When is a banana not a banana? When it's a small, off-duty Czechoslovakian traffic warden, of course. And so begins the fourth series of Red Dwarf, which sees Lister doing his darndest to break Kryten's programming and teach him how to lie. And so an orange is declared by our fibbing mechanoid to be a red-and-blue striped golfing umbrella and an apple is the Bolivian Navy on manoeuvres in the South Pacific. Unfortunately, he can't pull it off with anyone watching, and reverts back to identifying an orange as an orange. "You taught him that?" the Cat declares. "That's terrific! You two should audition for 'What's My Fruit'!"
Still, while Kryten may be rubbish when it comes to lying, he definitely masters one human attribute in series four: the ability to love. Sure, the object of his affection is a shape-changing GELF which looks like something that's dropped out of the Sphinx's nose, but even so: we're talking true love here. What follows is the most touching riff on Casablanca you can imagine - which is quite an achievement when you consider it involves a mechanoid with a head shaped like a novelty condom and a genetically-engineered green blob.
Next up there's a real treat for Dwarf fans, with Robert Llewellyn actually playing Kryten sans latex. Yes, the actor's own face gets its time in the limelight, thanks to a DNA manipulator that turns Kryten into a human. We also learn that mutton vindaloo can be seriously hazardous to more than just one's bowel movements when the DNA device transforms one of Lister's toxic curries into a giant monster thing. It's a good thing that Lister happens to have some lager to hand – it is, after all, the only thing that can kill a vindaloo. Oh, and there's a crucial re-jig of Red Dwarf continuity in this episode, when it's casually mentioned that Lister DID in fact have a relationship with Kochanski – until this point, the official story was that he'd merely had an unrequited crush on her from afar. A cheeky change, to be sure, but one which paves the way for Kochanski's return later on.
Rimmer's come a long way since the first two series, when he was an unrelenting smeghead of a man. Now he's a relenting smeghead, with moments of genuine sadness and pathos shining through the layers of prat that surround him. And he gets another chance to make us feel slightly sorry for him when the crew arrive at a prison facility where Rimmer is convicted of causing the radiation leak that killed almost everyone on Red Dwarf. His defence, mounted by Kryten, involves emphasising that Rimmer is too much of an irrelevant non-entity ever to have been responsible for such a calamity.
Later in the series, something miraculous happens. No, Lister doesn't have a shower. What happens is, Holly becomes clever again. In fact, she becomes a tad more than clever, when Kryten's meddling gives her the IQ of several thousand Stephen Hawkings. The downside being it also uses up all her energy or something, giving her about three minutes to live. Which in turn leads the ship perilously close to a time-warping white hole. In an unlikely twist, Lister rescues everyone by using his pool skills to "pot" a planet into the hole. Just accept it.
Now, a moment of hushed reverence for a landmark moment in Red Dwarf history. We speak of course of the very first appearance of Ace Rimmer, he of the heroic hair, dreamy demeanour and unquenchable appetite for smoked kippers. Arriving from another dimension, he immediately buddies up with Lister and drives our Rimmer into a writhing fury of bitterness and self-hate – even more than usual, that is.
Rimmer goes from bad to well, full-on megalomaniac mode in the next episode, when the Dwarfers land on a planet populated by wax androids. A waxy war is raging, which means Rimmer gets to indulge all his most worrying military ambitions – think of it as a satire on how power corrupts, and the needless carnage of war.