It wouldn’t be a very good tribute to Red Dwarf if we didn’t actually talk about the show. And what better way to talk about the show itself than to look at our favourite Top 10 Red Dwarf Episodes? There was a lot of crossover between the lists we made before showing them to one another and says a lot about us. Apparently we both love Rimmer. Then again, who doesn’t? Everybody loves a smeghead, after all.
The End (Series 1, Episode 1)
Amelia: I know what you’re thinking and no, the first episode that ever aired didn’t make it on this list just because it’s what started this whole slovenly jaunt through deep space. The End deserves to be on here because it sets up these characters and this universe and it’s still hilarious. Pilots (at least where American pilots are concerned) are usually really tedious as they slog through the necessary details that need to be established. The End gives you everything you need to know while still keeping you giggling like mad. When Lister wanders the ship with Holly trying to make him understand that “everybody’s dead, Dave. Dave, everybody’s dead”, it always makes me giggle. When Lister pokes his fingers into bizarre piles of white dust and then licks them off only to discover that they’re the irradiated dust of his crew members and he exclaims “I’ve been eating half the crew!” I get a hearty guffaw. Doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen it (and I’ve seen these all a lot), I always get a laugh. So yes, The End absolutely has merit beyond being the first!
Billy: This episode saw Grant Naylor’s premise kick off already knowing the perfect tone. Craig Charles, while young to the role, uses that youth and immaturity to give Lister a sense of honesty. Chris Barrie is already nailing the repulsion and pathos that is Rimmer. Norman Lovett gives one of his best performances as Holly when he first tells Lister that everybody’s dead. Red Dwarf feels so alive and full in this first episode. Mac Macdonald is truly memorable as Captain Hollister, and when the eighth series brought the crew back to life, you felt like you were back. It’s a testament to the worldbuilding that can be done with only a small portion of a single episode to work with, and how well-written this first episode really is.
Future Echoes (Series 1, Episode 2)
Billy: The second episode of the series follows right after the first. It’s memorable, unpolished, but shows the series has absolutely nothing to hold back. It’s going to take chances playing around in time and all the classic sci-fi tropes that go with it. The first series concerned itself just as heavily with these storylines because it still hadn’t introduced anything alien. It was either Rimmer and Dave or the universe. This is an episode where the universe takes centre focus. Dave’s two kids are a set up for a storyline that wouldn’t take place until the end of series 2. Apart from that, I think it’s some of the best technobabble the show ever produced. The reason for these future echoes appearing actually makes sense to me. I haven’t questioned it.
Amelia: Future Echoes is a bizarre episode. It explores what happens when you break the light speed barrier. According to Red Dwarf, you’ll see future echoes. Things that haven’t yet happened to you, but are going to will have happened in the future. Yeah, what I’ve written is what I meant! There’s really great acting in this episode, with Lister and Rimmer having different conversations at the same time because one of them is a future echo and then when they are actually speaking to each other you’ll see the one-sided conversation as a whole one. It’s kind of hard to wrap your mind around in text form but it’s a great episode to watch!
Kryten (Series 2, Episode 3)
Amelia: The episode where Kryten is first introduced has one of the all-time best scenes in it. When Lister, Rimmer, and Cat head off to help a crashed ship where the only survives are three women and a service mechanoid, they think they’re about to pick up their first women they’ve been near in three million years. Turns out though the women have been dead for centuries and Kryten has been steadfastly tending to their bones. The scene that ensues between Kryten and the boys from the Dwarf is tops. “They’re dead! They’re all dead!” Rimmer shouts as Kryten fusses around with a tea kettle. “My God! I was only gone for two minutes!” Kryten replies as if it had never crossed his mind that the humans he was programmed to serve would die in three million years time! Such a great character introduction.
Billy: It may not be Robert Llewelyn, but Kryten is still an amazing episode for introducing us to Kryten, the household mechanoid. The differences here are strange to say the least, and yet somehow Kryten succeeds in telling Kryten’s complete story as they would continue to explore it for seasons to come. The experience Kryten had on the Nova 5 is truly haunting. Potentially millions of years alone, treating corpses as living beings in true Norman Bates fashion. It’s a storyline that reminds you that Dave is well and truly alone. He’s not mournful about it here, instead delighted to find a new comrade in Kryten and an opportunity to make Rimmer look like a fool.
