots here, except maybe Kryten’s characterisation - Robert Llewellyn still hadn’t really got on top of it.

IMMORTAL DIALOGUE: The classic line of the series: "Are you saying I’ve got a big bum?" "Big? It’s like two badly parked Volkswagens."


Don’t touch that dial: What’s Rimmer, the hologram, doing operating that radio? Not to mention smelling the camphorwood. And to cap it off, he tells Lister he’s had a look through the first aid kit (and the skutters aren’t on board to help him).

The hours are better, and there’s no marching: Rimmer’s immortal line about being Alexander the Great’s chief eunuch is a send-up of General George Patten’s belief that he was one of old Alex’s foot-soldiers in a previous incarnation.

Oh yeah, her: After the attention paid to Yvonne McGruder in the last series, it’s disappointing to see that all tossed out of the window here in favour of a routine story about Rimmer losing his virginity at seventeen with a girl called Sandra he met at cadet school. Incidentally, that Bentley thing has got to be an in-joke: Chris Barrie is apparently a classic car nut, with a coupla Bentleys and an E-type. Well, we know what they say about E-types....



SYNOPSIS: A genetically engineered life form, or GELF, gets aboard the Red Dwarf and feeds on the crew’s negative emotions: Lister’s fear, the Cat’s vanity, Kryten’s guilt and Rimmer’s anger. Lister turns into Mad Max on steroids, the Cat is totally drained of self-esteem, Kryten cares only about his own welfare and Rimmer becomes a right-on social worker. The crew manage to kill the polymorph through a skilful mix of stupidity and luck.

COMMENT: Yeah, it’s brilliant. It has everything: (simulated) sex, alternate characters, an eight foot high slavering monster and a cute little fluffy bunny rabbit. This episode is of course famous for containing the scene Red Dwarf fans voted the best: Kryten extracting Lister’s boxers. It’s not my favourite, but I’ll admit it’s good, although it’s Rimmer’s "You’ll bonk anything, won’t you, Lister?" that cracks me up.

The idea fuelling this episode is a particularly interesting one, and Grant Naylor extract the maximum mileage from the concept. We get all those very cute changes of form in the beginning, the idea of a being that drains emotions, the alternate characters, and the monster itself, all as part of the package. There’s some great special effects work here, what with the quick-change polymorph, the bigger version of the polymorph and the heat-seeking ammunition, and some nice costume and makeup work with the alternate characters.

Everyone has a way cool time playing their alternates, with Craig Charles particularly impressive as the homicidal psycho. Chris Barrie is perfect as the politically correct wimp, but he’s so good that he’s almost too irritating to be funny. Jesus, more deeply psychological stuff from Rimmer’s past: this time, a well Freudian bit about his mother. Poor bastard. (I can’t believe I said that.)

This is a great episode for the Cat: his drunken bum routine is hysterical, and he also has a brilliant scene dodging the heat-seeking ammo.

In this episode Kryten’s character starts to takes shape, as we discover that his defining emotion is guilt.

THE BEST BIT: I’m in the minority here, but the best bit for me was Lister’s psychotic turn and the Cat as a drunken bum: Lister in particular is killingly funny. Chris Barrie is perfect as the politically correct wimp, but I’ve worked with too many of those morons to find it funny: I just wanted to nut him.

THE WORST BIT: Lister’s gross-out sequence at the beginning with the medical equipment. Blech.

IMMORTAL DIALOGUE: "This isn’t a meal, this is an autopsy!"

"Well, I can’t say I’m surprised. You’ll bonk anything, won’t you, Lister?"

"Rimmer Directive: never tangle with anything that’s got more teeth than the entire Osmond family."


Make it so: The Space Corps Directive cited by Kryten seems to draw rather heavily on Star Trek’s mission statement. I’m surprised the words "boldly go" didn’t come into it somewhere. This is the first Space Corp Directive ever - they become a running gag later on, particularly in series VI.

And they call it puppy love: Grant Naylor were obviously frightened by an Osmond record when they were children, as Rimmer’s reference to the Osmonds in his Directive is the second of two in Red Dwarf (Holly refers to little Jimmy Osmond being one of the inexplicable mysteries of the universe in a previous series).



SYNOPSIS: A deranged skutter rewires the ship, leading to Lister setting off the autodestruct sequence while getting a milkshake and Toffee Crispy from the snack dispenser. Disaster is averted, but in the process the crew discover that it’s possible to transfer a mind from a hologrammatic personality disk into a body. Lister is concerned about his lack of fitness, and agrees to lend Rimmer his body for two weeks for Rimmer to get it fit. Rimmer welshes on the deal, enjoying slobbing up large so much that when Lister reclaims his body, Rimmer takes it again by stealth and heads for the hills in Starbug. Lister manages to get his body back, and Rimmer then steals the Cat’s body.

