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The Good Dwarf Guide: Series V

This series has a similar look to the last two, but the balance is tipped more towards the science fiction side of things. There are some very interesting concepts explored, including the idea of a holoship, the Inquisitor, the triplicator, the terraformed psy-moon, holoviruses and "good" viruses. This shift in balance in fact works very well: the comedy is still strong enough not to be overpowered by the situations, and the science fiction concepts add extra interest to the plots.

Lister settles further into his solid citizen persona in this series, with the writers at times going out of their way to make this explicit ("Back To Reality"). He might not have lived up to his full potential ("The Inquisitor"), but he’s nevertheless got a strong sense of ethics which he doesn’t just ignore when convenient: he doesn’t abandon Rimmer when he’s in trouble, and he doesn’t kill people just because they’re in his way.

It’s also a strong series for Rimmer: two episodes ("Holoship", "Terrorform") dive deeply into his psyche, and "Holoship" represents the pinnacle of his emotional development in Red Dwarf.

As things become more technobabbly, Kryten’s role become more and more that of not only technical diva but also the explainer of technoid concepts to the crew, and this gives rise to a lot of comic potential.

Apart from his brilliant turn as Duane Dibbley, the Cat is again underused in this series, although as ever he gets full mileage out of what he does have, and Holly’s role becomes increasingly minimal.

The look of the show is particularly impressive in this series. The colours are deeply saturated and varied, which is more interesting to the eye than the bright flat light and monochromatic colour schemes of the early days. The costumes, makeup, sets and model work all go from strength to strength, with the look of the shows successfully negotiating the fine line between comedy and cheesy parody.

Grant Naylor are executive producers in this series and also have some directing duties: Juliet May joined as director at the beginning of the series, but she didn’t stay long. Grant Naylor prove what right-on PC dudes they are in this series by switching to non-sexist language ("humankind", etc), which is easier on the ears than the other stuff.

All in all, it’s an excellent series, containing the best Red Dwarf ep ever ("Back to Reality"), a couple of classics ("Holoship", "The Inquisitor"), a couple which are part classics ("Quarantine", "Terrorform") and one clunker ("Demons and Angels").

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Series V DVD

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  Series V & VI DVD Pack

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SYNOPSIS: Rimmer is teleported to a holoship, which he discovers is entirely crewed by holograms who are the crème de la crème of the Space Corps. Not only do they have a physical presence, but it’s part of the ship’s rules that all crew members have sex twice a day, although love is an outmoded concept. Rimmer asks to become part of the crew, and discovers that the only way in is to compete against a current crew member. He has sex with the lovely Nirvanah Crane, but they assure each other it meant nothing to either of them. Rimmer undergoes an illegal mind patch to pass the exam, but it fails and he goes to withdraw, only to find his opponent has withdrawn leaving him victorious. He transfers to the holoship, but finds that his opponent was Nirvanah, who has sacrificed herself for his sake. He resigns his commission and returns to Red Dwarf rather than permit her to die.

COMMENT: Well, what a heartbreaker. Contrast this picture of Rimmer with the one we saw in "Meltdown" of a man so callous he couldn’t care less about wiping out an entire planet. In this, we find Rimmer is capable of the finer emotions; even of self-sacrifice for the woman he loves. And as well as baring his chest, he bares his soul, telling the crew and Nirvanah of the way he sees himself: as a sad, lonely man. Rimmer’s as close here as he ever gets to likeable: his confessions of his own inadequacies are free of bombast and come straight from the heart. This episode shows Rimmer as emotionally evolved as he will ever get on Red Dwarf. We can almost believe Nirvanah when she says "Underneath all that neurotic mess is someone nice trying to get out". God, how much sadder can this character get? Rimmer is developing by this stage into one of the most tragic figures ever invented, and given that it’s at least nominally a comedy, this is quite an achievement.

The Rimmer stuff casts a pretty sombre shadow throughout much of this episode, but there are still plenty of marvellous comic scenes, such as the audition for a new hologram. The special effects of the holoship are impressive, and the guest crew are equally impressive. There are some interesting science fiction ideas here, but they don’t overpower the character-driven script. All in all, one of the great episodes.

THE BEST BIT: Rimmer’s "afterglow" scene with Nirvanah. It’s good to see something nice happening to him for once. And Lister’s "Lister to Red Dwarf" speeches are brilliant.