Lemons (Series X, Episode 3)
Billy: When Red Dwarf came back for a full series on Dave in 2012, it didn’t just have a good run cashing in on nostalgia. It actually produced one of the best episodes of the series. Lemons follows the tradition of Red Dwarf episodes that sees the boys back on Earth, but in the wrong time, place, or dimension. While I fought for The Beginning to be included for its strong Rimmer storyline, Lemons is the superior episode. While having an episode focussed on the adventures of Jesus could come under controversy, Lemons never steps over the line that would make it offensive, treating the characters around them as human figures in every moment. The fact that it’s the wrong Jesus they’re interacting with takes the pressure off. I also love the revelation that Rimmer’s mother was a follower of the church of Judas. It explains everything about Rimmer, doesn’t it? And it even does it in a roundabout positive way. The fact that Judas and Jesus do appear near the end of the episode tops everything. Okay, maybe not everything. I still do love how excited Jesus got at the idea of a bag.
Amelia: I was so happy when Red Dwarf returned in 2012 for a proper six episode series! That’s British television for you, excited for six episodes after a three year hiatus since Back to Earth. It’s tough being a fan of the BBC. But I digress! After the disastrous series seven and a bizarrely meta Back to Earth three episode special, I wasn’t sure how good another season would be. Who would have thought that one of the best episodes of the series would come out of it? Lemons presents a story that has the boys once again back on Earth, but not in the time period they want. They end up needing an 8-volt battery to return to their time, but since they’re in 23 BCE and there isn’t a Tesco around the corner, they have to construct one of their own out of lemons. This leads them from the wilderness of Britain to India where they happen to bump into Jesus. Need I say more? Go watch Lemons!
Legion (Series 6, Episode 2)
Amelia: My mother never understood my love for the Legion episode. I don’t understand what’s not to love! The boys discover a space station and go aboard to loot it. When they get there, they’re greeted by an entity in a freaky mask and tight green one-piece. He introduces himself as Legion before he cuts into Lister and reaches into Rimmer to dismantle his hologram projection unit. Hm, perhaps mom didn’t like it because half the crew is horribly murdered… except their not! A mean set-up or what? To quote Holly from an earlier episode: “I couldn’t sit on a jape like that until April.” Legion cuts into Lister to remove an inflamed appendix and destroys Rimmer’s soft light projection unit to replace it with a hard light one. Legion’s an alright dude! Until he tries to keep them all as prisoners until the day they die. No, that’s not a joke. That happens. These boys just can’t catch a break!
Billy: While Legion as a character may not be the most… dignified of monsters, Legion as an episode stands uncharacteristically strong. A gestalt entity who exists only as a combination of the four Dwarfer’s minds, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. Rimmer trying his best to seem erudite and enlightened, he ends up admiring a light switch. I always felt a little bit bad for Legion. He wants company. He wants the right to exist. Were his tactics a little strong-armed? Yes. Of course they were. But his tragedy still exists.
Queeg (Series 2, Episode 5)
Billy: I love Queeg. The intimidating presence of Charles Augins on the screens of Red Dwarf makes such a stark and sudden change in tone to the episode. All of a sudden our layabout slobs are put to real work. Yeah, Holly can be a bit dim sometimes, but would you rather an unfeeling authoritarian? Holly on a television screen being wheeled around the ship is adorable. Seriously, look at that cap. This is one of my personal all-time favourite episodes. I’m glued to the screen every time it’s on. When Holly reveals it was all an April Fool’s prank the whole time, I lose it. It was the jape of the century. There’s no denying it.
Amelia: For the first two seasons Red Dwarf, the stories revolved solely around four guys irrevocably lost in space. Queeg shakes the formula up a bit by kicking Holly out as the ship’s computer and taking over. And boy is he a hard-ass! Watching him force Rimmer to exercise even after he’s passed out from exhaustion or Lister nearly succumb to tears when the one pea on toast he’s served for dinner is revealed after a hard day’s work is so funny. In true British television style, the boys’ misery becomes your joy!
