The creators of Red Dwarf, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, gave themselves a monumental storytelling challenge when they made the edict that their space-faring show would include not one alien being. In spite of this, Red Dwarf had enough conflict between its main characters to fill several episode. When various monsters, robots and other adversaries and friends did show up, they were cleverly the warped progeny that a now (almost) extinct human race had left behind. And some were created by the hapless “Boys from the Dwarf” themselves. Here are the 10 most memorable:
10) Mutton Vindaloo Beast
A DNA-modifying machine was the probably not the best thing to fall into the hands of the Red Dwarf crew. Kryten was accidentally turned into a human, but soon realized he missed being a mechanoid and asked to be changed back. The crew stupidly decided to test the machine on a dish of Lister’s favorite food and naturally unleashed a beast that was “half man, half extra Indian curry!” The beast met its match when the DNA machine was used to turn Lister into a mini Robocop, who figured out (in a death scene that was an homage to Jaws) the surefire way to kill a vindaloo — a nice, cold lager.
9) The Grim Reaper
Death’s appearance in Red Dwarf was brief and in the last scene of the series before it went on hiatus for a decade. He menacingly approached Rimmer, who was trapped in Red Dwarf as a rust virus ate it away and fires raged. But Rimmer was not so ready to meet Death again, and promptly gave him a swift knee to the gonads. “That’s never happened before!” Death muttered in surprise as he collapsed in pain and Rimmer did what he did best — ran away.
If a virus could talk, what would it say? It would probably give you sass and taunt you about how it’s succeeding in its job of turning you into a walking ball of puss, which is pretty much what happened when Lister got to talk with the virus that was infecting him. He got infected when the frozen body of a former crush was brought on board and sprang to life so it could force the virus into Lister’s mouth with a really gross kiss. As Lister complained to Kryten, “I’ve just been molested by Tutankhamun’s horny grandma!” Leave it to the ever practical Kristine Kochanksi to come up with the solution — trick the virus into moving down her ex-boyfriend’s arm and then cut off said arm! Yee-ouch!
All that the Red Dwarf crew’s fellow Tank prisoner Birdman had in this universe was his pet sparrow Pete. When Pete suddenly dropped dead and the Birdman was devastated, the Dwarvers did what any good-natured prsioners would do — they used a Time Wand to bring Pete back to life. Of course, this plan backfired and devolved Pete into a Tyrannosaurs Rex that went on a rampage through the ship and ate his former owner. Pete was reverted back to his former harmless self, but not before he consumed the Red Dwarf‘s entire supply of mint-choc ice cream, orange ice-pops and Coca-Cola, resulting in a sore dino tummy and a tidal wave of diarrhea that drenched the ship’s captain.
Cassandra, a computer that could see the future with 100% accuracy, was such a bummer to have around (since she had no hesitance about telling everyone how they would die), that the ship containing her was abandoned at the bottom of a sea. When the Red Dwarf crew found her, she revealed that Rimmer (since he was alive again at this point) had but minutes to live, and furthermore that Lister would kill him in a jealous rage when he discovered Rimmer in bed with Christine Kochanski. Rimmer saw getting laid as a reason to celebrate, however, and Kochanski became convinced to go along with fate despite her disgust. Kryten, however, figured out the whole scenario was a revenge scheme by Cassandra to get back at Lister for killing her. Lister balked at this idea, then accidentally set off a Rube Goldberg-esque mini-disaster that blew up Cassandra with an electrical discharge. Oopsie!
When the crew met Legion, a highly sophisticated and cultured robot created a by a group of the brightest scientists, they tried to impress him into coming with them by pretending they were just as intelligent. What followed was Rimmer mistaking a light switch for a piece of art and the crew stumbling through the use of antimatter chopsticks. But Legion was more interested in keeping them as well-cared for prisoners, since he was actually a gestalt entity who only existed as a combination of the minds present on the station. Kryten saved the day by knocking out his fellow crew-members and convincing Legion, who now shared only Kryten’s thoughts, that their first duty was to the best interests of their masters. Legion was actually kind of glad to see them go, as the Red Dwarf crew’s minds aren’t the most healthy ones to have inhabit your head.
4) The Inquisitor
The Inquisotor was an indestructible simulant (a human-looking mechanoid created by humans) who lasted until the end of time and decided that there was no afterlife, and that the only point of existence was living a worthwhile life. He obtained the ability to travel through time and tasked himself with placing people on trial to determine if they were worthless or not. Anyone found guilty was erased and replaced with another being that could have existed in their place and did more with their lives. The surprise twist was that the Inquisitor became a replica of the person being judged, so they in essence judged themselves. As the self-loathing Rimmer remarked upon hearing this, “OH, SMEG.”
The Red Dwarf crew brought aboard the lone survivor of a ship accident and everyone was joyed to find the that survivor was the object of their desires — however, the survivor appeared different to everyone. Lister saw her as a cute woman; Rimmer saw a female hologram; Kryten saw her as a female Mechanoid and Cat saw it as himself. That’s because the creature was Camille, a Pleasure GELF (genetically-engineered life form) designed to become each person’s perfect companion. In reality she was, as Rimmer delicately put it, “an amorphous green blob.” But that didn’t deter Kryten, who appreciated Camille’s inner beauty and took her on a romantic date. Sadly, Camille’s husband showed up and Kryten convinced her to go with him, or else she might regret it, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of her life… “It’s obvious the problems of two blobs and a droid don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy cosmos,” he said. Yes, Casablanca was their movie.
2) Mr. Flibble
In “Quarantine,” the flesh and blood (and mechanoid) members of the Red Dwarf crew were all in danger when Rimmer got infected with a holo-virus that drove him mad and granted him telekinesis, a prickly combination. Rimmer began wearing a gingham dress and bonnet and carrying around and holding conversations with a penguin hand puppet, Mr. Flibble, that took on a life of its own. He might have looked ridiculously cute and hilarious, but Mr. Flibble was a force to be reckoned with, especially when he became very cross. He shot lasers from his googly eyes, suggested Lister and the Cat be subjected to two hours W.O.O. (With Out Oxygen) and ominously stated, “Game over, boys!” The ornery penguin (and Rimmer) were finally vanquished by Lister, who had infected himself with a luck virus. Mr. Flibble went on to a new career as an official interviewer for the official Red Dwarf Web site.
The Red Dwarf crew is pretty useless, but they’re even worse without some of their dominant character traits — the Cat’s vanity, Lister’s fear, Kryten’s guilt, and Rimmer’s anger. Without those emotions, they were forced to deal with the genetically-engineered life form (GELF) called a Polymorph that had stolen them. The Polymorph used its ability to bring out those emotions so it could eat them — it appeared as an ALIEN-like creature to scare Lister; a hot woman who flattered the Cat; Rimmer, who told Kryten the whole situation was his fault; and Rimmer’s Mom, who seduced Lister to piss off the real Rimmer. In possibly the most hilarious scene of the whole series, the Polymorph became a pair of underpants that Lister inadvertently put on; when the underpants began to painfully shrink, Kryten struggled to get Lister’s boxers off and Rimmer caught them in the act. Thankfully, a couple bazookoids destroyed the Polymorph and returned everyone back to normal… as normal as the Red Dwarf crew ever were, anyway.
Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.