About Red Dwarf V

From the Inquisitor passing judgement to the arrival of Duane Dibbley, this series is full of brilliant moments. You best read our summary, or Mr Flibble may get upset. And nobody wants that.

Red Dwarf V

If you've read all our series summaries so far (which you have, right?) then you'll know that Rimmer has undergone a rather significant evolution over many, many episodes. He's still a gimboid, to be sure, but he's a gimboid we can understand and feel empathy for. The people's gimboid, if you will. And guess what? The fifth series begins with a story which sees Rimsy actually cross the decent-person barrier and emerge as a proper, bona fide nice guy. Woah.

The occasion for his transformation is the appearance of a holoship, the Enlightenment – a kind of floating utopia where holograms pursue noble endeavours and bonk twice a day. Trouble is, Rimmer can't join them unless an existing crew member is eliminated, and when that person turns out to be Nirvanah Crane, a lovely lady who sees the good in Rimmer, he can't bear to displace her. Basically, it's more poignant, more gut-wrenching, more tear-jerkingly tragic than the end of Titanic.

Next up, it's judgement day for the Dwarfers with the arrival of the Inquisitor – a simulant who travels the universe deleting people who've wasted their lives. What's ingenious here is how the Cat is let off the hook because he's completely lived down to his own shallow potential and achieved all that could reasonably be expected of him – namely, giving pleasure to the world because of his "beautiful ass". Lister ends up being replaced by a sperm that never made it, and lots of satisfyingly mind-bending time paradoxy stuff ensues before everything reverts to normal.

Of course, "normal" is a bit of a flexible term in the world of Red Dwarf. Take the next episode, in which Rimmer ends up on a moon which alters itself to reflect the mentality of whoever's trapped there. In other words, all of Rimmer's self-loathing and neurotic contempt for everything are made flesh, spelling catastrophe for the Dwarfers. The only way out is to make Rimmer feel so good about himself that the moon lets them go, and that requires doing the unthinkable: being really, really nice to Rimmer. "Sir, I'd just like to take this opportunity to say that you are a very beautiful person," Kryten says – one of the best lines ever said on the show. Lister even manages to make Rimmer forget that earlier that very day he'd compared him to a cancerous polyp on the anus of humanity. What a silver-tongued smoothie he can be when he puts his mind to it.

In the annals of Red Dwarf, certain iconic images will always stand out. Lister waving through the portal of the stasis unit. The first Kryten in biker gear. The mutton vindaloo monster. Perhaps the greatest and most frightening visual image of all comes later in series five: Rimmer in a dress, wielding a penguin glove puppet called Mr Flibble. No, it's not because his inner sexual desires have come roaring out (thank goodness for small mercies) – it's just that he's been infected with a holo-virus and wants to kill his crew mates. Which is always a downer, but the Dwarfers manage to somehow cure him before Mr Flibble has his wicked way with them.

Later on, it's Kryten's turn to smeg everything up. In this case, it's down to a bit of scientific tinkering which results in Red Dwarf being divided into two versions of itself: one encapsulating all that is good and noble about the ship, the other a distillation of its very worst aspects. And this is how it comes to pass that we see Rimmer in stockings, clutching a whip and trying to have sex with Lister.

Luckily, the boys manage to escape with their bodily orifices un-violated and restore Red Dwarf to its old self, just in time for an absolute blinder of an episode. Indeed, one that's commonly regarded as among the greatest of them all. We speak, of course, of Back to Reality, in which the crew discover they've been playing a virtual reality game all along, and that Lister is in fact a tyrannical dictator, Rimmer's a drunken bum, Kryten's a cop, and the Cat… Well, the Cat is Duane Dibbley, the Duke of Dork, wearer of plastic sandals and boaster of teeth the druids could use as a place of worship.

Fortunately, it transpires it's all an hallucination brought on by a squid, but not before we experience one of the most perfect pieces of British comedy ever committed to television. And that includes all of Terry and June.

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