Holoship (Series 5, Episode 1)
Amelia: Series five is rife with fantastic episodes. Aside from The Inquistor, they’re all cream of the crop. Since I had to narrow it down, I couldn’t resist Holoship. The first episode of the series is another amazing Rimmer episode. Are you seeing a connection between the reasons why I love the episodes I do? The boys come across a holoship while zipping around deep space. A holoship is a light projected ship full of other holograms where they can eat, touch, have a position of command among the best the human race has to offer, and have meaningless sex at least twice a day. That’s a ship rule. Understandably, Rimmer is thrilled and desperately wants a spot on board. To do so, he has to beat an existing crew member at an intelligence showdown. He figures he’ll cheat his way on, but he doesn’t need to. The other hologram steps down. When he discovers he was accepted aboard because another hologram fell in love with him and effectively killed herself so he could have her spot, he turns down the spot on the holoship and goes back to Red Dwarf where he’s just non-solid light and the butt of every joke. All so the woman that fell in love with him can continue to exist. It’s the noblest thing Rimmer will ever do and I like to think he’s a better person for knowing that someone in the universe loves him.
Billy: Sometimes you just want to feel good. This is a good episode for Rimmer, finally giving him a chance to shine. Stoke Me A Clipper and The Beginning make him into a hero, Holoship does it in a much smaller way that leaves you feeling good about the smeghead. Rimmer finds love in this episode. He finds passion. He finds meaning. And in the end, even though he’s been offered everything he’s ever wanted, he gives it all up to stop the woman he loves from sacrificing herself. And just when you think the show might be getting too sappy, Chris Barrie makes a face that tells you they’re in on the joke. All will be reset in the next episode, but just for now, let’s enjoy it.
Polymorph (Series 3, Episode 3)
Billy: Look at any piece of Red Dwarf expanded media and the polymorph is all over it. I didn’t realise its prevalence until I went back and read the comics, but it really is the standout threat of the series. It’s one of the best monsters the show ever produced and is so absolutely unique in the realm of science-fiction. When it came back in Emohawk: Polymorph II, it was a pale imitation of this wonderful episode. Besides the amazing creature, I simply love these episodes that look into who our characters are. What would Lister be like without his fear? What would Cat be without his ego? Every actor plays it up to the fullest and the scene where they all work out a plan, none of them behaving as normal, works.
Amelia: “The Committee for the Liberation and Integration of Terrifying Organisms and their Rehabilitation Into Society. One drawback with that – the abbreviation is C.L.I.T.O.R.I.S.” One of the best lines ever uttered ever. Now imagine it coming out of Rimmer’s mouth as he sucks on a pipe and wears a shirt that says Give Quiche a Chance. Polymorph offers all this and more! When a genetically engineered life form called the Polymorph comes on board the crew undergoes some pretty big changes when it starts feasting on their emotions and fears. Lister loses his fear, Cat loses his vanity, Kryten loses his guilt, and Rimmer loses his anger. As is usually the case, Rimmer and Lister steal the show. Lister with his fearless, Rambo plan to strap a nuke to his head and then headbutt the bugger, Rimmer with his heavy handed, very serious leaflet campaign. That clitoris line will bring tears to your eyes as you laugh!
Thanks for the Memory (Series 2, Episode 3)
Amelia: One of the simpler stories on this list, Thanks For the Memory is a great story between Lister and Rimmer. When Rimmer gets drunk (celebrating his death day if you’re curious), he admits his biggest regret is not ever finding a woman that loved him and that he loved. Lister, the bleeding heart that he is, implants a girlfriend from his memory into Rimmer’s memory. It goes wrong fairly quickly, but it’s the thought that counts! It’s such a sweet story and shows how empathetic Lister is. And the scene where Rimmer eats a triple decker fried egg sandwich with chili sauce and chutney and exclaims: “It feels like I’m having a baby!” displays Barrie’s skill as an actor beautifully.