THE WORST BIT: I’m not a fan of Rimmer’s geeky turn after he gets the mind patch.

DIALOGUE: "You could be reduced to a gibbering simpleton!" "Reduced?"

"He’s operating on a completely different level to us now. To him, we are the intellectual equivalent of domestic science teachers."

"I just want to say that over the years I’ve come to regard you as....people I met."


Captain Scarlet: Rimmer’s uniform is changed from green to red, which gives him a better contrast with the sets. The trousers (velvet?) look as if they’re made from the same material as the holoship uniforms. Rimmer also gets an elegant new H.

It’s Trek, Jim, but not as we know it: Red Dwarf’s library is obviously well-stocked with Star Trek videos: in this episode alone, the Cat and Kryten discuss laser cannons, defensive shields and wormholes.

Soon to be a major motion picture: Here and in "Camille", the plot of the episode follows the plot of the movie depicted, although the association is looser here than in "Camille".

Sweetie sweetie sweetie: That’s Jane Horrocks, Bubble from "Absolutely Fabulous", playing Rimmer’s inamorata.

Warning: cigarettes can seriously damage your bridgework: Craig Charles goes above and beyond the call of duty in munching a cigarette - a masterly touch.

The fountain of eternal youth: The hologram Binks describes Lister as being in his mid-twenties: as he was 25 at the time of the accident, and they’ve been careering across the cosmos for the last four years, this isn’t bad going.

It’s my lithp: In "The Last Day", Hudzen’s screen identified the Cat as belonging to the species "Felix Sapiens"; here, Commander Binks terms it "Felis Sapiens".

Gratuitous sax, senseless violins: Rimmer’s renunciation scene at the end is nicely linked with the movie at the beginning through the schmaltzy music, and the letterboxed "The End" screen is a delightful finishing touch.

Get it in writing: The end credits change their design again in this series and look deeply funky.


SYNOPSIS: Red Dwarf is seized by the Inquisitor, an android who has taken the task on himself of travelling through history deleting worthless individuals and replacing them with those who have never had a chance to live. The crew are tried - by themselves: Rimmer and the Cat are acquitted on the grounds that they have fulfilled their potential, miserable as it is. However, Lister and Kryten are found guilty of not becoming all they could be and are sentenced to deletion. The Inquisitor gets as far as erasing them from history, but before he can delete their physical bodies Kryten arrives from the future, giving them a chance to escape. They meet their alternate equivalents, and they kill the Inquisitor using the old backfiring gauntlet trick.

COMMENT: Very, very nice. After a run of Rimmer stories, Lister gets a chance to shine in this one. Craig Charles does an excellent job - the mano a android scene with the Inquisitor’s particularly cool. This episode is once again very SF-y, but the show’s not overwhelmed by that - it just adds interest. The judging of the crew gives the opportunity for some great character-driven stuff. Action-packed, interesting, and funny - a winner.

The idea of the Inquisitor’s an interesting one, being similar in theme to "Justice" but sufficiently different to hold its own interest. In both episodes, the crew are judged on their own opinions of themselves, but with differing results. In both episodes, the Cat’s guilt free and exonerated, and that seems perfectly reasonable - nobody could argue that he wasn’t living up to his mind-numbingly shallow potential. In "Justice", Rimmer is judged guilty by his own lights of killing the crew, while in "The Inquisitor", by his own evaluation he’s done the best he could with what he has. These two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive - Rimmer could feel guilty for the crew deaths while still recognising that he couldn’t have done anything else but screw up. But his evaluation of himself as having passed the standards he’s set for himself doesn’t fit with his self-loathing - you’d expect that if he recognised that he couldn’t have done better than he has he’d be more at peace with himself. Still, we are talking about Rimmer, after all.

Kryten’s sentence of deletion by the Inquisitor is puzzling - Kryten says that the only way that mechanoids could justify themselves would be to attempt to break their programming

and live according to their own set of values. The Inquisitor says this is an argument for deletion, yet breaking his programming is just what Kryten has done. On the other hand, perhaps the Inquisitor means that breaking programming deserves deletion, but that doesn’t seem likely given that he himself has broken his own programming. Kryten’s statement that he’s programmed not to wish for anything is true, but is an evasion of the whole truth, which is that he’s broken that part of it, as we saw in "The Last Day" when he decided he wanted to stay alive. All in all, there seems no reason to delete him at all.

