There's something very fishy about the first episode of the sixth series, and we're not just talking about the contents of the Cat's lunchbox. Lister wakes up looking like a caveman – by which we mean a literal caveman, not just his usual Listery self. It turns out the Dwarfers have been in hibernation for two whole centuries, and what's more Red Dwarf is gone – nicked by persons unknown. As Cat ponders most profoundly, "Who'd steal a gigantic red trash can with no brakes and three million years on the clock?"
Well, there's no time to look into that, with the Dwarfers soon confronted by deadly psirens – giant, shape-changing beasties with a penchant for sucking brains out through straws, and which rather annoyingly can take on the form of whatever you desire the most. In Lister's case, this is first Kochanski and then the lusty sister of old school friend Pete Tranter. Fortunately, before the psirens can turn the brains of Lister and the Cat into canapé toppings (well, there wouldn't have been enough to fill proper sandwiches), Kryten saves the day – which is pretty impressive since by that point he's been compacted into an almost perfect cube by the waste disposal unit.
After all the gross, brain-squelching malarkey of the psirens, the Dwarfers manage to enjoy a bit of well-earned pampering in the next episode. True, their host is a tyrannical control freak "gestalt entity" determined to keep them all prisoner for the rest of their lives, but still: he puts on some great grub, and even provides Rimmer with his favourite extra-starched pyjamas. This chap is Legion, and he looks like he wandered off the set of a 70s episode of Doctor Who. He's also a genius, and converts Rimmer to "hard light", meaning he can now touch, feel and eat things. Of course, the latter is a bit tricky with the antimatter chopsticks Legion provides the Dwarfers. Eventually, Kryten comes to the rescue yet again, using logic to force Legion into letting them go. That Kryten, eh? Saves you from psirens and gestalt entities, AND he can do your ironing.
Then comes the episode which saw Red Dwarf bag an International Emmy (activate smug mode). We speak of course of Gunmen of the Apocalypse, in which the Dwarfers are hunted by some rogue simulants bent on destroying them. It's a game of cat and mouse, and as the Cat points out, "the mouse never wins, not unless you believe those lying cartoons!" Despite their best attempts to ward them off by posing as alien ambassadors – ie, Lister and the Cat attaching one of Kryten's eyes to each of their chins and filming themselves in extreme close up – the simulants launch their attack by way of a computer virus. The only way to stop it is for the Dwarfers to use an artificial reality machine to enter a virtual Wild West town within Kryten's mind (just go with it, OK?) and become cowboys.
It's a real masterpiece of an episode, with location filming and everything, but it's the next story which sees the return of three of the best-loved inventions of the show: the polymorph, Ace Rimmer and the piano-toothed dork-king Duane Dibbley. Basically, thanks to a series of events too painful to recount here, Lister becomes betrothed to a GELF bride bigger and hairier than Brian Blessed, and his refusal to, er, consummate the marriage leads the vengeful tribe to set a polymorph on them. It proceeds to extract the Cat's cool – creating the Dibbley – and Rimmer's negativity, resulting in an Ace Rimmer so dementedly heroic that he tries to kill both himself and the Cat to save the others. What a guy! (And what a nutjob!)
Now, imagine a world entirely populated by Rimmers. Lots and lots of Rimmers. Including female ones, with beautiful bodies and Rimmer faces. Mentally scarred yet? Well, imagine how the Dwarfers feel when they find such a place – the result of the original Rimmer being stranded on a planet where his terraforming kit creates a whole civilisation of deranged clones. But just when you think things can't get any more horrendous for our lads in this series, they're visited by their own future selves, who've been travelling through time, hobnobbing with the Hitlers and generally becoming the kind of people you want to avoid at a party. A massive showdown ensues, in which the whole crew is killed apart from a suddenly heroic Rimmer. Can he possibly put everything right?