COMMENT: This one doesn't work for me at all. I think it’s a salutary lesson on what crap Red Dwarf would have been if the parts had been differently cast. It’s not so much that the actors do a poor job of taking each other’s roles (Chris Barrie is particularly competent at this, surprise surprise, and Danny John-Jules is also impressive in his brief scene as Rimmer), but they’re just so wrong it’s unsettling. Given that Barrie auditioned originally for the part of Lister, it certainly gives you pause for thought. The swapped dialogue is not convincing on any level, which adds to the feeling of unreality: more attention paid to getting the looping right would have helped this, although I don’t know why they didn’t just let Barrie do Lister’s voice anyway, as he would have been able to reproduce it perfectly. To add to the woes of this ep, the plot’s just plain stupid: no-one in their right minds would swallow Lister’s agreeing to give Rimmer, weasel extraordinaire, his body. The whole thing seems strangely lacklustre.

THE BEST BIT: The Cat dropping Lister’s mind into his cup.

THE WORST BIT: Just about all the body swap stuff, and especially the excruciatingly unfunny scene with the mashed potato.

IMMORTAL DIALOGUE: "The whole ship’s a gigantic booby trap." "No poker, then?"


Invasion of the smeghead snatchers: The portrayal of Rimmer in the first scene is mindboggling: he’s crisp, he’s efficient, he knows what he’s doing, he has the situation firmly under control. For a moment, you’d swear he was Ace. I was looking round the set for a pod.

Big boy: Chris Barrie in leathers? Dunno why this looks so odd, but it does. I think it’s that hat. (Now, I suppose, someone’s going to write to me and tell me he’s a well-known habitué of leather bars.)

I know that voice: Why is it that when the characters are bodyswapped, they take their own voices with them? The voices should logically be the ones associated with the body, both for living beings, whose vocal cords produce an individual sound, and for holograms, whose voices match the physical projection (c.f. Kochanski’s voice in "Balance of Power".)


SYNOPSIS: Lister is depressed about the pointlessness of his life, but cheers up when Kryten discovers mutated photographic fluid which brings to life any photograph. Lister goes back and persuades his younger self to invent the Tension Sheet, and as a result he, the Cat and Kryten disappear, leaving Rimmer alone. Rimmer attempts to change Lister’s mind, but on realising what a futile exercise this is goes back to his boarding school and tells his eight-year-old self to invent the Tension Sheet. However, the conversation is overheard by the real inventor of the sheet, and things are therefore put back the way they were - except that for some reason Rimmer when he returns to the Dwarf is no longer a hologram. His exultation is short-lived, however, when he is killed in an explosion in short order.

COMMENT: This is a classic episode - brilliant from start to finish. There just aren’t any weak points. The situation’s interesting, and there’s some wonderful interaction not just within the core cast but also between the core cast and the guest characters. Robert Addie as Lister’s butler is a gem, and young Lister, played by Craig Charles’ brother, is well endearing, in a smeggy kind of way.

It’s another pathos-laden episode for Rimmer - you can’t help but feel sorry for the little boy he was, and his death just when he’s finally got a body once again is hard to laugh at. Rimmer must be one of the saddest characters ever invented, and the fact that it’s in the guise of comedy makes the writing all the more brilliant. Rimmer’s definitely still a smeghead - his desire to yank Lister back to the Dwarf so he won’t be lonely is proof of that - but he’s still getting on with Lister a lot better these days than before.

THE BEST BIT: Very tough call, but Lister’s conversation with his younger self and Kryten’s air guitar are way up there.

THE WORST BIT: Rimmer’s death. Too sad by half.

IMMORTAL DIALOGUE: "I wanna meet girls! I wanna make love!" "Well, Junior Angler’s the best you’re gonna get out of me, buddy!"

"Look at that collar! You could go hang gliding!"

"It’s my duty - my duty as a complete and utter bastard."

"He always used to come bottom in geography. He thought a glacier was a bloke who fixed windows."


Coming down the runway now: The Cat always looks superb, but his outfit in this ep, a delicious confection of gold and black with a truly gorgeous hat, deserves special mention.

Keep him away from the guitar: That’s Craig Charles singing the "Cash" song.

It’s who you know: Ruby Wax, who appears as Blaize Falconburger, is married to director/producer Ed Bye.

Argh!: These time-travel episodes invariably create brain-squeezing paradoxes. Gritting our teeth and girding our loins, we plunge bravely in.....