Lister’s sentence of deletion stacks up if he’s measured by the criterion of whether he’s lived the best life possible for him, but not if we go by the Inquisitor’s statement to Allman that those who have lived totally worthless lives are deleted. Lister’s actions in breaking Kryten out of his programming alone ensure that his life hasn’t been worthless. It seems that the Inquisitor makes up the rules as he goes along.

THE BEST BIT: Rimmer’s "Oh, God" sequence with Kryten.

THE WORST BIT: That "I’ll beat you to death with the wet end" gag. Not only gross, but way out of character for Lister.

IMMORTAL DIALOGUE: "I’ve given pleasure to the world because I have such a beautiful ass!"

"I say open the door to oblivion and kick ‘em through!"


He said he’d be back: The concept of the Inquisitor obviously draws heavily on that other Arnold’s "Terminator" character.

He never knew what hit him: At the beginning of the episode, Thomas Allman ( a nice twist on Everyman) is seen being judged by the Inquisitor. He is vaporised without benefit of trial, although the Inquisitor makes clear to the crew later that trial by self is the standard procedure.

Captain Peacock: Rimmer gets a blue uniform in this one. What with the red and blue uniforms, the quilted holoship outfit, Billy Doyle’s gear, the loincloth, the Mr Flibble dress and the transvestite ensemble, Rimmer gets to sashay into more outfits in this series than in all the previous ones combined.

He’s only a toilet droid, part II: Kryten gives Virgil’s Aeneid as the source of the story of Helen of Troy and Agamemnon. This reference would more accurately be Homer’s Iliad, as the Aeneid deals with Aeneas’s life following the Trojan War.

You can say that again: Rimmer draws attention to his unmanageable hair in this episode. Indeed, it looks in this series as if the long-suffering set hairdresser has at last thrown in the towel and allowed it to rampage where it will. They obviously mislaid the holowhip they used to keep it under control in the previous series.

The birds and the light bees: Grant Naylor were obviously napping down the back of the classroom the day they were explaining human biology. "The unfertilised eggs and sperms that never made it"? Those are only half people, guys! Lister compounds the error by referring to the other Lister as his sperm-in-law and talks about them being shot down the same barrel. Okay, maybe it was Lister’s mistake. He did go to art college, after all. Or maybe Grant Naylor were just trying to steer away from mentioning the obvious but too-controversial example of this - terminated foetuses.

Confused? You should be: Lister gives his clearance code as 000169. This tallies with his rank on the ship as lowest out of 169 crew members as given in the early series, but clashes with the crew figure of 1,167 given in "Justice". Maybe in "Justice" they were counting the lab mice.

Compost fever: Rimmer refers to an incident occurring with Fiona Barrington in his father’s greenhouse when he was aged 15. As he divorced his parents at age 14 ("Better Than Life"), this obviously happened during one of his fortnightly access visits to the family dog.

That WD-40’s amazing stuff: Kryten ages his and Lister’s manacles by half a million years with the help of the gauntlet, causing the manacles to rot away to nothing. However, Red Dwarf is by this time more than three million years old and its metal is still intact.

What’s a corpse between friends?: Lister mentions that when Rimmer was on the Samaritans’ switchboard four people committed suicide. In "The Last Day", this figure is given as five.

Let’s do the time warp again, again: By the end of the episode, the Inquisitor has been killed and the original timeline restored. Yet Lister still has the hand of the alternate Lister, who by that time hadn’t existed at all. The hand obviously disappeared as the credits started to roll.



SYNOPSIS: Rimmer and Kryten crash-land on a Psy-Moon, an artificial construction designed to terraform itself in the shape of the psyche of whoever lands on it.

As the psyche concerned is Rimmer’s, it’s an awesomely terrifying place. The crew manage to rescue Rimmer from his own self-loathing and escape from the asteroid by building up his self-esteem, lying through their teeth to do so.

COMMENT: This episode starts really well, and continues in that vein for the first half, but tails off somewhat thereafter. The beginning, seen through Kryten’s eyes, (or eye, since one is partially detached) is a hoot. There are lots of cool jokes on his screen if you frame-by-frame, including some delightful variants of "condition: red". The stuff with the hand is an SFX tour de force, and I particularly like the touch of Kryten whistling.

