Red Dwarf’s fourth series has an even higher hit-rate than Series III, with more episodes that would easily make it to my top 10 (though thinking about it I could say that for most of V and VI as well, so it would be a legitimately hard list to write!) and even the episodes that aren’t on that level are still really good, not one “duff” episode to be found here and beyond a greater scope of locations outside the main ship there wasn’t a major cast or tonal shift either. So let’s take a look!
Synopsis (of Episode 1 “Camile”):
Lister helps Kryten to break his programming so that he can lie and insult. Later, when Kryten rescues a mechanoid named Camille, the sole survivor from a crashed spaceship, she appears to be his perfect mechanoid partner. However, Rimmer and Lister also see their fantasy women when they see Camille.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Just realised that despite bigging it up I didn’t take a good screenshot of “White Hole”. Oh well, here’s the Simulant from “Justice” instead, in the middle of the classic “I lied twice!” scene!
To me Episodes 3, 4 and 5 are the absolute standouts, with Episode 4 “White Hole” being a personal all-time favourite. Kryten manages to come up with a way to expand Holly’s IQ back to the 12,000s and therefore make their life far easier but while initially successful Holly realises that her lifespan has been dramatically reduced so shuts herself, and therefore the ship, down. This leaves Rimmer and Kryten going up and down the decks of the ship manually as they don’t need food while Lister and The Cat try to live in a world with no electricity, something in their time period was unthinkable. This was funny enough, especially scenes with the returning Talkie Toaster constantly badgering everyone about toasted bread-based snacks, but the best is yet to come. The ship encounters a White Hole, as every reaction has an equal and opposite reaction a White Hole sends time and matter back into the universe instead of sucking it out, leaving the crew to experience periods of time on repeat. This leads to one of the all time best moments of the series when they have a group discussion and end up repeating parts of it over and over. It’s perfectly written and performed comedy gold. They temporarily boot Holly back up and she figures out a method of knocking a planet into the White Hole, plugging it up, but Lister believes it will be a missed shot due to his time playing pool. Due to a series of issues Lister gets the vote to “take the shot” himself and by fluke manages to do it. It’s such a quotable episode and never fails to make me smile.
Episode 3 “Justice” is great as well. The crew get drawn to an old space prison after they pick up an escape pod and don’t know if it contained a guard or a prisoner. While on the prison ship they are judged by the sentient AI and although Lister, Kryten and The Cat get a pass Rimmer is accused of murder after his inner guilt of causing the original Red Dwarf radiation leak that killed the crew is mistaken for actual guilt. A mock trial is held where Kryten defends Rimmer by basically claiming he’s too stupid to have done it works but in the meantime the pod has opened and inside it was a killer “simulant”, or cyborg, who then stalks them. This is the good bit because the prison has a “Justice Field” where whatever crime someone commits is then “sent back” to the person committing it. The Simulant tries to shoot Lister but ends up getting shot himself so Lister forces him to try and kill him and therefore kill itself. I love the idea of the Justice Field and it led to some funny material.
Ace Rimmer in the middle of a facial pose that couldn’t look more regular Rimmer…
Episode 5 “Dimension Jump” see a parallel timeline where Rimmer was held back in school and humiliation led to him really bucking down and studying, becoming “Ace Rimmer” a handsome test pilot and all-round “great guy”. He tests the new “Dimension Jumping” spaceship and ends up in the core reality we know and knocks into Starbug, which then crashes into a nearby planetoid. Ace Rimmer boards and is quite taken aback by the cowardly version of himself but manages to help Lister fix the ship and help the Cat, who’d broken his leg, all while being injured, leading to plenty of “what a guy” remarks. Rimmer is of course disgusted by his alternate self “having all the luck”, not knowing it was him who got the luck technically. Ace leaves for other realities, a post-episode crawl informing us that Ace never found another Rimmer as awful as our main one. I can believe that…
As for the rest of the series? Episode 1, “Camille”, sees a “pleasure GELF” arrive on board, a green blob that takes the form of everyone’s ideal partner (or in The Cat’s case he just sees himself!) and after Lister tried to teach Kryten the ways in which lying can be good at the start of the episode the mechanoid figures it out in time to lie to the GELF about its natural appearance before it leaves in a parody of Casablanca. It’s fine, has some funny lines and moments, definitely, but I’d say it’s the weakest of an incredibly strong lot.
Camille reveals herself… If a blob of green goo has an assigned gender…?
Episode 2 “DNA” has the Red Dwarf crew find a ship that almost certainly seems to be alien, complete with a skeleton of someone with three heads, only for it to be an advanced human creation that includes a machine that can alter the DNA of something and create something new. The Cat messes with it, turning Lister into a chicken among other things, but then undoes the damage before Kryten is turned into a human. Cue plenty of jokes relating to a robot discovering the pluses and minuses of being a human, many of which are great and properly funny, before he decides human life just isn’t for him and they try the DNA sequencer again, giving it a test run on Lister’s vindaloo only for it to turn into a killer alien-looking monster. In order to take it out they turn Lister into a version of robocop except he’s tiny, but he still manages to defeat the “vindaloo monster” by killing it with larger… why not?
Episode 6 then, titled “Meltdown”, sees the crew find a device that can teleport them around the ship and to nearby habitable planets. They use it and end up on a planet that used to be a theme park called “Wax World” long ago, featuring wax androids of famous historical people and fictional characters that have since gained sentience and ended up in a deadly war, all the evil of history teaming up to take out the nicer wax droids. Rimmer decides to play general and lead the good wax facsimiles into battle alongside Kryten while Lister and The Cat get stuck on the evil side dealing with wax work Hitler and others. It’s as crazy as it sounds and includes a scene of a Mother Theresa running across a field with a machine gun before being exploded, so … yeah. In the end both sides are entirely wiped out, which Rimmer feels is a victory unlike his three crew mates.
Not really anything! There are some episodes better than others, but none are bad. It’s the beginning of the height of Red Dwarf hilarity!
A screenshot of the whole crew, though two of them aren’t quite themselves…
Red Dwarf IV is the start of a run of three near-perfect series of sci-fi comedy. While three episodes are all-time classics the other three are still really entertaining and often genuinely funny just maybe not with such a fun core-concept in the episode. The scary thing is that I remember V and VI being better! That’s something to look forward to soon…