Billy: Looking back, the second series of Red Dwarf was an emotional series, filled with these perfect little moments of bringing Rimmer and Lister closer together as friends. I really feel like Dave is trying to reach out here, but of course the negative qualities in Rimmer’s personality constantly outweigh the good. Early seasons of the show had a fascination with aliens. Whether it was a garbage pod or a signal from space, aliens were always at the forefront of Rimmer’s holographic mind. There’s no surprise then that when the boys wake up not only with a hangover, but two full days missing from their collective memories, plus broken legs on both Lister and the Cat, it’s a mystery Rimmer pins squarely on the aliens and his conspiracy theories are hilarious to behold.
Quarantine (Series 5, Episode 4)
Billy: As much as I love weird concepts and space adventures, Red Dwarf is at its best when it’s all about the characters. It’s why the early series get so much representation on this list, and makes perfect sense when you look at our number one. Quarantine puts everyone in a room together. Unlike some of our other favourite episodes, there are no heroic Rimmer moments here. This episode is Lister, Kryten, and the Cat pitted against a hologram gone mad. And let’s not forget Mr. Flibble. The penguin in the gingham dress. This is such a good example of the production team being creative with their money. It’s a hand puppet that someone probably had lying around in their house, and it’s one of the most iconic features of Red Dwarf. Well done.
Amelia: Hands down, Quarantine is the best Red Dwarf episode. A lot of people will fight me on this, claiming that Back to Reality (which is also series five) is the best episode, but honestly, Back to Reality never grabbed me. The Despair Squid is great and all but it’s nothing compared to the holo-virus that infects Rimmer, turning him into an insane, gingham dress wearing, penguin puppet wielding, telepath with powerful psychic powers. How Chris Barrie, or any of them for that matter, got through the scenes where Rimmer is chasing them in a gingham dress without cracking up, I’ll never understand. I must have watched Quarantine a hundred times more than I’ve watched any of the others but whenever Rimmer starts talking to the puppet on his hand, I lose my shit! Even in the worst of moods I’ll crack a smile when he starts telling the others about the potato king and his flying carpet. It’s all just so smegging good!
Amelia’s Honourable Mentions:
– Confidence and Paranoia, S01E05 – this one’s a good episode for Rimmer. He’s still a smeghead, but he panics when Lister falls ill and you get to see a more caring side of him. Plus the part where he tries to get one of the skutter robots to stab someone is hilarious
– Stasis Leak, S02E04 – what makes this episode worth paying attention to is the end scene. Rimmer was tricked into eating some psychotropic mushrooms and his half of the story has him believing that the weird things that are happening around him are flashbacks to that. They aren’t, of course. Hilarity ensues
– Backwards, S03E01 – this is one of those middle of the road episodes for me. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it. What makes it an honourable mention is when Kryten puts on a plastic Ronald Reagan mask and hooded cloak because that’s what he believes will help him blend into 1993 society
– The Last Day, S03E06 – having all the boys getting along in this episode is what makes it so great. It’s Kryten’s last day alive and they all band together to send him off with a bang. Good times all round! Until the hangover that is
– Meltdown, S04E06 – another middle of the road episode that has two scenes that make me laugh: the first is a scene where Winnie the Pooh is executed via firing squad and the second is Caligula bitch slapping Lister when Cat back talks to him. I’ll leave you to try and figure out what the hell is happening in this episode based on those scenes alone
– Terrorform, S05E03 – this episode is all about Rimmer and showing just how messed up he is. When he crashes on a moon that terraforms to fit a person’s mental landscape, well, things get rough. But also entertaining!
– Back in the Red Part 1–3, S08E01-E03 – the first three episodes of series eight are like a breath of fresh air after series seven. Kochanski is still around, but Holly and Rimmer are back, as is the Red Dwarf ship and the entire crew! It feels just like old times!
Billy’s Honourable Mentions:
Me2, Bodyswap, Camile, Back to Reality, Cassandra, Back to Earth, The Beginning.
I have my reasons.