Back on board the Dwarf, the brilliant keyboard/tarantula (or taranshula) scene follows, then some extremely funny stuff with Rimmer on the asteroid being oiled. However, things slip a bit with the arrival of the crew on the planet: that gravestone stuff couldn’t be more obvious if Grant Naylor leapt from the screen and stuffed the script up your nostril. The whole premise is disappointingly obvious, given the subtle and careful development of Rimmer’s character previously. It’s as if Grant Naylor suddenly decided to sweep all nuances away and give us Rimmer by numbers: Kryten’s speech enumerating Rimmer’s faults is the worst example of this. Rimmer just isn’t this straightforward and it’s a backward step to insist he is.

The final scenes on Starbug are also classics: Rimmer’s reactions as the guys tell him how much they really care are priceless. The "I love you, man" stuff and the group hug are an ironic twist on the nauseating standard US sitcom tradition, which is neatly skewered with the crew’s cheerful admission that it was just a cunning wheeze. But the duelling scene - argh! In its obviousness it could have lifted straight from a kids’ TV series. Y’know, us Red Dwarf fans aren’t all that dumb - we very probably could have joined the dots all by ourselves if left to our own devices. And have had a far better time doing it.

The episode encapsulates the ambivalent relationship of the rest of the crew with Rimmer. It’s true that all the choked confessions of love are fake, but on the other hand, they do go and rescue him rather than just abandoning him as they could easily have done. He might be a smeghead, but he’s their smeghead.

THE BEST BIT: Some heavy competition here, but it’s just gotta be the oiling scene. Yum. Handcuffs too!

THE WORST BIT: A dead heat between the swordfight and the gravestones.

IMMORTAL DIALOGUE: "Remember, it’s Rimmer’s mind out there. Expect sickness."


Only going forward, ’cause we can’t find reverse: Some crystal clear evidence of Grant Naylor’s bent for science fiction here: the terraforming concept is a direct lift from the Star Trek movies. And they’ve clearly whiled away a few profitless hours playing adventure games, too.

Didn’t I just say that?: Grant Naylor had written a lot of Red Dwarf scripts by this stage: there are only so many jokes in the quadrant, and so they start to fall into the seductive but poisonous trap of the running joke. In this ep, it’s the Cat with his suggestions of things to do that require equipment they don't have: they’re not too bad, because Grant Naylor manage clever variations, but it gets far, far worse later on with the dreaded Space Corps Directives. At this stage, we’d had a couple of these in a different form: Kryten quotes them, and Rimmer fires back a Rimmer Directive. Those are funny, but later, particularly in Series VI, a dreary round starts whereby Rimmer quotes the number of a directive and Kryten says what it is - invariably something absurd. A couple of these would have been fine, but when it gets to the stage where you can see them coming a mile off, it’s dullsville. We’ll be shouting "To see you nice!" at the screen any minute.

Feline fine: The Cat has a particularly breathtaking black and yellow outfit in this ep.

It has stochastic capabilities: Kryten’s screen gives a stochastic analysis, which is a cute link back to the computer on board the holoship.

Your set’s over there: The black-robed figures with the red eyes are remarkably like the Sand People of Tatooine from Star Wars.

Wishful thinking: In his speech about what a bad day he’s had, Rimmer refers to his being licked and nibbled. However, we see him the whole time the handmaidens are attending to him and there really isn’t anything more than oiling and a little light caressing going on.

Do I get extra money for this?: Who’s that doing the awesome Self-Loathing voice? Yes, it’s Chris Barrie, of course, showing off Amazing Voice Three Million And One. Nauseatingly talented.

I’ll take the upgrade: Kryten is referred to here, in ‘Dimension Jump" and in "The Inquisitor" as a Series 4000 mechanoid, but in "The Last Day", he’s called a Series III.



SYNOPSIS: The crew answer a distress call from the hologrammatic Dr Lanstrom. Rimmer is dispatched back to Red Dwarf, much to his disgust, so that the crew can bring Dr Lanstrom back: however, they discover that she has contracted a holovirus and is barking mad. The crew escape, taking with them the viruses Dr Lanstrom had discovered, including a luck virus. Meanwhile, back on Red Dwarf, Rimmer has been boning up on Space Corps Directives and slaps the others into quarantine for three months. After five days, they’ve nearly killed each other, but when they ask to be released as per directives, they find Rimmer has contracted the holovirus: he sentences them to two hours W.O.O. (without oxygen). They use the luck virus to escape and to defeat Rimmer and his co-conspirator Mr Flibble.