Why is it that the millionaire Lister doesn’t remember meeting Rimmer in the pub when Lister was 17? Given that Rimmer was a fan of "Om", you’d have thought the meeting would have been etched indelibly onto Lister’s mind.

Why, once the timelines have changed and Lister becomes the Tension Sheet millionaire, are Rimmer and Holly able to remember Lister and the Cat, who have never existed on Red Dwarf?

Why, when Kryten arrives in the pub, does he have to access his databanks to find out what it is, when in "Backwards" he spent several weeks in a pub performing as part of the Sensational Reverse Brothers?

He must have snapped back: In "Better Than Life", Rimmer says his brother Frank was 6’5" at the age of 11, due to their father’s unpleasant little habit of stretching his sons on the rack. We know that Lister is considerably shorter than this, since he is much shorter than Kryten, who is 6’ ("White Hole"), but the disparity between the heights when Lister is in the photo of Frank is not enough for Frank to be as tall as he supposedly is. In fact, isn’t that Chris Barrie playing Frank? It’s certainly his voice.

That was before the facelift: The photos of Kryten at the birthday party were obviously taken prior to his boarding Red Dwarf, so we should see the other Kryten.

Philosophical thought for the day: Given the general stupidity level of the human race, it’s astonishing that nobody has after seeing this episode actually marketed the Tension Sheet and become a squillionaire.



SYNOPSIS: A communiqué arrives from Diva-Droid International, informing Kryten’s owners that he has reached the end of his programmed lifespan and has twenty-four hours to pack himself away. Kryten is unperturbed by this, as he knows he will be going to silicon heaven. The guys throw him a party, and the morning after discover Kryten’s replacement is fast approaching with orders to kill Kryten. The new android’s sanity chip has worn out during its long journey, but Kryten manages to render the homicidal mechanoid inoperative by telling it there’s no such place as silicon heaven - with lie mode engaged.

COMMENT: This is another classic episode, with terrific performances all around and one brilliant set piece after another. The silicon heaven stuff ("Where would all the calculators go?") is a hilarious and not-so-subtle jab both at religion and at the attitude of the old-fashioned "servant classes". To rub salt into the wound, Rimmer’s Seventh Day Advent Hoppists story is a biting satire on fundamentalism. Is this television as a medium for social commentary or what?

This a great episode for Kryten, and marks the last time we see him in full servile mode. It shows the beginning of his questioning what he’s been taught which paves the way for the full evolution of his character in the next series.

THE BEST BIT: Virtually impossible to name any one bit here. If you twisted my arm, I’d be forced to plump for Rimmer telling Lister he’s probably the product of incest.

The whole birthday party scene is superb.

THE WORST BIT: Ummmmmmm......

IMMORTAL DIALOGUE: "For is it not written in the electronic bible: ‘The iron shall lie down with the lamp’?"

"You would gamble your safety for a mere android? Is this the human value you call....friendship?" "Don’t give me this Star Trek crap. It’s too early in the morning."


The cheekbones aren’t as sculptured: Robert Llewellyn gets a chance to come out from behind the latex here as (brace yourself) Jim Reaper. Ouch!

Mrs Bridges would never approve: After a serving mechanoid named Kryten, we get a replacement called Hudzen. Just in case anybody’s asleep, this is a reference to the butler in "Upstairs, Downstairs".

Barrie Does Android: Another eerily perfect imitation from Chris Barrie, this time of Kryten. This man is either superlatively talented or a polymorph.

I don’t do mornings: The music playing just before the boys come round from their night of debauchery is "Morning Mood", from "Peer Gynt". Cute, huh?

Some assembly required: Is it just me, or does the completed Marilyn Monroe android have a distinct look of Margaret Thatcher?

Pucker up: We get another unnerving glimpse into Rimmer’s past with his French kiss story. This is hysterically funny, but as usual with Rimmer it has a very dark side. So Uncle Frank was sleeping with his mother, eh? Coming on the heels of the incest story, you have to wonder what side of the family Uncle Frank came from.

Let’s see, part A goes into slot B....: In this episode, Lister is unable to decommission Kryten’s shutdown switch, despite having completely rebuilt him a few episodes ago.

Computer illiterate: Jim Reaper refers to Kryten’s "inbuilt shutdown chip", but Kryten and Lister call it the "shutdown disk".

When I said I couldn’t lie, I was lying: Kryten lies to Hudzen about silicon heaven, yet in "Camille", which follows, Lister has to sweat bullets to break Kryten’s non-lie programming.

Reviews By Gavrielle Homepage Stephen Donaldson's Gap Series Review Stephen Donaldson's Mysteries Review Red Dwarf Episode Guide by Gavrielle Perry Reviews By Gavrielle Links Contact Gavrielle