Red Dwarf: 10 Best Episodes to Watch for All Smeg Heads
Smeggin' Hell, Another List
After my last list focusing on Doctor Who, (https://futurism.media/doctor-who-10-best-episodes-of-the-modern-era), it was pointed out to me by a friend that I've been shining the torch of Red Dwarf far brighter than Doctor Who over the years. So I thought I'd do a list for all you Dwarfers out there.
This show is so much fun. I don't want to say whether its better or worse than Doctor Who (it is much better) because they are so vastly different in tone and approach. But they do have similarities. They both deal with time travel and classic Sci-Fi tropes. And they both include very endearing characters. But what's so good about Red Dwarf is its set up. Its Porridge (ask your parents) in space. Well written characters that are forced to deal with each other due to circumstance, trapped together on a planet sized space ship. The comedy comes from how vastly different they all are, a neurotic under-achieving hologram, a narcissistic humanoid feline who evolved from a pet cat three million years before, an android that's broken its programming, and the last human alive, who is delightfully Scouse.
In a nutshell we have four characters that don't usually see eye to eye, they clash all the time, but deep down they are friends. A team. But that won't stop them insulting each other and getting on each other's nerves. My only real criticism of the show is that some of the jokes don't really work within its futuristic setting. Jokes about the number 10 bus route or pot noodles don't land when the show is set millions of years in the future. But besides this, the show is so much fun and well worth the watch. And if you want a chuckle at the expense of American TV then check out the US pilot. Its just awful.
Just a little disclaimer, I love this show, and this list feels unfinished to me. I struggled choosing between episodes and I am bound to have left a few off this list that others will love. But if you gotta choose 10 to watch you can't go wrong with these (in no particular order of course):
10. Dimension Jump
What a guy! This episode is such a good giggle. When Rimmer's alternative self from another dimension, Ace, visits them, comedy ensues watching Rimmer dealing with what could have been. Ace is cool, heroic and a bit of a heart throb. Everything Rimmer isn't. While the rest of the gang swoon over Ace, Rimmer gets irritated by him and just wants him to leave.
This episode gives us a glimpse at how versatile an actor Chris Barrie is. Before Red Dwarf you could find him doing impressions on British TV, but the man shows in this episode what makes him such a good actor. After watching this you'll see what a shame it is that his career was ruined by playing Lara Croft's butler in those terrible Tomb Raider films. This episode talks about choices. How choices make us the people we grow into. And its rather inspiring. What a guy.
ALPHABETTI SPAGHETTI!!! This one is the only episode I can recall that had a viewer warning at the start of the show. Featuring a monster called the Polymorph, a mutant that is able to shape shift at will. It shifts to get a desired response out of its victim and then feeds off that emotion. This makes for some great laughs when the characters start to act without the necessary emotion to make them who they are.
Lister has his fear removed. Rimmer has his anger removed. The cat looses his vanity. And Kryton looses his guilt. It's great seeing how these characters interact with the lack of their defining emotions. I highly recommend this episode. This isn't the last time we see the Polymorph, but its certainly the best.
8. Back to Reality
Oooooo this episode. Yes. Brilliant. The gang wake up on earth to discover that Red Dwarf and the events around it was nothing more than a virtual reality video game. They can't remember who they really are, and still believe that they are the characters in the game, the Dwarfers. They try and uncover who they are. Lister is a dictator, Rimmer is his yak smelling brother, Kryton is a police officer and the Cat is a charismatic-less, buck toothed Dwayne Dibbley. I LOVE Dwayne Dibbley.
It turns out to all be an hallucination and they really are who we think they are, and it has all been a way to get them to kill themselves. It's a defence mechanism of the creature they encounter (not that we see it) called the despair squid, at the beginning of the episode. Its a well written one and you can't help but enjoy Cat getting depressed that he has no charm anymore. This is a great episode.
This is a charming little episode from season two before Kryton becomes part of the gang. When the group start questioning their A.I. Holly, he gets replaced with Queeg, a new and improved super intelligence. They take to Queeg quickly, but grow to hate him even quicker. He makes them do chores and forces them to maintain the work around the ship. Something Holly wasn't bothered by.
Norman Lovett, the original actor to play Holly, has gone on record to say that this is his favourite episode (I'm sure it has something to do with it being an episode focused on Holly). Its great fun and one of the better episodes of the early seasons, before they really find their stride. The episode ends with a laugh-out-loud April fools gag. Check it out. This is a good one.