COMMENT: This is an excellent episode. It gets off to a cracking start with Rimmer’s hilarious string of allusions to Kryten’s lowly status and with the crew needling him for his smeggishness: he’s pissed off, he doesn’t care who knows it, and he’s going to get his revenge. The pace slackens slightly in the Dr Lanstrom part, but once the crew get into quarantine, the episode develops into a classic. Rimmer’s personality in this episode more or less reverts to how he was portrayed during series I and II, and it’s a salutary reminder that no matter how sorry you feel for him at times, he’s an unregenerate smeghead and you’d better not forget it.

The funniest parts are totally character-driven: Rimmer’s treatment of the crew in quarantine, and their reactions to each other while in there. The technobabbly virus parts are intriguing in concept in a very Douglas Adams sort of way. There are stellar performances from the entire cast here: Lister, Kryten and the Cat are brilliant as they’re at each other’s throats in quarantine, and Chris Barrie is both chilling and hilarious as Rimmer with a loose sanity chip and Mr Flibble floors me every time. His final death flop brings tears to my eyes. Robert Llewellyn’s brief but brilliant turn as the malfunctioning Kryten is a comedy jewel. There are some very nice sets both inside the station and outside it (with the economy sized pack of Daz again flowing). This episode also gets the award for Best Use Of A Space Corps Directive.

THE BEST BIT: The quarantine section, including Rimmer’s speech about the leisure facilities and the sprouts and the conflict between the other three. This is a comedy masterpiece.

THE WORST BIT: The stuff where they’re ducking Dr Lanstrom. Dull straight SF.

IMMORTAL DIALOGUE: "I’ll be in the stern, correlating the stern."

"Why is it we never meet anyone nice?" "Why is it we never meet anyone who can shoot straight?"

"Well, we know what to get you for Christmas - a double lobotomy and ten rolls of rubber wallpaper."


You can bin the rest: Even if this episode was complete crap, it’d still be worthwhile, just to hear Chris Barrie do Kryten saying "Space Corps Directive".

A trick of the light: Rimmer is sent back to Red Dwarf on the basis that Dr Lanstrom may replace him as Holly can only sustain one hologram. However, we see in other episodes that this isn’t the case: in "Me2", two Rimmers are sustained for a considerable time, and in "Holoship", both Rimmer and the auditioning hologram are present on Red Dwarf at the same time. In addition, Lister tells Rimmer that they need to commandeer his remote projection unit, presumably to get Dr Lanstrom back to Red Dwarf, but they go in search of Dr Lanstrom without waiting for Rimmer to arrive back at the Dwarf and therefore make the remote projection unit available. And why does Rimmer have to physically travel back to Red Dwarf in these circumstances? Wouldn’t they just switch him off? And in any case, if they want a doctor, why do they need Dr Lanstrom? Presumably Red Dwarf originally had a doctor on board, so why don’t they just use his or her personality disk when necessary? Dr Lanstrom is a researcher not a clinician anyway.

My brain hurts.

Don’t try this in Vegas: When Lister is demonstrating the luck virus by picking the aces from the deck of cards, he deals the aces from both the top and the bottom, but when shuffling the cards simply puts them back on top of the pack in the same order.

Eat your greens: Lister tells Rimmer here that sprouts make him hurl, yet in "Marooned" he ate a raw sprout before eating the dogfood and the pot noodle. As these are obviously therefore worse than sprouts on Lister’s sliding scale, God only knows what the state of the floor was like in the Blue Midget by the time Kryten and the Cat arrived.

I wonder what he was wearing under that dress: Rimmer’s voice while he’s nuts is virtually identical to Low Rimmer’s voice.



SYNOPSIS: Kryten retools the matter paddle to produce a triplicator which produces two copies of any object, one containing its best and the other its worst features. When the crew try to put a strawberry back together, they instead split the Red Dwarf into three, the strain of which causes the original Dwarf to explode. The crew escape in Starbug, and realise that the only way of retrieving the Dwarf is to put the two copies back together. They dock first at the High ship, where the inhabitants spend their time on inner meditation and self-improvement. Both crews go then to the Low ship, which is sending out a distress signal - the Highs are quickly killed, and the Lows take control of Lister’s body by putting an implant in his neck. Lister attempts to wipe out the crew, but is foiled, and Red Dwarf is reconstituted.

COMMENT: This probably looked like a great idea on paper, but it bombs badly in translation. The Highs are by turns dull and silly - and not in a good way - and the Lows Just Aren’t Funny. They’re like a low-rent Mad Max, and it’s embarrassing to watch. Kryten and Lister make a good fist of their Low alters, and the Cat does a great Tina Turner impersonation, but none of them break the comedy barrier. Low Rimmer is the worst of the lot: Chris Barrie seems totally at sea in this role. Even the costume misses by a mile.

There’s no doubt some philosophical stuff in here about how there’s bad in all of us, admit it, and that we need both our good and our bad traits, but really, did we have to suffer so much to learn this?

Make-up work in this episode is admittedly sterling, particularly for the Lows. There are also some very pretty special effects, especially the one of Starbug crashing through the cargo bay door.

THE BEST BIT: The end scenes where the remote-controlled Lister tries to kill the crew. This really is genuinely funny, and the only time the episode comes alive. And there’s a fabulous diva bit from Danny John-Jules when he gets the implant stuck in him, then has it ripped out. Bravo!

THE WORST BIT: A dead heat between that pathetic dance stuff done by the Highs -worse than amateur night at the local scout hall - and all the Low scenes, particularly where they’re all slavering and gibbering away together. Ugh.

IMMORTAL DIALOGUE: "The chances of it blowing are about one"

"What a pair of losers!"


A continuous process: There’s some nice attention to detail here with the reference back to the matter paddle.

Tough break: Lister recalls playing pool with planets, but he shouldn’t be able to remember this, since with the erasure of the white hole this incident never happened.

It makes quite an impression: Lister gasps: "A holowhip!" in tones of wonder here, whereas in "Holoship", which predates it, he matter-of-factly informs the hologram that they have a holowhip on board.

Now everybody over to the other side: Like virtually all other science fiction writers, Grant Naylor subscribe to the Trek Fallacy. When the original Dwarf blows, the crew in Starbug are rocked by the explosion; however, as space is a vacuum, shock waves can’t travel though it. But if they were sticklers for accuracy here, think how much fun we’d miss, particularly when slomo-ing through these parts to see who starts swaying later than everyone else and whether they’re all going in different directions. (Of course, sound waves can’t travel in a vacuum either, but sticking to the facts would once again be far too boring.)

Walk this way: The whole High thing has a very Pythonesque flavour, and is particularly reminiscent of the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Beyond the norm: After a couple of Norman Bates references earlier on Red Dwarf, here we get a further "Psycho" allusion, both with the dagger bit and the music, when Lister stabs his High self.

Oops: When the two Dwarfs are combined, everything in the two separate ships therefore combines to form one again. However, in defiance of this the Low Lister survives on board Starbug.



SYNOPSIS: The crew discover the wreckage of the ship SSS Esperanto on an ocean planet which has been marine seeded. The crew has committed suicide, and all life has disappeared except for a gigantic squid which immobilises its prey by squirting an ink which induces despair. In attempting to get away, the crew crash Starbug, but wake up to find they have been playing a Red Dwarf computer game for the last four years, with a success rating of 4%. Lister discovers he is really Sebastian Doyle, despot in the fascist government; Rimmer is Billy Doyle, his dropout alkie yak-urine-scented half brother; Kryten is Jake Bullet, traffic control supremo; the Cat is Duane Dibbley, the most tragically unhip geek in the galaxy. The despair this induces nearly causes the crew to commit suicide, until Holly manages to convince them they’ve been hallucinating and welcomes them back to reality.

COMMENT: Well, this is it - the pinnacle of human endeavour. The videotape containing this one should be behind bullet-proof glass in a museum. It’s no less than perfect, with an inspired mix of ingenious plotting, brilliant writing and stunning performances. This video could cure cancer.

Both the core cast and the guest stars outdo themselves here. Craig Charles and Chris Barrie have the least to work with: Charles extracts the maximum out of his relatively straight role as Sebastian Doyle, and Barrie gets full mileage out of Billy, a part with less comic potential than some of the others, just because Rimmer is a similar sort of loser in both universes. Robert Llewellyn has an easier time of it with the sublime Jake Bullet, and wrings out every drop of the role’s potential. Lenny Von Dohlen is very impressive as the Cop, as is Timothy Spall as Andy, the computer game technician. But the diva accolades must go to Danny John-Jules, who in Duane Dibbley creates a comedy masterpiece of such proportions you’re in serious danger of rupturing something.