6. Gunmen of the Apocalypse
I couldn't very well leave this award winning episode off the list (as much as its not one of my favourites). This is one of the episodes that Dwarfers site as one of the best. Another virtual reality one here, now set in the 'Wild West'. Kryton inserts himself into Red Dwarf's computers in order to fight off a computer virus. He forgets himself in the virtual world and the rest of the gang have to go in to help him out.
This is a lot of fun. Highly enjoyable. This episode highlights the gang's friendship for each other and the lengths they will go to keep the group together. We also get to focus on Kryton for a change, who is a great character. There is something so pleasurable in watching a robot dressed as a cowboy getting drunk and staggering around the place.
Casablanca in space. Need I say more? This is a bit of a controversial episode to include in a top 10 list considering there are plenty of good episodes to choose from. But this parodies one of my all time favourite movies. So I'm including it.
Kryton stumbles across a female mechanoid who he instantly falls for. When introduced to the rest of the gang she appears differently to all of them. It turns out she is a pleasure gelf, a featureless green blob that transforms into whatever you find the most attractive. This makes for a great gag when the Cat meets her and she takes the form of the Cat. "I'm the object of my own desires?" "Is anyone else more deserving?" I love this episode, and if you've ever watched the masterpiece that is Casablanca then this is a must watch.
4. Stoke Me a Clipper
Smoke me a kipper. I'll be back for breakfast. Well it must be breakfast time because Ace is back! This episode starts with a huge bang. Ace taking on Nazi's, riding a crocodile off a plane and saving a damsel in distress. This one is great. Even if it does mark the end of Ace. A surprisingly good episode in an era of sub par Red Dwarf episodes.
Ace comes back to see the gang one last time. He speaks to Rimmer about how he will be dead soon and he needs Rimmer to take on the mantle of Ace so the universe is kept safe. This episode will tug at your heart strings, as this was meant to be Chris Barrie's last season in Red Dwarf. And they send him off in style. Sure, season eight completely reverses this and brings Rimmer back. But had he not returned, this would be a great end to his time on the show. Alas, you needn't get too upset watching this one, he'll be back... for breakfast.
This is a clever one. One of my favs for sure. The gang encounter Legion, a being alone on a world filled with works of art and genius technology. Is Legion a host with a kind nature, or a mad man keeping the gang captive? Its a nice episode showcasing an original creature in the futuristic world of Red Dwarf.
Legion is a creature that needs other sentient beings around him in order to live. He had been the conduit of many great minds over the years. So why bother with the Red Dwarf gang? Just so he can exist. Without others around him Legion ceases to be. He's not that bad, he just wants to be able to live. The gang can't stay and have to force their way back into space, but its a great episode, and if Legion was able to leave his planet, the gang would have been happy to let him join the group.
2. Waiting for God
Another gem from the early days of the Dwarf. This episode starts with the discovery of a pod floating in space. This occupies Rimmer, who thinks he's discovered a new alien species. Lister and Holly know better but think its too funny to tell him the truth, that its actually a garbage pod. But this isn't what makes this episode so good.
This episode posits questions of God and creation. Lister discovers the Cat race's religious text. It tells the story of the Cat race and how it came to be. Lister is revered as a God, though they refer to him a Cloyster. At the end of the episode Lister meets one of the race's priests, who chose to remain on Red Dwarf while the others sought out the promise land....Fiji. In his last moments alive his faith is restored. Its a really profound moment, commenting on religion and the forms it takes over the years. Its a cracking episode.
I was torn between this episode and Quarantine for the final spot, but this just inches it out. The gang arrive on a world that shapes itself to Rimmer's psyche. All of his neurosis, his anxieties, his insecurities, given life. This one has some fantastic gags, especially at the end.
The villain of the episode is Rimmer himself. His mind. His self loathing is so strong it manifests itself into an unspeakable monster. We only get a glimpse of it (above) but you really feel the terror of the beast through silhouettes and Rimmer's reaction to it revealing itself. This is a really good episode with all the hallmarks of what makes this show so intelligent, charming and unique. This is easily one to show someone who has never seen the programme before to give them a taste of what Red Dwarf is like.
Well that's that. I can easily think of at least another 10 episodes that could have made this list. The show is charming and has wonderful British humour. I understand if any Americans out there don't get it. But having been part of a joke on The Big Bang Theory, it must have tickled some of you. Give it a shot if you haven't already, especially if you're a Brit. Its truly excellent fun. Sure, the newer episodes have a severe drop in quality, but that's why those seasons didn't make the list.
If you watch this show and if you don't like it, well, your just an absolute smeg head then aren't you. Don't be a Rimmer. Watch the show.