The episode throws some interesting light on the characters: we always knew Lister was a good guy, but here we find his principles go so deep that he’s driven to suicide when he finds he’s a fascist thug. We also get a glimpse of how important Kochanski is to him when we see his face after viewing the other Lister kissing the other Kochanski. Kryten’s and the Cat’s reasons for suicide are also plausible. Rimmer’s is slightly less convincing: Kryten suggests he wants to commit suicide because he finds that since he and Sebastian had the same upbringing he can no longer hide behind the excuse that his failures are due to his parents. Yes, but Rimmer will happily blame everyone in sight for his problems, not just his parents, and given his congenital cowardice it’s hard to envisage him choosing to die. Unless, of course, he was afraid of being tortured by the fascist police, in which case suicide would be a very Rimmerlike option. Billy Doyle as an alkie loser has some interesting parallels to the character Rimmer ends up as at the end of the "Better Than Life" game.

As well as the brilliant performances, this episode is notable for the sheer smartness of its plotting. I for one was fooled on first viewing, which gave the thing a hell of an emotional charge, and when they returned to "reality" I was still disoriented and not sure which one was the real one. A science fiction masterpiece as well as a comedy gem.

Sets in this are great, and makeup and costuming, particularly for the alternates, is inspired. You can smell the yak urine from here. There are also some cool special effects, especially of Starbug crashing, and they wisely show only the shadow of the despair squid: trying to depict leviathan monsters on a non-Spielberg budget pitches you straight into "Blake’s 7" territory.

THE BEST BIT: It’s an artificial exercise trying to pick one bit from this episode, but the Duane Dibbley scenes are mind-bending. Honourable mention, too, to the divine car mime. (You didn’t really think the BBC would spring for a real car chase, did you?)

THE WORST BIT: Are you kidding?

IMMORTAL DIALOGUE: You’d have to cram the whole script in here to really do this justice. A couple of random samples:

"So this is really me? A no-style gimbo with teeth that druids could use as a place of worship?"

"This is a nightmare! I’m on the run from the fascist police with a murderer and a mass murderer and a man in a bri-nylon shirt!"


Diva, guy: This episode really underlines that while the writing is brilliant, it’s the intersection of that with the cast’s interpretation that makes Red Dwarf what it is. In the Esperanto scenes, for example, Danny John-Jules has some lines which if written down would look pretty weak, such as the gag about how birds would breathe if they swam south for the winter and the "he committed suicide, he committed suicide, he committed suicide" bit. And after all, the phrase "Duane Dibbley?" when written down is not particularly mirthful. However, when spoken these lines are killingly funny: John-Jules brings them to life with superb skill. Yeah, I know that’s what actors are supposed to do, but there’s acting and then there’s comic genius, and the Red Dwarf actors have got the latter in spades.

I hope you noticed: The naming of the ship "SSS Esperanto" created some nice links: while the ostensible reason for this, as Andy the technician explains, is that it’s a clue for the players as hope defeats despair, it’s also a reminder of the early series, when parts of the Dwarf were labelled in both English and Esperanto.

Wait for it....: When the new players appear for the Total Immersion Video Game, there is a Kryten with them, yet Kryten doesn’t appear at the start of Red Dwarf. Perhaps he, and to a lesser extent the Cat, just twiddle their fingers/paws until it’s time for them to play.

A late conversion: The technician refers to the irony of Lister, "the ultimate atheist", becoming God, whereas in "The Last Day", Lister agrees that he is a pantheist.

Bad day with the parking tickets: Sebastian Doyle takes part in the Red Dwarf game because he’s weary of his glorious duties; Billy Doyle takes part, if Rimmer’s hunch is correct, to let the heat die down after blasting Granny’s head off; Duane Dibbley takes part to escape his irremediable geekdom. But there’s no explanation given for Kryten’s presence at all.

He’s only a you-know-what: Kryten refers to the "venom secreted from a piscine source, not unlike earth octopus or giant squid". However, squid and octopus are molluscs, not fish.

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